Monday, September 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #71

Art by Mariana Palova
The September Fireside Magazine breaks a bit from the usual mold, in that three of the stories are translations (all from Spanish, I believe). Together, the stories and poetry paint something of a grim picture, revealing hungers and traumas, lies and fears and doubts. The characters are often put in situations where they're trying to figure out how to be themselves, how to walk the line between performance and identity, and never exactly coming away with a clear answer or map. The works are challenging and wrenching but often fun as well, emotionally charged in different ways. So let's get to the reviews!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/16/2019 & 09/23/2019

Art by Qistina Khalidah
September keeps right on rolling at Strange Horizons, and between the latest two issues there is a short story and two poems to look at. The stories evoke darkness and myth, and the places in the world where magic seems able to slip through. The deep woods. The moments of tragedy that break the world a bit. But as much as there is violence and sorrow and grief and loss, there are moments of healing as well, and compassion and empathy, that might be able to knit back together the torn fabric of reality, while maintaining a bit of that magic. To the reviews!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Augur #2.2 [part 1]

It’s a month of me adding some publications to my regular rotation, and (as voted in by my patrons), that includes Augur Magazine! It’s in its second year of publication and is a Canadian magazine specializing in SFF short fiction and poetry! I personally love venues that do both fiction and poetry so that’s extra awesome! I’m going to be breaking the issue up into two parts, though, in order to not bury myself in work (and to help me fill up some space in my rotation). The first half of the issue is strong and rather dark, filled with intense yearning as well as broken systems that often leave people vulnerable and without support. But there’s hope to these pieces, as well, that these characters can survive regardless, and find ways to help each other, and achieve compassion and community, even if it’s with just one other person. It’s a beautiful collection of works, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #55

Art by Joey Jordan
September brings a slightly larger release from Diabolical Plots, with three original stories covering magical schools, strange competitions, and vending machines of questionable morality. They walk the line between fun and poignant, between charming and wrenching. The pieces look at familial relationships and personal ambition against the desire to be a part of a community. In each, a character must handle being confronted with disappointment, with an unexpected complication. A family crisis, a educational reality, an immigration nightmare. Not all of the complications have simple fixes. But they all push the characters to reexamine their situations and try to find ways forward in a world that doesn't work quite the way they thought it did.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #1 [part 1: Fizzy Mixers]

I wasn’t actually meaning to pick up any more things to review but I am apparently a glutton for short SFF and couldn’t resist this new project, Translunar Travelers Lounge, that promises some fun short fiction with speculative awesomeness. Today I’m looking at the first section of the magazine, which has conveniently (and topically where this blog is concerned) organized itself as a tasting menu. So these are the Fizzy Mixers, which are meant to be light and great for whetting the appetite. They are also delightful, fun, and funny, brash and wicked and very, very good. So buckle up and loosen up your smilin’ muscles, and let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #696-697

Escape Pod has two original stories this month, and while they cover some very different ground both thematically and stylistically, they are united by perhaps a certain preoccupation with...death. Both stories approach the idea of death in very different ways, though, one of them looking at the lengths people will go to in order to try and revoke death, to overcome it, to erase the grief of loss and maybe pull something back from the abyss, while the other looks at the utility of death, the culture significance and the power of death as a driving force of human art and expression. The episodes are tightly written and at turns tragic and fun. So without further delay, to the reviews!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #84

Art by Chorazin / Fotolia
The two stories of Nightmare's September issues take on horror tropes old and very, very new. From a found text detailing a strange being hidden in the distant past to a new game craze sweeping a future where immersive gaming is possible, the stories deal with situations where a story takes on a life of its own. Where the whispers in crowded markets and quiet, dusty libraries lead to a monster who looks like a man. Where the corporate greed of game makers to create the most perfect (and profitable) gaming experience waken something hiding at the edge of the collective unconscious. The stories are disturbing and visceral, and pack in some shock to go with the creeping dread. To the reviews!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Quick Conversations: Post-Apocalyptic SFF (with L.D. Lewis, Marianne Kirby, and Nibedita Sen)

Okay, so something a bit different today! I’ve done some interviews in the past for my Quick Questions series, but today I’m starting something new (and exciting!)...Quick Conversations. Which will run a bit longer and will be more of a round-table discussion about a topic of interest in short SFF. Today I’m welcoming three excellent writers to the blog to discuss a subject near and dear to a great many SFF readers’ heart—post-apocalyptic fiction. The idea comes from a super-awesome-looking anthology that is Kickstarting now, Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn't Die from Neon Hemlock (edited by dave ring). Definitely check out the campaign, and perhaps pay special attention to the promise that the project “will be an anthology about queer joy and queer community in the face of disaster.” I mean, yes please! 

