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!

Africanfuturism: An Anthology ed Wole Talabi (8 short stories total)
  • “Egoli” by T.L. Huchu (short story) - A wonderful start with this rather heartwarming piece about a grandmother and her memories, and the future she finds herself in, looking forward and back all at once. Family, Space, Technology, Traditions.
  • “Sunrise” by Nnedi Okorafor (short story) - A really charming story about a writer of science fiction, a new kind of flight to Nigeria, and an AI who has a few things yet to learn about humans. I love the comedy of errors feel to it, the humor mixed with the sharp observations. AIs, Travel, Flight, Family, Witch Hunts.
  • “Yat Madit” by Dilman Dila (short story) - A fanastic story about a woman and her relationship to the former president of her country and, more than that, the man who was never quite a father to her. A sweeping look at integrity and the fragility of democracy, even one built on “incorruptible” foundations. Voting, Family, Technology, AIs, Governments. CW- Rape (mentioned), Political Corruption.
  • “Rainmaker” by Mazi Nwonwu (short story) - A young man contends with the weight of his ancestors and the promise of their magic, all on a planet that desperately needs some rain. A great blend of science fiction and fantasy, both warm and nicely romantic. Rain, Dances, School, Wishes, Family.
  • “Behind Our Irises” by Tlotlo Tsamaase (short story) - A chilling story about a person who needs a job finding one that seems almost too good to be true...because it is. Visceral and sharp in its critique of exploitation and identity mining. Employment, Benefits, Contracts. CW- Rape, Mind Control, Body Modification.
  • “Fort Kwame” by Derek Lubangakene (short story) - A tense and bleak piece following a man and his desire to tear down the corruption around him only to find that it might be the only thing keeping the last bit of the world from being destroyed. Difficult and full of action. Floating Cities, Resistance/Revolution, Betrayal, Ice, Rivalry, Sabotage. CW- Violence, Radiation Poisoning, War/Genocide.
  • “Fruit of the Calabash” by Rafeeat Aliyu (short story) - A strange story of a difficult future where childbirth has largely been done in artificial wombs, Maseso runs her own clinic with one potential child, one “star,” that won’t seem to take. Until a bit of magic gets involved. Artificial Wombs, Juju, Employment, Distopia. CW- Pregnancy/Infertility/Miscarriage.
  • “Lekki Lekki” by Mame Bougouma Diene (short story) - A difficult and at times heartbreaking story about the boundary between people and the natural world in a future where humanity seems in a decline and one woman wants nothing more than to enter a different kind of being. Transformations, Trees, Marriage. CW- Pregnancy, Abuse.
A fantastic anthology (and technically another 2020 release, for those counting). But I love the way the story has so many different takes on the future, some of them rather grim and difficult but many of them bright and hopeful. And a great way of looking at family and traditions and finding the limits maybe of those but also the great strength and promise of them moving into the future. Just some wonderful works!

  • “The Time Tourist” by Beatriz F. Fernandez (poem) - A rather haunting piece about the sea and those who wait by it, casting out for something that they can’t reel back in. The title works in some subtle and interesting ways. A great read!
Not much that I’m reviewing in this issue but there’s a bunch of nonfiction in this issue too that is very much worth checking out, and the poem (in both English and Spanish) is fantastic!

Mermaid’s Monthly #1 (2 short stories, 1 poem total)
  • “Selkie” by Brigit Truex (poem) - A beautiful and sensual piece about lovers, the moon, the sea, and the rise and fall, push and pull of cycles, of loves. Wonderfully rendered.
  • “Pep and Luna’s” by Patty Templeton (short story/flash) - A lovely kind of fairy tale, one with a bit of grit and gumption, set in a mermaid bar with its share of history. Really fun! Mermaids, Bars, Stories, Alcohol.
  • “From Witch to Queen and God” by L. D. Lewis (short story) - An action-packed nail-biter as Ursla, a sea witch and would-be god, tries to free the islands that surround her home, tries to find justice in a sea of corruption. An epic and wicked story! Magic, Mermaids, Bargains, Islands. CW- Slavery, Drowning, Violence/War.
A fantastic first full issue! Not mentioned above is a reprint and a whole bunch of art, and just a lovely feel. These issues are small but fierce, crab-tough but also crab-delcious, and I definitely recommend people check out this publication!

Fireside Magazine #87 (1 short story total)
  • “Mouth & Marsh, Silver & Song” by Sloane Leong (short story) – An unconventional augur and kingmaker struggles with the nature of their gift, their song, their voice, as they deal with being pursued and injured for what they can’t control. Difficult but lovely. Leeches, Princes, Prophecies. CW- Violation/Ritual Injury, Kidnapping/Exploitation, Violence/Body Horror.
The issue is actually larger than just this one story but this is the only one that I hadn’t covered as part of last year’s reviews (as the rest of the stories appeared in a 2020 Quarterly issue). It’s a strong piece, though, and I definitely recommend checking out the whole issue!

