Friday, June 28, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #20: THE SCARECROW WALKS AT MIDNIGHT

People, this is going to require a grown up drink. Because, well, because we get into some stuff that’s fairly common in horror but that Goosebumps hasn’t as a rule gotten into so much. So I’m drinking a whole pint of German IPA from Lazy Monk Brewing, a local favorite right here in sunny Eau Claire. Because this book. Oh this book. I guess let’s begin...

LIVER BEWARE! You’re in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #19: DEEP TROUBLE

So if you measured my slow descent into madness through my reading of the Goosebumps series, this book marks a new twist in an already interesting experience. In some ways it reminds me of The Girl Who Cried Monster in the way that it takes its speculative core and doesn’t even bother pretending that it isn’t real. But unlike that read, which was very much about the horror of not being believed, of something terrible hiding in plain sight, this book...well...huh. I’m not sure I’d call it a horror at all, despite the cover, which really brings to mind all the terror evoked by the sea and other deep waters. It’s actually about...uh...mermaids. And sweet Christmas, where’s my drink?

Oh right, drinking. So I recently came across a brand of seltzer that had names I could not resist. And one of them is Mermaid Songs. Which is...weird. Like, I’m not sure if mermaids are known for their songs, but whatever. Given that this book is similarly weird, though, I figured slapping some gin into the mix would make for an appropriate fuel for this review. So yeah, let’s get started!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #68

Art by Ora Xu
Four short stories and a poem make June's Fireside Magazine a wonderful buffet of short SFF, with works tackling ancient myths to futures post-apocalyptic. From noodle shops and court intrigue to strained familial relationships and diasporas. A lot of the works here deal with masks, with people playing roles in order to try and make their lives run smoothly. Only sometimes these masks are prisons, holding them back by trapping them in roles they aren't suited for. It's a rich and lovely look at short SFF, and I'll get to the reviews!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/17/2019 & Samovar 06/24/2019

Art by Galen Dara
June sees a new issue from Strange Horizons and a new issue of SFF-in-translation from sibling publication Samovar. Together they offer up three short stories and two poems, all that carry a heavy edge of weird with them. The stories are rarely straightforward, taking innovative approaches to time, voice, and setting, weaving tales that blink across year or unfold in the nebulous space of dreams. They are full of strange characters, dark secrets, and small watchful eyes. For all that they also seem to reach for justice, and if not for hope than for something deeper and darker. It's a rather difficult pair of issues to describe, but I'll give it my best as we get to the reviews!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #280

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features two stories (one novelette and one short story) that feature cities where unrest and conflict are starting to boil. In one, the greed and corruption of the elite have created a situation where the slightest spark might ignite a bloody revolution. While in the other, a city is built on the labor of a conquered people, only for a new status quo to arrive with a shattering impact. Both show characters having to decide how to use power in complex situations where people will die either way. And having to walk the line between doing what’s right and what’s easy. It’s a complex issue that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #683

So when I ran a poll to see which of the Escape Artist podcasts I should add to my regular rotation, the results were...very close. As in, separated by a single vote. So while PodCastle won, Escape Pod was very much close behind, and when I crunched the numbers I found out that I can actually fit both publications into my regular reviews. So good news—I did just that! Starting this month I’m looking at the original releases from Escape Pod, and it kicks off with a compelling and compassionate look at AI and Armageddon. To the review!

