Friday, August 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com August 2019

Art by Rovina Cai
One short story and two novelettes makes for a pretty standard bunch of fiction from Tor dot com this month. And the genres span science fiction and historical fantasy, with two pieces that look at how things might have been if magic (or superpowers) were a bit more real. And really in many ways the stories are about isolation, about people who are on the outside looking in when it comes to community and acceptance. Each has a place they feel like they belong, be it a physical location or personal relationship, and the works show how that effects their lives and decisions, how it leads some down some very dark paths, but maybe eventually into light. To the reviews!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/19/2019 & 08/26/2019

August closes out Strange Horizons with a new short story and two new poems that deal with magic and technology. From a hologram of a historical figure that has a surprising amount to say to a poem exploring the shifting end of the world, the pieces tend to look at damage, at the toxicity of expectations and roles. They examine the ways that people accept the world around them, taking it as permanent and right even as they know it isn't, even when they can see and hear from others that it has been different, that it can be different. But often it's very hard and painful to push against The Way Things Are to try and find peace and belonging, and there's often a price to be paid for it. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #70

Art by Francesco Giani
Four stories and a poem make August's Fireside Magazine a hearty helping of short SFF. Of course, I've made a bit less work for myself as the poem, "How to Spend Your Free Time," is by me(!) and so I will not be reviewing it. The fiction this month is very strong, though, and moves from deserts to cities, from post-apocalyptic ruins to post-death traumas. The moods range from isolated and free to crowded and pained to all points in between. The pieces examine injustices and how people approach them, how they move on given the severity of the things they've suffered. How they retain hope, and how they reach for healing. To the reviews!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #694

August brings only a single story to Escape Pod, but it’s a rather delightful experience all the same. The work explores what it means to just sort of roll downhill through life, taking the path of least resistance, going where the wind blows, etc etc. It introduces the reader to a great wide universe and the rather limited way that the narrator lives, drawn into things they don’t really understand or care about. Almost sacrificed for another person’s greater good which turns out to be...well, that would be telling. So let’s get to the review!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Anathema #8

Art by Jade Zhang
A new issue of Anathema Magazine brings with it four short stories and two poems, the works mixing despair and joy, trauma and resilience. It starts off with a heavy piece about assault and trust and relationships before segueing into a much more joyful and light read (which nonetheless ends with a devastating force). From there it gets grim once more before closing on a sense of hope and wonder. The issue captures danger and the happiness that live hand in hand for many queer people of color, a living truth that is presented here without apology or hesitation. It’s on the reader to read with the same bravery, finding the beauty and meaning and impact in the works here. To the reviews!

Friday, August 23, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #22: GHOST BEACH

Right, so, ghosts. The Goosebumps series has already featured a number of ghost stories so far, including the very first installment, Welcome to Dead House (though let's not forget Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, too). This book dives back into the idea but with a very key twist. It takes place...on a beach! A GHOST BEACH! Get it? Haha—kill me now...

Anyway, to celebrate this incredibly clever idea, I'm drinking. As much as possible. To stay on theme, I'm having some Ghost Ship, a white IPA from Capital Brewing (based out of Madison, WI). It certainly fits the theme and hey, it's booze, so it makes everything just a little bit easier. That out of the way, let's dive right in!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #54

Art by Joey Jordan
Two stories round out Diabolical Plots' August offerings, with two rather twisted takes on familiar tropes in SFF. The first takes a look not only at inspiration but at corporate culture as well, revealing a novel way of looking at innovation and greed. The second takes aim at zombies, tying them explicitly to colonization and then complicating them further with a deconstruction of belonging, identity, and isolation. Both works definitely work with some grim themes, though they often find strange moments of beauty tucked into the gritty realities they expose. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #83

Art by Dominick / Adobe Stock Image
The stories from August’s Nightmare Magazine are all about growing up. About rituals that come at the dawn of adulthood, during those awkward teen years. When people aren’t children but don’t know how to be adults yet, and are still dealing with all their shit, with the expectations and realities that they don’t want or need but have to deal with anyway. The stories are dark but carry with them a certain beauty, as well, and a yearning for things to be better. Most of all, they carry with them the knowledge that things should be better, and that tradition is no reason to pass along abuse and damage generation after generation. It’s a great dark issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #284

Art by Noah Bradley
Two nested stories make for a nicely dense and meta issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Both are framed as found texts, stories that have been uncovered that give added context to some mysterious events. They provide their settings with more history, with more philosophy, and with some deep truths to grapple with. Both look at the ways that narratives can influence the ways people view history. Can erase people, or ensnare them. And how scholarship can be necessary to see the difficult truths and seek to fix persistent problems. These are stories with layers and nested narratives that invite readers to dig deep after justice. to the reviews!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #41

Art by Jereme Peabody
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly brings three stories and two poems in their latest issue, and the works mix fast action, wrenching tragedy, and a pervasive grimness. The stories are by and large dark, exploring situations ripe with death and danger, with damage and hard decisions. The characters are out to do violence, to put an end to their enemies. But somehow it doesn’t work out how they thought. Something interferes, or their victory is stolen from them, turns to ash and blood in their mouths. Whatever the case, the stories and poems each introduce carefully built and interestingly imagined worlds to explore, and it’s a very strong issue. To the reviews!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/05/2019 & 08/12/2019

