Thursday, April 30, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.03 & 02.04]

So now that the second season is well under way, what surprises lurk in the latest two episodes/chapters of Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station? Well, there’s certainly murder aplenty, with the political situation in the city deteriorating as anti-Chinese sentiment clashes with Chinese resource superiority and propaganda. It’s driving a wedge into the heart of the city, setting neighbor against neighbor, and maybe even partner against partner. And after an extremely intense third episode, the fourth slows things down again with a trip to the countryside and a remote resort where Emma and Miyako have to wait out a storm...with a killer. I love this series for the mashup of mystery and science fiction, political thriller and buddy drama. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #78

Art by Erik Ly
It's always a joy when I can say that I'm not looking at a complete issue because I must recuse myself from my own work. On top of the three short stories that I am looking at from this month's Fireside Magazine, my own very short piece, "Foie Gras," is available to read as well. It features a holographic Napoleon and an...interesting way of thwarting his evil ambitions. The rest of the issue also brings a mix of fun and thoughtful SFF, making for a quick and fascinating collection of fiction, all under 1500 words. So yeah, to the reviews!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/20/2020 & Samovar 04/27/2020

The back half of April brings not only a new story and poem from Strange Horizons, but a new issue of Samovar as well, with two stories and two poems in translation to enjoy. As always, neither publication disappoints, offering up worlds and characters that walk in shadows, that encroach upon the strange and the weird and haunting. That find characters wanting very much to break free of the constraints corruption and industrialization have shackled them with. And finding that maybe there is a way out. Maybe, through cooperation, through partnership, they can reach for freedom. Or maybe that too is a bit of an illusion, and what they're really reaching for is comfort to live with the injustices they can do nothing about. In any event, let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #302

Art by Flavio Bolla
Both the stories of the latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies feature characters who have lost their parents. who are left with an infrastructure that is largely patchwork and unsound. Who hope, by following the familiar paths, the rituals that have been left for them, they can have something like security, something like safety. While, really, there’s not much of either in their lives, and they are left struggling, scrambling for each scrap they can get, all stressed and lonely and hurting, wanting things they can barely give voice to, much less achieve. It’s a difficult issue but another well paired one, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #2 [Dessert Tray]

After the main courses in the second issue of Translunar Travelers Lounge, it’s time to get to dessert! The final four stories of the issue promise a bit of sweetness and they certainly don’t disappoint, with themes that linger on family, on magic, and on growing up. All of the stories feature characters who are still relatively young. Some are still in high school, while others have just or are just reaching some level of independence. And they all have to find ways to protect themselves and their hopes in situations that sometimes seem hopeless. But with a bit of luck, a bit of magic, and a little help from their friends, they just might find the courage to take a chance, to defy conventions, and to chart their courses forward. To the reviews!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Quick Sip Reviews Fanzine Hugo Voter Packet

Hello. My name is Charles Payseur and I'm the editor of Quick Sip Reviews. My content is fairly niche, aimed directly at covering as much short fiction and poetry as I can on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. The vast majority of what I do is reviews, which I know aren't exactly the most exciting content when it comes to genre coverage. I've compiled a comprehensive list of what I covered in 2019, which can be found here. The first piece in this packet is also something of an overview of what the site did in terms of numbers in 2019. After that, I've included what is the bread and butter of Quick Sip Reviews, with six different review posts covering a range of the projects that I follow and review. After that is a taste of some of the additional content that I try to include. Thank you for your consideration!



Friday, April 24, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #13 [part 2]

Art by John Glover
I return to the latest issue of Mithila Review to look at two short stories, a novelette, and three poems. The poems are actually all by a single author, though they cover a lot of thematic ground, from death and space to The Little Prince to Greek mythology. And the stories vary greatly too, though all of them have a touch of magic to them. One’s a second world fantasy, though, one a post-disaster sci-fantasy, and the other a contemporary fantasy. They deal with family and with conflict, war and illness. And they feature people a bit out of their depths trying to care for other people. Trying and not always getting it right. It’s a wonderful bunch of short SFF that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #33 [April stuff]

Art by Galen Dara
The April content from Uncanny Magazine offers up three short stories and two poems (as well as a bunch of nonfiction that I don’t cover), and it’s a rather heavy much of stories. From genocide to doomed timeloops to a slow decline in the dark of space, to the aching loss of destroyed books, to having to leave a dying planet behind, all the works deal with loss in some ways. All of them find characters who aren’t quite sure what to do in the face of their dreams turning to dust in their hands, or threatening to. They have to find ways to move forward, both to honor the past and dead, and to find ways to maybe keep living, keep going, even through some intense damage. It’s an emotionally difficult but of works, but it shows how moving and powerful short SFF can. So let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #62

