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?

Now, structurally, I am still going to list the number of stories put out as well as brief thoughts on a lot of them. Not all, and that’s for a number of reasons. Please try not to read too much into my choosing not to comment on stories. I am not listing the stories I skip mentioning but I do include them in the totals of the stories next to the issue. There are a lot of reasons I might skip mentioning something. I might not have finished it, and that might be because I just wasn’t in a good place to, or it’s just not really my thing, or anything else. I might also just not have known what to say, so I didn’t. In any event, even my mentions are going to be very short. A sentence, maybe two, and some keywords and content warnings. So yeah, here’s what I’ve been reading:

Apex #121 (7 short stories total)
  • “Root Rot” by Fargo Tbakhi (short story) - Devastating and heartbreaking and fuck wow powerful as hell. Mars, Terraforming, Language, Family. CW- Torture, Alcohol Addiction/Abuse, Mind Wipe, Prison
  • “Your Own Undoing” by P H Lee (short story) - Nice framing device about framing devices, nested and alive. Wrenching but hopeful. Magic, Stories, Teaching, Familiars. CW- Mind Control, Torture.
  • “Love, That Hungry Thing” by Cassandra Khaw (short story) - Intense and weird and good. Toxic love and the death of a friendship. Generation Ships(?), Sacrifice, Gods. CW- Gore/Violence (not much but present)
  • “The Niddah” by Elana Gomel (short story) - Pandemic leads to dystopic terribleness but might have opened a strange door even as it seems to have closed most others. Family, Dystopia, Transformation. CW- Disease/Pandemic, Misogyny, Body Transformation.
  • “Gray Skies, Red Wings, Blue Lips, Black Hearts” by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor (short story) - Wonderfully atmospheric, slightly noir, with a Prosperous Above and the City stretching out beneath it and a whole lot of hurt and a little bit of hope that might yet be enough. Souls, Bargains, Theft, Memories, Demons. CW- Violation, Self Harm.
A wonderful return from Apex! Not reviewing my own super short story in this one, tho. But really a great collection of stories that do some interesting things with the grim settings and situations they reveal. Super glad that the publication is back.

Fantasy #63 (4 short stories, 2 poems total)
  • “Things to Bring, Things to Burn, Things Best Left Behind” by C.E. McGill (short story) - A difficult story about sacrifice. Gods, Bargains. CW- Suicide/Ideation, Abuse.
  • “Incense” by Megan Chee (short story/flash) - Oof. Kinda wish the ending had brought something less grim, but still a stirring story about hunger and debts. Stories, Bargains. CW- Homelessness, Memory/Identity Loss.
  • “10 Steps to a Whole New You” by Tonya Liburd (short story) - A story about seduction and promise, a woman who is struggling with what she wants, and what she’s willing to do to feel whole again. Monsters, Bargains, Soucouyant, Neighbors.
  • “The Billionaire Shapeshifters’ Ex-Wives Club” by Marissa Lingen (short story/flash) - Hahaha nice. A very cute little short! Shifters, Divorce, Brunch. CW- Stalking/Harassment
  • “Butterfly-Hummingbird” by Magaly Garcia (poem) - An interesting piece, lovely and a bit haunting, a great poem-as-myth with a touch of magic.
  • “like the gator loves the snake” by Maria Zoccola (poem) - Sensual and evocative of the natural environment, the swamp, and also the hunger of the narrator. Wonderful!
Another great issue from Fantasy, which is still trending rather grim in its selections. Which, I mean, since Shimmer left there has been something of a lack of this kind of atmospheric fantasy and I appreciate it a lot, especially with the focus on flash fiction and poetry.

