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!