Friday, October 30, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #84

Art by Anna Dittmann
October brings four short stories to Fireside Magazine, and the works deal a lot with bodies, with control, with violation. As such, there are some rather important content warnings to heed, but also a very driving sense of exploration of what it means to be embodied, to have skin, to be perceived. Characters struggle with and against the cultural forces that keep them at odds with the meat they carry themselves in, or the code, or both. Sometimes able to pull free, sometimes not. But always still left with the concept of self as observed versus self-observing. Always still left in this messy space of trauma, desire, and anxiety. To the reviews!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/19/2020 & Samovar 10/26/2020

Well, the month managed to bring a little bit of a curveball at Strange Horizons, as I wasn’t expecting a new Samovar. But here we are, and I’m certainly not complaining about the three stories and two poems that round out the two issues. As they come from essentially two different publications, there’s not a huge amount of thematic links between the issues, but they still all embody the kind of strange that both publications do so well. A complex and yearning weirdness that kinds people struggling to find their place in broken worlds. Clinging to rationalism or absurdity to make sense of it all or to reject that sense can exist at all. Add in some wonderful poetry and it makes for a great mix of short SFF. To the reviews!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #315

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings two novelettes about invasion, about resistance (or lack of). About two queer characters dealing with the prospect of their home being conquered. Of having to make hard decisions between what their heart wants and what’s expected of them. In both cases, what’s expected might win out, but the two stories have two very different takes on what that means. In one, that means a character submitting to the need to sacrifice for a cause, for justice, for the hope of a future. In the other, that means a character submitting to corruption, to lies, to a betrayal of what and who they are. It’s some emotionally powerful and devastating work, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Quick Sips - Baffling Magazine October 2020

October brings the single largest amount of stories to date for Baffling Magazine’s early access Patreon, which means three new stories just in time for PSL season. And while the stories aren’t exactly spooky, they do feel a nice fit for the season, for autumn and its lengthening shadows, it’s creeping chill, and its mix of monsters and magic. The stories blend romance and horror, love and death and betrayal. Each of the stories finds characters apt to hurt each other, characters who might be preying on one another. Hungry magics and mad sciences. But wrapped in that is the messy reality of affection, love, and heartbreak. To the reviews!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Breathe Fiyah

Art by Eli Minaya
A collaboration between Tor and Fiyah Magazine, this special Breathe Fiyah issue features eight short stories (entirely flash fiction) by Black writers exploring race, oppression, resistance, and revolution through a speculative lens. The stories are largely (though not completely) contemporary, both fantasy and science fiction (with some horror elements thrown in as well at times), and they create a framework, one that ends up resembling perhaps a structure of kindling. Each piece a small addition that, when put together and struck, sets off a blaze. The stories are about resisting, about surviving a world that is actively trying to erase, exploit, and exterminate you. And the works do indeed spark and smolder, ending with a bang that, hopefully, will shake things up, weakening the racist and white supremacist structures that marginalize Black writers. To the reviews!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #68

Art by Joey Jordan
The October Diabolical Plots brings two new short stories with a nice twist of horror, perfect for the season. First up, a transcript of a video channel that’s…not quite right. That shows a certain enthusiasm but not so much a…certain wholesomeness. The second story delves into the horror of shopping, and the horror of shopping culture. It’s a sharp look at consumerism and corruption, and manages a nice creepy atmosphere throughout. Both of the stories mix a bit of spookiness, a healthy dose of strangeness, and enough awkward adorableness amidst pervasive terror that they complement each other well. And if you need more convincing, let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World that Wouldn't Die (Neon Hemlock) [part 2]

Art by Grace Fong
It’s time for part two of my review of the Glitter + Ashes anthology, published by Neon Hemlock and edited by dave ring, with a look at another seven stories. The pieces range a bit longer in the meaty center of the book, and there are less very short works to break things up. That said, the anthology is really punching above its weight with every piece, with beautifully rendered and stunningly complex takes on queer life and love after and in the face of the end of the world. And the stories show that what people cling to when the world is falling apart says a lot. The stories find characters who have the option of acting selfishly, of saving only themselves, and who choose instead to help others, to try and retain art, and expression, and of course love. It’s a wonderful collection of pieces, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World that Wouldn't Die (Neon Hemlock) [part 1]

