Friday, May 29, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #79

Art by David Plunkert
So first thing first, these reviews are no longer neatly meeting up with the issues as listed on the Fireside Magazine site. I first noticed that last month, where there were more stories in the issue than were released on the website. The spill-over from last issue appears in this issue, and so I'm assuming that the spill-over this issue will appear next issue, and on until it's all caught up. Just an FYI, but I go off the online releases typically when reviewing Fireside so that I can get approximate word counts. So. The good news is that the fiction is still sharp and punchy, the stories short enough to be very quick reads but still hitting above their weight. There are some fun pieces and some harrowing ones, and all in all it's another wonderful month from the publication. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.07 & 02.08]

As the second season draws toward the finale, things in Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station are really heating up. Emma and Miyako are both compromised in some profound ways, but that’s not going to stop them and might not even slow them down as they investigate murders in a Tokyo cracked by invasion and occupation. They have to balance the things they’ve betrayed, the people they stand to hurt, and the people they are determined to protect as they navigated the weaving lines of nationalism, corruption, and opportunity around them. And as the half-way point recedes, the season finale starts to loom, with the promise of something Big lurking closer. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/18/2020 & 05/25/2020

Strange Horizons closes out May with its regular number of fiction and poetry offerings, and they are as wonderful as they are challenging. The poetry takes on some very difficult content, from the fear and violence people react to snakes with to the harrowing experiences on both ends of an alien abduction. The fiction doesn't offer any lighter revelations, keeping things heavy and intimate, looking at the way that violence and toxicity can take hold and manifest in something truly terrifying. Let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Quick Sips - Glittership Winter 2020

Not sure if you missed it, but the latest issue of Glittership is available for purchase Right Now!!! Four original short stories and two poems, plus five reprints (which I’m not covering but that you should definitely check out!) make for a jam-packed issue of queer short SFF. Some of the works are smoking hot, some smoldering--some lighter and fun, some with a bit more heft and depths. Whatever the case, though, they follow through on the Glittership promise of featuring SFF works with queer characters. Adventures are had, mysteries are explored, relationships are formed, and evil is thwarted in these tales of people mostly just trying to live their lives, and finding out that along the way they might just need to change the world. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #304

Art by Anton Ninov
It’s another wonderfully paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with two tales of people doing their best to save their loves. To risk deals with fairies and gods to try and win back a person who has fallen into darkness, who is in danger of losing themselves to death and enchantment. And in both cases the characters find that there is a way forward, a way back, as long as they hold to their love, as long as they are willing to keep reaching. This might seem to put a rather uneven balance to the relationships revealed, where one person has to do more of the emotional labor, but I think it’s a bit more about how sometimes someone does need to be saved, and how that act can be both selfless and selfish, both freeing and bonding. It’s a beautiful issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #13 [part 3]

Art by John Glover
I’m back to finish off my look at the latest issue of Mithila Review. And the works are a mix of strange and devastating, haunting and interesting. The works look at damage, and the need for people to take control of their lives, their stories. The need for people to craft their own present, their own future. whether that means embracing the past or, more likely, rejecting it in order to do something fully new. There are two stories and three poems, and I definitely suggest people check out the reprint as well (which I have already reviewed on this blog), plus all the nonfiction. It’s a wonderful issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Anathema #10 [part 2]

Art by Cindy Fan
I return to the latest Anathema Magazine issue today, closing out my look at two more new stories and one new poem. The works continue to be complicated and deep, exploring the intersections of identity, always informed by how people are vulnerable and marginalized--through race, sexuality, poverty ,ability, and more. They find characters who are put in positions where “winning” isn’t exactly possible, where “safety” is a dream they can’t afford to believe in, because what needs doing isn’t safe, but it still needs doing. And there’s still love, and family, and hope, even if those things must constantly be fought for. It’s a stunning issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #92

Art by Alexandra Petruk / Adobe Stock Images
There are two new speculative horror stories in this month's Nightmare Magazine, both of them in some ways dealing with rooms. It's the natures of the rooms that make them both interesting and terrifying, building off of traditions in horror that stretch far back into fable and myth. The pieces are visceral, revealing women who have been deeply hurt by intimate partner abuse, who have survived despite the crushing weight of it and the lack of support they've gotten, and they both move in very different directions around their themes. As an added bit of news from the publication, it sounds like an editorial shift is on the horizon, with Wendy Wagner taking over editorial duties in 2021 while John Joseph Adams So yeah, let's get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #63

