Friday, February 28, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com February 2020

Art by Eli Minaya
I keep on expecting Tor to decrease their short fiction offerings after a very busy January, but the hits just keep on coming with three new short stories and a novelette. The themes and the genres vary rather widely, from historical fairy tale to far future and far flung science fiction to a weird piece about a weird manuscript...and aliens. The works take on some wonderful settings and some fascinating characters, all while dealing with themes of loss and relationships. And there's plenty of fun and action to balance out the heavier emotional beats, so it's really a strong month of fiction. To the reviews!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #76

Art by Carlota Suárez
The three stories and one poem in February's Fireside Magazine have a lot to do with family, and harm, and the possibility of escape. An escape that is complicated by a history of pain and abuse, exploitation and pressure. The stories range from contemporary fiction to fantasy to science fiction, all of them grounded on Earth. The action involves the complicated roles people have within their families, within the bounds of expectation and desire. It's a dense issue, and a careful one, and before I give too much away, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/17/2020 & 02/24/2020

Art by Rachel Quinlan
February closes at Strange Horizons with two more issues featuring one short story and two poems. The work does not disappoint, though, with a story that really does some innovative things with cosmic horror, including rejecting one of the major tenants of what's supposed to make the genre so terrifying. Add on some poetry that manages to be affirming and strange and haunting, and the issues do a wonderful job of capturing some of that February feeling. Not the romantic vibes, but rather the chill just showing signs that maybe spring isn't too far off. To the reviews!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #2 [Fruit and Cheese Platter]

Translunar Travelers Lounge is back with A Lot of new fiction. Like with last time, I’m breaking the issue out into three parts, based on the publication’s own tasting menu. First up this issue is the Fruit and Cheese Platter, which promises works that are juicy and quirky. And the stories certainly deliver there, offering up five pieces that are at turns funny and action-packed, full of magic, day jobs, and demons. And characters who have had enough of forcing themselves to be small, to be convenient. They are ready to break out of their cages and take on the world—sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. The issue oozes charm, and is lots of fun, while still making some deep points. To the reviews!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #43

Art by Jereme Peabody
The latest from Heroic Fantasy Quarterly brings two short stories, a novelette, and two poems that celebrate fantasy. Now, that celebration is a bit...dark this issue, thanks to a focus on some grim themes of redemption, debts, and revenge. Each of the stories features characters trying to make up for events in their pasts, trying to seek something like atonement, even when they’ve done nothing wrong. Not all of them are exactly successful. But in looking at their struggles the stories reveal settings dipped in corruption and prejudice, full of hungry jaws waiting for a moment’s weakness. To the reviews!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #60

Art by Joey Jordan
The two stories of Diabolical Plots' February content deal with trials and struggle, though in very different ways. One is a contemporary sci-fantasy, an invasion story, about resistance and complicity. The other is a second world fantasy where winged people fill the skies, except for one youth who must deal with living more grounded. The pieces find characters who are faced with choices of either accepting a status quo that is stifling, or taking a chance and risking everything to fight for something different and better. The characters don't exactly all make the same decisions about what to do. So yeah, to the reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2019! The "Where We're Going We Won't Need Categories" Sippy for Excellent I Don't Know What in Short SFF

Welcome to the final installment of the 2019 Sippy Awards! So far we've covered relationships, horror, making-me-cry, and action in short SFF. What does that leave? Well...the thing is, sometimes there are stories that just don't fit into a specific box. Especially with speculative fiction, where the rule is you must break the rules. It means that there are ample opportunities to be innovative, to do things that don't fall in line with the traditional or expected. And for that I have the...

