Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #722-725

It's another full month of original fiction at Escape Pod. And not gonna lie, it's a bit of a strange month of stories as well, with tales of artificial lives and discoveries on distant moons, augmented veterans looking to live in a world of peace and people who've become unstuck in reality. There's a general...trippiness(?) to these stories, to the situations they reveal. People building wings and flying over an alien landscape. People trying to change the laws that govern multiple realities. People fighting back against a violent oppressive state with more violence. People seeking enlightenment through the advancing technology. But there are no shortcuts to be found here. Perhaps that, more than anything, links them all. There's no getting around the difficult truths and choices out there. But there are ways through, for those willing to put in the time and effort. To the reviews!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #300 [part 1]

Art by Flavio Bolla
There’s no rest for the wicked reviewers out there as a third special issue in a row drops at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, this one celebrating the milestone of issue #200! The first half alone is over 36k words all told, so I’m definitely going to be breaking the issue up into two parts. Covered here are stories that look at stories that are anchored by change and upheaval. By complicated politics that intersect with messy family situations. And they feature characters with missions. Some rather humble--to finish a miniature-and some very large--to find a city of the gods. There are spills and chills aplenty, and so much to get to, so let’s dive right in to the reviews!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/16/2020 & 03/23/2020

March isn't quite over, and I hear tell that Strange Horizons has a big special issue planned for next week. So before that buries me in all the things to read and review, I'm catching up on the last two issues of the publication, featuring a new original story and two new poems. The works look at some rather heavy topics, from climate change and the loss of a(n adult) child to the misfortune that multiverses might imply. For all that they feature some lingering grief, though, they also seem to be about finding new ways forward, new methods of dealing with situations that aren't exactly good or hopeful, and continuing on regardless. It's a beautiful two weeks of content, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #12 [translated poetry]

Art by Theobald Carreras
Well oops! Looks like when I was reading the last issue of Mithila Review, I overlooked two translated poems. My bad! I’m fixing my mistake now, and I must say the poems do not disappoint. There’s great skill on display both from the poets and the translators, and the works take on ideas big (alien refugees and possible global catastrophe) and small (laboratory experiments thrown off by something miniscule and overlooked). Together the pieces offer a nice one-two punch, and make for a great way to close out what was a huge and excellent issue of SFF fiction and poetry. To the reviews!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #299 [part 2]

Art by Andis Reinbergs
The science fantasy goodness continues as I finish up my look at the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which hits a bit above its weight with over 20,000 words of fiction. The stories deal with unfairness in very meaningful ways, finding characters who want to break free of systems that have them trapped. That are hungry for their death and suffering. That are punishing them for something they don’t understand. The pieces are visceral and bloody at times, but through all that they also hold to hope, that even the more powerful of systems can be dismantled, though that doesn’t mean it will be easy. To the reviews!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #90

Art by Patila / Adobe Stock Art
Both of the stories in the March Nightmare Magazine deal with urban legends. With how they might start, and how they spread. And both of them rather directly examine the power of the darkness, the dangers that come from speaking into it seeking an answer. The issue is superbly paired to infect and spread, the nature of urban legends made a kind of contagion that can leap from person to person. Where even if a legend started its life as pure fiction, something can happen to it, believe fleshing it out, giving it very real teeth. It’s a creepy, a series of warnings, but let’s just walk past the boldly printed signs saying “Stay Out” and see what the reviews bring!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #61

Art by Joey Jordan
The two original stories in March's Diabolical Plots feature new takes on older settings and ideas. From the size-changing potions of Alice in Wonderland to the horrors of Lovecraft. Neither piece exactly allows those texts to exist without complication or challenge, though, and the focus for me is on providing new lenses through which to examine some of the failings and problems of those older texts. And in doing so the stories seem to offer some commentary on generational shifts and changes in attitudes, and the ways that the older generations can fail the younger. So yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Machina [ep01.07 & 01.08]

