Friday, February 19, 2021

Quick Sips 02/19/2021

So the year continues to give me the chance to expand my coverage, and I’m happy to add Prismatica Magazine to my rotation, as well as Pseudopod. I’m also happy that most of the feedback I’ve been getting about the Scales of Relative Grimness has been positive. Though, that might be because I haven’t been hearing any of the negative feedback. Again, I do encourage people to reach out if they have objectives. I am always willing to listen.

It's hard to reckon that the year is already a month and a half over. 2021 feels like a mess still, but something of an exciting mess. I’ve got some amazing news, namely that I have a short story collection coming out later this year! The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories will be released from Lethe Press in the autumn. It even has a phenomenal cover that I revealed over on my Patreon publicly on Monday. So yeah, between that and We’re Here, it’ll be a rather me-heavy year. Yay! Anyway, sorry, that’s a bit of an aside. Reviews to follow the regular note!

NOTE: This will be a recurring note that will run with every Quick Sips. First, please note that I don’t necessarily mention every story or poem out in an issue. I am giving myself permission to either DNF stories, or else finish and just not comment on them. Please don’t assume it’s because I disliked the work! There are many reasons I might chose not to comment on a piece, and I reserve the right to do just that. Second, you might notice the notations at the end of the micro reviews and wonder what the [c# t#] is. These are for the Scales of Relative Grimness and a full explanation of them can be found through the tab at the top of the page or through this link. With that said, let’s get to the reviews!

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #47 (1 short story, 2 novelettes, 3 poems total)
  • “The Medallion’s Song” by Ginny Patrick (short story) - A neat story about a lost artifact suddenly found and the dangerous headache it becomes for the former slave, and I like the ending. Magic, Truth, Marriage, Charms. CW- Slavery, Abuse/Misogyny. [c3 t3]
  • “The Silver Light of Forever” by Mike Adamson (novelette) - Something of a heist story, with immortality as the prize, and one spurned captain of the guard as the lone thief. The piece is well constructed and executed, and comes together nicely, with a few complications to keep things interesting. Crops, Potions, Betrayal, Theft. CW- Murder. [c2 t3]
  • “Winter Luck” by Evan Dicken (novelette) - An action-packed story of a siege and a man facing down a kind of snow demon in the midst of a border war full of samurai and snow. War, Winter, Cold, Marriage. CW- Blood/Gore/Battle, Mind Control. [c3 t3]
  • “Dragon’s Hoard” by Dawn Vogel (poem) - A quite and interesting story as told by a rather unorthodox dragon, one whose hoard is not of gold and gems.
  • “Rabbit’s Foot” by Colleen Anderson (poem) - A somewhat grim piece that looks at the practice of making “lucky rabbit’s feet” and how that works out for everyone, especially the rabbit, and how that might twist luck into something more sinister. Good stuff!
  • “The Wind Through the Fields” by Aidan Redwing (poem) - A poem about what gets buried, and how time and death are often great equalizing forces, taking everything but bones and dirt.
A fine issue and one that covers a lot of stylistic ground, showing the different flavors of heroic fantasy and how the “heroes” are often just people struggling with bad situations. And as always I like the mix of prose and poetry, giving both some longer takes on the genre and some very brief ones. I can’t exactly pull a common theme out of this issue, but all the same it’s a nice bunch of fantasy works!