“Where We’re Going We Won’t Need Categories” 
Sippy Awards for Excellent I Don’t Know What in Short SFF

So sometimes it's hard to look at stories that are doing something rather different. Because they don't always fit nicely into the same discussion as other, maybe more mainstream stories. Except that they stand out as doing something new. On first glance, maybe they just seem weird. Odd. Many of them might be dismissed as just that. With maybe a few words on the beautiful language, and maybe a few words on how they were different. But I really love stories that sort of blur the lines between form and message. Where the way the story is told is part of the impact of the story, even as that impact is difficult to define. There isn't a lot of connective tissue between the stories in this category--they are doing some very different things. But that is actually what holds them together here, that each is innovative and daring, that each takes chances and risks that, for me, pay of wonderfully.

So where did these stories come from? Well, from a number of rather unconventional places, as one might guess. From Fiyah, whose mandate has always been to publish black voices who might fall outside the conventional (which is often viewed as the very white "classics" of the SFF canon). From Escape Pod, which innovates not just with what it publishes but by how it publishes, as a podcast for science fictional stories. From Strange Horizons, which in many ways has led the push to innovate the field as a non-profit and as a champion for stories that do something different and new. From Tor, who as one of the largest publishers in the genre is still invested in not falling behind the curve when it comes to experimental and challenging works. And from Lackington's, whose voice and style set it apart, a publication that knows what it likes and doesn't care if that falls outside what is often more popular or mainstream. The stories are dazzling and different, strange and haunting and good. So let's get to the awards!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #297

Art by Rytis Sabaliauskas
The two stories of the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies deal with nobility. In one, the ruler of a very small nation explains the nature of justice. In another, a boy who might have been king struggles with having all that taken away. Both deal with events that might be too much for the main characters to handle, events that might break them, leave them forever after altered, different. It’s a fascinating pair of stories, drawing on the historical real world, though with their own fictional flourishes. To the reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2019! The "Time to Run Some Red Lights" Sippy for Excellent Action!!! in SFF

If you were around for the first Fast and the Furious movie, you might remember the news articles about how people coming out of the movie were more likely to make risky driving decisions. Not that they were just copying what they saw in the movie, but that it left them amped! Well, rounding out my categories that are primarily about an emotional response (horror=pain, ugly-cry=pain), this category is all about EXCITEMENT! FUCK YEAH!!!! So hold onto your butts and get ready for the...

“Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy Awards 
for Excellent Action! in Short SFF

As I said yesterday, I'm a bit of an emotive reader. Which means when a story hurts, it hurts. And when a story scares, it scares. But it also means when a story pumps it up, it makes me want to punch the sun in a mech suit the size of a planet! You know, like a normal person. Heh. But I love stories that really make me want to stand up, to run, to arrive somewhere breathless, alive. And these stories do just that, featuring characters fighting with all they have against what seems like an overwhelming situation. A threat to destroy their city, their world; a tournament where dreams are made or broken; an attempt by the actual devil to take the one person in the world you kinda tolerate--these are stories with some high stakes and some intense action.

As for where they came from...kinda all over. From the sadly-on-hiatus Apex Magazine, and from the always defiant Fireside Magazine. From Fiyah, from Tor, from GigaNotoSaurus (which came back from a bit of a hiatus this year). These are often sources for stories that get the blood pumping, the mind racing, the muscles twitchy and electric. So let's get to the awards already!!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Machina [ep01.03 & 01.04]

The drama continues and DevLok and Watchover continue their competition to see who will win the bid to help get humanity established on Mars. It’s Machina time! And there haven’t been any huge snags yet. That’s before scores got involved, though. And there’s almost no way better to make humans freak out than to grade them and assign them a number, tying that number to something they want, something they might need. It’s a tense web of people and interests that can’t really exist in harmony, at least as they are now. Someone’s going to get hurt. Someones, most likely. But who, when, how, and why? Let’s get to the reviews

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2019! The "There's Something in My Eye" Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

The 5th Annual Sippy Awards show no signs of slowing as we move past horror and settle into a whole new emotional destination. That's right, people, it's time to bust out the tissues, because this category is taking aim directly at your feels! I might be something of an emotive reader, but I feel that comes with trying to approach fiction openly and engage with it deeply. I tend to let stories in to where they can hurt the most, because while that can often backfire and leave me hurt and angry, it can also lead me to some amazing emotional connections with stories, which I'm honoring with the...