Well the end of the first season is closing in and Serial Box’s Machina is shaping up to be an exciting and complex experience. Mixing hope and capitalism in beautiful and painful ways, the race is still very much on between DevLok and Overwatch to see whose machine will reign supreme. In the midst of this competition, though, the goalposts are shifting, and fear of failure is being deepened by what that failure might look like, and just how devastating a rogue AI can be. So far the focus has been on the possibility for good that these AIs and their programmers have, but there’s a small detour here to show just how large that possibility is for harm, too. So buckle up and let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #2 [Hearty Fare]

I’m back looking at the second issue of Translunar Travelers Lounge, this time reading through the second section, labeled Hearty Fare. And I’m not sure exactly if that means these are supposed to be a little denser, a little bit more built up. Certainly these stories do feature some interesting and complex world building, from one where fairy tales are part of genealogical research to one where superheroes walk a precarious line between heroism and corruption, to another where magic is bridged to the mundane world by a network of pirates. More than that, though, it’s possible these feature a bit more emotional complexity, putting characters in morally perilous places within these worlds and demanding they find their ways back out. It’s fascinating work and still manages to stick to the general guideline of “fun” while at times being emotionally sharp and a wee bit devastating. To the reviews!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #299 [part 1]

Art by Andis Reinbergs
Science fantasy month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and I’m once again breaking up the issue into two passes so I can not drown under the weight of all this genre bending fiction. The three stories released first lean a bit more science fiction than the stories from the previous issue, but most of them still carry within them a fantasy core. And the works look at non-human entities struggling in hostile environments. War zones and galaxies where death itself has been twisted into profit. The works are often strange, often haunting, and occasionally gritty, and before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #33 [March stuff]

Art by Galen Dara
Three short stories and two poem round out Uncanny Magazine’s March offerings. And the pieces mix magic and seduction, visions and trauma, freedom and loss as they explore their worlds and futures. It’s difficult for me to pick out a single connective tissue that runs throughout, but I appreciate the way each story features characters struggling with the decision to act or remain silent. And in that silence, complicit. Each character ends up making the decision to act, but how they do that, and what they’re acting against, are quite different. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #162

Art by Thomas Chamberlain-Keen
It’s something of a surprise to find that the March Clarkesworld has six new fiction pieces and none of them are translations. What it does feature are six science fiction stories that range from wry and fun to grim and gutting. A few of the stories return to settings previously established (in stories I believe also came out at Clarkesworld), while others do some very new things. And there’s still plenty of ground to cover, with three shorts and three novelettes, and a few running themes that people might want to be aware of, most notably substance abuse. But there’s a lot of beauty, a lot of messy relationships and characters, and some fine reading. To the reviews!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/02/2020 & 03/09/2020

Strange Horizons kicks March off with two issues featuring the normal story and poem apiece (on top of some excellent nonfiction). And the works play in an interesting way with tropes and with reflecting back on older literary works and traditions. One twists the old Frog and Toad Are Friends in a wonderful and queer way, while drawing in some deep hurts and systemic injustices. Another deals with the gothic tradition set in post-war France, and also looks at the hidden shadows lurking everywhere, the rots that haven't yet been brought to light. The poetry is strong, too, and looks at bodies and perceptions and time. To the reviews!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #298 [part 2]

Art by Andis Reinbergs
Sci-fantasy month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and I’m finishing up my look today of the first issue. These two pieces have a lot to do with structures of society, with rituals both functional, religious, and damaging. Rituals that leave marks, or scars. That change people. Some are driven by corruption and a sense of “biology.” Some are driven by a need to survive a kind of attack. Both look at how some sort of invasion has changed humanity, either by altering the way they act or, more dramatically, by making them something other than human, by transforming the fundamental structures and progressions of their bodies. It’s a weird, dark issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus March 2020

Building on an already strong year, GigaNotoSaurus is out with a new novelette for March, one dealing with fairy tales and magic, witches and prejudice. It finds a mother and daughter in a somewhat precarious situation, wondering if the new home they’ve found will be safe from a village that might turn violent about them being, you know, witches. The world building is strong and the character work shines, and before I give too much away, I’ll get right to the review!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online March 2020

