Friday, November 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Lackington's #20 [Birds part 1]

Art by Kat Weaver
Lackington’s giant anniversary issue is, well, for the birds. Or perhaps of the birds would be more accurate. And it’s so big I’m breaking it up into two reviews. Today I’ll look at the first six stories of the issue, and then next month I’ll be back to review the remaining five. And it works out nicely, because the issue is structured so that the early stories carry a rather staggering emotional punch, and after a few of them the issue very kindly takes something of a break to dive into a more light-hearted and fun romp with two stories about birds overthrowing human civilization. Fun! Seriously, though, the issue flows wonderfully, capturing the trademark Lackington’s poetic feel and language mixed with resonating emotional beats and a charm that makes it a joy to read. There’s a lot to get to, too, and the theme provides ample jumping off points into some breathtaking worlds and wrenching situations. To the reviews!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #73

Art of Reiko Murakami

Well there's a lot to be thankful for in the November issue of Fireside Magazine, with four short stories and one poem rounding out a rather interesting mix of short SFF. From inner battles with doubt and fear and demons to an examination of superstition in times of trouble and scarcity to a heartbreaking look a prejudice and employment, the works here are meant to move and provoke. There are glimpses of futures that might be, and ruminations on realities that are, all tinged with hope, magic, and family. Before I give anything away, though, I'll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/18/2019 & 11/25/2019

Art by Gary Frier
Strange Horizons closes out its November issues with a novelette and two poems, revealing settings rife with conflict and division. The pieces look at prejudice and pain, violence and intolerance. Characters are put in positions where they have been hated and hunted, where they have done their best to make lives free and fulfilling but other people keep seeking them out to take what they have. To punish them for flourishing. It’s a rather difficult pair of issues, but the works are careful and wonderful and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #291

Art by Alexey Shugurov
The stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies revolve around friendship. In both, the characters (the main ones, at least) have been friends for a long time. And that shapes how these stories move, how they unfold. In one, the friendship is also the plot, with the characters having to deal with the ways they’ve changed since their intensely close days as young people. In the other, the friendship helps to ground two people dealing with a much more labyrinthine web of intrigues that might have implications not just for them and their city, but for an empire, a world, and maybe even beyond. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #42

Art by Jereme Peabody
November brings a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, this time featuring three short stories, one novelette, and two poems. So there’s a lot of heroic fantasy to get to! And the pieces do a nice job of exploring certain themes. Second chances, for one, or the lack of them. Aging, for another, and the way that age has of teaching people lessons that are much harder to get any other way. The works are grim at times but not overly so, giving the characters some adventures, some chances to revisit things from their past. For most of them, there is hope to be taken away, even if it tastes bittersweet. And there’s just a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in to the reviews!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #86

Art by Mikesilent / Adobe Stock Images
November’s Nightmare Magazine brings two stories that deal with violence, with torture, and in some ways with roles and expectations. Where the first focuses more on the horror of when a girl breaks from the sugar and spice and everything nice expected of her, though, the second piece is all about the horror of when women go along with those expectations. It truly is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, and it might just take a voice reimagined from one of the most foundational texts in SFF horror to give a map of a way forward for people that rejects the abuses of convention and fights for a new way of thinking and being. To the reviews!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #57

Art by Joey Jordan
The two stories from Diabolical Plots this month are...well, they're rather weird. In one, a young girl reaches out to the shadows of her world. In another, a man finds himself having to fix something he thinks is too far gone. In both, the stories are grounded by a rather profound trauma. A death. A looming disaster. And they find the characters facing the prospect and reality of these situations with compassion and hope, pushing back against apathy and lethargy. To the reviews!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Omenana #14 [part 2/2]

Art by Sunny Efemena
I close out my review of the latest Omenana today with a look at three short stories. And they are stories filled with people with powers. Powers they receive as part of a global trend, or powers they inherit from their god, or powers that seem to come by accident thanks to an experimental procedure. But all of the stories in this back half of the issue focus on what those characters do with their powers. Do they seek to better the world and right great wrongs? Or is there perhaps more important things to do, like using them to try and deal with the traumas in their lives to give themselves a bit more power in situations where they feel powerless? Whatever the case, it's some amazing short SFF that I'll get right to reviewing!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #1 [part 3: House blend]