Art by Grace Fong
At first I was planning on doing a Quick Collections post for this anthology, recently put out from Neon Hemlock (ed. dave ring). But a confluence of circumstances made me reconsider, and now I’m just going to be doing a full review of all 26 stories. A Lot. So I’m not going to be doing them all at once. Rather, I’m going to be breaking the anthology up into 4 parts, and reviewing them as I have convenient spots in my posting schedule. First up, the first seven stories! There’s a mix of lengths and elements, but the promise of queer stories about resilience in the face of the end of the world is front and center, delivered on beautifully. To see what I mean, let’s get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #97

Art by Andrey Kiselev / Adobe Stock Image
The October issue of Nightmare Magazine doesn’t really go full-on spooky, though that doesn’t mean it skimps on the horror. Rather, the horror here is...quiet. Slow. Careful. Methodical, even. And it looks at aspects of the human experience that can sort of sink into something grim and terrifying. Marriage, especially when it rots. Academia, especially when the pursuits turn out to be sinkholes, traps. The stories show people who are on the cusp of something shadowed and deep, something there’s no turning back from after a certain point. One of the characters thinks to try and escape. The other plunges right in. It makes for an interesting and well balanced issue. To the reviews!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #36 [October stuff]

October doesn’t really bring a great deal of spooky material to Uncanny Magazine, but it does bring some stories that are very aware of isolation, of oppression, and of transformation. Of characters caught under the weight of their trauma, their wounds, their fears and hurts. Seeking ways to escape, to slip free, to get out from under the crush of historical abuses and more contemporary and intimate ones. Finding the power of moving in unexpected ways, of reaching for affirmation and comfort in the midst of conflict, war, and strife. It’s a difficult month of fiction and poetry, but it’s also a lovely selection of works that flow wonderfully together. To the reviews!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/05/2020 & 10/12/2020

Art by Helen Mask
The first two issues of October Strange Horizons bring the regular two short stories and two poems, but (as always) it’s rather difficult to call them “regular.” Except that (as always) the quality is high, the emotions are shook, and the experience is, well, strange. From extra eyeballs growing all over a person’s body to time travel that’s not really time travel, from surveys about being a dragon to the pitfalls of recommendations, the works cover a lot of ground. Fantasy. Science fiction. Some breathtaking poetry. There’s a lot to get to, a lot to enjoy, and probably a lot to kinda low key cry about, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #169

Art by Francesca Resta
It’s another Big issue of Clarkesworld Magazine, with four short stories and three novelettes. And there’s perhaps a theme that runs throughout the pieces, that of family. Explored in some interesting ways, the pieces all seem to circle around what makes a family and what might tear it apart. The stories are not always incredibly happy, many of them unfolding in post-disaster scenarios, but that’s not unusual for the publication, nor is the fact that this is once more an entirely-science-fiction issue. It makes for a lot of possible worlds, a lot of future we’d probably do best to avoid. And it’s just a lot of strong work, so I’ll get right to my reviews!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus October 2020

I’m no stranger to stories taking on Lovecraftian mythos and ideas, and this month’s GigaNotoSaurus short story joins the conversation with a work that crafts an alternate history where the Old Ones rose in the early 1900s and have been in power ever since. That doesn’t mean there aren’t humans left, though, and in the warped reality that Dublin has become, one human finds themself facing a string of dangers and conflicts when a chance to earn a lot of coins drops into their lap. Unfortunately, though, that opportunity comes with the promise of adventure of the eldritch sort, and ends up pitting the narrator against friends, lovers, and the maybe even a death cult or two. So yeah, let’s get to the review!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #314

Art by Vladimir Manyukhin
The two stories in the latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies feature gods and people just sort of trying to get by despite them. The characters in both stories are searching for answers to questions they don’t quite know how to ask yet. Concerning pasts they can’t remember, and futures they hope to reach. They feature strange partnerships and large casts of memorable characters. And there are discussions in both stories about the nature of gods, and magic, and how it all works together. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online October 2020

October brings a seasonably creepy slew of stories to Flash Fiction Online. Stories that deal with some of the classics in horrifying SFF--ghosts, werewolves, and monsters (oh my!). Now, not all of the stories deal with these elements in...particularly horrifying ways. Rather, the stories offer up an array of different approaches to the tropes. Complications and twists on the classics that make for some fascinating and (as always) quick reads. It’s certainly appropriate for the month, and I’ll jump right into those reviews!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Quick Sips - Fiyah #16 [Joy]

