Thursday, September 24, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #96

Art by Melkor3D / Adobe Stock Image
The September Nightmare Magazine brings a pair of stories that show a quieter side of horror. Both feature settings as part of the cast, though their characters are very different—rural farm versus urban decay. Both very much focus on the violence found in these places, though, the ways that a person can be lost. One story, though, focuses on the monsters that live among us and the ways America shelters and shields them. The ways it allows them. Where the other story is much more about the tragedy of loss and the deep sense of haunting that comes from so many places, where the dead and their potential loom large, and possess a solid weight. Despite the slower pacing, both stories are intense and intimate, and it’s a great issue that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Baffling Magazine September 2020

This month at Baffling Magazine there’s just one story to check out, but as it’s a new story by Nino Cipri, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that’s more than enough. And it’s a beautifully rendered portrait of suburbia. The fa├žade of the pristine--the lawns, the cars, the “perfect” families. The bliss of quiet mornings and drives through the empty streets. But under that, something perhaps rotting. Something off. Something wrong. And the story might not find words for it but it provides a stirring and unsettling picture of it, of a boy finding something he doesn’t quite understand, but that he feels with his whole self. It’s strange and more than a little creepy but also powerful, like something is about to break through the shell that he’s been living on the surface of. And what’s coming through...well, perhaps I should just get to the review!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #36 [September stuff]

Art by Christopher Jones
The latest from Uncanny includes three new short stories and two new poems that speak of space, of people finding themselves in a new place, unsure of the rules, hurting from the baggage and scars they bring with them, trying to find a way forward. A way to stop being hungry--for food, or experiences, for closure, for revenge. The works lean a bit more towards the science fictional side of things (or well, the fiction does), with a slight divergence to a work that...seems to blend science and fantasy. The works are well built, vividly imagined, and have a bit of aching need at their core, and I should stop being vague and get right to my reviews!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #168

Art by Rodion Shaldo
September’s Clarkesworld Magazine is big. Four short stories (1 translated) and three novelettes remind me that this is the longest publication that I cover. And in some ways it’s an almost strange month for the publication, featuring stories that dip more into the fantasy side of things, though with plenty of science or at least mechanical elements that mean that the focus still isn’t really on magic, exactly. The pieces run from historical weird to far future colonization, from intimate stories unfolding in the human mind to conflicts that span countries and beyond. There’s a lot to get to in this issue, so I won’t waste any more time. To the reviews!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/07/2020 & 09/14/2020

Strange Horizons’ September kicks off with two new issues with two new poems, a new short story, and a novelette, on top of the usual amazing nonfiction that I don’t cover but definitely recommend. And the pieces are indeed Strange! And…horizon…y. They look at the borders of things, the sort of uncertainty that makes reality malleable, that leaves people broken, alone, their worlds shattered by a casual violence, by the presence of something hungry and stark, mechanical and merciless. The works are unsettling and yearning, and the poetry is (as usual) challenging and wonderful. Once more the publication more than lives up to its name, and I’ll try and do likewise with some reviews!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #312

Both of the stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are about bargains and the people who facilitate them. Who trade in the power to get things done. To realize dreams. Or to respond to hurts. Both people, though, find that there are hurts they seem incapable of really seeing to. And in some ways that regardless of what they do, things seem to get worse, people they care about are hurt, and they end up increasingly alone. It’s a nice one-two punch of grim and gritty stories involving magic and desire. But there’s hope there as well. Stuck in, and shadowed by the pain that’s been caused, but present all the same, for those willing to look for it. To the reviews!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus September 2020


The latest GigaNotoSaurus pushes things to novelette length and spins a tale of gods and desire, betrayal and faith, all wrapped around one person who really just sort of wants to be left alone. When their god suddenly develops an intense (and entirely unwanted) desire for them, though, being left along is off the menu. What follows is a strange and careful story that spins around a blossoming friendship, the desire for safety, and the shattering reality of the abuse of power. It’s not an easy read, for all the fantasy elements are interesting and the characters are rather fun. The situation is grim, though, and the atmosphere creeping, alive with violation, and lacking a clear path forward. Before I give too much away, though, let’s get to the review!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online September 2020


September brings three stories to Flash Fiction Online that deal with...change and compromises. That find two people navigating a situation where they have to decided how to move forward when the path before them seems to be leading into conflict, separation, and destruction. For the first two stories, that touches on the divine, finding beings with supernatural powers faced with how to use those powers. Even the last story, though, deals with a force that is a greater magic, and how people relate to it, how people run from it and hide it. The stories all find the characters having to deal with big changes to their little worlds, and trying to make their decisions based on empathy, compassion, and trust. To the reviews!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #64

Art by Vincent Chong
The latest issue of The Dark Magazine focuses on monsters, on beings who might be gods, beings who are making some unfair bargains and fully expect to get away with it. And, well, they’re not necessarily wrong to think that, as the stories are also visceral and intensely grim. They offer no real relief from the crush of injustice and the descent of time. But then, the publication isn’t called The Happy. So it’s a rather appropriate issue, if also a rather devastating one. To the reviews!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Quick Sips - Anathema #11 [part 2]

