Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year-in-Review

Lots happened in 2019. SO MUCH! And, as it seems I report every year, I am a bit tired. But might as well celebrate as I can. Quick Sip Reviews will be turning five years old in less than a week. And 2019 saw a lot of good, including 2 Hugo nominations for Best Fanzine and Best Fan Writer! So thank you so so much for reading and following and everything!

I already went over a bunch of stuff from 2019 in my eligibility post, so I'd suggest starting there for a general update on me. Otherwise, I also posted the Quick Sip Reviews 2019 Recommended Reading List today, so there's that. Anyway, I won't dally too long (I have to go shovel snow...boo). Below are the stats for 2019 plus some thoughts and updates. Cheers!

The Quick Sip Reviews 2019 Recommended Reading List

2019 is dead! Long live 2020! Well, perhaps not quite. Before I officially pronounce 2019 over and done, there's some business to get to first, namely looking back and taking stock of ALL THE AMAZING STORIES that I read over the year. Hence, the Quick Sip Reviews 2019 Recommended Reading List! Below are 106* works spanning the entirety of the year. I admit, I kind of cheated. This is pretty much a collation of all my weekly recommendations, which I do on my Patreon as my Sip of the Week column. Every Friday I give one Sip of the Week and one Honorable Mention, with a review of the former and brief note on the later. These are patron-exclusive, so if you want to get in on weekly recs (plus lots more), I'd recommend joining.

That said, the Sips and this list have two MAJOR caveats to them. The first is that they reflect my tastes and opinions. I'm not trying to give you the best stories, but rather the stories I liked the most. Secondly, these stories are ONLY taken from venues that I cover in my reviews. This incredibly narrows my field, regardless of how much I try to read. The field is vast and I would totally read more if I could, but circumstances restrict me in what I can get to. I regret not being able to read more and wider, but I do feel that what I read now allows me to get to as much and as wide a sampling of the field as possible. I own that, and while I do make apologies for it, I also stand behind it. This is what I do. This is what limits me. I still think and hope that this list will have value to some, and might help people find some stories they might have missed. The good news is that I have reviewed all of these stories right here at Quick Sip Reviews. You can put the title into the search (at the top left of the screen on desktops...if you're using mobile you can toggle on the desktop mode by going to the bottom of the page and finding the button there). So if you're curious to know more, there will be keywords and notes and all sorts of info. Plus more if you check the posts on my Patreon.

Next some brief stats. These 106 stories came from 26 different publications and 101 different authors (7 authors have 2 stories on the list). Strange Horizons placed the most on the list with 9; followed by Uncanny and Clarkesworld with 8; Beneath Ceasless Skies, Fireside, and The Dark with 7; Lightspeed and Terraform with 6; Apex with 5; Anathema, Fiyah, Nightmare, Tor, and Flash Fiction Online with 4; Diabolical Plots and PodCastle with 3; Escape Pod, GigaNotoSaurus, Glittership, Lackington's, Omenana, Augur, and Translunar Travelers Lounge with 2; and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Mithila Review, and Samovar with 1.

My many thanks to all of the authors, editors, and other people involved with bringing these stories into the world. They are amazing. So, without further delay, the list! Cheers!

Quick Sips - Tor dot com December 2019

Art by Audrey Benjaminsen
I'm actually surprised that Tor had two stories out in December, as in at least some years past they've taken the month largely off. Not that I'm complaining. The two stories here are interesting and find people coming up against some strange and perhaps-unexplainable things. One woman is facing a broken mirror that has effected all of time, that has rewritten reality itself. Another finds herself working for a government she knows better than to trust in a strange place that will push her to her physical and mental limits. Both deal with alternate realities, with dimensions, and both are haunting and cold, well suited for the winter. To the reviews!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #710 & #711

The two stories from Escape Pod's December both deal with space, and isolation, and loneliness, and cooperation. Given, they do so in two very different ways, one unfolding on a station that is (now) devoid of human life, but which has also seen the "birth" of something new. The second is very much filled with humans. Too many, perhaps, for the colony they're on, given the series of accidents that threatens everyone. Both find people reaching out to people, though, despite the risk and despite the people involved largely being people who sought a kind of solitude. And the works are at turns heartwarming and wrenching, with a great holiday touch for at least one of them that makes them very appropriate for the season. To the reviews!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 12/16/2019 & 12/23/2019

I'm not actually sure if Strange Horizons is done for the year with this short story and two poems, or if there's a surprise waiting for me on Monday (*puts head in hands, weeps*). Maybe there will be a new Samovar! Or a special issue! Or maybe this is it. Whatever the case, the works are wonderful and focus on conflict and division, at governments and change and devastation. The works find characters dealing with their worlds being torn apart and (maybe) put back together again. But always with a price, a cost in human lives. These are some bleak-at-times works, but they reveal the beauty of the human spirit, and hope, in the face of even the worst situations. To the reviews!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #293