The good news is that it’s already funded, too! There are still stretch goals to hit, but the project itself definitely is happening. The project’s editor, dave ring, has this to add:
“I am over the moon that we've met our initial goal.  One way or another, this book will be in your hands next summer.  I'd really like to increase the level of compensation for our writers, as well as include the folks who've agreed to jump in at each of our stretch goals, so please check out our project!  Now that we are funded, submissions will open over at, and will remain so until November 30th."

Anyway, if that hasn’t convinced you, I invite you to sit back, relax, and absorb some amazing insights from some of the project’s contributors.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Disabled People Destroy Fantasy! part 1 (Uncanny #30 [September stuff])

Art by Julie Dillon
This month kicks off Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Fantasy!, with three poems, two short stories, and a novelette all written by disabled authors. The pieces definitely look at different ways that characters deal with disability, with pain, with limitations, with chronic issues that they can’t just will away. It looks at how the rest of the world treats them, which ends up defining a lot of their existence, what they’re able to do. The works are often a bit grim, and perhaps not surprisingly take on fairy tales and other media that has a history of...not handling disability very well. The fantasy is strong here, and gorgeously rendered, so let’s dispense with further small talk and get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #286

Art by Noah Bradley
The two stories in the latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies both deal with younger people getting some advice and guidance from powerful magic users. In one, a boy dreams about apprenticing with a Magician who he hopes might get him out of going to war. In the other, a woman seeks out a Witch in order to free her from a different sort of doom. In both, the characters are trying to turn away from death, to avoid the end that has befallen so many others. Only one of the characters gets what they’re after, unfortunately, though both learn some valuable lessons along the way. To the reviews!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #156

Art by Beeple
September brings just five new stories to Clarkesworld Magazine, but given that none of them are under 6800 words, it’s not exactly a light issue. It’s not light in terms of themes, either, with a lean toward works that explore abuse and damage, with people struggling to find meaning and connection in environments and situations that have been built on misconceptions, corruption, and exploitation. The result is the issue has its share of grim moments, but I feel out of that springs a lot of hope, with characters finding ways to trust and believe in themselves and others, working for a future that can be better for everyone. Or, at least, for the people who are trying to make things better for everyone. And there’s a lot to cover, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Samovar 09/02/2019 & Strange Horizons 09/09/2019

September kicks off with a bang with a new issue of Samovar to enjoy before settling back into regular Strange Horizons content. The translated issue features two stories and a poem, while the "regular" issue has another short story and poem, so all told it's a rather full two weeks. It's also a rather difficult few pieces, dealing with colonization, identity loss, and some dense literary comparative theory. And for all that the fiction is strong and unsettling, chronicling people struggling and often succumbing to the violence and corruption of their systems, I also want to point specifically to the poetry in these issues, which is pretty amazing and worth checking out. So let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus September 2019

GigaNotoSaurus is back! Editor LaShawn Wanak ushers in a new day and after having had just one other issue this year, the publication returns with a dose of magical Western in a novelette that mixes blood, sand, and compulsion. The piece follows a man made to suppress his nature, made into the semblance of something he used to be—fully human. It’s a rather bloody tale of covert action and a slight drive toward oblivion. But it’s also a fine taste of an interesting and intricate world, and might just whet your appetite for more. To the review!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online September 2019

September brings a somewhat grim collection of short fiction to Flash Fiction Online, with three pieces very much about accidents and loss, grief and the slim margins of hope. In many, death rides heavy in shotgun. In some, grief and loneliness seem like they will be too much for the narrators to bear. There is a sharp edge of bleakness in many of the stories, and how they approach grieving and sorrow. But there’s also hope to many of them. That even when you lose someone, not everything is lost. Even when it seems that way. And not everyone who leaves does so entirely, leaving pieces of themself behind in memories, in acts of compassion that linger long after their footsteps have faded to silence. To the reviews!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #52

