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!

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #321 (1 short story, 1 novelette total)
  • “Bast and Her Young” by Tegan Moore (novelette) - A story of a woman king and erased history, and the nature of rule and divinity through an ancient Egyptian lens. Egypt, Pharaohs, Ghosts, Gods.
  • “Daughters With Bloody Teeth” by Marika Bailey (short story) - Not exactly a werewolf story, but also a great take on the idea or two beings bonded into one, with a strong mythology and magic and hunger for justice. Dogs, Transformations, Safety, Community. CW- Pregnancy/Childbirth, Assault/Harassment, Colonization/Slavery.
Two stories that focus on historical erasure, especially of women and women’s accomplishments and power. Ultimately hopeful but in a way that requires some ruffled feathers or, more likely, spilled blood.

Fusion Fragment #4 (5 short stories total)
  • “Sailing to Byzantium” by Jennifer R. Donohue (short story) - A look at grief and loss and gender roles, and the emptiness it all leaves behind, as told by a woman helping her dad build a spaceship. Spaceships, Urges, Family. CW- Suicide(?).
  • “Wormwood” by Edward Ashton (short story) - A family takes on what is supposed to be the end of the world in very different ways, before maybe finding a way to face what comes next together. Asteroids, Apocalypses, Family. CW- Medical Trauma.
  • “In a Village Without Dogs” by Eileen Gunnell Lee (short story) - A complex story about generational trauma involving Romani populations expelled to live in space who, years later, receive a distress call from the planet that exiled them. Meetings, Queer MC, Trauma, Dreams.
  • “The Ten Thousand Lives of Luciana Kim” by Maria Dong (short story) - The titular character lives some kind of maybe-afterlife that’s actually a game that it seems impossible to win. Gripping and wrenching. Games, Afterlives, Queer MC, Cycles. CW- Torture/Captivity, Suicide.
  • “You, Tearing Me Apart Onstage” by Matthew B. Hare (short story) - A pop star keeping himself forever a boy starts facing the full weight of what he’s doing, and the neverland mirror cracks a bit. Grim but with a kind of beautiful hope. Music, Avatars, Virtual Reality, Celebrity. CW- Drug Use, Gore/Self-Harm.
A wonderful issue and turns out I’ve already read and definitely appreciate the reprint selections to yay to that as well. It’s a heavy issue, with apocalypses, hellish afterlives, and the “dark side” of celebrity, but there’s also a great, lovely feel to it all, and it has a strong tonal and thematic consistency. Fragile, but beautiful!

Eurasian Monsters (17 short stories total)
  • “Morpheus” by K.A. Teryna, translated by Alex Shvartsman (reprint short story) - Haunting and dreamlike, with a creeping dread as the titular monster figures out how to crack the cage the narrator wove for them. Dreams, Grief, Guilt, Lucid Dreaming.
  • “Daemons of Their Time” by Marta Magdelena Lasik, translated by Piotr Swietlik (short story) - A lovely read that looks at loneliness, change, and death. A science fiction monster story that’s surprisingly sweet. Monsters, Death, Domed Cities.
  • “Sleepless in Enerhodar” by Yevhen Lyr (short story) - Creepy and sleep focused again, with a hunted, haunted feel and revealing the danger of knowledge that should not be pursued. Sleep, Folklore, The Moon.
  • “Bagatazh” by Karina Shainyan (short story) - Nicely atmospheric, all about silences and stories and the weight of them. Frogs, Tribute, Guides, Tourists.
  • “Rapunzel” by Vlad Arenev (short story) - The story of a woman in the middle of a pandemic, afraid and isolated, but resolved to keep moving forward. Cats, Memories, Household Spirits, Groceries. CW- Pandemic/Disease.
  • “Nine Tongues Tell Of” by Haralambi Markov (short story) - A breathtaking story of a chance meeting and a wonderful friendship. I love the embedded framing with the podcaast, too. Podcasts, Employment, Elder Care, Wings, Queer MC. CW- Loss/Death of Parents, Suicide(?).
  • “The Visit” by Maria Galina (reprint short story) - A grimly comedic story about gifts and creatures of the night, and one particular one visiting a rather sad man. Holidays, Gifts, Apartments, Feeding.
  • “A Thousand Cuts” by Alex Shvartsman (reprint short story) - A difficult story but one that has a triumphant ending, which I appreciate. Marriage, Immigration, Offerings, Blood. CW- Self Harm/Suicide.
  • “The Whitest Linen” by Daryna Stremetska, translated by Maksym Bakalov (short story) - A chilling story of loss and hope, and the fragile reality of being an immigrant trying to earn money in a system that seems rigged from the start for tragedy. Hotels, Monsters, Family. CW- Death of a Child.
  • “Lysa Hora” by Shawn Basey (short story) - A sharp piece about an asshole trying to save his sister and finding that she doesn’t need his kind of saving. Underground, Clubs, Monsters. CW- Homophobia/Slurs.
  • “Our Lady of Carrion Crows” by Karolina Fedyk (short story) - A fantastic story about breaking cycles, about the strength of running away, of escape, of freeom. Wraiths, Trans MC, Family, Horses. CW- Assault/Rape, Torture/Whips, Slavery, Abuse.
  • “Veruska and the Lúdevérc” by Bogi Takács (short story) - Hah! A delightful story of a clever little girl and a dangerous birb. Birds, Bargains, Tricks, Stories.
  • “Mountain Maid” by Eldar Sattarov (reprint short story) - A strange tale of a myth, a chance meeting, and a whole lot of cold. Ghosts, Mountains, Snowboarding, Snow.
  • “The Housekeeper” by Kat Hutchson (short story) - A nicely creepy story about childhood fear and an unrelenting malevolent force. Family, Asthma, Therapy, Bargains. CW- Death of a Parent.
  • “The Serpent” by Natalia Osoianu (short story) - A shattering and haunting story about the pressures of hate and the...almost futility of trying to bargain with some kinds of evil. Snakes, Visions, Family. CW- Anti-Semitic Violence/Language.
  • “This is Moscow, Old Man!” by Alexander Bachilo (short story) - A slightly bizarre and madcap story that still delivers a complex and wholly entertaining experience! Family, Weddings, Treasures, Monsters.
  • “Sleeping Beauty of Elista” by Ekaterina Sedia (reprint short story) - Strange and with a hint of something heavy and huge. A nice way to close things out. Curses, Witches, Comas. CW- AIDS.
A fantastic collection! I will do a Quick Collections for it at some point in the near future, but until then I’ll just slip these into my regular sips. 2020 releases, but I’m including them in the count of what I read this year. The last installment of this series, which I think I have read most of (not sure if I read the American volumes in their entirety). Just really great stuff here, with maybe above all a very visceral exploration of home.