“There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award 
for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

Following horror with this category makes a lot of sense to me, because for me both are about evoking emotions. With horror, that emotion is fear. With these stories, it's probably a bit more about...pain. Which might seem a strange thing to value in fiction. But it's not that the stories are about making the reader feel sad. There are plenty of ways that people seek out pain. Through exercise, through sport, through food--pain is about more than telling person that they've taken damage. It's a powerful experience, one of the most primal things, and a story that can hurt in the best of ways is rare and precious. Because it allows people to experience in a controlled way something they'd probably never want to experience in their own lives. It gives perspective, and it mingles pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, despair and burning hope. It takes a great deal of care, and requires a bit of trust, but these stories I feel earn it and then some.

Publication wise, it's another rather eclectic mix, though Strange Horizons does appear twice. Really that's no surprise for me, as the publication really does a great job at reducing me to a small puddle of tears on the regular. What's doubly appreciated is that Strange Horizons offer ample warnings for people who might not want to take the emotional plunge into a work that deals with such heavy themes.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #89

Art by Hwitte / Adobe
The two new stories in February's Nightmare Magazine peel back the masks that people wear, the facades of decency that adorn the faces of a lot of people, and reveal the ready hate and violence waiting there. What the stories do with that is what makes them different, in one story that revelation coming with an almost scientific distance, an interesting survey question but no meaningful action. In the other, that revelation is followed by a kind of retribution. Either way, the focus is strongly on the horror of the reader realizing that many people wear masks, and that some, even some very nearby, might be covering over some heinous thoughts and actions. To the reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2019! The "I'm Sleeping with the Lights On" Sippy for Excellent Horror in Short SFF

Day 2 of the 2019 Sippy Awards takes something of an abrupt turn from relationships to look at stories that I felt excelled at something a bit...creepier. Now, some people try to separate SFF and horror, treating them as two entirely different things. But like peanut butter and chocolate, I often feel like the two do so well together. And there's no denying the horror elements of some SFF stories, and no taking out the SFF elements from some horror stories. So call them what you will, but today I'm celebrating the...

“I’m Sleeping with the Lights On” Sippy Award 
for Excellent Horror in Short SFF

For me, horror is all about fear, about feeling. And there's no denying that in 2019 there was plenty of that to go around. But even as fear is often used as a tool to divide, to instill hate and bigotry, to inspire violence, I feel it can also be a tool to unite, to build empathy, and to inspire hope. Often horror is a genre where uncomfortable and disturbing themes and content come out to play. The inclusion of those elements confronts readers with things that they often might feel like ignoring. And through those confrontations, some readers must face the weight of the real-world horrors going on all around them, made personal and poignant in the fictional spaces these works open up. From toxic relationships to cosmic insignificance, the works range in their focus, but all tread carefully and powerfully amidst pain, predation, and abuse.

Probably coming as no surprise, the stories here came from two of the biggest SFF horror publications around, The Dark and Nightmare magazines. Not that other publications don't also do horror well, but these two had some incredibly strong years, and the stories here represent by favorites, full of creep and cringe, dread and unease. They also, though, aren't afraid to be funny, and don't hesitate use a bit of gallows humor to get their points across. They are turns beautiful and repulsive, sensual and terrifying. So let's give out these awards!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #32 [February stuff]

Art by Nilah Magruder
Two short stories, one novelette, and two poems round out the February offerings from Uncanny Magazine. And in each of the stories there is a strange encounter. A meeting that will end up having some large implications. A magical creature meets a small boy. A woman meets a younger version of herself. A youth tries to convert a vampire to Christianity. From there, each story takes it’s own road, though all of them are into shadow, and loss, and death. It’s something of a grim issue, for all that the works come in what is generally thought of as a romantic month. And there’s just a lot to see and experience, so I’ll get right to my reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 201! The "I'd Ship That" Sippy for Excellent Relationships in Short SFF

