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!

Kaleidotrope Winter 2021 (7 short stories, 4 poems total) 
  • “In the Garden of My Ancestors’ Statues” by Marissa Lingen (short story) - A grim but freeing take on trolls and stonework as sifted through time, generational lost, and a twist on the expected “cleverness” of humans. Slow but unstoppable. Trolls, Statues, Family, Employment, Goats. CW- Gore.
  • “Truth, Death, and the Golem Between” by Erin K. Wagner (short story) - A city beseiged looks to a golem for deliverance, only the man who might bring it to light doesn’t know if it’s the right thing to do. Difficult and bleak, but not hopeless. Seiges, Family, Golems, Bread, Faith. CW- Gore, Starvation.
  • “Returning the Lyre” by Mary E. Lowd (short story) - A wonderful twist on the old myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, this with Orpheus dead and the quest all about doubt and possibility. Lovely! Greek Mythology, Orpheus, Musical Instruments, Marriage, Bargains, Underworlds.
  • “Her House There by the Mountain” by Kerry C. Bryne (short story) - A quiet and fascinating tale that feels out of time. A future steeped in the past, and a woman dealing with a recent loss and the uncertainty of the future. Sex Work, Funerals, Family, Grief, Manors. CW- Loss of a Parent. 
  • “The Love Song of M. Religiosa” by Nibedita Sen (short story) - Mantis just wants to worship carnally at the alter of the She in the next cage, a fate that’s meant for him but that he intends to meet on his own terms. A fun and charming (and kinda sexy) read! Mantises, Cages, Sex, Universities. 
  • “The Mermaid’s Tail” by Jennifer Shelby (short story) - A woman is called out to a strange bar and once there hears an unbelievable story that just might hold more than a little truth. Another fun read! Stories, Mermaids, Prosthetics, Pirates. CW- Cannibalism.
  • “At the Playground” by Marcie Lynn Tentchoff (poem) - A nice edge that emerges here, slightly sinister, but still utterly relatable. Playgrounds, Children, Time.
  • “Shadow Dance/Island” by Kim Whysall-Hammond (poem) - Another kind of bleak piece looking at the isolation of sentience, the vastness of space and time. Space, Sound, Loneliness.
  • “Night Beasts” by Jennifer Crow (poem) - A nice amount of world building in this one and creepy to boot. Love the imagery of darkness and a waiting hunger.
  • “Beneath the Palace Dictionary the Last Evil Mars Moth Sleeps” by Mari Ness (poem) - Ah, a rather wonderful look at just sort of ignoring a problem that should definitely have been sorted before the child slipped into the room.
A great and rather grim issue, all told, but not without plenty of fun as well. The piece begins a bit melancholic but also resolute, looking at loneliness and loss, at people looking at the real prospect of their death and destruction, the loss of their family, and trying to reach back for it. All told, lots of great works!

Strange Horizons 01/04/2021 (1 short story, 2 poems total)
  • “Yearning” by Maya Beck (short story) - A historical fantasy of sharecropping times, where a man can help others see a future worth striving for. Visions, Time Travel, Family. CW- Slavery, Rape.
  • “Hank McCoy’s Complaint Against the Danger Room” by Stephanie Burt (poem) - A piece steeped in the X-Verse and just a delightful and charmingly alliterative read!
  • “Frostina” by Stephanie Burt (poem) - A sestina about Emma Frost omg yes! It works so well! Go read it!
A great issue with not one but two(!) formal poems featuring the X-Men! Can’t go wrong at all with that! 

Strange Horizons 01/11/2021 (1 short story, 1 poem total) 
  • “The karyōbinga sings to Jiro” by Ryu Ando (short story/flash) - Wow, a rather profound story about loss, time, and an eternal silence. Beautifully rendered. Birds, Marriage, Family, Storms. CW- Loss of a Spouse. 
  • “In Which the Deer, Unwittingly or Not, Moves In” by NIkki Caffier Smith (poem) - A strange piece with a sense of mystery to it, with a charming voice that underscores some grim possibilities. Deer, Family, Curses(?).
Another fine issue, this one dealing with loss, with disappearances, and with magical animals.

Clarkesworld #172 (4 short stories, 1 novelette, 1 novella total)
  • “Intentionalities” by Aimee Ogden (short story) - Bleak and utterly believable, it conveys the crush of poverty and corruption well. Finances, Bargains, Dystopia. CW- Pregnancy/Birth, Debt. 
  • “Deep Magic” by Elly Bangs (short story) - A rather charming and wonderful contemporary fantasy/science fiction about some sentient water, messy queer drama, and a test no one knows is being administered. Water, Employment, Breakups, Competition, Queer MC. CW- Torture/Abuse. 
  • “Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma” by R.S.A. Garcia (novella) - A sweeping epic and a wonderful return to these characters. Told across multiple timelines, it all comes together in powerful and beautiful fashion. Space, AIs, War, Regret, Family, Queer Characters. CW- Torture/Abuse, War/Genocide. 
  • “The Last Civilian” by R. P. Sand (novelette) - A rather haunting story of cloning and war, and a soldier who yearns for a better way. Clones, Aliens, Stranded, Kittens. CW- Brainwashing/Mental Control, Abuse. 
  • “Aster’s Partialities: Vitri’s Best Store for Sundry Antiques” by Tovah Strong (short story) - Delightful! A story of a cursed magician, the sentient and hungry house that becomes her prison, and the young person who might set her free. Magic, Mirrors, Houses, Talismans, Curses, Non-Binary Character. CW- Executions, Eating Humans.
  • “Leaving Room for the Moon” by P H Lee (short story) - A harrowing story about time, distance, and two children taken as tribute. A difficult, moving read. Tribute, Time, Space Travel, Collections, Memory, Rituals.
A strong issue, with a mix of sadder works next to some that are a bit more upbeat and fun. There’s a bleak edge throughout, as is common for the publication, and a definite lean toward science fiction, but with some definitely magical touches as well!

