Friday, April 16, 2021

Quick Sips 04/16/2021

Well I’m now into entirely April publications, and looking a lot of interesting works this week. I think I can start to pin down some trends, though, for the year. And I mean keep in mind that I’m not reading everything, that I’m not seeing all works being put out, but I have been noticing a big return of stories focused on the act of survival and the different ways that people can resist, and the ways that can be effective, and the ways that sometimes there’s no win, no real way to fight back except in personal, often self-destructive acts. And I feel that it’s probably reflecting a lot but especially the pandemic and the lingering effects that authoritarian movements have made a bad situation so much worse globally, where almost every authoritarian/conservative government has fucked up their response and let their people die. And just…the weight of that. Mixed in to how some governments are going further right, using this as a chance to consolidate power, to the further detriment of their people. Though through a speculative lens, I am noticing that there are a lot of really heavy stories dealing with corrupt regimes, the desire to push back, and the enormous toll that takes on a person.

But anyway, that’s just one thing. I’m sure I’ll notice other things as the year moves on even more. For now, I’ll just keep my eyes open.

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Quick Sips 04/09/2021

March is dead. Long live April! Or something like that. This week I am hoping to close out my March reads, at least (unless I have completely missed something, which happens). There was a bit of activity late in the month what with the release of a special issue from Strange Horizons, but mostly now I’m moving into stuff from April. Now that we’re entering into the second quarter of the year, it means that all the quarterly publications I’ve been following (many of them new to my coverage this year) will be putting out new issues. Luckily they seem spread out enough that I shouldn’t be too buried, but we’ll see how this goes. Yay. Anyway, I expect to stay busy, and I’m glad that I got to cover Baffling, because it’s fairly large and always amazing, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the month is going to bring!

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Quick Sips 04/02/2021

So April is here and I forewent doing any sort of April Fool’s Day “pranks” this year. Instead, I’m back with a lot of reviews. Surprise! This week I don’t think I’m covering anything brand new to me, though Mithila Review has been absent for the better part of a year and has returned with a big new issue. I only dip my toe into April reviews with a look at the new Fantasy Magazine, mostly because the end of March has been busy. Otherwise things are going nicely. I feel like 2021 is still taking shape in terms of what themes are widely on display. It’s still a rather grim year across the board, or at least so it seems to me. But there are some lighter spots that hopefully will strengthen as the year goes on. Whatever the case there, it’s a wonderful year for stories, and I’m loving the chance to read so many great ones!

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Quick Sips 03/26/2021

A new week, and new reasons for me to once again add new venues to my reading. I mean, obviously. What could go wrong? Seriously, though, I’m adding both Future Science Fiction Digest and The Future Fire to my reading, both of which I’ve admired from afar for a while but couldn’t fit into my plans. The Future Fire issue is technically from January so oops there, but better late than never I hope. I’m also looking at some single-author stuff, including a new installment in Julie C. Day’s mosaic novel/story collection and a collection of speculative crip lit by Brian Koukol, whose work I enjoyed when it appeared in GigaNotoSaurus a while ago. But yeah, lots to cover today, even if it’s technically not a huge week numbers-wise. Cheers!

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Quick Sips 03/19/2021

Just go ahead and ignore me whenever I say I’m done adding publications to cover. I’ll stop saying it, because I apparently can’t resist having a bit of time and immediately going to track down more to read. Just the way I am, I guess. And this week I’m adding some more…again. Both Hexagon Magazine and the Future Fire and new to my coverage, though neither are terribly new to me personally. It’s nice to be able to add them to my reading, though, and already I’ve found a lot of great stories in them. Further, here’s the first time I’m adding stories from a single author collection, but I do plan on continuing that trend, so that while I’ll only be covering the original stories, I’ll still definitely be able to keep up with some that might otherwise have slipped by. Otherwise not too much to report.

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Quick Sips 03/12/2021

Well the year isn’t really slowing down. Eff. But that’s mostly okay! I’m staying busy, at least. This week I’m moving through a bunch of publications, catching up on some that I’ve not exactly missed but needed to get yet from February. As a peek into my process, most of these are from places where I receive review copies, which helps me get to them promptly (F&SF and Apex, which I covered last week, are also in that boat). The rest are irregular/weekly releases that I try not to fall too far behind on. I try. Again, eff. I still have one or two review copies to get to, afterwards I’ll move to regular releases like Clarkesworld that are out in their entirety for free early in the month. Irregulars and issues that release a little at a time by necessity get moved back further in the month. So yeah!

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Quick Sips 03/05/2021

Apparently I just keep adding new publications to what I’m covering. Case in point, I’ve got two new ones this week, with a slightly belated review of the inaugural Constelación and a review of the latest Fantasy & Science Fiction. I also finally remembered that Diabolical Plots exists (sorry!) and got myself caught up there. It’s still a mix of months, with works from January, February, and March all represented here, but hopefully you can keep it all straight. Next week should be all stuff from March, though, so I’m hopefully more or less caught up on what I’m doing. And there’s a lot to get to, so I’ll cut my intro there!