Fiyah #17 (4 short stories, 3 poems total)
  • “The Techwork Horse” by M. H. Ayinde (short story) - Fantastic world building! Love the way the older MC never gives up or gives in. A triumph! Horses, Magic, War, Class Divides, Family. CW- Pregnancy/Birth, Death of a Child. 
  • “Delete Your First Memory for Free” by Kel Coleman (short story) - A great take on the idea of memory deletion and one that doesn’t really geting into dystopia outside, you know, regular life with anxiety. Crushes, Employment, Memories, Queer MC. 
  • “All in a Day’s Work” by Jade Stewart (short story) - So. Much. Fun!!! I love it! Demon slaying with style and confidence. Demons, Freelancing, Goo, Non-binary MC.
  • “Rainbows & Necklaces” by Martins Deep (poem) - Ouch. Beautiful work here, mixing religion and the injustices done in its name. CW- Torture/Homophobic Murder.
  • “A Poem in Which Sango Hangs Lightning and Lullabies His Children” by Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí (poem) - Great storytelling in this piece, and a powerful message and mythology mingling with history. CW- Slavery.
  • “Erstwhile Ramelon” by K. Ceres Wright (poem) - Lots of world building in this poem and I love the detail and feel. Definitely intrigued and would read more. 
Another stunning issue, with such a great range of stories. I think I’m drawn most to the fantasy stories in this issue, though everything is good. There’s just something wonderful and triumphant about the Ayinde and Stewart stories that made me smile and want to read more from the worlds and characters!

Flash Fiction Online January 2021 (3 short stories total)
  • “Across From her Dead Father in an Airport Bar” by Brian Trent (short story/flash) - Awww. A really sweet story, tinged with loss and the promise of technology. Ghosts, Weddings, Recordings, Family. CW- Death of a Parent, Terminal Illness.
  • “Into the Lightning Suit” by Kyle Richardson (short story/flash) - I do like the dynamic between the siblings and the ending is perfect. A fun read. Reanimation, Volcanoes, Protective Suits, Family. CW- Loss of a Parent.
  • “Warlord” by Steve DuBois (short story/flash) - Another delightful read that almost makes me want a horde of my own. Roaches, Lineages, Video Games.
A somewhat emotionally heavy issue what with the 2/3 involving dead parents. But through that it’s more fun than anything, and I really like the energy in the stories and the heart. It’s a fantastic opening to the publications 2021!

GigaNotoSaurus January 2021 (1 novelette total)
  • “A Remembered Kind of Dream” by Rei Rosenquist (novelette) - Wildly imagined post-apocalypse featuring a dangerous, twisted landscape and a small group of survivors who don’t remember all of who they are. Chosen Family, AIs, Punk Feel. CW- Gore.
A really neat story with plenty of twists!

Lightspeed #128 (2 short stories, 2 novelettes total)
  • “The Incorruptible World” by Anjali Sachdeva (novelette) - A rather lovely, haunting piece of being stranded on a designed planet. Vacations, Bacteria, Hunting, Survival, Marriage. CW- Terminal Illness.
  • “The Memory Plague” by D. Thomas Minton (short story) - A strange and alien read, but with a beating human heart. Aliens, Invasion, Extinction, Memory, Collective Consciousness.
  • “Frost’s Boy” by P H Lee (novelette) - Love the fairy tale elements and wow, a chilling (heh) read. Fairy Tales, Cold, Magic, Bargains, Cycles. CW- Sacrifice of a Child, Abuse/Predation/Murder.
A great and rather strange and haunting issue. The pieces are filled with death a kind of bleakness to them, but that might make sense what with the touch of chill, the touch of winter that infuses the works.

Nightmare #100 (3 short stories, 2 novelettes total)
  • “How to Break into a Hotel Room” by Stephen Graham Jones (short story) - Small time crook meets a terrifying end. Hotels, Cons, Regrets. CW- Home Invasion/Murder/Loss of Family.
  • “Rotten Little Town: An Oral History” by Adam-Troy Castro (novelette) - Nicely creepy and meta. Television Shows, Threats, Interviews.
  • “I Let You Out” by Desirina Boskovich (short story) - Wow, fuck. Having been afraid of the dark and closets as a child, gonna be watching them closely for a while. Doors, Monsters, Travel. CW- Abuse.
  • “Darkness Metastatic” by Sam J. Miller (novelette) - Well that’s fucking terrifying, uncomfortable, and upsetting. But so good. Shit. A story of virality, and technology, and hurt. Viruses, Journalism, Queer MC. CW- Rape, Stalking, Threats, Suicide.
  • “Wolfsbane” by Maria Dahvana Headley (short story) - A great take on Little Red Riding Hood, with witches and bread, wolves and blood. Fairy Tales, Wolves, Bread, Family. CW- Rape, Being Eaten, Gore.
A really strong special anniversary issue.

