Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com June 2020

Tor slows down only a little for June, putting out three stories that crack and sizzle, that sink and sprawl. From near-future science fiction to contemporary horror to quasi-historical fantasy…weirdness, the works all take different swings at revealing a world rife with dangers and corruptions but also community and possibility. The tones of the stories couldn’t really get more different, though each has its shadows and grimness. Some are hopeful and defiant, others gutting and haunting, still others ethereal and luminous. Yet through it all the works represent some stunning glimpses into humanity, and those who live parallel to human, in a world that is often harsh, but also often beautiful. To the reviews!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons Fund Drive Issue 2020

Welcome to my review of the Strange Horizons special Fund Drive Issue! The good news is that everything was unlocked, and Strange Horizons looks to be on its way to an amazing 2021. There’s still time, too, to back the project and get yourself something nice, so if you haven’t already, do check that out. Now, I’m told that the final fiction piece that was announced is being rescheduled, so I’m covering one original story and five(!) original poems, but there’s lots more for you to check out, including lots of nonfiction in the form of reviews, interviews, and Staff Stories that are just great. It’s no secret that Strange Horizons has been one of my favorite publications for the last few years, putting out brilliant works that I can’t stop gushing about. So I’m super happy and excited to get another year of wonderful fiction, poetry, and more. To the reviews!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/15/2020 & 06/22/2020

So in case you missed it, the Strange Horizons fund drive is still going on! I’ll be covering the special fund drive issue later, but for now there’s still regular issues to read and enjoy. And the latest are a mix of elements and themes, all with the signature strangeness of the publication, all heavy at times and hopeful at times and beautiful and haunting. The story and poems weave through themes of identity and presence and, perhaps above all that, a keen sense of setting. These are works that are acutely aware of place, and isolation, and that complicate feelings of home and belonging in interesting ways. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Quick Sips - Lackington's #21 [Cocktails]

There’s a new issue of Lackington’s out and the theme is just my thing--cocktails! There are seven stories that explore the different ways people can mix drinks and mix drugs and mix all kinds of things, up to and including people. The stories are strange and moving, complicated and a wee bit haunting (and okay, sometimes more than a wee bit), so it’s an issue well in keeping with the reputation Lackington’s has earned for itself over the years. These are pieces that delight and confound, that beckon and tease, and that ultimately deliver sever different great takes on the themes. There’s a nice mix of genres, from fantasy to science fiction to horror, and lots of worlds to see and tastes to enjoy. To sit back and let this issue mix you up something memorable. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

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

I’m setting a faster pace with reading and reviewing Serial Box’s Knox in part because I’m still behind the release dates and want to catch up. But really, if I’m being honest, it’s because I reaaaaally want to know what happens next and have been having such a good time reading the series that I find myself cheating a bit to push it up on my schedule. It’s really is a tense and gripping read, a paranormal thriller with a robust queer cast and noir atmosphere that I just want to sink into...well, except for the horror elements that keep me on the edge of my seat. It’s good, people. And I’ll get right to my reviews!

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #64

Art by Joey Jordan

Though the release schedule got a little skewed this month, the latest issue of Diabolical Plots is all out now and includes two new stories that offer up some emotionally powerful situations. In one a lonely house has to try and figure out how to help a grieving family heal. In the other, a dance becomes something much more than that when a robotic ballerina decides to make a statement about how their body and autonomy has been politicized. The works carry some deep shadows, but retain some level of hope, or at least resilience. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #306

The two new stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies bring pieces that deal with interesting takes on time and memory. In the first, a man loses his long term memory and has to piece together his mission based on instinct and training and a single directive to kill. In the second, an augur knows the future well enough to know he can’t fight it, but a new connection in his life makes him want to, even as he has to face his own advancing age. It’s a complex issue that mixes action and introspection, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #14 [part 2]

I’m taking the opportunity of a slight downtick in things to cover this month to go ahead and finish up my review of the latest issue of Mithila Review. There’s another three stories and three poems, so still a lot of content to get to on top of the reprint fiction and other nonfiction the publication puts out. And the works range widely in themes and length, from a very short almost microfiction to a rather long short story, everything still dealing with some heavy themes, from misogyny and pregnancy to family and abuse. The works lean rather fantasy, though I guess they really lean rather literary, as two of the three fiction works don’t have huge speculative elements. But there’s a lot of strong works to see and experience anyway, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #93