I’ve finally come to the third and final section of the menu for the first issue of Translunar Travelers Lounge. “House blend” promises a dark roast with a sweet finish, and there’s no arguing that these stories deliver on that. The world build and settings are intricate and largely built around loss and tragedy. These are worlds and places that have seen better times. Where humans or whoever is left have to figure out ways to live under the constraints of their surroundings and their histories. Often there is danger, oppression, fear, and destruction looming. But even in the most desolate of places, the stories feature characters reacting with compassion and resilience, coming together instead of splintering apart. So let’s close out this first issue and get to those reviews!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #31 [November stuff]

Art by John Picacio
I’d say that it’s a short month from Uncanny Magazine, but despite there being only two stories and two poems, one of the stories is a whopper of a novella, so wordcount-wise it’s a very robust issue. And the novella is certainly a story that captures some of the feeling of the uncanny, strange and mixing science and magic, focusing on a girl tossed back in time, struggling with her own desire not to screw up the timeline and her desire to prevent a tragedy from happening. And the story doesn’t re-tred old ground in providing a wonderful murder mystery time travel adventure, full of shadows intense and unsettling. The rest of the stories and poems round out a strange but rather lovely and haunting feel that for me personally fits with the time of year, with the first tendrils of winter digging in, and the sudden shortening of days and deepening of night. To the reviews!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/11/2019

Following some technical difficulties, Strange Horizons officially gets into November with a story and two poems that cover difference and roles and danger. In the works, characters are faced with choices. To give into the societal pressures pushing them into their prescribed roles, or to break out of them. Or, perhaps, to bend within them enough to chance them. There are dangers whatever choice is made, though, and the works also explore what happens next, to the people who have to choose, and to the people stuck in impossible situations. To the reviews!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #290

Art by Alexey Shugurov
The two stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are (to the surprise of no one, especially given the recent World Fantasy win) very well paired, circling around the ideas of gods and family and sacrifice. The stories find characters who have lived among the gods, or at least around their believers, and who have found their own way of making sense of the world. That might mean taking a more practical approach to divinity or rejecting altogether, though part of that boils down to the gods and their desires. Are they violent and competitive? Or are they part of the natural world, demanding of respect but only truly frightening when provoked? Both stories have veins of humor and grittiness, and before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #158

Art by Tomas Kral
November brings two short stories and three novelettes to Clarkesworld Magazine, most of them science fictional though some with fantasy elements thrown in there as well. There’s actually a strong focus on survival in this issue, on humans outliving (or not) some ecological or man-made disasters on Earth and having to decide what to do next. Having to decide whether to hold on and milk survival of every last drop of joy (and despair) or to embrace that humanity might be doomed, and that maybe it’s not the ultimate loss in the universe.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

2019 Awards Eligibility Post

Hi all! It's that time again to start to wrap up the year and get ready for...awards season [*shudder*].

2019 has been and continues to be...a challenge, we'll say. But I've managed to have some work out that I'm incredibly proud of, and I've continued my work here at Quick Sip Reviews as well as through my Patreon. I've tried some new things and expanded my coverage of short fiction to review more venues than ever (not an easy feat, given what I'd been doing already). But let's take it in chunks. For your consideration...