Fantasy #64 (4 short stories, 2 poems total)
  • “Blackman’s Flight in 4 Parts” by Shingai Njeri Kagunda (short story/flash) - This piece is listed under fiction but it really seems like a poem to me. The use of form, the way it reads on the page. It’s a strange and wonderful piece regardless, and speaks to a hurt, a history, full of seas and skies. Flight, Seas, Salt, Memory. CW- Drowning.
  • “Kisser” by David James Brock (short story) - A very strange story about a man losing teeth in a very mysterious fashion. Teeth, Dentists, Relationships, Sleep.
  • “Of Course You Screamed” by Sharang Biswas (short story/flash) - A heavy and chilling piece about a person cast out, finding life on an island a challenge but really fearing sleep and the nightmares it brings, and the feeling of not being alone despite the isoaltion. Exile, Witch Trials, Islands, Nightmares. CW- Torture.
  • “Flight” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (short story) - Whyyyyyyy??? Fuck that is a powerfully sad story about a bird couple and their home trying to kill them. Just...ouch. Fantastically rendered and beautiful and just gutting. Birds, Queer MC, Cities, Immigration. CW- Violence, Guns, Torture, Cannibalism(?).
  • “What My Mother Taught Me” by Lynette Mej√≠a (poem) - A really sweet piece about inheritance in the most affirming ways, and maybe a bit about witches. Wonderful!
  • “Like a Box of Chocolates” by Dani Atkinson (poem) - See and this one feels almost like prose to me. Ah well, it’s still a really nice piece about possibilities and magic and danger and, well, life. Great stuff!
A strong issue but one that tends on the heavier side, especially with the last two of the stories. Ouch. But still, I do love the fantasy on display, from subtle to obvious, and the poetry and prose together show a nice blurring of the lines between the mundane and the magical, between people, between life and death.

Lightspeed #129 (4 short stories total)
  • “The Mathematics of Fairyland” by Phoebe Barton (short story) - A breathtaking and kinda heartbreaking look at loss and a scientist, a blacksmith, trying to reach through that loss to undo it, with the hope of a little fairy magic to ease things. It’s a beautiful piece, balanced and careful, but a bit shattering all the same. Space stations, Loss, Warp Drives, Fae, Queer MC. CW- Loss of a Loved One, Self Harm/Sacrifice.
  • “Me Two” by Keith Brooke and Eric Brown (short story) - A strange piece about two people living as each other, one in England, one is Spain, but never able to meet each other for reasons they don’t really understand. A lonely read. Sharing Bodies/Minds, Alternate Dimensions/Realities.
  • “The Memory of a Memory Is a Spirit” by A.T. Greenblatt (short story) - A difficult but ultimately hopeful story about a haunted island and its magical caretaker who has spent the last twenty years away. About healing and forgiveness and home. Homes, Islands, Magic, Caretaking, Queer Characters. CW- Bigoted Violence/Vandalism, Depression.
A strong issue with some wonderful blurring of science fiction and fantasy really throughout, and a focus perhaps on relationships and the idea of home. The first three originals especially look at loss and grief and the prospect of a long arc of healing, and they’re some lovely explorations of that. Some great works!

Nightmare #101 (2 short stories, 1 novelette, 1 poem total)
  • “We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It” by E.A. Petricone (novelette) - A difficult story about dead women and the serial killers who assaulted and murdered them, and about a possible break in the cycle. Ghosts, Cycles, Houses. CW- Rape/Torture, Murder, Kidnapping, Misogyny.
  • “The Girl with the Voice Made of Stone” by Anuel Rodriguez (poem) - Chilling and intense, the piece mixes academic interest with a visceral and intimate look at victimhood and violence.
  • “Hairy Legs and All” by Stephen Graham Jones (short story) - A person has a rather dramatic encounter with a spider that changes more than their mood. Also it’s one enormous run on sentence. Spiders, Wishes, Alternate Timelines, Regret. CW- Spiders/Spider Bites.
  • “And Lucy Fell” by Erica Ruppert (short story/flash) - A bracing story of a narrator caged and restrained, relentlessly trying to escape to a You they have been separated from. Another intense read! Wings, Teeth. CW- Blood/Self Harm, Institutionalization, Confinement, Torture/Amputation.
A new format to the magazine and I like the inclusion of flash and poetry! The works are decidedly unsettling, looking at some very visceral horrors, and offering different levels of hope in the mix. Overall, a very nice journey in speculative horror!