Art by Joey Jordan
A new month brings two new stories to Diabolical Plots, which run from fantasy to...kinda science fiction? Tonally and otherwise, the stories couldn't be much more different. The first is a rather wrenching, slightly gothic story of a person following through on a promise to themself. The second is a much more wry take on the idea of resurrection and mad science. But both are linked by featuring characters who have just lost someone important to them, and who are intensely lonely. Both want something they can't quite give full voice to at first, though for one of them that means reaching back for something they've lost and for the other it means walking forward toward something they've never had. The stories are very much worth checking out, though, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Regular Sip - The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg (Tachyon Publications)

Birdverse is back and in book form! It’s happening, people!!! And I’ve been lucky enough to get an ARC of it! Which means it’s time to jump back into what has been one of my very favorite settings ever! This time we’re following nen-sasaïr and Uiziya, two trans elders who have lost too much of their lives to waiting and denial. They are ready to take action, to seek out their hearts’ desires. Only figuring out what that might be and reaching for it are two very different and (it turns out) dangerous things. It’s a story of community and change, hope and death, and I can’t wait to get to my review!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #91

Art by Chorazin / Adobe Stock Art
Both the characters in this month’s Nightmare Magazine feature characters who are monsters in some ways, who live off eating the flesh or drinking the blood of others. These characters can be more than their drives, though, can choose not to kill if they want to. But both of them are also caught in toxic systems, in places where the cycles of abuse and pain seem so set, so deeply rutted, that there’s no getting out of it. They try. But every time they do it seems to weaken them, and when their efforts come to dust or worst, betrayal, it leaves one the desire to give in to the power they have, the hungers always waiting to be embraced. To the reviews!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #163

Art by Beeple
Clarkesworld returns in April with a full load of stories and a return of translated fiction. The works are diverse (though almost entirely science fiction) and lean a bit toward the dark, the chilling, and the horrific. They show people dealing with distance, and with the desire to be with another person. A desire that can strengthen and embolden people to strive for good, or can twist people toward greed and possessiveness. A lot of the works deal with people dealing with their relationship ending, or in imminent threat of ending, and what they do to either save it, try to save it, or break it entirely. It’s a fairly cohesive and strong issue, and I’ll get to my reviews!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/06/2020 & 04/13/2020

Art by Galen Dara
Two new issues of Strange Horizons means two new short stories and two new poems. And the publication continues to just belt them out of the park, as it were, with two stories about care and about teachers being put into some impossible situations paired with poems that definitely capture the "strange" mandate of the venue. And yeah, the stories here are philosophical and wrenching, placing characters into a place where they have to make hard decisions, where they doubt themselves and their abilities but ultimately are able to stand behind their work, in the face of injustice and extinction. It's a wonderful pair of issues that I'll get to!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.01 & 02.02]

Ninth Step Station is back! I was incredibly excited about the announcement and especially after some of the other series I’ve really liked seem in limbo at the moment, it’s an added relief to be able to visit once more with Miyako and Emma as they deal with the realities of a Tokyo literally cut in half by Chinese and American occupying forces. The previous season left things in a rather tense way, with a series of assassinations culminating in some open fighting in the city. That’s died back, albeit with some concessions from the Japanese/American side, and as the new season gets under way it’s far from business as usual, except that there is a murder, or really a multiple murder, to solve. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #301

Art by Flavio Bolla
Both stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies deal with siblings, and a cycle of violence. In both, one sibling seems to be the perpetrator of violence, and yet in truth both are arrayed in conflict, both seeking to hurt. It’s a situation that creates a kind of power, a kind of fate that neither sibling seems keen to break. Because for some things the only way out is through, and the only way to be free is to bring everything crashing down into the water. To the reviews!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Regular Sip - Conversation Pieces #74 (Aqueduct Press)

Today I’m once more jumping back into the Conversation Pieces line of books from Aqueduct Press, a wonderful small press that puts out some fantastic works that might go under the radar for a lot of readers. Which is a shame, because it’s the kind of work that often doesn’t really have a home elsewhere. SFF poetry collections and small short fiction collections, and delightful novelettes and novellas like the Blood-Thirsty Agent series. I’ve covered the first two books previously, and have been looking forward to the latest romp through history and the history of early SFF. To the review!