Art by Em Allen
Two stories and two poems open up August's Strange Horizons content, and they swirl around isolation, distance, and a spot of magic. Both stories unfold in a mostly-contemporary setting and focus on relationships between women. Romantic or not, generational or not, the relationships bring into focus what each person has been lacking and how they're attempting to find in someone else a cure to that lack. The pieces are lovely but touched with melancholy and sadness, hopeful but still recognizing the burden of societal expectations and values, especially when they don't meet up with how the characters need to live. It's a lot of stunning work, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #29 [August stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
Three short stories and two poems make August rather standard in amount of content for Uncanny Magazine. The quality of the work, though, makes it another stand-out issue, though, that looks at family and history, magic and love. It’s a mix of science fiction and fantasy, from a story about religion and dragons to one about an exploitative Magician to one featuring the distant origins of a lunar colony that wants to break free of colonization. Add in poetry that echoes back with notes of war and love, and the entire issue flows quite well, leaning a bit grim at times but resolving into beauty and community. To the reviews!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #155

Art by Roman Kuteynikov
It’s another full issue from Clarkesworld, with six stories (four short stories and two translated novelettes) that cover a wide range of pasts, presents, futures, and never-wases. The stories are mostly science fictional, though there’s one fantasy and one alt-history, and they examine hope and progress, what makes a person human or makes them...different. It features naturalized aliens, uploaded consciousnesses, artificial wombs, and colonies on Neptune. And through it all it remains fairly philosophical, wrenchingly visceral, and intimately emotional. There are spills and chills, laughs and more than one heartwarming moment, so let’s cut the chitchat short and get to the reviews!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2019

The stories in the August Flash Fiction Online deal with family in different ways. And time, and memories. They find people in a moment of distress and doubt. Of loss and uncertainty. Where each person is faced with something of a choice. To accept the world as they have known it, as it has been sold to them, or to question it, and try and find their own way forward. For many, it means having to go against what their family might have wanted for them, but it also means being true to what they believe in, and reaching for a future and a home where they might belong. It might mean addressing past harms, or dealing with grief and guilt, or trying to find comfort in the unknown. But I should just get to those reviews!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #283

Art by Artur Zima
This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings two stories that embrace the weird and magical. That find characters struggling with their desires of freedom and peace even as they are a part of a military system that thrives on order and, most importantly, the sacrifice of the “expendable” so that those with power can maintain it. Both feature monsters to fight against but also to twist in service of the state, and characters trying to use those creatures as a tool to do some actual good. So let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #51

Art by grandfailure
The two stories from The Dark Magazine this month follow characters who are in some ways trapped. By a curse. By a haunting. By guilt. By fear. They each seem to be waiting, and luckily (or not) for them, their wait seems to be over with the arrivals of mysterious women. With these new companions, the main characters are sent into a confrontation with what has been holding them back, and are given a change to change the context of their chains. They are strange, sometimes sensual, and very much worth spending some time with. To the reviews!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #111

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
The stories in the August issue of Lightspeed for me deal with sudden and huge changes. Moments when characters are confronted with things that force them to either suppress what they've seen or completely alter their way of seeing the world. Even so, their reactions are quite different. Some are left rather broken by the experience, while others just sort of shrug and get on with it. Some are pushed past a wall of trauma so that they can't seem to feel at all, while others find their lives changed and wonder at how it all went pear shaped. Whatever the case, the pieces look at ways that lives can change, at what is powerful enough to really impact a person. Maybe AI are more advanced you thought and your employer is lying to you. Maybe a woman shows up claiming to be your husband's daughter...but not yours. Maybe your whole village is destroyed by raiders. Or maybe you see something you shouldn't have. The stories bring a nice breadth of styles and stories, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [ep01.07 & ep01.08]

After the rather intense last few episodes, Serial Box’s Alternis takes a needed breather with these two episodes, wrapping up some loose ends and tying back to some earlier moments in the series. What a difference only a handful of episodes have made, from the team at each other’s throats and trying to cheat to get ahead to working together and learning the joy of the game. It’s certainly a much more harmonious party that’s on display here, and despite the stress and storm of the battle royale, everyone seems to have emerged in a better place, ready to play their hearts out. To the reviews!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform July 2019

It's a rather brief month of stories from Vice's Terraform, with just two stories (one of them very short). But what the offerings lack in total word count they certainly make up for in impact, unfolding in a ways meant to challenge and terrify The futures here are cautionary but nothing without hope—bleak, but not without beauty. One acts as a sort of fairy tale for the age of family separation and immigration abuses, where a young girl and a drone must navigate a world hungry for tragedy. In the other, a school puts on its best face, which just happens to be one full of teeth. The stories are heavy but leave room for hope, and definitely tackle issues that need to be addressed. To the reviews!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2019

Art by Red Nose Studio
Two stories might seem a little light for a month's offerings from Tor dot com, but the works (one short story and one novelette) are both very strong, at turns delightful and challenging, and both with solid boundaries of dark and blood. Stylistically, the two pieces are very different, linked by a dark magic and a bend toward the past, both of them historical fantasies that find the main characters with plenty of blood on their hands...or paws, as the case might be. And both do look at community and family in pushing back against injustice and corruption, but one through the lens of cats fighting for the soul of a human and the other through humans fighting for their own safety and freedom. They're not always easy stories, but they are powerful and complex and I should just get to the reviews!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Quick Sips - PodCastle #585

July sees a single new story out from PodCastle, and it definitely dredges up some dark shadows from contemporary fantasy. The piece deals very intimately with eating disorders, and how they can act as infections, as invasions. And how sometimes it's not one a person can effectively fight against. That sometimes it's not something a person wants to fight against. It's a story that I very much think people should enter with an open mind but an awareness of the content warnings. And before I give too much away, let's get to the review!