The three stories of Flash Fiction Online’s March issue deal with fairy tales. With magic. With choices and grief and death and bargains. With people who might be tired of the abuses of the world, the greed, the pain. Who might want a way outside those rules, and find that the only way out might be to turn from civilization entirely, or else bring it crashing down on the heads of the corrupt. So yeah, to the reviews!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #58

Art by chainat
March brings a look back at old horror movies at The Dark Magazine, with two original stories that deal with the roles present in those classic films. The Monster. The Villain. The Assistant. The Henchman. The piece examines what those roles mean, both to the people who lived and acted them, and to more modern audiences. And while some of the elements of those films are revealed to be the messy and often problematic pulp that many see them as, there are elements that stand up even today. Diamonds in the rough that polish to a shine. And ways of looking back that also look forward in interesting and freeing ways. So grab some popcorn and try not to jump at the scary bits as I get to the reviews!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #118

Art by Elizabeth Leggett
March brings three short stories and a novelette to Lightspeed Magazine, with perhaps a focus on characters facing worlds/situations/lives that they want to escape from. Relationships that have began to feel like prisons. Systems that offer them no room to reach for what they really want, or where making the decision to reach for change carries a rather high cost. The pieces explore how these characters push on regardless, hoping that they can find a balance that will work for them, not sure of it and afraid that it might be a mistake after all. For some, there is a brighter future ahead. For others...not so much. But it's an interesting issue, and I'll get right to my reviews!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Machina [ep01.05 & 01.06]

I reach the midway point in my reading of the first season of Serial Box’s Machina and people, if you’re not reading this... Things have been building nicely, but here’s where shit hits the fan. Loyalty is tested and maybe shattered. The competition heats up in more ways than once. And the game changes in some fundamental ways, so that I don’t even know where the hell one of the teams goes from here. It’s beautiful, devastating work, and I’ll just get to the reviews because ahhhhhhh!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #718-721

It's a busy month at Escape Pod, with four original stories(!), which means the entire month has been originals. Aside from front-loading the year's new fiction, though, it also does a wonderful job of giving an idea of the diversity of science fiction on offer at the venue. The stories range from slightly humorous to absolutely devastating, from sharply satirical to guttingly earnest. There are stories of distant worlds and emperors of the universe that capture a feeling of vastness and stories much more intimate in scope and scale, about loss and desire. So stretch out those reading (and listening) muscles and let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Quick Sips - Terraform February 2020

After taking January off, Terraform is back with a new original in February. And it's a story that imagines a future where corporations have grown even more powerful and even the perhaps-self-aware drones are worried about being victims of increasing exploitation. The piece finds a bit of utopian vision, a dangerous thing carved out from the capitalist nightmare. For a drone who has never really wanted to be a soldier, it's a hope they're not sure they can trust. To the review!

Quick Sips - PodCastle #614

One story rounds out the originals from PodCastle this month, and it’s a weird Western...or maybe closer to a kind of Yukon fantasy about a trio of sisters. The piece reveals a world that is strange and haunting, dominated by Light and Dark. Cycles of daylight and night that last weeks at a time. And people, both human and troll, who try to make their way through a harsh and often unforgiving landscape. It’s a story of burying the past, of grief and loss, and also of choice. The choice of how to handle the weight of legacy, and how to navigate a way forward through treacherous terrain. To the review!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #298 [part 1]

Art by Andis Reinbergs
It’s sci-fantasy time at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! In the interest of getting to things in a timely manner, I’m splitting up the review of this issue, as two of the stories are free to read in February while the other two aren’t going to be out until March. The first two kick things off a little soft, a little slow, but with some lovely visions of worlds and characters reaching for their hearts’ desires. Characters who didn’t think they could really hope for the freedom they wanted, but find that maybe, just maybe, a visitor from the stars will open doors that would otherwise have been shut tight. To the reviews!