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus April 2020

There’s a new novelette out at GigaNotoSaurus and it’s a new take on a somewhat “classic” trope. That of robot wives and a community rocked by certain revelations. But it’s also a story that doesn’t fall into the “classic” and misogynist pitfalls that so often accompany those stories, that view with rosy nostalgia a past where nuclear families were just swell. The piece makes room for the hard truths that can go hidden in suburbia, and doesn’t give in to the gravity to crash into violence. Rather, it’s a different kind of revolution being waged, and it makes for a wonderful story. To the review!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #14

Art by Dominique Ramsey
I count every month that kicks off with a new issue of Fiyah as one that’s off to a great start. And this latest issue turns things up a bit with four stories and two poems, all of which bring wonderful and often wrenching visions of speculative fiction. There’s no theme to this issues works, but if I had to connect the dots I’d say that each of them revolves around revelations. Seeing something or learning something that completely changes the context of the world. That might be a secret that suddenly makes the world very different. Or it might be a single conversation that shifts a character’s perspective from the verge of committing violence to sacrificing themself to save people. It might be the dissolution of a relationship that leaves a character suddenly adrift and thrashing, trying to stay above water, or it might be the twisting and perversion of a professional relationship into something much more toxic. But all of the pieces find characters who see their lives going in one direction only for them to find a completely different outlook. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Quick Bonus - Anthology Thoughts: Octopus Edition

Every so often I think of a rather random theme for a short SFF anthology, pretty much when I feel I've read some sort of critical mass of stories that would fit. Today, I'm back with my anthology thinking cap on to bring you a list of stories featuring everyone's favorite cephalopods--the octopus! And okay, maybe not everybodies, but still, they're cute and crafty and classics of SFF. Now, because they're classics it might seem that there's too many stories to include. And indeed, there have been whole anthologies in the past that have included a similar theme, and indeed there was an Octopus Anthology released back in 2013 called Suction Cup Dreams, edited by David Joseph Clarke. But that was a long time ago, especially in octopus years. So join me in highlighting some of my favorite octopus-themed stories from the recent(ish) past!

Squeezing and Entering” by Noe Bartmess (Translunar Travelers Lounge #2; My Review)
Caesar is part of the octopus Resistance, and if that wasn't enough to get you hooked on this story, then I'm sorry for you. He's also got a separate personality for each limb and the resuly is weird but also hilarious!

Octo-Heist in Progress” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld #146; My Review)
I think we can all agree that Pico is an octopus after our own hearts. The story is fun with a tight-paced plot that hinges on, you guessed it, a heist involving an octopus. Not, mind you, a heist of octopuses.

Tool-Using Mimics” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld #138; My Review)
Probably the strangest and most formally challenging of the bunch, this one doesn't involve an octopus but a picture of a "squid girl." The piece builds around survival and adaptation, and the loss of having to spend so much energy on avoiding societally-reinforced dangers and toxicities.

Only the Messenger” by Emily C. Skaftun (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #299; My Review)
Astrill is a kind of octopus from a planet where his people are the dominant species. He now travels through space as an engineer in a setting where both reincarnation and faster-than-light communication are a thing, though the later ends up being part of an enormous conspiracy...

"Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus" by Bogi Takács (Clarkesworld #127; My Review)
In a complex and powerful take on "uplifted animals," the narrator of this story is a sentient octopus on an alien world who finds a human, opening up a lot about the history of both peoples. It's charming but doesn't shy away from some difficult topics. (more recently appeared in the amazing The Trans Space Octopus Congregation from Lethe Press)

"Song of the Krakenmaid" by JY Yang (Lackingtons #8; My Review)
Definitely the most sensual of the bunch so far, and not involving an octopus exactly but a kind of octopus-merperson who is found and brought in to research. The piece touches on longing and environmental exploitation and is all kinds of good.

Honorable Mention:

The Last Stellar Death Metal Opera” by Elly Bangs (Escape Pod #697; My Review)
This is a complete cheat because the octopuses are never seen, but rather are on a planet that the narrator is trying to save from destruction (by becoming a sacrifice). But despite the only-tangential inclusion of octopuses, it's a good story and so I'm sticking it here.

Anyway, I know this is rather random, but it's something I was thinking about recently. Cheers!


Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online April 2020

The latest issue of Flash Fiction Online is a nice mix of fun and kinda devastating. But the sad is sandwiched between two stories that make it easy to smile, and there’s plenty of charming humor to make up for the more disturbing and violent themes of the middle piece. So it’s a nicely balanced issue that moves well and focuses a bit on science fiction rather than spreading it about with regards to genre, but they’re three very different science fiction stories, and that’s great. To the reviews!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

2019 Comprehensive Post List

Quick Sip Reviews 2019 Comprehensive Post List

Anathema: #6; #7; #8; #9

Apex: #116; #117; #118; #119; #120

Clarkesworld: #148; #149; #150; #151; #152; #153; #154; #155; #156; #157; #158; #159

The Dark: #44; #45; #46; #47; #48; #49; #50; #51; #52; #53; #54; #55

Diabolical Plots: #47; #48; #49; #50; #51; #52; #53; #54; #55; #56; #57; #58

Fireside Magazine: #63; #64; #65; #66; #67; #68; #69; #70; #71; #72; #73

Fiyah Literary Magazine: #9; #10; #11; #12

Flash Fiction Online: 01/19; 02/19; 03/19; 04/19; 05/19; 06/19; 07/19; 08/19; 09/19; 10/19; 11/19; 12/19

GigaNotoSaurus: 01/19; 04/19; 09/19; 10/19; 11/19; 12/19

Glittership: Summer 2018; Autumn 2018

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: #39; #40; #40 [addendum]; #41; #42

Lackington's: #19; #20 [part 1]; #20 [part 2]

Lightspeed: #104; #105; #106; #107; #108; #109; #110; #111; #112; #113; #114; #115

Nightmare: #76; #77; #78; #79; #80; #81; #82; #83; #84; #85; #86; #87

PodCastle: #577; #585; #589; #591; #600 & #602

Serial: Box: Ninth Step Station: 01.03 & 01.04; 01.05 & 01.06; 01.07 & 01.08; 01.09 & 01.10

Translunar Travelers Lounge: #1 [part 1]; #1 [part 2]; #1 [part 3]

Vulutre Bones (guest reviewed by Erin Barbeau): #4


Liver Beware!: #15; #16; #17; #18; #19; #20; #21; #22; #23; #24

Quick Conversations: Post-Apocalyptic SFF

Friday, April 10, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #59

Art by Tomislav Tikulin
The two stories in the April The Dark Magazine both turn back the clock and offer up two historical or alt-historical (or I guess fantastical) stories of hauntings and abuses of power. Both pieces find situations where harm is done, where atrocities are allowed because some group is considered unworthy of consideration. Enemy soldiers or those too poor to merit more than trite sympathy, the people at the margins of the societies but front and center in the action of the stories are those who must suffer for the actions, or inaction, of the narrators. And those narrators have to decide whether or not they’re going to continue to ignore the bleeding humanity before them, or if they’re going to do something to change their own hesitation and complicity in tragedy. To the reviews!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #119

Art by grandfailure / fotolia
Only short stories means April's Lightpseed Magazine is a little lighter than normal, but the stories certainly hit above their weight class in many ways. The works tackle choices of all sorts, mostly by characters who are facing either accepting the dominant lean of society or rejected it. And in rejected it taking a chance of being crushed. The works show different outcomes for this, from standing in defiance to giving in to learning how to dance in the face of expectations and pressures to be small and quiet. It's an eclectic issue, and one with a lot of different speculative visions, to let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #300 [part 2]

Art by Flavio Bolla
Closing out the special anniversary issue, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has put out two stories about immigration and identity, about the fragile and careful web of people and hope that exist amidst a backdrop of war, refugees, and exploitation. It’s a wonderfully paired second half of an issue, with stories that resonate singly but build so well together, reinforcing the themes of movement and the messy realities of people who are without homes, who are searching for places to be while on all sides people try to exploit them and bleed them dry. It’s not an especially happy pair of stories, and yet both are incredibly strong in how they find hope and joy even in the harshest of situation. ANd before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Quick Collections - The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper

[So a little housekeeping first, and a bit of an introduction. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at a collection or anthology here at QSR, mostly because of how I review for the blog (each story individually and substantively). It’s just so much work to do that for a collection of works that appears in book format on top of the other reviewing work that I do. I used to do these kinds of reviews, then, at Nerds of a Feather or The Book Smugglers, but I have had absolutely no energy to reach out to try and rekindle those ties, and so for ease I’ve decided to just make a new series her at Quick Sip Reviews that will focus specifically on collections and anthologies that I can get to. I won’t be breaking the books down into individual reviews, but instead looking at them as a whole with maybe some additional notes on works I really connceted with. These will be slightly different than my Regular Sip reviews, which look at singular longer works. But I’ve been reading a lot of collections lately, and I want a space to think too much about them!]