Strange Horizons 01/18/2021 (1 short story, 1 poem total)
  • “Secrets of the Kath” by Fatima Taqvi (short story) - A very weird and dense story about a play with puppets, and how it speaks to the life of one of the women watching it. Beautiful work. Plays, Puppets, Family, Income Inequality.
  • “Soft Shoulder (Excerpt)” by Zach Ozma (poem) - A rather glorious repetitive poem about a figure who might be myth, might be a warning, a bogey, or might be something to aspire to, or a person out there just living his own life.
Another great issue, and really that poem is so so good and I recommend people check it out. Some great works!

Escape Pod #768 (1 short story total)
  • “Balancing the Equation” by Justin C. Key (short story) - A story of a woman, a great loss, and the prospect of saving humanity in space. Gutting but not hopeless, with an ending that promises something other than tragedy. Space, Space Colonization, Physics, Consciousness, Family, Black Holes. CW- Death of a Child, Human Extinction.
A difficult story but one that resolves into something beautiful. Quite good!

Tor January 2020 (2 short stories total)
  • “Let All the Children Boogie” by Sam J. Miller (short story) - A story of two young people finding each other out of their respective solitudes and finding in each other a kind of belonging they’ve always been missing, set against early 90s radio, intolerance, and possible time travel. Radio, Time Travel, Family, School, Queer MC. CW- Abuse, Misgendering.
  • “#Selfcare” by Annalee Newitz (short story) - A story about employment and a bit of fae magic, all captured with a wonderful energy and voice and hope, of people coming together to push back against their exploitation. Just lots of fun. Spas, Employment, Queer Characters, Fae. CW- Excrement/Vomit/Blood.
A really nice one-two punch with these stories. Fun and hopeful, which is a great way to start out 2021.

Works read this year to date: 83 stories, 18 poems (+28 stories, +1 poem)

So apparently I’m already over 100 stories read and micro-reviewed this year already. That while reading for We’re Here and doing some other work. So…yeah, turns out my plan of broadening my coverage is indeed working out so far. I’m really liking it so far, in part because without the pressure to do daily posts, it’s just a lot more manageable. Hopefully people are still liking things.

I’m still in the process of tweaking things, though. For instance, I am kicking around the idea of adding a like of grimness alignment chart/rating system that will help I think give some extra context to the elements and tone of stories without adding much in the way of words I’m writing. I’m not a huge fan of most rating systems, but I have been working on this and reaching out for feedback and I think I’ll find a way to make this happen. Probably won’t roll it out until March, though, to sort of get ready for it, but the system itself will probably be revealed next month. So stay tuned for that.

Other Media:

DayBlack Volumes 1 & 2 by Keef Cross
Merce is a vampire who has worked as basically everything in his long life, but has settled for the moment as a tattoo artist in a city afflicted with constant light blocking pollution thanks to an industrial accident. Perfect setup for a vampire! Or, it would be, if he wasn’t having sleeping fits and strange dreams, and if his vampire-hunter adopted son wasn’t in town on the trail of two vampires who might have a rather close link to Merce’s past. The art is stunning, done up in black and red and weaving a story heavy in mythology and rather fun, even as it’s rather violent and brutal. But Merce is a fun character, and his world is one of blood, or trying to do right by people, and finding that it’s complicated by, well, being a vampire. Really wish there was more out of this, but I’m not sure there is right now.

And that’s about it for now! Haven’t been playing much more video games at the moment. Not sure what to do next. Cheers!


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