Prismatica Magazine #15 (6 short stories, 3 poems total)
  • “The Serpent Wives” by Shon Mapp” (poem) - A wonderful piece about desire and hiding, passing, keeping a part of yourself locked away unseen, and how that becomes a kind of snake eating its own tail, or two serpents eating each other.
  • “My First and Last Proclamation as the Child Freed and Crowned Queen of Omelas” by Palimrya (poem) - A fantastic complication of the idea of sacrifices along the lines of the one imagined for Omelas, told from their voice, sharp and promising an end to the illusions of ignorance. Follows a lot of interesting takes on the story I’ve seen recently.
  • “Ladder to the Moon” by Makaila Aarin (poem) - A poem about escape from the pressures and constraints of society as filtered through a kind of throw-back, Victorian aesthetic showcasing a person yearning to embrace their truth, and find freedom outside Earth’s restrictive gravity. Wonderful!
  • “A Funny Kind of Fairy Tale” by Damien Donnelly (short story) - A strange and almost dreamlike story that flits along something like a stream of consciousness but speaks of a grim history and a desire to rise, to soar, to spark joy. Beautiful and brief. Horses, Birds, Photographs, Dragons. [c1 t3]
  • “When Witches Meet” by Venus Davis (short story) - June just wants to floss after pulled pork day at school, but ends up meeting someone new instead, and sparking a light that hopefully spread some warmth and comfort. A really cute piece! Schools, Witches, Lights, Advice. CW- Bullying (mentioned). [c2 t1]
  • “Find Yourself a Good Jewish Boy” by Michael Erdman (short story) - An irreverant and at times crudely funny story about a man and his hookup-gone-wrong, who turns out to be a vampire with some very strange and kinda terrible rules. Queer MC, Religion, Rules, Bargains. CW- Slurs/Bigotry/Insults. [c3 t2]
  • “Yamwine & Nectar” by LP Kindred (short story) - A story of prisons and the breaking of chains. Of celebrations of all sorts, and another nice twist on the idea of Omelas and those who walk away, this time recontextualizing the victim, the sacrifice, and giving him deeper roots. Holidays, Chains, Queer MC, Freedom. CW- Imprisonment/Torture/Colonization. [c3 t3]
  • “The Girl and the Wolf” by Archita Mittra (short story) - A girl makes a friend at a school rife with bullying while she deals with the truth of her desires and a home life that is less than ideal. It’s a wrenching and beautiful take on time, memory, friendship, and healing. Time Travel, Schools, Queer MC, Family, Wolves. CW- Bullying, Parental Strife, Cancer (mentioned). [c3 t3]
  • “I am the Fury” by Alice Hathaway (short story) - A difficult and bracing story about rage and fury, a woman (Marja) taken and become a berserkr, used to fight the enemies of her captors, but falling in love with another woman, another captive, and slowly turning her rage toward freedom. Berserkrs, Bears, Memories, Queer MC, Battles. CW- Rape (intended), Slavery, Abuse, Pregnancy, Gore/Blood. [c5 t4]
So I’m a bit surprised at myself that I hadn’t been following this publication already, given that it hits my interests pretty hard. But then, I’ve been real busy for the past few years, so I’ll cut myself a break. But I was seeing a bunch of stories show up in my We’re Here reading, so I decided to check it out, and the issue is a great one, with poetry and prose that center queer characters and themes. Not all the stories are super fun, and indeed as the issue goes things tend to get more and more grim, but it’s still a wonderful bunch of queer works, and I will definitely be checking back in next issue!

Strange Horizons 02/01/2021 (1 short story, 1 poem total)
  • “A Serpent For Each Year” by Tamara Jerée (short story/flash) - A short but powerful piece about grief and loss, about protection, about a narrator with a girlfriend covered in snakes. Strange and lovely. Snakes, Relationships, Grief, Loss. CW- Death of a Parent, Death of an Animal. [c2 t3]
  • “A crowd of yakubyō gami (pestilence yōkai)” by Betsy Aoki (poem) - A story of disease and demons while also containing a sharp critique of political inaction and complicity in the deaths caused by the pandemic and lack of response. Wonderfully done! CW- Disease/Illness/Death.
A quick issue but a strong one, with the works looking at death and loss, anger and sorrow. The way that death can arrive suddenly, leaving a devastating wake. It’s not a super easy pair of works, but I do love how they invite exploration and deeper reading, and how they unfold into these sharp and moving landscapes of fear, hope, and everything in between.