So my first introduction to Cinrak came in the form of “The Wild Ride of the Untamed Stars” (which appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #252). And okay, a queer capybara pirate was a bit strange to run into, even at a SFF publication, but I was also almost immediately charmed. Anthropomorphic animals speak to the part of my heart that is a secret furry and I loved the adventure, the movement, the sense of a larger world and story. And here, finally, I get to find more of it. Not all of it, mind. The collection is not a linear novel but a mosaic one that checks in with Cinrak throughout her career, giving enough of the big events to capture a sense of scale and scope and continuity, but leaving enough unsaid that there’s still very much a sense that the myth and legend of Cinrak stretches much much farther, covering adventures that we’re only left hoping are covered in another collection some day.
Art by Dian Huynh

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Machina [ep01.09 & 01.10]

The end has come to the first season of Serial Box’s Machina! The serial novel/series has provided its share of ups and downs, surprises and twists, and in these last chapters it pulls out all the stops. The two teams have been at each other’s throats for a long time now, but recent events have turned a lot of the conflict inward, so that both teams need to work out how to move forward without falling apart. Just in time to head down to Antarctica for the final trial. The chilliest continent has often been the backdrop for some great sff horror, and this project might just be following in those footprints, featuring some developments that might be dire enough that both teams will have to put aside their difference just in order to survive. To the reviews!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Quick Sips - PodCastle #616 & 620

It's a fairly full month of stories at PodCastle, with a special double release pushing the total stories to three. They aren't exactly the cheeriest of tales, dealing with grief, transformation, loneliness, and death. But the stories hold some tenderness and hope in their hearts, managing to navigate through or around the crush of emotions, the gravity of loss, and steer toward a place where maybe healing can begin. Where maybe the characters can shift the narrative away from tragedy and to a more affirming place. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #13 [part 1]

Art by John Glover
So Mithila Review seems to be back on a much more regular basis, and the latest issue is out now in its entirety, in part because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. There’s a lot of content, and there’s no way I’m getting to it all in one go, especially with it dropping on the last day of what was a very busy month. To cut myself a bit of slack, I’m only looking at one story and two poem today, and will stretch the rest of the issue between two more posts to come throughout April and May. For now, the story and poems are wonderful and push the boundaries of form and meaning. There’s a lot of good stuff to get to, so let’s dive right in!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com March 2020

Art by Xia Gordon
March brings a pair of novelettes to Tor dot com, one of them from the ongoing Wild Cards setting. Both stories deal with violence, though, and with choices. With situations where the only way out, the only way to safety, might be through some people (in a rather bloody manner). They feature characters who are just coming into their power, who don't quite understand everything about themselves. But who aren't afraid to take action. The stories are often creepy, but ultimately freeing, with people finding a place to be and a power that lets them push back against the forces that were keeping them prisoner. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - Terraform March 2020

Terraform is out with a single story for March, and it's...well, it's a rather stark story about disasters (something that's extra timely right now). More specifically, it's about the ways that exploitation and capitalism are about not preventing loss and disaster. That human life isn't as important as profits, and that under these systems regulation exists not to protect people but rather to protect businesses and their ability to turn tragedy into money. It's a sharp piece, and I'll get right to the review!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #77

Art by Omar Gilani
March brings four short stories and a poem to Fireside Magazine, and the pieces deal rather intimately with distance, with relationships, and with family. They find characters brushing against the unknown or plunging right in, driven by their dissatisfaction and their hope, their stubbornness and their pain. They trace wounds old and new as they try to avoid old patterns of grief and loss and lean towards something new, with all the terrible and beautiful potential that brings. To the reviews!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/30/2020

Art by Dante Luiz
The last day of March brings a special treat in the form of a special Climate Crisis issue of Strange Horizons. Three short stories and three poems make for a robust offering, and they show visions of the future that...well, that aren’t very bright and cheery. That are scorched and dry, that are wet with corruption and rot, that are primed to tip into darkness. But they’re not without hope. Though most of them I would consider warnings, some do reveal that even in the darkest of futures, hope and compassion still remain. That for all humans have wrecked the fuck out of the planet, they also have the capacity to do good by it, if they can come together and act responsibly. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!