Monday, August 31, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #311

Art by Alexey Shugurov
The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies offers up two short stories that deal very much with memories and with the stubbornness of those in power when faced with an inevitable and dangerous problem that is killing people. In both, the narrators have to deal with being expected to fix a problem that’s become hard baked into the fabric of a place they think of as home. Where actually fixing it would mean breaking it, making it something different from what it was. It also requires the power to actually do something, which only one of the characters actually has. Not that it’s easy. Not that both won’t sacrifice trying to do the right thing. These are two lovely and wrenching stories, and I’ll get to my reviews!

Friday, August 28, 2020

5000 Strong

I always struggle to come up with things to say for milestones. Something Profound and Important that can somehow encapsulate what exactly I’m feeling at a time when I have done something that I want to take a moment to recognize. Quick Sip Reviews hit 5000 reviews. Yay.

Quick Sips - PodCastle #638 & #640

It’s been a little while since I’ve reviewed a new PodCastle, with the publication focusing more on reprints and flash back posts for the last little while. But the publication is back with at blast with two new stories that deal with grief and cycles of death and remembrance. In one of the stories, a veteran deals with the weight of what he carries, the expectations put on him, but also the secret pull he feels, the moon he’s looking for that will allow him to transform and give howling voice to the pain he otherwise must hide. In the other, a man deals with the intersections of his faith and his family, the desire to honor a parent against the realities of a system designed to reward those who live “complete” lives. There’s a heavy feel to these stories but also a sense of release and freedom, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Quick Questions - R.B. Lemberg of The Four Profound Weaves

Hi and welcome to my first tour? Stop? I'm new to these. I am not new, however, to either R.B. Lemberg's work or doing interviews. Or The Four Profound Weaves for that matter, which is out in just a few days (September 1) and is available for pre-order now. I've already reviewed (and loved) the book here. And I couldn't be happier to get to ask some questions about the book, about the wider Birdverse, about magic and worldbuilding and inspiration and ahhh! so much! I will try to retrain myself from further outbursts, though, and get to the good stuff!

Regular readers of this blog will need no introduction to R.B. Lemberg or their stunning work. But for those how don't know...
Photo @ Bogi Takács, 2019
R. B. Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their stories and poems have appeared in Lightspeed Magazine’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction!, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, and many other venues. R.B.’s work has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards. You can find more of their work on their Patreon ( and a full bio at
And with that settled, on to the questions!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #82

Art by Pao-ju Lin
The August issue of Fireside Magazine contains four short stories and a bunch of nonfiction (which I won’t be covering but do recommend you check out). The stories are all…far from easy things. There is a sense of confinement that runs through the issue, a sense of decline and suffocation. There are people literally imprisoned, either by a corrupt government in the past or a possibly dystopic government in the future. There are people finding their lives sinking, unable to pull back from their descent. There is loss. There is the prospect of more loss to come. The stories are, again, not easy, but they’re also rewarding and quite good, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/17/2020 & 08/24/2020

Today I’m looking at two recent issues of Strange Horizons, which have put out one story and two poems (and a bunch of reviews and nonfiction that I won’t be looking at here but that I recommend people check out). The story looks at extinction and profession, secrets and power. It finds a scientist kind of trying to fit in, and then finding that she doesn’t really have to. The issues also feature poems that wrap around powerlessness and transformation, dominated by settings that define the work and growth that they contain. That shape the paths people can take, limiting them in some profound and unsettling ways. It’s a great two issues, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #3 [part 2: Luna Blend (Jasmine)]

I’m back! Yes, it’s only been a day since I reviewed the first section of the latest Translunar Travelers Lounge, but schedules are weird and I am happy to return right away for the second section, which is the Luna Blend (Jasmine). And Uncle Iroh would be proud of the selection of stories here, which are warm and heartfelt but know how to have some fun. There are shadows, moments of sadness and loss, but always a smile as well, and an earnest laugh. There’s a bit of sci fi, a lot of fantasy, and some nice twists of horror (nothing too grim, though), and it all blends together into something, well, as the publication says, “subtle in scent and sweet in flavor.” To the reviews!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #3 [part 1: Metis Blend (Yerba-Maté)]