Art by grandfailure/fotolia

The two stories in the most recent issue of Nightmare Magazine might not seem super similar at first glance. One is a slow building horror about punishment and guilt, about a story literally coming to life. The other is a story of strange people doing strange things, only for the frame to shift a bit and reveal that the real strange people might be those we consider normal. But in both we are faced with characters who care. And whose caring is starting to eat them up inside (and out, kinda). And both need to work through their fear and their insecurity, their doubt and their shame, to reach a point where they can care for themselves, and find some release and healing. It’s a great issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #14 [part 1]

Mithila Review continues to put out regular and giant issues of SFF short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and it’s been a boon, let me tell you. And okay, the pieces by and large in this first half of the issue might not exactly be light and happy. Indeed, most of the pieces are pretty solidly horror. But there’s a lot to be said about reading horror in horrifying times. And these do challenge and provoke, unsettle and just creepy the fuck out of. Though there is a bright spot or two mixed into that for good measure. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

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

Thanks to a full schedule and my own general messiness, I’m a little late to the party with regards to Serial Box’s latest supernatural noir, Knox. But with a kickass team of writers and a description that seems Just My Thing, I am happy to jump into a new project. And so far? Yes please! The series joins a noir-ish detective feel with paranormal elements, a diverse cast of characters, and some grisly murders. It’s great! There’s just enough weird here are the start to set the hook, and I’m both terrified and excited about where the action will go next. But it’s a smart, tightly paced suspense story with a sprinkling of speculative elements and the promise that things are going to get bloody and weird and I am Here For That. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews of the first two episodes!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #34 [June stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
The June original content at Uncanny Magazine is out and features two short stories, one novelette, and two poems, as well as a wealth of excellent nonfiction that I won’t be covering here. The works showcase a variety of genres and styles, though there is a distinct fantastical lean to these works. There are superheroes and sirens, magical communing over dresses, ghosts and memories that go deeper than the skin, deeper than the consciousness. The works show people reaching for expression, trying to push back against the forces trying to silence and co-opt them. It’s a wonderful collection of SFF this month, and I’ll dive right into the reviews!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #165

The June Clarkesworld hits a mid-year stride with five stories (two short stories, two novelettes, and one novella) that bring on different kinds of science fiction, from deep space federation drama to much closer to home terrestrial time travel story. There are multiple takes on future and science fictional systems of governing and organization and how those organizations (ranging from out of control capitalism to a kind of micro-managed religious order) impact the characters, walling them in, making them want to push back against those walls, with sometimes dramatic results. It’s a fantastic issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/01/2020 & 06/08/2020

Did you know that the 2021 Strange Horizons Fund Drive is going on now? Have you backed it yet? I'll be covering the content of the special fund drive issue later (hopefully when all the content has been released), but in the mean time there's still lots of regularly scheduled Strange Horizons stories and poetry and nonfiction to read. I'm here looking at the first two issues of the month's fiction and poetry. And it's some strange, moving, wonderful work that is formally challenging but thematically rewarding. It's sharp and emotional and just what I've come to expect from the publication. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #305

The latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings two stories of women dealing with systemic issues separating them from their happiness. Intent on punishing them for taking strides toward embracing their own desires and needs. In both instances, the idea of justice is perverted in order to try and destroy the freedom of women who only want to protect themselves, and each time that idea of justice is wielded by a man to try and silence them. It’s not a super happy issue, but there is a a rising sense of breaking cages, and reaching for freedom, that makes it exhilarating at the same. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.09 & 02.10]

The second book/season of Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station has drawn to a close, even if that close is the literary equivalent of shoving the reader out a plane and then just sort of leaving them to fall endlessly (or at least until season 3 comes out). Emma and Miyako have been through a lot this season, and are still keeping some huge secrets from each other. Worse, the line between enemy and ally has become blurred as invader and criminal, military and civilian have all been muddled and obfuscated. The detectives are left having to rely on their best judgment, with only the information they’ve managed to gather on their to help guide them. In such a situation, they might find that even their own actions seem out of control. As partners, they’re supposed to be able to rely on each other, but with the city falling to pieces around them, do they have even that any longer? To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus June 2020