The Dark #68 (4 short stories total)
  • “The Van Etten House” by Carrie Laben (short story) - A creepy tale about an old house full of junk and two friends who go through some of it looking for things to sell on ebay. Dolls, Sacrifices, Books, Effigies. CW- Hoarding, Car Accidents. 
  • “Love for Ashes” by Frances Ogamba (short story) - A story of a strange relationship and all the loss and sadness that has come about because of it, though not really because of the people in it. Haunting and lovely. Snakes, Transformations, Death, Marriage, Family. 
  • “There, in the Woods” by Clara Madrigano (short story) - Another rather haunting story about a house by a wood and a character who tried to escape it but is drawn back to it. Forests, Family, Houses, Fae, Disappearances. 
  • “Each Night an Adaptation” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu (short story) - Oof that ending is just great, showing the cyclic nature of hardness, of lack of caring, and it’s an unsettling and sharp look at the urge to stop feeling pain but...not feeling anything. Houses, Death, Grief, Paranoia. CW- Death of a Parent, Cancer.
The new format of The Dark means more original fiction, and that’s always something to be happy about. Lots to enjoy here, mostly revolving around family and magic and loss. Some creeping and aching reads.

PodCastle #661 (1 short story total)
  • “The Engineer of the Undersea Railways” by Varsha Dinesh (short story) - A wonderfully imagined story about a woman and her undersea train, and the many things she creates for it. Creation, Automata, Trains, Underwater. CW- Infertility, Invasive Journalism.
I do wish I was better able to actually listen to the stories, but failing that, I do love reading them!

Escape Pod #766 (1 short story total)
  • “The Unrepentant” by Derrick Boden (short story) - A beautiful and messy story about reaching for a better life and all the ways corruption and intolerance and exploitation make that impossible. Touching and brutal and shattering. Space Elevators, Lotteries, Queer MC, Body Modifications, Employment. CW- Police, Police Violence, Prisons/Incarceration/Torture.
Oof. A beautiful but rather tragic story of queer love in a bleak and gritty situation.

Works read this year to date: 55 stories, 17 poems (+21 stories, +7 poems)

So as you can see, there’s considerably less I covered this week, in part because last week’s was actually stuff I had been reading while still doing regular daily reviews and in part because I’ve been trying to do more reading for We’re Here (I managed to get through about a third of the submissions for that last week). This is also now works that I didn’t really get in advance of their release, where most of last week’s coverage was for things that I get review copy for. On that front, here’s some good news! F&SF actually got back to me regarding review copy and so I will be adding that to my coverage starting with the March/April issue! I still have a query into Asimov’s and I might muster spoons to ask further but we shall see.

Looking ahead, next week I’ll also be adding some new things to my coverage, like the latest issue of Fusion Fragment and maybe some of the other Escape Artists podcasts if they have more originals by then (I plan now to cover all 4). Basically I plan to read all the things. Or as much as I can. But I also want to be careful because, well, I don’t want to overextend too quickly. So for the moment I won’t be covering Daily Science Fiction and that’s why I’m approaching the digests one at a time. Things add up quickly!

Other Media:

Sherlock Bones volumes 6 & 7 by Yumi Ando and Yuki Sato
I’ve slowly been reading through this series over the past year or so and it’s very cute though the murders and such can be rather horrifying so it’s a bit of a strange beast. These volumes are I guess the last in the series, which doesn’t really get proper resolution but I do love the addition of the rival/gay love interest (not canon but wow do I want to write the fic) for Watson. The series is formulaic and basically like Phoenix Wright but with a dog detective involved. I really like and am sad there isn’t more.

Pokémon Sword
We got a Switch as our big Christmas gift for ourselves, and my mom got us Pokémon so it’s been my recent obsession. It’s been a while since I played a game in the series (since HeartGold), but I was at the right age where I played Red when it came out and Yellow after that before dropping off until Platinum. Sword is a wonderful return, in part because I can play it on our giant television and WOW! I also love that you can dress your character up and change hair and such and it’s just a lot of fun to sink back in. I just beat the story of the game, and have to decide how much more I care to play/explore. Do I buy all the clothes? Do I try to fill out the Dex? Hmmmm. But yeah, I had a lot of fun with this and I like the cooking and the Wild Area and the story is cute and works nicely.

And that’s it. Join me next week for more! Cheers!


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