Quick Sips - PodCastle #577

It’s a new day at Quick Sip Reviews. Or, I mean, every day is a new day, but not every day I get to add a new publication to my review rotation. So today I’m welcoming PodCastle to my regular schedule. It’s part of the larger Escape Artist umbrella of SFF/H podcasts, and it earned the top spot in a recent poll I ran on my Patreon for which I should add. And I picked a great month to jump on this bandwagon, as this month’s story features one of my favorite topics to tackle in short SFF—Food! It’s a complex and rather deliciously imagined story about faith and family and flavor, and before I give too much away, I’ll get right to the review!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #52

Art by Joey Jordan
June brings a pair of SFF stories to Diabolical Plots that are very much about places. Two very different places, perhaps (one bustling city, one small village), but still stories that really dig into the ways that settings shape a whole lot about the lives of the people living in them. And how no place, no setting, is inherently free of problems or dangers. Cities might contain multitudes, and promise wonder and magic, but they also have a weight to them that can be crushing. And small towns might seem idyllic for their connectedness, but there’s also an atmosphere of silence that can grow to resist shattering that community, even at the expense of the most vulnerable. So let’s explore some speculative settings and get to the reviews!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #28 [June stuff]

Art by Galen Dara
June's Uncanny Magazine brings a bit of heartbreak, a bit of horror, but also a bit of romance. At least, two of the stories feature some rich romantic themes, and develop characters reaching out in compassion even as the world around them seems to descend into some very dark waters. The works explore worlds dominated in many ways by cruelty, and seek to find compassion and empathy, sometimes rather forcibly. Throw in a pair of poems taking on some different meta-fictional lenses, and it's an issue that will make you think even as it entertains. So let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Glittership Autumn 2018

Having a new issue of Glittership to read and experience is always reasons to celebrate, so break out the rainbow streamers and mix up something fruity as we celebrate Pride with a slew of queer short SFF. I should note that despite the cover reading Autumn 2018, these stories and poems are all 2019 originals (well, aside from the reprints) and should be considered for this year's awards eligibility. It's a great mix of work this issue, with three original stories, three poems, and three fiction reprints (which I won't be looking at today but which look very much worth checking out). They cover a range of genres and identities and really, if you're looking for some wonderfully queer works to read to celebrate the feeling of the season, you should pick up the issue or stream the podcasts immediately. To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #81

Art by Alexandra Petruk /Fotolia
It’s a tightly paired issue at Nightmare Magazine, with two short stories looking at the power of storytelling itself. Which is always an interesting metatextual choice, using the form itself to examine the methods and strengths of stories to inspire and distract, to explain and to obfuscate. The piece shows a woman using stories as a sort of promise and prayer, and another using stories as confession, as a final explanation at the end of the world. Both stories are layered, revealing both a world that has becoming increasingly bleak and one where maybe things…aren’t okay exactly, but where relief is possible, and a laying down of burdens. It’s a difficult issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Quick Sip - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #40 (addendum)

Art by Jereme Peabody
Because of the special fortieth(!!!) issue, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has done a special update this month, including a new story featuring dragons, quests, and song. The piece takes a rather interesting and deep look at stories themselves, and how they can shape how people experience reality. It’s a bit strange and even a little experimental for the publication, but I feel like it pays off in some interesting ways. There’s a bit of fun, a bit of humor, and a touch of something dark to the piece, and before I give too much away I should just review it already!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/03/2019 & 06/10/2019

Two stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons’ June offerings, and they feature a fascinating mix of horror and trauma. In both of the stories released, people cope with the realities of their lives, the magic and the hurt that they never chose, but that has very much shaped their worlds and their futures. For the characters in the stories, there is a choice to be made, to either continue being passengers in their own lives, defined by the journeys and desires of others, or to take control of themselves and try to steer towards a future where they don’t have to carry the burdens of their pains any longer. It’s a difficult and wrenching mix of works, but beautifully told and rendered. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #279

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features two very different stories that both revolve around romance, monsters, magic, and healing. Both the main characters are women seeking change, though how they’re seeking that is a bit...misplaced at first. What they need isn’t something they’ll find in the healing of a preacher or the absolution of a mermaid, but rather a chance to really embrace who they are and explore the future with a kindred spirit, a person they can share with and who can help them heal and embrace who they really are. That’s not without risk, though, and both stories show how the main characters must fight in order to break free or through the forces trying to keep them from what they want. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #153