I’ve been consistently impressed with GigaNotoSaurus since its return from hiatus, and that continues today as I look at the June story, a wonderful fantasy featuring food, festival, family, and a dance that for the main character has been on hold for over twenty years. The piece mixes elements of myth with a strange kind of diaspora, building up a place and people that are unique and captivating, familiar but surrounded by magic. It’s an invigorating read, and continues the trends of the publication in putting wonderful works of longer-than-average length. To the review!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction June 2020

From mothers to children, this issue of Flash Fiction Online shifts the spotlight to young people. Young people who are dealing with Some Shit. From parental strife to a sibling with a terminal illness to having to take care of a parent, the stories here all focus on children who have had a lot put on their plate, and who are doing the best they can under the circumstances. Who indeed are coping like champs, though that takes a lot of forms. And who, even when things are hard, still manage to reach out a bit with kindness. Mostly, at least. It’s a great collection of stories around a pretty solid theme, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #61

Art by grandfailure
The June The Dark Magazine brings a pair of stories that revolve around objects that come to carry a certain kind of power. That link our world with...something else. The first involves a bowling ball--and while that might seem like a setup for a joke, I assure you it’s not a funny story. The second centers a zoetrope, an old kind of moving picture device, and one that seems to be reaching across the mortal plane. Both stories feature people who feel helpless in the face of a hungry violence they witness. Both feature people who have to decide what to do, and how much they can do to escape, or fight back. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #121

Art by Reiko Murakami
I kick off my coverage of June short SFF with a look at the latest issue of Lightspeed, which contains three short stories and one novelette. And the stories seem to circle around isolation, finding characters who out of choice or circumstance are living largely on their own on in a small group. And who find, in that isolation, that the rules of the world seem to bend a bit. That stories become incredibly important, because of how they define the world, how they give shape to its nebulous shadows. And how they order and organize forces that don't have a great explanation, but through the lens of those stories have meaning. It's a great variety on display this month, and I'll get right to my reviews!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Quick Collections - The Book of Shanghai: A City in Short Fiction, ed. Jin Li & Dai Congrong

So I admit I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into when I agreed to look at this anthology. I’m no stranger to translated fiction, but my reading is heavily SFF, and this collection doesn’t pretend to be trying to be entirely that. Most of the stories are fiction, many with moments of weirdness, of dream-like fluidity, but few are really speculative in nature. Rather, the anthology seems to be (from what I gather from the introduction and from the mood and themes of the stories) an exploration and a sort of mapping of the city of Shanghai, its literary movements and moments--a feel of what the city is to those writers who know it, who might bring it to life in some ways as a character. And so we have The Book of Shanghai: A City in Short Fiction from Comma Press.

Regular Sip - Cradle and Grave by Anya Ow (Neon Hemlock)

Art by Y.C. Yang
I’m back with a look at another novella from Neon Hemlock. This one shoots the action into the far future, or onto another world entirely, where a cataclysmic event has resulted in a world shattered, broken, and with signs that the breaking might just be getting worst. The piece looks not just at the ravages of climate change but on an assault on reality itself, where humanity’s desire for order has backfired and created a society living beside the white-hot mutating chaos of a city and a water that can turn people into insectoid monsters. It’s a bold piece, solidifying the feeling I have that Neon Hemlock is a publisher willing to take some risks that, for me at least, have paid off big. To the review!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com May 2020

Art by Max Loeffler
2020 continues to be a rather busy one for Tor dot com, and May is no exception, with three new short stories and a novelette that's almost a novella. The pieces take on some interesting SFF contents, from the superpowered world of Wild Cards to trying to bring back extinct animals to wars that span planets and galaxies. They feature characters mostly just trying to do their jobs, and finding that those jobs are complicated by the need to please bosses who can be at times a bit authoritarian, and a bit unreasonable. But the job still needs doing, and these works find ways to keep that moving and tense. To the reviews!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Quick Sips - PodCastle #625 & 627

PodCastle’s May originals bring an interesting look at romantic relationships and loss. Both deal with characters who have lost and who are hurting. People who find it difficult to be vulnerable, though for very different reasons. One has been hurt too badly, betrayed too intimately, for trust to come easy. The other is physically incapable of being vulnerable because...well, because they’re dead, and beyond that. Kind of. Sort of. What remains for both characters, though, is the need to move on. To maybe heal and to maybe heal by helping others to heal. By holding to love and trying to express something fragile and wonderful and magic. To the reviews!