It’s a new Translunar Travelers Lounge! As always, these issues are BIG. This one has 14(!) stories in it, and as such I’m not going to be getting to it all this month. Instead, I’m breaking up my review based on the four different sections of the publication, here grouped by “blends.” The first is Metis Blend (Yerba-Maté), which is described as “a little get-up-and-go; strong, pleasantly bitter.” And it certain delivers, giving four stories that are fun, bright, but cut with a little sarcasm, a little heart, and a whole lot of good. So let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #66

Art by Joey Jordan
August brings two new stories to Diabolical Plots, and both focus on narrators who have been shaped by the perceptions of others. One, a superhero who is altered based on how other see him, and especially based on racist stereotypes. He has to navigate the push and pull of racism and trying to stay safe while also trying to be a role model for his daughter. The other is shaped more by time, a victim of violence who wants to escape the prison, the gutter that has become their world. But they are seen as a monster, worthy of annihilation, and must deal with their desire meeting the fear they provoke. Both characters, though, find a kind of release and freedom through someone who sees through the outer layers and into their hearts. And before I give too much away, I’ll get to those reviews!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Baffling Magazine August 2020

The second month of Baffling Magazine brings two (very short) short stories for your enjoyment! Both are fairly dense, fairly sinking works, about characters dealing with a kind of relentless pressure, both figurative and, it seems, physical. They are dealing with loss and erasure, with grief and destruction. They straddle genres, the first more of an underwater science fiction and the second a dream-like piece of weird. It’s a bold second salvo from the new publication, but it works for me, showing definite lean toward short, sharp, and strange. To the reviews!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #310

Art by Alexey Shugurov

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings two rather long novelettes that look at groups of...not exactly law abiding people who sort of fall into the position where they have to save the world. Who have to uncover the corruptions plaguing their worlds. For one, it’s a spy and courier who is pulled into a much larger intrigue. For the other, it’s a group of hero hunters who hear about the possible return of a person who could destroy armies and nations, and might be fixing to do just that. It’s a wonderful issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Regular Sip - Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling (Neon Hemlock)

Art by Robin Ha
I’m back rounding out my looks at the last of Neon Hemolck’s 2020 novella series, which is available for pre-order now (out September 5). There’s been a great range of works here, mostly fantasy but with some touches of science fiction, and this story builds a second world rich in political intrigue and some light (but decidedly grim) magical touches. It’s period drama laced with danger and despair, guilt and something new and sinister. It’s tragic, for all that there are bodies aplenty littering the floor before everything is said and done, but it’s also got a hope to it that makes to cut the poison with something sweet, helping it to slide over the tongue and into the body to seed and spread. To the review!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #45

Art by Jereme Peabody
There’s a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly out, featuring three new short stories, one novelette, and one poem. And the works cover a nice range of fantasy, from much more historical stories with only touches of maybe-magic, to full blown second world affairs filled with strange magics. From mythological rewrites to strange myth-like tales of talking animals and walking Nightmares. It’s a wonderful issue, with spills, chills, mysteries, and even a spot of romance, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/03/2020 & 08/10/2020

Art by Jana Heidersdorf
August brings a pair of wonderful queer short stories and some excellent poetry to Strange Horizons. The stories deal with wars, with veterans who have tried to leave violence behind them. But who find that violence is so prevalent in their worlds that it can’t really be run away from. Hidden from. And so they have to find ways to meet it. To save what can be saved. To not be defined solely by the violence they do, but also by their compassion, their kindness, their resilience. And it’s just a fantastic pair of issues that I love a lot and will get right to reviewing!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #35 [August stuff]

Art by Kirbi Fagan
It’s a fairly big month from Uncanny Magazine in terms of words, with two short stories and one novelette that’s almost a novella. Plus two poems! The works trace ideas of various courts--pre-Revolutionary France, the courts of angels, and the courts of seasons and their rulers. Amidst these structures, characters deal with the rules, the personalities, and the dangers of those spaces. There’s a sense of wealth, of power...and of loss, as the characters also must face those courts crumbling or breaking in some ways. And it’s a wonderful bunch of works that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #167

Art by Joseph Diaz
August’s Clarkesworld Magazine brings three short stories and three novelettes that once more explore an array of science fictional ideas and settings. Futures where AIs are involved in war and in scientific research. People dealing with jobs that are killing them, worlds where they are exploited, where they sign up to be exploited in order to escape the crush of poverty and danger. Not all of the stories are easy reads, but many of them are very rewarding, and I’ll get right to the reviews to explain why!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus August 2020