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Quick Sips 02/26/2021

So there’s a lot to get to today. A LOT. And most of it rather new to me, including me starting coverage on a new magazine, a new serial/mosaic project, and quick reviews on yet another anthology from last year (which I missed at the time and which is Ah-Mazing! Just saying). On top of that there’s a new Translunar Travelers Lounge, new Strange Horizons, and new Pseudopod works all out. So from my lightest week to, well, this deluge of SFF goodness. Wow!

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Quick Sips 02/19/2021

So the year continues to give me the chance to expand my coverage, and I’m happy to add Prismatica Magazine to my rotation, as well as Pseudopod. I’m also happy that most of the feedback I’ve been getting about the Scales of Relative Grimness has been positive. Though, that might be because I haven’t been hearing any of the negative feedback. Again, I do encourage people to reach out if they have objectives. I am always willing to listen.

It's hard to reckon that the year is already a month and a half over. 2021 feels like a mess still, but something of an exciting mess. I’ve got some amazing news, namely that I have a short story collection coming out later this year! The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories will be released from Lethe Press in the autumn. It even has a phenomenal cover that I revealed over on my Patreon publicly on Monday. So yeah, between that and We’re Here, it’ll be a rather me-heavy year. Yay! Anyway, sorry, that’s a bit of an aside. Reviews to follow the regular note!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Quick Sips 02/12/2021

Hi there! Well, I’m still catching myself up on January, as my reading these days isn’t quite as strict and structured as it used to be. Which, I mean, suits me quite well. It means I can also have a bit of a diversion to cover an absolutely phenomenal anthology that came out last year. Seriously, if you haven’t read Silk & Steel, it’s good! Otherwise I’m covering venues that I’ve been reviewing for a while, though I do have my eyes on a few just-out and upcoming issues of venues that I haven’t read before to keep life interesting. Probably my favorite part of doing these broader posts is that, well, I can read more broadly, and while I will always miss things and not be able to read everything, that I can read more is fantastic.

But I’m just keeping my nose to the wheel, mostly. I’ve decided to delay the Sippy Awards to March, though, as I’m still desperately trying to read for We’re Here consideration and those deadlines will be coming up very soon. The Sippys are still like my favorite thing, though, so I will definitely keep doing them. Just…it’s been a lot of year-end stuff like participating in the Locus Rec List committee for short fiction categories and the like. And whew, some things are ending, but other things are beginning (my Clarion Class is later this month, eep!). So yeah, just a bit of a delay there.

As on last note before the reviews, you’ll maybe notice that my Scales of Relative Grimness make their debut this week. The below note will now run with all of these posts. Hopefully it’s some added value, but I’ll probably be refining for a while. Consider this a public test of the system.

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Quick Sips 02/05/2021

The year just keeps right on rolling! Up today is a told at eight different publications. Some are very short (just one poem in the latest Strange Horizons and just one story that I review from the latest Fireside Magazine) and some are a bit longer. Some are from January, some are from February, and the anthology is actually from last year (but ICYMI it’s very very good!). In general, I can say that I’m reading a lot more this year, and that the “a lot more” is coming generally in the form of short stories rather than novelettes and novellas. I’m going to have to figure out ways to try and mitigate that, but it’s an issue in that there are just way more short stories put out in a year than otherwise. Still, I’m really liking that I’m able to get to more things.

As a scheduling note, and along the note from above, these posts will cover recent stuff, but not always from the month noted in the title of the posts. Just because there’s a mix of stuff and I get some things early and some I have to wait for like the last day of the month to cover, so apologies if this is all something of a mess. But I’m trying! Anyway, to the reviews!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Quick Sips 01/29/2021

Another week, another boatload of fiction to read! Today I’m looking at another mix of venues I’ve covered for a long time and some that are completely new to me. Plus, I look at a review from late 2020. I’ll probably be doing that from time to time, looking at anthologies that might not be current-year releases. These won’t, alas, be able to be added to my recommended reading end-of-the-year lists, but I still think work that I want to read and I will still be figuring those stories into the number of stories I’ve read this year because, well, I read it this year. Just sort of a heads up there, I guess. There are still at least one, maybe more anthologies from 2020 that I plan on covering early this year.

Anyway, it’s still a little early to make too many conclusions about what 2021 might look like in fiction, though I have appreciated the amount of rather fun and bouncy messy queer stories that aren’t that bleak. The overall mood is still rather grim, but there are some nice breaks in that. Maybe I’ll start to notice more as the year really gets going.

Anyway, just a regular reminder that I don’t necessarily mention every story in an issue or collection, but the total numbers I list after the issue title is for the stories that are there, not how many I review. Reasons for not writing a review vary, and aren’t always a statement I didn’t like the story or anything. I simply reserve the right to not do a write up, as I feel like it. So yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, January 22, 2021

Quick Sips 01/22/2021

Hi and welcome back! Today I’m doing a quick look at 7 recent publications/issues, including the latest Kaleidotrope, which is relatively new-to-me (I did review an issue in late 2015 but didn't add the publication to my regular schedule). Part of my decision to shorten my reviews, after all, has been so that I could widen what I read and cover. So far, the balance is actually working out quite well, I’d say. We’ll see if I get myself into trouble adding too much (more on that at the end of this post), but I am very happy to be able to look at publications outside of the list of those I fully reviewed (it was always a time limitation that prevented me from adding more).