Welcome, dear readers, to the FIFTH ANNUAL SIPPY AWARDS! For those uninitiated, the Sippys are the SFF short fiction awards that no one asked for but I'm giving out anyway! The rules are simple: of all the stories covered by QSR over the previous year, I'm selecting my five favorites in each of five categories. That's 25 stories in total, with 5 that walk away with the prestigious and coveted Big Sip Award. This is obviously the literary achievement that people wait their whole lives to reach, yes? Anyway, these posts will go up, one a day, for the next five days. As is tradition, I'm kicking things off with the...

“I’d Ship That” Sippy Award for Excellent Relationships is Short SFF

I'm a sucker for a good relationship story. They don't have to be romantic. Or sexual. Though most of these stories do feature romance and sex, they also feature characters that interact and orbit each other in intensely beautiful ways. For some of the stories, the connections are between just two people, lovers or friends or something else. For others, the connections flow between more people, or did, and were severed. They feature people striving to find comfort and meaning in their own skins, knowing sometimes that takes help, and understanding, and compassion. And occasionally it takes kicking some ass. Whatever the case, the relationships explored in these stories have stuck with me through a very hard year.

The stories come from all over, and it's probably no surprise that most of the relationships read as queer. But it's not just that which speaks to me. These are stories about people dealing with some crushing situations. And reaching out to each other, and helping each other, protecting each other, boosting each other. Surviving. Thriving. They're beautiful and fierce and I'll just get out of the way and let them speak for themselves.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #12 [part 3]

Art by Theobald Carreras
It's time to finish up my look at the latest issue of Mithila Review, this time covering a short story, a novelette, and four poems. The pieces get a bit weird here, looking at different cities that carry inside them different rules and different dangers. In both of the stories, characters seek to navigate these spaces looking for answers, looking for safety, and find instead hungry jaws snapping at them. The poetry delivers a slew of speculative ideas and feelings that show why this publication is one to watch, offering up resonating SFF from all over the world.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/03/2020 & 02/10/2020

A flash, a novelette, and two poems round out the first half of Strange Horizons' February releases. And the works look closely at homes and at cages, and how the two can overlap, and how the two can seem similar but be worlds apart. The stories here are very different, one contemporary fantasy, the other off-world science fiction, but both feature narrators who don't really fit in to larger society. Who struggle at times to be understood, and who want to live by their own values. The poem reinforce themes of intent, cages, and damage, and all together it's another great two issues of the publication. To the reviews!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #161

Art by Colie Wertz
February is often seen as a month devoted to love and romance, but at Clarkesworld things are a bit more...bitterly tragic than that. And okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the stories here are not easy, are not exactly light, and tend to focus on violence, survival, and oppression. Sometimes that means highlighting resilience and hope in the face of an overwhelming force. And sometimes it means speaking the language of the oppressors and embracing violence and murder, at least in part in self defense. So go into this issue fully ready to confront some difficult things, and let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus February 2020

I’m not going to sugar coat it, people. The February short story from GigaNotoSaurus hurts. Like, a lot. It’s a gutting near future science fiction story where people’s consciousnesses can be saved even when their bodies die. Which might seem like a pretty positive bit of medical technology. But like with all medical tech, it’s only as positive as people have access to it. As people aren’t made to suffer and pay and go into debt just to afford necessary medical care. And well, it’s not the world we live in now and it’s not the world of this story. But it’s also just a fantastic story about two women put in an impossible situation, and their love, and their pain, and just everything. Fuck. To the review!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online February 2020