Art by Joey Jordan
May brings two new stories to Diabolical Plots, and they're an interesting mix of feels and genres. The first work is a contemporary fantasy exploring abuse and grief, while the second is, well, a second world fantasy about revolution...and skateboarding. Both works find characters dealing with rather oppressive situations, though, and abuses that are intimate and pervasive. Both deal with the traumas of having to live in those situations, and the violence often required to get out of them, to avoid being destroyed. They aren't overly happy tales, but they are both moving and careful and, in many ways, hopeful. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #34 [May stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
May brings three short stories and two poems to Uncanny Magazine, and there’s plenty of strangeness to go around. Now, I’ve seen it said that the publication lacks a central guiding aesthetic, and to a point I agree that it is eclectic and shows a wide range of the genre, but I also think that the title gives a lot away. There is a general feeling of the uncanny that I think the publication maintains, and this month is a great showcase of that, with three stories that are very different, but that carry along visions of the uncanny, worlds and people who are almost like our own, but different in some ineffable way that leads to a kind of disquiet and tension through which we can examine those strange new worlds as well as the reflection they cast back on our own. So yeah, to the reviews!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #44

Art by Rengin Tumer
There’s a new Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and this issue brings three short stories (two just shy of novelettes) and two poems. Each of them explores a different world, even if those worlds are also kind of our own. They also deal a lot with religion, with faith in the face of prejudice and the threat of violence. The characters are caught at times between what they’ve been taught or are expected to believe and the reality that they observe. But as the publication promises, these are largely fantasy stories that deal with heroics, or perhaps anti-heroics, as people fight, love, and make sweet art amidst danger, intrigue, and betrayal. To the reviews!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/04/2020 & 05/11/2020

Art by Nina Satie
May opens Strange Horizons with two new issues including (among a bunch of nonfiction I definitely recommend you check out) two new short stories and two new poems. The work, as might be obvious, is full of strangeness, with eateries serving magical fare, children on Mars making their own entertainment, and poetry that challenges and delights. The pieces are often heavy but carry a certain whimsy as well, that weaves into the hardships and injustices and tastes a bit like hope, a bit like heartbreak. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Quick Collections - Weird Dream Society, ed. Julie C. Day, Chip Houser, & Carina Bissett

Today I’m looking at a rather large anthology of dark and strange fiction, benefiting RAICES. The stories are mostly reprints (entirely reprints?), but in their curation and presentation they capture something new. There are twenty-three stories in total, from a wide range of authors and genres, but at its core I feel that the anthology is what it says on the cover, a collection of weird, dream-like stories that capture a sense of loss and yearning in their recognition of the grim realities of the world, and those places between our world and a speculative reality lurking beneath it. Few of the stories deal explicitly with immigration, but the project as a whole does turn a critical eye on borders, and the dangers, joys, and devastation that can come from crossing them. The anthology can be pre-ordered now, and will be on sale May 26, 2020.

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.05 & 02.06]

Season two has already brought a delicate status quo to Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station, and there’s no signs that it’s slowing down yet, with plenty more explosive revelations--and grisly murders--in the latest two chapters. The project continues to blend mystery, crime drama, political thriller, and science fiction all into one pulse pounding package, and I really couldn’t be happier. The fictional Tokyo that the series conjures into being, though, might have a few choice words about the situation, though, as it continues to be pulled between the Chinese and American forces occupying it, all while the various Japanese elements seek to profit, or just survive, amidst the turmoil. Let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #303

Art by Flavio Bolla
It’s a new nicely paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies to look at, with two new short stories that both lean a bit on the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Not in ways that might seem obvious, either, both of the stories wandering rather far afield when building their versions of events. One is fairly faithful but extends far beyond that story, to the magical repercussions of what happened. The other completely changes things, creating an entirely new world of myth and magic for the action to play out in, and ditching a girl bringing her grandmother a basket of goodies to a new mother bringing home her child through a moonlit wood. Both stories are filled with darkness, external and internal, and both feature women trying to reach safety through a deadly dangerous situation. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #164

Art by Thomas Chamberlain-Keen
Clarkesworld comes with three short stories and three novelettes this month, which is about average for the publication but does mean a heck of a lot to cover. Luckily the works are interesting and varied, offering up pretty much entirely science fictional visions of futures that revolve around loss and destruction. Invasion and exploitation. And characters trying to get by, trying to survive, and trying to save the world. It’s a neat mix of near future, far future, humor, apocalyptic, and giant robot stories that hopefully has something for every fan of the genre. So let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online May 2020