Art by Bex Glendining
And I’m back to finish up my review of the August issue of Anathema Magazine, this time looking at the second half--three short stories and one poem. And there is a sense here of broken connections. Of characters whose ties have been severed in important ways. Ways that leave them seeking things. Revenge, in a few cases. Or closure, at the very least. To break free from cycles of violence. Or to continue them. To push back against silence, but also to express grief and loss and all the messy, complicated emotions that people can feel. It’s a wonderful collection of SFF work, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #3 [part 4: Charon Blend (Dark Chocolate Rooibos)]


I’m back yet again to finish up my look at the third issue of Translunar Travelers Lounge! This final section is title Charon Blend (Dark Chocolate Rooibos) and is described as “velvet-smooth, with a rich, complex flavor that lingers on the palate.” And the works definitely have depth, taking on the idea of stories and the shapes of traditional narratives, and challenging them. And they deal with characters who kind of thought they had things figured out...and then something happens that shatters them. That makes them re-examine the shape and trajectory of their lives. And prompts them to reach for change and affirmation. It’s a fantastic way to close what has been an amazing issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Quick Sips - Translunar Travelers Lounge #3 [part 3: Dione Blend (Assam)]


Okay, I’m back looking at the latest issue of Translunar Travelers Lounge! This third installment of the third issue of the publication looks at the section titled “Dione Blend (Assam): notes of spice and smoke; a striking scarlet color.” The scarlet isn’t of blood, though. It might be for passion. Or determination. The three stories find characters undertaking quests of different sorts. Difficult trials. For some that means traveling great distances, overcome great challenges (often with the help of some compassionate people). For others that means doing something that is intensely personally difficult, like letting down one’s defenses enough to take a risk and reach of the stars. Whatever the case, these are stories that mix risk and reward, that border sorrow and hope, and that I’ll get to reviewing right now!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #124

Art by Grandeduc / Adobe Stock Image
The September Lightspeed Magazine brings out three short stories and one novelette, many of them tinged with a level of meta-commentary, whether through an author literally self-inserting into the text or through a fictional author confronting themselves through a series of revision notes. There’s a blurring of form, of reality and fantasy (or science fiction), and the result is a selection of stories that provoke and challenge. That aren’t always a joy to read, but that question narrative structure, time, and do a lot of interesting things. To the reviews!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Quick Sips - Augur #3.1 [part 1]

Art by Lorna Antoniazzi
Finally I’m getting to the end of my initial reviews of things released on the last day of September. There will definitely be spillover into at least next month, but today I’m looking at the first part of the extra-huge latest issue of Augur Magazine, which has been quiet on the release front since December. They make up for the absence with 16 different pieces, spread over fiction, poetry, and graphic fiction. Today I’m looking at the first three stories and three poems, which build up a rather grim thematic feel centering loss and grief. With characters who are imprisoned in various ways, either literally or more metaphorically. It’s not an easy bunch of works to approach, and readers will do well to mind the various content warnings posted before the stories. But it’s a beautiful start to what is shaping up to be a fantastic issue, and I’ll jump right into my reviews!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/31/2020


So there’s a special 20th anniversary issue of Strange Horizons out! Happy anniversary!!! Now, I debated with myself a while how to actually handle the issue, because it’s not a usual one. Instead of original fiction and poetry, the issue features stories pulled from Strange Horizons’ past issues, plus some brand new poetry. I’ve decided to cover the (technically reprint) fiction in this case alongside the poetry mostly because I am super curious to check out what made the cut for this extra special issue. Now, that said, I’m not looking at the Wiggins story because I reviewed it when it originally came out. The rest of the bunch were before my time as a reviewer, though, and are all super great. So is the poetry, by the way. But before I bore you to tears, let’s get right to the reviews!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Quick Sips - Omenana #15


After a rather long pause, Omenana is back with a new issue! Six stories and some nonfiction round out the offerings and provide a vivid tour of African-centered SFF with a mix of genres and characters and feels. From philosophical to deeply intimate, the stories build situations that push readers to challenge their assumptions and deepen their thinking. They’re at turns fun and charming, grim and difficult. There’s a great variety of speculative visions on display, and it comes into a whole that looks at freedom and exploitation, hope and despair. And I’ll get right to me reviews!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Anathema #11 [part 1]

Art by Bex Glendining
It’s time for a new issue of Ananthema! I’m breaking the issue up for I’m-very-tired reasons, but that still means I’m looking at two stories and a poem (I’ll be back for the other three stories and a poem next month). The works are vivid and full of characters willing to take chances. It might be to pursue their dreams. It might be to escape an abusive situation. But the characters are motivated, pushing themselves to exhaustion and beyond, and reaching for something affirming and beautiful. It’s never easy, but getting to the future never is, and the works explore how these characters survive and thrive despite dangers and those that want to see them fail. To the reviews!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com August 2020

Art by Mary Haasdyk
August brings two short stories and one novelette to Tor dot com. The works are by no means easy, dealing with issues of historical erasure and genocide, sexual assault and toxic gender roles, and capitalist exploitation and ecological devastation. There’s a mix of deep space science fiction, more terrestrial or near-terrestrial climate science fiction, and a touch of contemporary fantasy thrown in for good measure. And characters have to face their own roles in the problems they face, the abuses and injustices that are going on around them. That they are often victims of, even as they become co-opted into continuing the harm. It’s a solid bunch of works, and I’ll get right to the reviews!