Art by Odera Igbokwe
The theme for the latest issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine is Joy. Which, I mean, is needed right about now. The five stories and three poems do not disappoint, weaving together genres and visions that bring the reader to a great many joys. Some tinged with heartache, some won only through bitter pain. But the joys on display are beautiful, transcendent, transforming. They are healing, and they imagine futures where there is hope, where there is relief, where the hardships that seem so insurmountable are memories. And it’s just a wonderful issue that shines with care, compassion, and yes, joy. To the reviews!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #65

Art by chainat
October brings a special treat to The Dark Magazine--an extra original story! And all three of the works in this issue are wonderful, are full of characters pushing back against the oppressive worlds they find themselves in. Not always able to do much. Sometimes able lto escape. Sometimes able to create change. Rarely able to avoid loss, though. Never able to avoid grief. The works offer complex views of delicate situations, and people hoping to get by or else willing to bring it all down around their head. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #125

Art by Grandeduc / Adobe Stock Image
Three short stories and a novelette round out the original content in October’s Lightspeed Magazine. And it’s not exactly a spooky month of offerings, though there is a vampire for those interested. Rather, the stories deal a lot with stories. Stories people tell that help to define the world they move through. Of good and evil. Of hero and monsters. And the stories end up dealing with the ways those stories can be affirming and healing, and the ways those stories can be cages, devices of erasure, pain, and destruction. And the works cover a lot of ground, from post-disaster Chicago to a romance far far away, from a small village in Hungary to an online reality that can be more real than real. To the reviews!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com September 2020

Art by Audrey Benjaminsen
It’s another full month of original fiction at Tor dot com, with four short stories and a novelette. As the seasons change into autumn (here in the U.S. at least), the fiction seems to be shifting as well. The stories are getting a bit more grim, a bit spookier. The works are tending toward horror tropes and elements with vampires, ghosts, monsters, gods, and apocalypses. The works find characters who are trying to get their lives on track following loss, following disappointment, following…life happening. And their attempts run into shadows, into the strange and dangerous mysteries of the world. And if, and how, they come out of those shadows will determine a lot if they can start to recover and heal from what’s happened to them. To the reviews!

Monday, October 5, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #313

Art by Vladimir Manyukhin
It’s anniversary time again at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with a special extra-big issue containing three short stories and a novelette. Because of how the stories are released, it’s basically like having two different issues in one, and that plays out for me in the thematic links between the stories as well, where the first two deal with people investigating strange disturbances that turn out to be much deeper and more perilous than they thought, and the second two deal with people figuring out how much of their desires are what they think other people want for them, and how much are genuinely coming from within. The stories bounce off each other well, building in resonating ways a look into some very interesting (and often grim) fantasy worlds. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #748-751

September sees a return of original content to Escape Pod, and does so in rather dramatic fashion, with seven(!) new short stories, including the four winners of the annual flash contest. With that many stories, there’s a lot of science fictional visions on display, looking at time travel, post-apocalypses, aliens, AIs, and much more. The worst also range from happy to heartbreaking, from hopeful to kinda bleak. But the works show some wonderful interpretations of what science fiction can mean, what they can include, and I am all here for it. To the reviews!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/21/2020 & 09/28/2020

I close out my reviews of September’s Strange Horizons issues with a look at one more short story and two more poems. The fiction deals with totalitarianism, with borders, with touch. With a relationship fracturing under the strain not only from without, but from within as well. The poetry keeps things heavy, dangerous, mysterious. Things aren’t all doom and gloom, though, with a bit of humor mixed in as well, and a spot of meta-textuality as one of the poems evokes and complicates a different text (one probably familiar to most people reading this). The publication crosses the three quarter mark on the year in style, with a strong range of works that do not disappoint. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - PodCastle #643

Just a single story in this month’s PodCastle original releases, but that’s not to say it’s does hit above its weight. The story is complex and beautiful, daring and demanding in ways that I don’t often see in short SFF. It deals with transition, with changing a body in magical ways, but the change isn’t just a metaphor for gender transitioning, in part because that’s already literal in the text. Rather, the transition here is more complicated, a way for the main character to reshape her body and get a manner of control and freedom she’s always wanted. It’s stirring and emotionally resonating work, and I’ll get right to my review before I give too much away!