Uncanny #38 (6 stories, 5 poems)
  • “Tyrannosaurus Hex” by Sam J. Miller (short story) - Creepy and nice way of showing how tech integration, lax parenting, and malevolent malware can all add up to a horrifying collective. AIs, Digital Landscapes, Malware, Parenting. CW- Torture.
  • “A House Full of Voices Is Never Empty” by Miyuki Jane Pinckard (short story) - A beautiful piece about family and diaspora, about the voices of comfort against the harshness of loss. Refugees, Immigration, Family, Talking Objects. CW- War, Displacement, Loss of Parents, Hoarding.
  • “Pathfinding!” by Nicole Kornher-Stace (short story) - Kinda creepy, kinda heartwarming, all kinds of messy and good. Simulations, Training, Forests, Cookies. CW- Torture, Child Soldiers.
  • “Distribution” by Paul Cornell (short story) - A strange story about a perhaps post-apocalyptic world where an inspector is called out to check in on a interesting results. Co-Ops, Multiple Personalities, Uploaded Consciousnesses, Tricksters, Non-Binary MC.
  • “Femme and Sundance” by Christopher Caldwell (short story) - Some queer messes do crimes, dabble in magic, and love each other, not necessarily in that order. A wonderful ride. Crimes, Queer MC, Bank Robbery, Magical Bargains. CW- Gun Violence.
  • “Beyond the Doll Forest” by Marissa Lingen (short story) - A creepy story of a nanny caring for a young girl who has an enormous miniature (kinda funny, that) forest. Complete with wolves and bears and two golden-haired dolls that the nanny never sees. Nannies, Forests, Curses, Illness.
  • “Medusa Gets a Haircut” by Theodora Goss (poem) - Kinda heartbreaking take on Medusa and Perseus, and about changing yourself for a relationship, especially a trash one (which most are, that would pressure you to change yourself). Greek Mythology, Snakes, Haircuts.
  • “Kalevala, an untelling”by Lizy Simonen (poem) - Wonderful work evoking mythology and the roles of women in creation, in myth, and in society. Eggs, Gender Roles, Myths.
  • “bargain | bin” by Ewen Ma (poem) - Kinda creepy but with a heavy, magical feel to it. A conversation with time, with hunger, with what’s found in the bargain bin.
  • “Fish Out of Water” by Neil Gaiman (poem) - Dreamlike and probably I don’t want to try and analyze this one. Sometimes a fish is just a fish?
  • “What the Time Travellers Stole” by L.X. Beckett - A kind of cute piece but with an incredibly dark lining. Like, wow. A fun idea that’s twisted wickedly.
This is a big issue but there’s so much good in it. Dinosaurs, strangely, get mentioned a few times. And there’s a general grimness and vague horror to a lot of the pieces. Mixed in, though, there are a few moments of joy, of hope, or escape. The poetry brings an interesting mix of ideas and themes as well, and all together it’s just a great issue!

2021 works read to date: 34 stories, 10 poems.

And lastly, I’ll mention any other news I have about me or that I can think of. Not much to report this time. I’m also busily working through submissions for We’re Here and trying my best not to fall behind on all my various projects. I’ve probably been playing too much Pokémon Sword but also I feel like I’ve earned it. We got a Switch for Christmas and I’ve been blown away having a current generation video game system. So weird. Anyway, my reading otherwise has been pretty awful. I’m hoping to get back into reading novels and graphic novels and such, but apparently I was a bit more burned out than I has anticipated and so here we are, just sort of slowly putting myself back together. Whew. Anyway, until next week, cheers!


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