February might be a month for romance but as Flash Fiction’s maybe a bit more a month for lost love. Which still involves love! But, well, the love is rather bittersweet here, as each of the original stories features characters to have lost and who aren’t willing to accept that. Who want to push back against the pain they are feeling. Who want to reconnect and who would do almost anything to have what they have had taken from them. And how they deal with that defines their arcs, their trajectories and these aren’t necessarily the happiest of reads, but they are about love, and that’s still kinda in the spirit of the season! To the reviews!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #57

Art by Vincent Chong
The second The Dark Magazine of the year brings two new stories that explore, among other things, the messy dynamics between parents and children. Both find children trying to distance themselves from their parents, trying to live in a way that they find free and beautiful. Their individual visions of what they want are very different, but (given the nature of the publication) both of them find that there are monsters without and within waiting to stand in their way. These aren’t exactly easy stories, but they carry their own sense of beauty and resilience, and they’re both rather shattering. To the reviews!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #117

Art by grandfailure / fotolia
February brings the normal amount of fiction to Lightspeed Magazine, without too much of a unifying theme. The stories are stark, often featuring people or beings dealing with complex systems that have been built. The main characters tend to be those set outside of these systems, not centered, their desires and needs expected to be suppressed for the good of the dominant. How they handle that, and how their struggle ends up impacting those systems, varies by piece but gives an overall feeling of defiance even in the face of certain defeat and death. Not the brightest of issues, but some provocative works. To the reviews!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Regular Sip - Conversation Pieces #72 (Aqueduct Press)

I’m back looking today at a new Conversation Pieces long novelette from Aqueduct Press. I’m a big fan of the series, which has been coming out for quite some time, and especially like that it takes chances. This is a story that does not hold back, that embraces its themes and characters and isn’t here for any of our cis nonsense. It’s careful and measured and compassionate but also angry and so very tired. It takes a sharp look at the ways that society seeks to cut people off from their true selves and deny their own realities, and it gives hope that maybe some toxic systems can die mad. Anyway, let’s get to the review!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #716 & #717

Escape Pod kicks off the new year with a pair of original stories that explore futures were...elements of our world that are perceived as increasing productivity (but which also might lead to rampant burnout and misery) are embraced at a governmental level and expanded. Making sciences more (yes, moar!) competitive, making listening to people's issues a job where compassion isn't allowed. These stories reveal times and places where people are ignoring the toxic costs of their corrupt systems and instead push forward because it's what "get results." Only the end results might be much different than the hoped-for outcomes. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - PodCastle #611

Just a single story this month from PodCastle, and it’s a fun take on fairy tales. The mood and the tone are a mix of brash sarcasm and genuine desire for a kind of freedom that has nothing to do with knights coming to the rescue. It takes the tropes of the genre and twists them, embracing some (talking cat dragon! Time Wizard!) and dashing others (what it means to have a HEA). It’s a vibrant, refreshing read, and I’ll get right to my review!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #296

Art by Rytis Sabaliauskas
Two stories of queer romance, guilt, and redemption round out the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The characters here find themselves in difficult situations, forced out of love to contemplate betraying everything they stand for and believe in. Tempted into thinking that maybe it could be right to do something they know is wrong. And both end up rejecting that idea (at least in part), embracing instead the idea that through resilience and cooperation and love they can resist the corrupt systems pushing them toward betraying those they care about and maybe save them instead. To the reviews!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com January 2020

Art by John Anthony Di Giovanni
Welcome to Tor dot com's January, which turned things up to eleven with three short stories and three novelettes. That's...a lot, thanks in large part to the release of three linked stories on the same day (pretty sure that was a novel's worth of words in the same setting out at once, so yeah, lots). The stories are a mix, as always, though fantasy dominates, with historical fantasy and slipstream leading the way and the lone science fiction piece balancing things out. There's a lot to get to, a lot of versions of our world to experience, so I'll cut to the chase and get going with my reviews!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #75