Art by chainatp
Both of the original stories in this month’s The Dark Magazine deal with stories, with fairy tales. One of them in a more meta, way, weaving a woman’s harrowing struggle into a song that she can sing into life to give herself the happy ending she needs. The other is more of a fairy tale retelling, taking the familiar shapes and characters and themes and boiling them down into something thick and hearty. The result is an issue that is very aware of the price that women often pay just to live, and the injustice of that price. Both works find characters breaking free from the cycle that seems poised to consume them, and finding room for family and for hope. To the reviews!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #112

Art by Galen Dara
Two novelettes and two short stories means a fairly full issue of Lightspeed Magazine this September, with a focus on history, freedom, and struggle. Often in the stories, characters find themselves being controlled or manipulated, either by another being or by their own insecurities and fears. What results is an issue that looks at people struggling with the implications of their own drives, their desire for freedom over comfort, meaning over survival. There are stories of future incarceration, science gone wrong (or right?), struggles linked by music, and even a Weird Western where magic springs from decks of special playing cards. The worlds are vividly rendered and the characters often wrenchingly portrayed, but instead of just telling you about them here, let's get to the full reviews!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [ep01.09 & ep01.10]

We’ve reached the end of the season for Alternis, the serial project from Serial Box. It’s definitely been a bumpy ride for Tandy and the rest of Team USA, competing in a game structured as an MMORPG and populated by teams from all over the world, a “friendly” endeavor meant to peacefully allocate resources on a global stage. And while that mechanic of the story is still a little murky, the obvious truth is that the world is in a bad way, on the edge of all out war, and only the game seems to be keeping things from boiling over. So, you know, no pressure. Since the beginning, Tandy and company have been trying to put USA on the leader board, and finally they are poised to do just that. Can they seal the deal, though, or will their efforts crumble to dust. It’s a thrilling cap to what has been a very entertaining season. To the reviews!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Regular Sip - The West and Everything Above (Neon Hemlock Press)

I’m doing something a little different today, looking at a new chapbook from an emerging queer publisher, Neon Hemlock. The chapbook itself, The West and Everything Above, is the winner of the 2019 Outwrite Chapbook Competition and contains three stories exploring trauma, family, memory, and hope. They reveal characters who have been hurt, who have been scarred by a world that often seems indifferent to their suffering. That doesn’t cut them any breaks, and often seems poised to stomp them out entirely. The characters are survivors, though, finding ways to weather any assault or else craft themselves into nails to punch through the thick sole bearing down on them and strike back against the seemingly-unstoppable forces at work. It’s a difficult and often unsettling handful of stories, grim but with a resilience and determination to refuse the rigid structures imposed by the dominant culture and find a way forward embracing a universe where they can exist without compromise. To the reviews!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform August 2019

Only one story in August's Terraform offerings, which I hope is just a temporary lull. The good news is that it brings all the signature terror and sci fi dread that I've come to expect from the publication. It's not an easy read, all about the price of money, the cost of capitalism, and the way that corruption can get inside a person or a place and rot them from the inside out. It's difficult and disturbing at times, and before I give too much away I should get to my review!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #285

Art by Noah Bradley
It’s another fantastically paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies (which at this point should really surprise no one). The themes of the issue swirl around rulership, specifically women in positions of power and weakness as heads (or nearly-heads) of state. Both stories find women who are in situations that they didn’t really want or choose. Wars that they would have avoided, marriages that they never asked for. They have all experienced loss and must deal with the complicated emotions surrounding those losses. What they also have is a plan, though, for a way forward, a way to maybe reach around the obvious traps of power and corruption and toward something better. Something where peace is possible, and people can be free. It’s a somewhat violent issue, but very much worth confronting, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Quick Sips - PodCastle #589

The latest story from PodCastle mixes a rather dark setting and premise with the promise of magic and the hope of a young woman to escape the cage that’s being presented to her. It’s all wrapped in magic and ceremony, but the message is largely the same—some people are just destined for a bad death. To be mauled by a bear, or pecked apart by birds, or murdered by their intimate partner. Helga’s only a child, and yet her entire village has largely accepted that she’s one of those people. That doesn’t mean she’s just going to accept that, though, and the piece explores what happens when the only options given are bad ones. Let’s get to the review!