Art by Alexey Shugurov
At first blush the two stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies don’t share too much in common(a rarity for the publication). But digging a little deeper, though, finds stories featuring characters dealing with some systemic problems. Very different ones, but ones that still seek to make them complicit in evil and corruption. And that almost succeed. They’re both quiet at first but rather quickly ramp up, and their ends are both rather bloody, rather messy affairs. To the reviews!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Anathema #9

Art by Grace P. Fong
December is full of presents, it seems, with Anathema giving the gift of more SFF short fiction and poetry to all the nice (or naughty, bc yolo) people of the world. The stories and poems are solidly strange and haunting, the mood rather appropriate for winter, which is where I’m reading them. They are cold, distant, and dominated by isolation and loneliness. They deal with ghosts, with gods, with loss, with transformations, and with hope. The characters here are dealing with feeling silent, with feeling cut off from needed support. From being able to truly inhabit and express themselves. To the reviews!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Lackington's #20 [Birds part 2]

Art by Kat Weaver
And I'm back looking at the most recent and oversized Bird-themed Lackington's #20! Apparently I kinda went out of order when I read the first "half" so my apologies there. It actually rather worked out, thematically, though, as this "half" of the issue really holds together thematically, involving kinds of hauntings, kinds of festering historical wounds that need to be addressed and healed. Often those wounds are brought about by abuse, maintained through silence and contempt, and made worse by time and the constant pressure and pain those wounds cause. But in standard Lackington's fashion, these situations are rendered in lyrical, vivid prose and a sense of surreal beauty that make it all a joy to explore. To the reviews!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #58

Art by Joey Jordan
Two stories round out the SFF offerings from Diabolical Plots this month, and they cover some interesting speculative ground. Both pieces establish themselves in a rather clear literary tradition. The first looks at the idea of utopia through a statistical lens, tracing the ways “good intentions” might curve into some decidedly unjust shapes. The second takes a more noir approach, using a speculative flourish to flesh out a situation involving a domestic dispute, aliens, and rapid aging. And both offer interesting takes on these more classic elements, building two solid worlds readers can sink their teeth into. To the reviews!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #87

Art by Rodjulian / Adobe Stock Footage
The two stories in the December issue of Nightmare Magazine focus on the relationships that men or boys have with other men or boys. In one, two brothers are the focus on the piece. In the other, it’s two best friends. In both, the characters have secrets they are keeping from one another, jealousies and angers that have warped their relationships. That threaten to make them something poisoning them rather than enriching their lives or helping them to deal with their problems. In one of the stories, the boys are young enough that there might yet be time to change things, to understand each other and grow. In the other, it’s possible too much time and bitterness exists for the men to ever come back from where they’ve gone. To the reviews!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #12 [part 1]

Art by Theobald Carreras
Despite a rather length pause between the last two issues of Mithila Review, the latest comes right on the heels of the previous, and it’s even bigger! Eep! Well, for me that means breaking it up into smaller, more managable chunks. As the issue will be releasing for free through February, I’ll be doing three parts of my review, start with two short stories and four poems. The works definitely look at loss and vulnerability, the fiction featuring women who have lost a lot already and stand to lose more, both of them willing to trade their own safety for that of those they care about. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #159

Art by Derek Stenning
The December Clarkesworld closes out the year with some rather long short SFF (the shortest piece being over 6500 words). And the stories are rather melancholy, are rather full of longing and loss. Not that there aren’t moments of joy, moments of victory over despair and oppression. But that the moods of the story are decidedly dense, thick, at times like walking through a fog of difficulty. It’s a fitting feel for where I live, where the month is already cold and snowy and heavy. And there’s a glimmer of something like hope to reach for, however dim it might seem. Some future where maybe things won’t be as harsh, even if it’s a future that requires a lot of work to get to. To the reviews!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #31 [December stuff]

Art by John Picacio
December brings three short stories and two poems to Uncanny Magazine, including two flash fictions. The pieces do a great job of mixing fun with some much darker elements. From superhero academies where a young girl is struggling with an enormous power to a market where the people going in are not always quite the same people who come out, to a very interesting kind of cosmic horror detective tale, the works blend fear, desperation, and vulnerability to amazing effect. Add into the mix the poetry, which looks at grief and monsters, expectations and fear, and the issue as a whole hits hard. And the main balm is that the works are also a joy to read, at turns wrenching and funny, sexy and tense. So let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 12/02/2019 & 12/09/2019