Art by J.R. Slattum
It’s another big issue from Clarkesworld, with five short stories (including one Korean translation) and one novelette. And a lot of the stories deal with colonization and death, religion and intolerance. The characters are often faced with people who are different, and must decide how to approach that. With fear and hatred? With distrust? With a hunger for exploitation? At their most hopeful, the stories imagine a future with humans among the stars, embracing a vast community and cooperation. At their bleakest, they reveal people victimized and destroyed by dogma and fear. All in all, though, it’s a rich and complex issue full of big ideas and careful character work. To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online June 2019

Art by Dario Bijelac
June brings three new stories to Flash Fiction Online that deal with meetings and relationships. Not all of them are romantic, but they feature people trying to navigate their lives and facing intrusions into that space. A sphinx who appears in the garden. A pain that comes from outside a person’s body. An intruder on the moon. The pieces explore how these things are faced, confronted, and either defeated, endured, or integrated into a new status quo. The pieces are heavy with loss and longing but bright with hope and possibilities. To the reviews!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #49

Art by Jonathan Simard
The June issue of The Dark focuses on systems and being stuck in them. It finds two characters who have been pulled into a situation they didn’t chose and don’t want. Where they are pressured into becoming an instrument of death, a pawn in a hunger they don’t want to have. They have two very different paths through these troubled waters, though. Because not all hungers can be refused, and not all chains can be broken, even if sometimes hope and family are enough to reach for freedom. To the reviews!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #109

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
It’s a rather weighty issue of Lightspeed Magazine this June, with four stories all over 5000 words. The pieces are eclectic, following far future bureaucracies and fables full of gods and jinn. All the stories feature women dealing with situations they didn’t really chose, though. Systems that are not exactly built for justice. The worlds they grow in are touched in profound ways by darkness and corruption, and yet they all seek in different ways to bring in some light, some hope that people can do better, and find happiness. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [s01.03 & s01.04]

After a pair of episodes penned by the same author, these two new installments of Alternis from Serial Box come from different sources. The authors do a good job of flowing the style and feel of the world and characters, though, creating a mostly seamless transition and exploring the world of the game further. And it is in many ways about the shock of a rather idealistic creator finding out exactly what her game is being used for, facing the criticism from people who have very different styles of play, priorities, and stakes. All while keeping things weird, charming, and tense. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: The Vela [s01.09 & s01.10]

I need to remember to be careful going into the last episodes of Serial Box projects, because The Vela continues the tradition started by Ninth Step Station of me getting to the end and then attempting desperately to scroll for more. What do you mean it’s the end of the season?!?! What do you mean I have to wait for more?!?! There’s going to be more, right? Right?! This story has taken the main characters and put them through the wringer. You thought the finale would be all bunnies and down pillows? Buckle up, dearest readers, we’re in for a thrilling ride!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com May 2019

Art by Gregory Manchess
Well what started as a large month at sort of tapered off quickly, with only one short story and one novelette in May. Both works are linked by being part of larger series, though, the first one of the Mongolian Wizard cycle starring Ritter and Freki, the other one a new work in the Wild Cards universe. Both do interesting things with the settings and characters, featuring people on missions that…aren’t quite what they seem. If that means a journalist who ends up uncovering a story he wasn’t prepared for or a detective solving a crime that never happened, the pieces are all about the unexpected. My role in all of this isn’t, though, so as usual, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform May 2019

It’s a fairly full May from Terraform, with five short stories taking on superheroes, robotic soldiers, historic justice, mental health, and death tourism. These are some interesting and largely bleak looks at the future, though not without exception. Though most of the stories look at a future with some huge and fundamental problems, there remains in most of them a hope. Not necessarily that humans are going to fix everything. But that people might find a way to break free of the cycles of oppression and injustice that lock the planet on a trajectory toward destruction and tragedy. They’re some cutting looks at the present through the lens of future speculation. So let’s get to the reviews!