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus November 2019

November brings one of my favorite subjects in SFF to GigaNotoSaurus with a novelette all about magical cooking. And it shines a light on the brutal, often toxic atmosphere that dominate in many high end kitchens, where everything is expected to be conducted perfectly every time. The story finds a woman dealing with the prejudices inside the profession, as well as the added complications of cooking with magical ingredients. She’s determined to reach for her dream of being a chef, though, and so she’s willing to press through a lot that is crushing her spirit at the same time it’s helping her get ahead. So without further delay, let’s get to the review!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online November 2019

November’s Flash Fiction Online brings an interesting perspective on different kinds of magic and ownership. In one, both come down to a ritual, to an encircling. In another, they are tied up with memory and relationship, where items following the dissolution of a relationship go to those with more of a connection to them. And one, the ownership is of narratives, of images, and it has everything to do with the violent magic of colonialism. In all the pieces, characters are trying to reach for something, and all are dealing with corruption and power. Some are fighting against it, though, and some are rushing to embrace it. To the reviews!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #54

Art by Romolo Tavani
Halloween is over but the darkness continues year round at The Dark Magazine. November brings a pair of stories that are very much about family...and the forces working to break them apart. They look at war and immigration, racism and despair, magic and peace. The characters revealed are struggling against heavy weights that seem poised to crush them, and their ways of coping are...not always the healthiest. But without other options, it’s what they have, and the stories explore what that means, and the cost it has for the characters and their families. To the reviews!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #114

Art by Christopher D. Park
Three short stories and a novelette round out the November fiction from Lightspeed Magazine. Things kick off with a new story in the Robot Country series, and from there things progress to soul mates and annihilation of worlds, documentaries and punchlines. And a lot of the works have what might be a particular focus on world building, on large stories that unfold even outside the constraints of the stories featured here. Especially with the Phetteplace and Lee stories, these feel more like chapters that will unfold in larger confines, where the stakes are huge but still only a taste of what will be. It's a fascinating collection of fiction, with action probably taking prominence over introspection (by and large, though not without exception) and it's certainly an issue to spend some time with. To the reviews!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #702 & #704

Escape Pod doubled up in October, with two original releases covering some very interesting future technologies. I almost feel like Jonathan Frakes at the beginning of Beyond Belief. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if memories...could be passed down like grandma's furniture? Or, have you ever looked at a new piece of technology and wondered "am I going to be a machine?" The stories look at the implications of technologies that allow humans added avenues of thought and efficiency. Where people can gain the skills of the dearly departed, but might end up haunted. And where efficiency gives rise to Singularities that have already ravaged the world once, and might again. The pieces carry with them a weight of loneliness and loss, and yet refuse to be bogged down in despair. To the reviews!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform October 2019

I thought for a minute there that there wouldn't really be much out at Terraform this month, but a few later-month releases mean that there's still some rather sharp SF visions of the future to enjoy. In one, the world is ending and the people looking down the barrel of that possible, even likely extinction have to decide how to meet the end, and how they might leave something that will outlast them. In another, a character enters a novel kind of sleep study and end up realizing that his own biases going in can have very real outcomes coming out, in a nice look at the problems with scientific studies that rely on people to describe their own results. Not exactly the spookiest content, but full of shadows all the same, and well worth checking out. To the reviews!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Omenana #14 [part 1/2]

Art by Sunny Efemena
In an unexpected bonus this month, Omenana is back with a brand new issue! And, well, it’s big! So big that I think what would be best for me is to break it up across two review posts. So today I’ll be looking at the first half of the issue, at four short stories that cover science fiction set on distant worlds, horror pieces much more terrestrially based, and some fantasy to round things out. It’s a challenging start to the issue, not flinching away from some very difficult truths, and it challenges readers to face some things that most would not choose to. So pay attention to the content warnings and I’ll get to the reviews!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com October 2019

Art by Mary Haasdyk
October opened strong at Tor, and closed out with two short stories and a quite long novelette that mix science fiction and fantasy in interesting ways. There's a new Wild Cards story that picks up from an earlier one released on the site, so fans will definitely want to check that out, as it's fun and (dare I say) rollicking. The other two stories are a bit more somber, though, dealing with human fragility and resilience. Finding people coping with some huge issues of survival and ethics. Questioning how to make personal decisions and live responsibly when there are larger societal demands, and blurring the line between what's good for the whole and what's good for the individual. These are some dense and careful pieces while still managing to capture some wonder and beauty. So let's get to the reviews!