Flash Fiction Online is celebrating Mother’s Day with an issue full of SFF stories dealing with motherhood. Now, not all of them are precisely happy, but they show the many ways that mothers give for their children, and sometimes how those children give in return. The pieces move from near future science fiction to dark contemporary fantasy, all of them dealing in some ways with sacrifice and care. In each, there is a person who is sick or otherwise trapped, and it’s down to their family to try and free them, or at least be there with them to make what’s happening a bit more bearable. There’s a mix of light and shadow, hope and grimness, and it’s a great way to complicate and interrogate a topical holiday! To the reviews!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus May 2020

May brings a new short story to GigaNotoSaurus, and while that’s on the short side where the publication is concerned, the story brings ideas and themes more than big enough to make up for it. This is an ambitiously built world, one where hair is magic, and where most people live in fear of that fact because of how easy it is to get a hold of someone’s hair...and use it against them. From there the story branches out, building mystery and danger and a budding friendship that might make the difference between tragedy and triumph. Let’s get to the review!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Regular Sip - Queens of Noise by Leigh Harlen (Neon Hemlock)

Art by Crystal Araiza
Today I’m reviewing a recent novella Neon Hemlock Press, which has already run a successful kickstarter for a slew of SFF novellas that all look amazing! This one deals with shifter, punk rock, and some shady business going down around the local music scene. It’s got a robust and fabulously queer cast, world building that gives me shifters and witches that do not disappoint at all, and enough romance, action, and mystery to keep hopefully even the pickiest of readers engaged and entertained. At least it certainly worked for me. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the full review!

Quick Sips - The Dark #60

Art by denissimonov
The two original stories in the May The Dark Magazine have some pretty heavy content warnings to them (perhaps to be expected given the publication). They both also find women dealing with abusive relationships and having to navigate their own shame and feelings of culpability for their pain and harassment, their oppression and fear. The situations they find themselves in are wrenching, dangerous, and dehumanizing, and the women are left having to make some impossible decisions. Accept the course that the men around them have laid out, even when it contains their own annihilation...or stand against them, and take whatever power is possible to smash the walls threatening to box them in. It’s not an easy month of stories, but it’s some moving and powerful horror. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #110

Art by Galen Dara
I kick off my May reviews with this look at Lightspeed, where again it's all short stories. And it marks a return to a few ongoing projects, both in the form of a new work set in the same universe as Ada Hoffmann's The Outside, as well as a new excerpt from Alex Weinstein's Lost Travelers' Tour Guide. Throw in a pair of wholly original stories that deal with romance and love amidst fear, uncertainty, and shame, and it makes for a very interesting issue, one grounded very much in love and communication, and the fragile lines between people. There are some stunning visuals and deep character moments, and if you don't believe me yet let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Quick Sips - Anathema #10 [part 1]

Art by Cindy Fan
There’s a new issue of Anathema out and for my sake I’m breaking it up into two parts, the first covering the first three stories and poem. The work is stunning, building broken worlds and situations populated by people who have lost and who are in the process of losing. Who are desperate for relief, for comfort, for understanding, and who don’t really get that right away. Who have to wait for it. These are some fairly grim stories, but nothing without a bit of hope to them, a bit of light and warmth. It might not be enough. It might not always sustain. But for most of the characters there is the possibility, the promise, that it might grow into something more, larger--that it will give them something like freedom. To the reviews!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Quick Sips - PodCastle #622-623

PodCastle has two new stories this month, and show some very different flavors of alt-history fantasy. One is a post-disaster magical resurgence story (paradigm shift story?) about love, true and otherwise. The other is a historical fantasy featuring a couple living in the shadow of the Vietnam War. Both deal with our world and how magic might shape it, though, either a magic that has always been present and is now being twisted for war, or a magic that was absent and is now returned in the form of dangerous new rules, creatures, and hardships. The characters are in turn shaped by the conflicts that magic creates, struggling to find love and build families amidst the ruin and devastation. To the reviews!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2020

Art by Ashley Mackenzie
So I'm used to Tor dot com releasing up to four stories a month, which means this month's six stories represent something of a surge in fiction. Perhaps it's that the venue knows that more people are home right now, and so might be more available to read some great fiction. Whatever the reason, I'm glad, as the stories are a great mix of science fiction and fantasy, featuring portals inside little free libraries, psychic investigators battling malevolent, and a whole cartography of a new and strange world...that's really not all that strange at all. The works are careful and full of quiet longing and intense action, and I'll get right to reviewing this cornucopia of SFF!