Art by Arturo Lauria
Two issues of Strange Horizons bring two short stories and two poems to kick off December's content. Tonally, the issues cover a lot of ground, from a slow, wrenching examination of oppression and expression, family and safety, to a more action-oriented adventure in deep space featuring twisted gods. The poetry adds to the diversity of the works and the moods, painting pictures both creepy and resilient. All in all, it's a wonderful look at just how different short SFF can be, building fascinating new worlds peppered with classic touches. To the reviews!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #292

Art by Alexey Shugurov
It’s no surprise that the two stories in this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are incredibly well paired—it’s just sort of what I expect from the publication. And they are, both dealing intimately with names, and with flowers, and with violence and expectation. With ignorance, and characters dealing with that ignorance. Because without knowledge they can’t make informed decisions, can’t give informed consent. Being asked to take everything on faith, they see how that system allows for their exploitation and unhappiness, their marginalization and, ultimately, their death. It’s not an easy issue, and both stories deal with gaslighting and abuse in some visceral ways. So definitely be mindful the content warnings. But there’s also a power and a beauty to them that’s worth sitting down with. To the reviews!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus December 2019

Don’t let the fact that it’s December trick you into thinking all the best fiction of the year has already come out. Because people, the new short story from GigaNotoSaurus is probably going to end up on a number of my lists. It’s bold and kind and completely out of fucks and I love it so much. But then, a story about a punk rock band and the end of the world via alien invasion is probably going to be hard for me to dislike. And this story has an amazing cast, a sort of gallows humor that is charming and poignant all at once, and you should just read it already. For me, it’s time I got to the review!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online December 2019

It’s not an overly speculative issue of Flash Fiction Online for December, with only one science fiction piece and two literary ones, but the stories are all solid and explore themes of family, relationships, power, freedom, and success. The characters are often stuck in situations that feel oppressive, their desperate wish just to be released from the constant pressure on them. To ignore the issues in their marriage. to accept the stifling atmosphere of their father’s home. To churn out content for fans that might turn on them at any moment. It’s a great handful of flash stories, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #55

Art by Miranda Adria
The Dark is closing out 2019 with two stories that treat with horror in very different ways. In one, a young woman deals with social isolation and trauma while trying to both solve a mystery and navigate a very fragile space within her family. In the other, an artist deals with a much more physical isolation as he finds himself in a remote house where his inspiration has taken a rather sinister turn. In both, though, the characters are up against supernatural threats alongside emotional and mental ones. The baggage they carry is a weight on them, and they've effectively been thrown into the deep end with it. Can they shed it, or build it into something they can use to steer a course to safer waters, or will they be dragged down to the depths by it? To the reviews!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #115

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
The last Lightspeed Magazine of the year is a rather challenging one for me, full of settings defined by exclusion, oppression, and conflict. These stories are grim, and unsettling, and for me personally mostly upsetting. Not that they don't have hope, or moments of beauty, or skill in wordcraft. But perhaps because I'm in the start of what already is a rather trying winter, I found it hard with some of the pieces to achieve the distance from some of the stories that would have been required to enjoy them more. Still, there are some definite bright spots in the issue, and I'll cover it all in the review.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #708

Not all futures are so bright you gotta wear shades, and that's certainly the case in November's lone Escape Pod release, a story that explores how technology can make some wonderful things possible (printing life saving organ transplants and reviving extinct species), but in the grips of our capitalist system those wonders will always be tainted by corruption, inequality, and abuse. It's not perhaps the rosiest vision of the future, but it is a call to perhaps take the sunglasses off for to better see in all the shades and subtleties the road we as a people are speeding down, and how we might exit toward something better before it's too late. To the review!

Quick Sips - Terraform November 2019

I wasn't actually sure if there would be a release from Vice's Terraform this month, as their publishing schedule has gone rather erratic of late. But they did indeed drop a story toward the end of the month, and it's certainly on brand for near future science fiction that walks a rather dark edge. The piece looks at the future of medicine, not just in the ways that things like nanobots might be used to keep people healthy and prevent illness and damage, but also in the way that technology will effect legislation and the law. The piece is framed inside a courtroom, where the question put the court is where religious objections to medical technology meet criminal actions up to and including murder. To the review!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com November 2019

Art by Red Nose Studio
I was actually anticipating Tor to start to slow down, given their tendency to take most of the end of the year off of new releases, but November actually saw three original stories from the publication. The stories mix a sense of almost child-like wonder with some grim realities. In each the main character is sheltered in some key way, locked away, and is waiting for their moment to escape. Some of them don't know it yet, are convinced of the completeness of their isolation, their prison, but as time goes on they all find reason to see that their lives are only being partly lived, kept back from exploring the universe and all its secrets and magic. And what they do about that defines their arcs and their stories. To the reviews!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Quick Sips - PodCastle #600 & #602