Art by Kieu Vo
January brings four short stories and one poem to Fireside Magazine, many of them dealing with some rather grim takes on the future. Tucked into these visions of climate change run amok and robot rights being exploited by greedy corporations, though, are some rather quiet narratives about resistance, resilience, and the hope for rejuvenation. Not that it always works out like that. Not that these characters really get to just wipe away the scars and stains of long-term damage. But that they might now, despite everything, be done growing. Learning. Changing for (we all hope) the better. But that's the risk and the reward. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/20/2020 & 01/27/2020

Art by Deoxy Diamond
Strange Horizons closes out January with two more issues, including two poems and a novelette. The poems are well paired, about romance mixing with some certain darker elements, and both do a great job of exploring the feelings caught up in the attraction between two people. The novelette...well, it's an amazing work of dark fantasy/horror and I very much recommend it, but definitely be aware of the content warnings because it is also a very difficult story in many ways. Challenging and responsible, in my opinion, but certainly not light or easy. So let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Machina [ep01.01 & 01.02]

So it’s new series time at Serial Box, this time with a science fiction project involving possible Mars colonization and super advanced AIs and...well, mostly a lot of corporate politics, short tempers, and fragile egos. It’s Machina! The setting here is a little involved, with an Earth being rocked by ecological disasters that become background noise to the drive behind the science to reach Mars. In the foreground, though, are the egos and the tech and the warring companies trying to secure the lucrative contract to be the ones to actually run the terraforming and settlement. There's a lot of moving parts, but the series juggles them well from the start and I'll just get to my review already!

Monday, January 27, 2020

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #26: MY HAIRIEST ADVENTURE

Mimosas. Dear readers, my apologies. I had every intention of getting this done before the new year, but time and circumstances conspired to make that just not possible. Alas! However, the winds of fortune have indeed righted my flagging ship and powered by delicious mimosas I am ready to take the deep dive into what is one of the mind-fuckiest and tragic Goosebumps novels yet. Yes, that is something of a tall order, given some of the other books I've covered (I'm looking at you, The Ghost Next Door). But seriously, this book is strange, sinking, and fucking gutting. Shall we?

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #25: ATTACK OF THE MUTANT

Sometimes, you read a book that you loved as a kid and you're like "yeah, that holds up pretty well." Maybe it's rough around the edges, and maybe there are some things you missed the first time through because you were like twelve. But you reread it and you don't hate yourself for being that little kid whole genuinely loved this book that you've now returned to. Readers, Attack of the Mutant is not that book. And I did genuinely love this one when I was little. It's the first time I remember refusing to go to bed until I had finished the story. And...okay, this might be a bumpy ride.

First, though, the booze (I'm going to need A LOT). I'm drinking a Vanilla Wafer Porter from Mob Craft Beer, which comes as a full pint and is delicious and does not disappoint, quite unlike this book. So yeah, let's dive right in!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #59

Art by Joey Jordan
2020 starts with an extra story at Diabolical Plots, bringing the month's total to three and ranging from horror (where childhood fear and trauma get a twist) to portal fantasy (but not how you might expect) to a contemporary piece, well, featuring a talking gorilla Wall Street tycoon. So it's an eclectic mix, not only in subject but in mood and impact. But the stories are all powerful, all challenging, and all reviewed by me! Right now!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #88

Art by Ddraw / Fotolia
The two stories in the first Nightmare Magazine of the year both build up some nicely strange and haunting situations. Situations where there’s a mystery to solve. Who murdered a woman? What happens in the forest outside the city? Death is very present in these pieces, and the characters all have to decide what to do and how to approach that death. Will they run from it, or be driven to despair by it? Or will they face it, resolved and ready, and in forcing that confrontation, do something about it? These are some haunting reads, walking a line between triumph and destruction, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #295

Art by Rytis Sabaliauskas
It’s the second Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of the year and it’s just as well-paired as the first, only this one might be even more My Jam than before. Fun is still very front and center, but here we have characters finding and holding to each other despite the limitations of the places they are in. Despite the distance between them, either physical or otherwise. The characters here all need to take risks to be together, to find a life where they can be free and, if not safe, at least joyous and able to watch out and protect each other. It’s a heartwarming and exciting issue, and before I gush too much I’ll get to the reviews!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #12 [part 2]