The Dark #69 (4 short stories total)
  • “Laughter Among the Trees” by Suzan Palumbo (short story) - A girl grows into a woman following the disappearance of her sister, and the piece dwells in the impact that has, the generational burden she’s inherited. It’s a chilling and obliterating piece. Immigration, Family, Camping, Queer MC, Spirits. CW- Death of a Child/Sibling, Slurs/Racism.
  • “The Yoke of the Aspens” by Kay Chronister (short story) - A story of a woman in the woods with a broken shell of a father and a strange shadow of a presence that is deeply familiar. Strange and haunting. Forests, Trees, Family, Bargains, Bodies. CW- Death of a Spouse/Child.
  • “One Last Broken Thing” by Aimee Ogden (short story) - A story of a suffocating home and its field of junk, and the young woman having to make some hard choices about herself, her future, and her father. Always appreciate some Wisconsin horor. Houses, Junk, Family, Transformations. CW- Abuse, Death of a Parent, Violence Against Animals/Guns.
  • “A Resting Place For Dolls” by Priya Sridhar (short story) - Ooh a creeping and chilling story about food and about the weight of sorrow and the desire for escape. Love the twisty ending! Dolls, Food, Baking, Friends, Family. CW- Suicide.
A wonderful issue with a strong focus on families and the way they bind and the way they protect. Each of the works finds characters tied to others, though in some of the stories those ties are harsh and damaging and in some they seem more affirming and healing. Whatever the case, the pieces show some rather bleak looks at sorrow and loss, though with a few bout of something freeing and wild.

Works read this year to date: 109 stories, 23 poems (+26 stories, +5 poems)

And with that I’m into February! Not that I’m done with January, mind you, as there’s at least one thing I think I still need to catch up on, but then, I’m not technically done with 2020 either, despite having reviewed another anthology from last year in this coverage. Trends-wise, I’m still seeing a very sharp grim edge to the works overall, and it might be that it’s just more the focus of the publications that I follow, but certainly Fantasy Magazine has been trending much more difficult and grim than I had originally anticipated, and despite some brighter works, I feel we’re still probably dealing with the overall feelings of hurt, uncertainty, and resilience that have been explored in a lot of different ways over the last four years in particular. I’m eager to see if there’s going to be more of a shift as stories that are written in 2021 start showing up in publications, but I guess there’s still a ways to go, and it might have more to do with the lingering pandemic and political issues not just in the US but all over the world.

Otherwise, I have been test running my scales of grimness to give some extra context to things and am pleased to say I think I’ll be ready to announce my progress soon. At the least, my hope is that it will provide a sort of at-a-glance extra hint to readers about how difficult a story might be in terms of content and tone to further contextualize the content warnings and short statement I give. Look for that soon. Also, The Sippy Awards are coming! Soon, I promise! I normally run them in February and that’s still very much the hope, though the month has been a lot busier than I was anticipating. Go figure! I’m still busily reading through submissions for We’re Here and hope to finish that up this month, too. Just…a lot going on. But the work continues.

Other Media:

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
This was actually my treat for doing some biking over the summer (a reward system that sadly only paid dividends once because of depression, time restrictions, and the pandemic), and I definitely am glad I picked it up. It’s a romp of a read, quickly paced and messy and rather delightful. It’s also long, a whole chosen family epic featuring psychic cats and alien sex and I really recommend people check it out. I’ll definitely be seeking out the next book in the series whenever I can get back to buying books for fun. Indeed!

Suikoden Tactics
I mentioned that I’d get back to playing this, the final Suikoden game in my replay (that I’ve been doing for the past three years). Suikoden is my favorite game series, and Tactics is only the second tactics-style RPG that I’ve played (the first that I beat, fwiw). For me, it’s complex enough as a tactics game, making us of elemental terrain and things like that to keep things interesting, and has a real healing effect on Suikoden IV, which is considered the worst in the series and was something of a blow back when the game came out. I like how Tactics expands the story of IV, and how it tells a more complex and in many ways more mature story. Now, I’m not even hallway through this replay, and it’s pretty easy so far thanks to New Game+. It’s been over a decade since I played this the first time, though, and so I get to appreciate a lot of it all over again. I’m a nerd, yes. Anyway, I might update as I go, but this is what I’ve been doing now that I have less to do in Pokemon Sword.

And that’s it! See you next week! Cheers!

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1 comment:

  1. Charles, thank you so much for your comments on my poem The Time Tourist that came out in Strange Horizons! I am branching out into speculative poetry and I was unfamiliar with your blog. Colleen Anderson of SFPA made me aware. I can't wait to read all your previous posts! Beatriz Fernandez

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