Strange Horizons 02/08/2021 (1 novelette, 1 poem total)
  • “The Demon Sage’s Daughter” by Varsha Dinesh (novelette) - A fantastic story about demons and gods and demigods. About a daughter caught in the prejudice of her father, a woman deciding that she’s going to steer the narrative of her own story, and doing just that. So good! Demons, Gods, Resurrection, Betrayals, Bargains. CW- Death of a Parent, Abuse, Gore/Blood. [c3 t3]
  • “Excerpts from the Dr. Sexpot Saga” by Sarah Kathryn Moore (poem) - A weird but intriguing poem about the titular Dr. Sexpot and her ynth, a feeling that only exists in the future, one that plagues her, leaves her wanting, wanting, wanting, and finding various false leads before maybe catching on a way to free herself of it.
This issue! Is amazing! Truly, I love the one-two punch of the story (a rare novelette from the publication) and poem. Both deal with a kind of longing, about people taking control of their narratives after longing and waiting and searching for a way to be. It’s just a really great pair of works and I highly recommend checking them out!

Pseudopod #743 (1 short story total)
  • “If I Bit You” by Donyae Coles (short story/flash) - Short and creepy, this story finds a woman running into the ways pregnancy and medical care are often treated very clinically and in a way that’s both misogynist and racist. And that, here, something might be exploiting that to a very grim and unsettling end. Healthcare, Dreams, Nightmares, Doctors. CW- Pregnancy/Non-consensual Pregnancy. [c3 t5]
There are three flash stories included in this episode but only one original, which is quick and chilling. This is also I guess my first coverage of Pseudopod, and it’s definitely living up to the promise of providing some effective horror!

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #323 (2 short stories total)
  • “When Your Being Here is Gentler Than Your Absence Hard” by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko (short story) - A story of time travel and love, where a woman must reach into her past to stop a temporal assassination and stop a war from being won before it even starts. Tense but with a warmth and promise to it. Magic, Time Travel, Assassins, Queer MC, Swords. CW- Violence/Battle. [c2 t3]
  • “Rose Kissed Me Today” by Cori Hull (short story) - A lovely and adventurous story about two girls drawn to each other and to the unknown, the vastness of the world, of all possible worlds. Cute and fun with an air of wonder. Dances, Kissing, Bargains, Transformations, Queer MC. [c1 t1]
The stories in this issue offer a kind of breath of fresh air, even as the first of the two contains a decent amount of action and a touch of grimness. Still, what draws me to the stories are the sweep of affection in them, the promise of the bonds these women are making with one another. The works are romantic and fun and nicely paired for this Valentine’s week (which given the usual editorial sharpness I know must be the intent). It’s really a great pair of stories!

Works read this year to date: 155 stories, 31 poems {+14 stories, +8 poems)

So this week is technically my lightest of the year so far, but that is partly because I’m working my way through a large anthology, so next week will be my largest of the year. So it goes? I’m rather happy that I got to read a bunch of poems this week, too, from publications I’ve covered for a while and those that are brand new to me. I’m still settling into my new style and obviously working on some side projects. X Marks the Story has been slightly delayed but is back! And…well, I’m just staying busy in general. I want to do more things, but I underestimated how much I’d have to do at least in these early months. Oops. So I’ll reign in my expectations a bit and strive for a more slow and steady approach, which tends to suit me. Anyway, thanks and cheers!

Other Media:

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season two
So the second season plays out in halves, and they fit together fairly well. The first half sees a further focus on Hydra and Whitehall, while the second half focuses on the Shield division and the Inhumans. It builds well in that the moving parts are just as intricate as the first season, but for my money there’s almost too much going on, too many characters. Though, I mean, it really hits the superhero soap opera nature of comic books, which I do appreciate. And I like that the series deals with the xenophobia and fear of powers, and a little more the fear of change. This season features a lot of change, and perhaps no more than in Simmons, who goes really far in a lot of ways, and most of it out of that fear of change, that Fitz calls her on. And the ending is rather explosive, and pays off in a lot of ways. I’m still quite enjoying the rewatch, and I’m wondering if it was the third season that really lost me the first time through. We shall see!


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