Art by Theobald Carreras
I’m back diving into the latest issue of Mithila Review, which is still rolling out content for free on their website. These are all technically 2019 releases, but as some of them didn’t come out online until this year, it puts me in a weird position for where to place them. But we’ll burn that bridge when we get there. As for the content, there are some strong pieces, and a nice running sense of continuity as the works explore people who have done wrong. The fiction, at least, features three different people facing their own kinds of trials. Having to defend themselves or give into the voices calling for justice. And they work well together, exploring the way that violence acts as a toxic presence, corrupting everything that builds out of it. And there’s a lot to get to with three short stories and three poems, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #32 [January stuff]

Art by Nilah Magruder
Uncanny Magazine kicks off the new year with three short stories and two poems that bring energy and resilience in a time when it's very desperately needed. The fiction ranges from post-disaster to rather dystopian (but warm and queer) sci fi race to touching and careful fantasy about ghosts and immigration. The poems complicate fairy tales and traditional depictions of monsters while interrogating identity and navigating some very complex space. The work here reiterates what Uncanny has been publishing since it began—a wonderful mix of genres with resonating characters and richly built worlds.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/06/2020 & 01/13/2020

Strange Horizons opens with two issues with some strange and stunning fiction and poetry. The works are challenging in that they imagine futures or alternate worlds where things...aren't the way we're used to. Marriage is a book with sometimes-competing authors. The future is a museum plucked from the rubble of humanity as if at random. The poetry explores themes of identity and transgression, choice and fear. It's a new reminder of what to expect from Strange Horizons—stories that take risks while still being careful. To the reviews!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #160

Art by Eduardo García
Well that’s one way for Clarkesworld to open 2020. Following the pulling of their lead story at the request of the author, the publication will also be issuing a statement (at the time of my writing this it’s still forthcoming). I had written a review of the piece, but it’s my policy to remove reviews at the request of authors, and I’m honoring the author’s request to remove the story from publication as a further request to remove my review of it, in this case preemptively. So I will not be posting a review of the story, at least as things stand now. That said, there’s still a lot of issue to get to, and a lot of the stories this month are linked by themes of death and loss, by family, and by mortality and transformation. There are many characters dealing with the line between human and robot, between AI and person, between friend and monster. To the reviews!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #13

Art by Steffi Walthall
It’s a new year and a brand new issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine meets the new year with a bang! The issues doesn’t have an official theme, but I find that a lot of the works seem to circle around water. Rain, floods, seas, potions, rivers, tearsÑthe stories feature people with connections to water. Who have been transformed by it, who seek to protect it, and who in turn are protected and embraced by it. Like islands in a wide sea, the stories wait for readers to risk the waves and currents to sail from one to the next, drawn by the resilience, the need reflected in the stories and poem to live your truths, to fight for them, and to revel in the wonder and beauty of them. To the reviews!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online January 2020

Flash Fiction Online doesn’t exactly open the year up with the most SFF of issues. But even so, the stories are sharp and feature people dealing with the expectations put on them. The injustices that they are expected to accept and bear. And the ways that they say Fuck That to all the people trying to oppress them, to make them conform and accept the cages designed for them. It’s a trio of defiant, affirming stories, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus January 2020

January brings a rather long story to GigaNotoSaurus, kicking the year off with an alt-historical sci-fantasy novella. It’s a piece that is intricately built and wonderfully executed, giving the prose the feeling of a play, a ballet, or maybe an opera. The characters and their motivations are clear and messy, the plot one tinged with tragedy but still loaded with hope for freedom and fulfillment. It’s a great look at what makes GigaNotoSaurus so special, it’s commitment to putting out longer works of SFF that might have had a much harder time reaching an audience. It’s a stunning story, and one I’ll get right to reviewing!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #116