Now, I’m hopeful that these very short reviews are still helpful. It’s very hard to give an idea of what a story is about in such a small space, which is part of why I stayed away from this kind of format. Trying to balance giving readers tools necessary to guide their reading with trying not to immediately default back to my lengthy reviews is rough for me, especially after having spent so long doing longer reviews. I’m managing at the moment, and apologies if the reviews are less useful in guiding reading or provoking further thought. I’m not going back to what I did, but apologies all the same.

Anyway, maybe some people like these even more than what I was doing! To you, you’re welcome! Also, you’re in luck, because here’s another round of quick sips!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Quick Sips 01/15/2021

So here’s how this is going to go. First, I’ll do a little intro. As in, hi all! 2021 is certainly off to…a start. National and international politics aside, though, I’m here to reflect more on short SFF and so I’ve been seeking out whatever I can to read. I have queries in a few places about review copy but haven’t heard back. Otherwise, I’ve been mostly sticking to venues that I have already covered and that I could get my hands on full issues of. This week I’ll briefly touch on 8 publications, which will probably be more than normal but I quasi-skipped this update last week because I was still catching up so much on late 2020 reads.

Now, to be fully transparent, a number of those late reviews I did are also technically 2021 releases (the last Beneath Ceaseless Skies I reviewed and the last three months of Baffling Magazine reviews). And a bunch of stuff that I expect out into 2020 from Fireside I technically already covered because it was released in the Quarterly in 2020. Apologies if that’s all kinds of vague. Anyway, the year is off to…well, a bit of a grim start. Part of that is because of the return of Apex Magazine, which is focused on dark SFF. There’s also a big anniversary Nightmare Issue. But perhaps because of the tenseness of the rest of the world at large, the general fiction even from other publications seems a bit grim as well. So it goes?

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #86/Fireside Quarterly Autumn 2020

Art by Don Rimx
So this review, my last in this format, also has the honor of being something of a complete mess. Because, well, Fireside Magazine has had something of a bumpy road recently, and it’s thrown off the publication schedule. What’s more, because the print Fireside Quarterly has been running ahead of the magazine, there are still a number of stories that are 2020 releases that haven’t made their way online yet. So…I decided to just settle up. So here are both the stories from the most recent issue of Fireside Magazine, and all the original stories in the latest Quarterly as well. In total, it’s nine new works, and it makes for a wonderful assortment of SFF visions and voices. And it might be messy, but for maybe the last time, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #765

Well I wasn’t really expecting a final story from Escape Pod in 2020, but it was a year for surprises, so what’s one more? Appropriately, the story itself is about a New Years celebration, and for me is a lot about connecting with what you love, and taking steps to prioritize that love and what makes you happy. Which is wonderful and warm and a fantastic way to step into the new year. So yeah, without further delay, to the review!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #320

Art by Avant Choi
The stories in this latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are all about the grim realities of being young, being a woman in a time and place where that often means being property, and being without a real friend in the world. And both stories follow a person who acts as a kind of friend for young women. Who reach out to help them, to teach them, to guide them. Not always innocently, but usually with something approaching good intentions. Just ones that are also often filtered through the realities they are in, the grim and dangerous cities the stories take place in. Now, whether these are 2020 or 2021 releases, I’m less sure. What I know is that this will be my last comprehensive review of a Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue, and that’s a rather bittersweet thing. But, without too much angst, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Quick Sips - Speculative City #10

Art by Jacqueline C.J. Barnes
And now for something new! Yes yes I know, right before I’m set to step away from doing these kind of full reviews isn’t precisely the time to be starting a whole new publication, but I assure you that’s not what I’m doing. Indeed, this is something of a one-off, as I was told about this issue of Speculative City and just couldn’t resist. Plus, I had a sudden hole in my schedule and boom! It’s a wonderful issue, though, focused on an Afrofuturism theme and featuring four short stories and two poems. The works are vibrant, dealing with some decidedly grim subjects but bringing a fresh and vibrant voice that cuts through the oppressions facing the characters and brings them new hope. It’s a fantastic collection of works, and I’ll dive right into my reviews!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 12/21/2020

Art by Galen Dara
It wouldn’t be Strange Horizons without a little bit of last minute confusion on my part, I guess, as I was expecting a final issue of the year on the 28th that didn’t arrive. Still, I was only expecting on last poem, so it’s not a huge shift. But…wow. I have read and reviewed every issue of Strange Horizons since the beginning of November 2014. In that time, I would hazard to say that the publication has been my personal favorite, at least going statistically off of how many times stories published there have made my recommended reading lists. So breaking the streak of reviewing at Strange Horizons has something of a big impact for me personally. I will still be reading, certainly. And I do want to thank the publication for providing so many amazing stories over the years. I’m just a ball of emotions about it all, and want to say cheers before I get to this, my last comprehensive review of the publication for the foreseeable future. Cheers!