The August story in GigaNotoSaurus isn’t on the long side for the publication (at just over 5000 words), but it makes up for that with a deep world building and wonderful premise. It’s familiar, using tropes that aren’t exactly brand new, but underneath the classic elements there is innovation as well. A grittiness that reveals a world of corrupt and petty gods, mercenaries putting their lives on the line, and in the middle of it all, a family just trying to live away from it all. But some things won’t stay gone, and sometimes the pull back into the web of plots and gods is too strong to ignore. It’s an action-packed, thrilling read, and I’ll get right to my review!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2020

August brings a mix of mostly non-speculative fiction to Flash Fiction Online, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of interesting stories to check out. From religious cars to help lines with all the answers, the works reveal the ways that people often create their own systems, their own structures, that support what they want to believe rather than looking at the reality of the situation. That allow for great injustices because of the gaps they open in human compassion and empathy. It’s a challenging bunch of stories, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Quick Thoughts - Burning

So I think a lot about burnout, in part because it means so many different things. There’s a general idea out there that burnout is what happens when you do too much for too long. You’re a rocketship on your way to Mars, and something...goes wrong. A part of you flares and goes dark, and there’s just. No. Easy. Fix. The aftermath can be intense and prolonged. Typically, in the spheres that I follow, people talk about creative burnout, where after pushing and pushing and pushing something just kinda stops. And there’s no forcing it back.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Regular Sip - Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar (Neon Hemlock)

Art by Odera Igbokwe
I’m back looking at one of the latest novella releases from Neon Hemlock. After absolutely loving the first two, my hopes going into this one were very high (especially considering the author is a Sippy Award winner for the stunning “The Percivals: The Bennett Benefit”). And it does not disappoint. It combines world building and action, showing a chosen family fighting corruption and the disappointment of their own failures to try and build something better...because the first time they tried it all fell apart. It’s exhilarating, sexy, and so much fun. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender aged up and infinitely more queer, looking at the promise of, failure of, and need for continue reform and revolution in the face of institutional injustice and abuse of power. It’s great, and I’ll get right to my review!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #63

Art by John
The original stories of August’s The Dark Magazine provide two very different looks at guilt, remorse, and penance. In the first, a young woman deals with her isolation and her shattering exit from that isolation. Deals with her own actions and tries to make right something that can’t really be. Similarly, the second story also finds a person trying to make something right that really can’t be. A loss that can’t be reclaimed. A wound that leaves a deep scar. In both, the characters must navigate their own roles in death, and try to find ways forward despite a world that is dangerous and full of violence and wonder. To the reviews!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #95

Art by Zapatisthack / Adobe Stock
Both the stories in the August Nightmare Magazine deal with loss. With death. With torture. Feature narrators who have come to bad ends. To have been murdered. Who are awakened by mothers, grandmothers, told stories. Brought into cycles of violence and loss. Through that, the characters connect to family and to memory, having to parse which details are their own traumas and which have been handed down. They’re difficult, sharp reads, with touches of poetry amid the destruction and red. And I’ll get right to my reviews!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #123

Art by grandfailure / Adobe Stock
Lightspeed comes out swinging in August with there short stories and a novelette that, as usual, cover both science fiction and fantasy. More than that, though, the works move from quasi-religious science fiction to far future generation ship dystopian science fiction, from twisted mythic fantasy to historical fantasy that bleeds into horror. Through it all, the thematic link that binds them is storytelling itself, each piece in part looking at the power of narrative to shape perception and reality, to sway hearts and either reinforce corrupt systems, or bring them crashing down, opening the doors for healing and peace. It’s an interesting and varied issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #309

Art by Alexander Ostrowski
The two stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies deal with magic and family, and more specifically with magical companions that threaten to wreck the fragile peace and safety that the narrators of the stories feel they have achieved. In one of the stories, though, that threat is very real, and very deadly. In the other, it only seems a threat, but is really the key to unlocking something much better than what the narrator currently has. The works are very different, but their focus on younger women struggling against the roles and fates decided for them unite them in a rather wonderful way. To the reviews!