November was a month to be thankful for at PodCastle, which saw the release of the 2019 Flash Fiction Contest winners. The four flashes put the total stories out from the venue at five, which makes it the most original releases of the year. And the stories do certainly show what can be done in a very short space, most of them walking the careful line between hope and despair, humor and hurt. The works do a wonderful job of boiling fantasy down into bite-sized pieces, so it's perhaps extra appropriate that they deal with food and magic, stories and fire. Before I spoil your appetite for the amazing fiction, though, let's get right to the reviews!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Quick Sips - Mithila Reviews #11 [part 2]

Art by Edward Hicks (1848)
I’m finishing up my look at the most recent issue of Mithila Review, today checking out two short stories, one novelette, and four poems. The pieces cover a lot of thematic ground, from transplanted mythology/folklore to sea monster hunting, but I think there is a sense of resonance for me with an examination of how to live in an oppressive world. Of how to navigate the tricky and sometimes impossible landscape of capitalism or other corruption. How to exist while being near powerless, and how to try and keep hold not just of yourself and your family, but your soul as well. To the reviews!

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 replaced...by 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!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #72

Art by Amanda Makepeace
Well Fireside Magazine certainly takes its Halloween seriously, because this issues is entirely ghost-centric in order to get you into the spoopy mood. The stories explore what it means to be a ghost, what defines ghost-ness. And obviously, spread over so many stories, the place it arrives at isn't homogeneous. There are a variety of ghosts, as there are a variety of people—ghost who remember their lives and those who don't, ghosts who hunger for the living, and those who want only a break from isolation. Ghosts created by violence, and those created by longing. And it's a wonderful celebration of ghosts carried out over the issue. So let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/21/2019 & 10/28/2019

Art by Sarah Gonzales
The end of October brings one heart-rending story and two poems very much suited to the season to Strange Horizons. The story is gorgeous and difficult, examining a future that might as well be the past for all that history might move in circles, in cycles where certain groups are always more vulnerable, always more at risk of being stripped of their rights and lives. The poems are actually rather creepy, both of them unfolding from perspectives that gives voice to a bit of darkness. That are waiting for people to initiate a bargain that the people might not even realize they are making. But it’s enough for horror to blossom. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #289

Well I think that Beneath Ceaseless Skies is starting to get in the Halloween mood, as this issues stories do kind of lean toward the spooky side. Full of darkness and difficulty, the stories find characters who are pushed into violent situations. For one of them, it’s an opportunity to repay a debt and maybe break his isolation. For the other, though, the violence is part of a control being exerted over his life, and is very much causing his isolation and pain. But both characters need to work through it in order to try and find what’s on the other side. Community perhaps. Forgiveness? Well, you’ll just have to see. To the reviews!

Monday, October 28, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #24: PHANTOM OF THE AUDITORIUM

Okay, so I admit I always wanted to get into theater, but I guess was never really good enough. Or maybe by the time I would have gotten into it, I was in sports and things instead, and it didn’t seem open to me. Or maybe I avoided it on some unconscious level because it’s not exactly...the...straightest of things. And maybe I just steered clear because I didn’t want to get into that. I’m kinda messed up. But anyway, that is all to say that this book hits me right in the drama geek feels, and I just can’t wait. Y’all, I can’t wait!

Oh, I should say that I’m drinking from the Dogfish Head summer variety pack (which is super cheap right now and full of things like a coconut IPA which is weird but good). So right, drinks are lined up. Let’s get to this book!

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #23: RETURN OF THE MUMMY

So what actually earns a Goosebumps sequel? This book marks the second return visit in the series (the first being Monster Blood), and as with that...uh...shining example, I'm not really sure what merited a return to this particular set of characters. Mummies are classic? Or...uh... Well, what's certain is that this book is a waaaaay better sequel than Monster Blood II. Not that giant hamsters aren't awesome, but that this book at least stays consistent with itself and the world it introduced in the first book. Gabe still gets lost way too easily. Uncle Ben still shouldn't be allowed to supervise children. And Sari is still quick to make Gabe look like an ass.

But first, some booze! I'm actually drinking a strange milkshake IPA, which has lactose in it, I guess? Look, I'm not here so you can judge my drinking decisions (and besides, it's really good). Thusly fortified against the descent into madness that this is sure to be, let's get right to it!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #11 [part 1]

Art by Edward Hicks (1848)
It’s been a while since the last issue of Mithila Review, but issue 11 is out now! Now, things are a little different, in that the works aren’t being released all at once. Most of the content is live, but there are some more to come, and to cope I’m going to be taking the issue in two parts. In the first half there are three stories and four poems, and there will be again when I finish up my review next month. There’s a lot to experience, from a very very short piece to a full novelette, from a satire featuring zombies to a nightmarish look at a possible future where a border wall is being built. The poetry is great, the fiction dips into some rather dark wells, and the issue as a whole is a solid experience. So glad to see a new issue from this publication. Let’s get to the reviews!