Art by grand failure
January brings the regular round of four stories (all technically short stories, though two are very nearly novelettes) to Lightspeed Magazine. The stories take a look at parallel worlds and lives, at characters caught wondering what if, and at the fallout from people pursuing lives that seem just in reach—but that might be universes away. There’s an interesting mix of moods and tones in the pieces, some focusing on a “hero” who turns out to be anything but, some that take a bit more work to decipher because of a more unconventional take on space, time, and memory. But all of them are well worth checking out, and I’ll jump right into the reviews!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #294

Art by Rytis Sabaliauskas
It’s a new year at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which means a new opportunity to remind people what the publication is good at. First, it’s a well paired issue, something that they excel at. These are two stories of fantasy adventure, with characters having to use their minds as well as their daring and bravery in order to try and thwart the destructive wills of those who have already taken from the main characters. So the characters are out for more than just setting right some wrongs. They’re out for a bit of payback, as well, and it lends an added flare to the prose, an added brashness. And it makes for a very fun look at what BCS does, and I should just get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #56

Art by grand failure
My first reviews of 2020 look at the latest from The Dark Magazine, which kicks of the year with two very well paired stories dealing with families and with abuse. With the ways toxic cycles reproduce, and infect, and infest. The ways that they are expressed in those that are hurt, who are broken, and who wonder if there is any way for them to be whole again. The stories are difficult and complex, and offer little in the way of comfort, except to recognize the hurt that is done, and perhaps say that not all abuses have to be passed down, even if they also can’t be completely healed from. To the reviews!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Quick Sips - Augur #2.3

Art by Lorna Antoniazzi
A new Augur is out! And while I would normally break up the issue into two parts to spread out my reviews, I don’t want to push off 2019 reviews deeper into 2020. So I’m just looking at the whole thing today (and then taking tomorrow off)! And it is a dense and at times harrowing read, full of hurt and hope, beauty and pain. It features people trying to make sense of grief, and loss, trying to figure out where they went wrong, even when there was no way they could have done better. The stories loop around relationships, around characters trying to connect to one another and finding that at times an impossible task. But sometimes managing it all the same. It’s a wonderful issue, and a great way to cap off my 2019 reviews, so let’s get right to it!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #74

Art by Stephanie Singleton
Fireside wins the award for having the last story out of the year from all the venues that I cover (at least, I’m pretty sure), with the final one dropping of New Years Eve. And it is another full month from the publication, with five stories and a poem to close out 2019. That said, it’s not quite my final review post covering 2019 material (which will drop on Monday), and so with this penultimate 2019 review post, I look at a wide range of SFF, from an ode to a YouTuber who inspires resistance and survival in a dystopian (or maybe just realistic) future to a ghost story about immigration and the pressures to make money. The works are deep and careful, powerful and resonating, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Terraform December 2019

Vice’s Terraform closes out the year with two near-future SF stories about technology and injustice. In one, the epidemic of mass shootings in America is addressed and the cause identified, the infectious agent confronted…or perhaps misdiagnosed. In the other, a chilling look at the future is revealed through the rather innocuous lens of a holiday gift guide. Both stories look at the ways the future must wrestle with personal liberties versus institutional corruption, and especially with “free” capitalism versus human lives and suffering. It’s an on brand way for the publication to close out the year, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Quick Sips - PodCastle #604 & #606

Closing out the year with two stories, PodCastle shows the depth of fantasy as a genre with one contemporary supervillain story full of grief and loss and betrayal and one second world fantasy that manages to build a heartwarming and holiday-appropriate feel and punch with only the lightest touch of grimness. The pieces are incredibly different, and yet both of them deal with protagonists trying to bring something back. For one of them, it's a person, and their mode of choice is necromancy. For the other, it's a holiday, and their mode of choice is a sort of innocent honesty and earnest joy. Both find what they're looking for, in some ways, though the results are very different. Without giving too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!