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!