Thursday, March 11, 2021

Quick Sips 03/12/2021

Well the year isn’t really slowing down. Eff. But that’s mostly okay! I’m staying busy, at least. This week I’m moving through a bunch of publications, catching up on some that I’ve not exactly missed but needed to get yet from February. As a peek into my process, most of these are from places where I receive review copies, which helps me get to them promptly (F&SF and Apex, which I covered last week, are also in that boat). The rest are irregular/weekly releases that I try not to fall too far behind on. I try. Again, eff. I still have one or two review copies to get to, afterwards I’ll move to regular releases like Clarkesworld that are out in their entirety for free early in the month. Irregulars and issues that release a little at a time by necessity get moved back further in the month. So yeah!

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!

Fantasy #65 (4 short stories and 2 poems total)
  • “The Code for Everything” by McKinley Valentine (short story/flash) - A story about a neurodivergent (probably autistic) person upset following a party, pulled into a fairy realm by two cats and finding that a huge list of very specific rules might be exactly the thing she wants. Highlighting the difference and difficulties of explicit vs implicity social rules. Charming and with a great finish. Cats, Parties, Rules, Fairies. CW- Stress/Anxiety/Allistic Nonsense. [c2 t2]
  • “Man vs. Bomb” by M. Shaw (short story) - Told in the second person, you are a human in a deer’s world, being made to participate in a kind of sport where your survival is the true prize. Interesting and chilling. Deer, Races, Bombs, Prey, Fear. CW- Torture/Body Modification, Exectuion, Cannibalism. [c5 t5]
  • “Close Enough to Divine” by Donyae Coles (short story/flash) - A strange story of a being called to a party for an unknown reason, finding out that it’s to be venerated, and to feed. Grim and a bit mythic, but pulled into a more contemporary setting. Parties, Transformations, Drinks, Dancing, Feeding. CW- Gore/Blood, Misogyny. [c3 t4]
  • “Arenous” by Hal Y. Zhang (short story) - The narrator of this story is changing, her skin flaking into...sand? And that might only be the first part of her transformation in this strange and kinda haunting story about yearning and relief. Sand, Skin, Transformations, Beeches, Family. CW- Body Image/Eating Disorders/Self-harm, Medical Negligence/Abuse. [c3 t4]
  • “Black Beak (a Nonet)” by B. Sharise Moore (poem) - A poem about a monstrous bird/dinosaur. Short and creepy and constricting, and evocatively done.
  • “Dragonslayer” by Priya Chand (poem) - This piece twists expectations, showing first a knight and his vision of himself and then the sharp and powerful deconstruction of that vision. A poem full of a kind of shattered hurt but resolve and resilience in the face of this masculine, colonizing violence. A great read!
All the fiction in this issue leans a little short, but they are sharp and well imagined stories all the same, at times on the grim side but also fun and bright at other times. There’s a sense of people dealing with social situations, parties and events, living with others, having to be perceived and all the complexities that come with that. And the poems add some nice takes on monsters and narratives, building into another strong issue!

Lightspeed #130 (2 short stories, 2 novelettes total)
  • “Homecoming” by Claire Wrenwood (short story) - A complex and wrenching story about a person who left home and found something out among the stars but who promised to come back and has, but it’s really not what she expected. Quiet and sad and powerfully understated. Space, Family, Aliens, Exploration. CW- Violence/Abuse/Exploitation. [c3 t4]
  • “The Bear Prince” by P H Lee (novelette) - Dusty Boots is back with another entirely true story, this one of a kingdom and a child switched at birth with a bear who becomes prince. The piece mixes fairy tales with a nice strangeness, the moral here not affirming monarchy so much as family, and the power of kindness and caring. A fine read! Bears, Monarchies, Forests, Fairy Tales. CW- Pregnancy/Childbirth, Family Strife/Disinheriting, Eating Humans. [c3 t3]
  • “Brightly, Undiminished” by Sarah Grey (short story) - A moving and wrenching story about a man who loses his partner, who just happened to be a witch, and the hard road toward healing when magic sounds like a siren’s song calling toward false hope. Beautiful and just a bit devastating. Magic, Witches, Crows, Candles, Recipes. CW- Death of a Spouse, Grief/Loss. [c3 t3]
A nice issue with some emotionally powerful stories, most of them dealing with loss and family, with the prospect of death, and of living inauthentically. The characters have to find ways forward despite expectations, despite their own desire that things were different. Not an easy issue by any means, and not a whole lot of fun, exactly, but some yearning and beautiful works all the same, and well worth checking out!

Nightmare #102 (3 short stories, 1 poem total)
  • “A Cast of Liches” by Woody Dismukes (short story) - An intense and gutting read about a murdered boy and his attempt to find peace from beyond the grave while being monitored by other members of the needful dead. Haunting in most senses of the word, and difficult for the subject matter and content. Undead, Baseball, Hauntings, Secret Orders, Family. CW- Police Murder/ACAB, Suicide, Murder. [c5 t5]
  • “That Which Crawls from Dark Soil” by Michael Kelly (short story/flash) - A story about cycles, about beginnings and endings, about a boy between middle and high school and a chance encounter in the woods that draws him into something shadowed and mysterious. Forests, School, Adolescence, Games, Cicadas. [c1 t4]
  • “It Accumulates” by Joanna Parypinski (short story) - A creeping story about the weight of all the little things we let pile up. The junk. The things that do not bring us joy. And for one woman, how it all comes together into something rather terrifying. A great read! Postcards, Junk, Marriage, Clothes. CW- Violence/Transformations, Death/Murder of a Spouse. [c3 t5]
  • “Modern Promethea” by Meg Elison (poem) - A wonderful poem about lightning, kindness, caring, inspiration, in a cycle of women who have to help each other, who help to create each other and themselves. A great twist on creation, on life, on that spark of the undefined.
Some chilling works in this issue, which I mean is pretty appropriate for a publication called Nightmare. But two of them are downright chilling, and the rest are a mixture of creepy and inspiring, and it all comes together quite well to focus on death and transformation, people becoming monsters through the dangers and hungers around them. A solid issue!

Flash Fiction Online 03/2021 (3 short stories total)
  • “A Sunrise Every 90 Minutes” by Victoria Zelvin (short story/flash) - A yearning and lonely story about an astronaut stranded in space, unsure of what has happened on Earth, unsure if she wants to know. Stark and effective and well done. Space, Astronauts, Earth, Storms, Isolation. CW- Disasters. [c2 t3]
  • “The Miss Marple Society” by Elizabeth Cleland (short story/flash) - A charming and wonderful story about a group of amateur detectives and the parting gift from one of their recently departed members. Sweet and so good. Mysteries, Clubs, Cyphers, Clues, Chocolate. CW- Death of a Friend. [c2 t1]
  • “The Door” by Ike Quigley (short story/flash) - A creepy little story told as the transcript of a batch of voicemails from a person who is experiencing a very strange series of events. The framing is neat and the ending is nicely done. Phone Calls, Voice Mails, Earthquakes, Doors. [c1 t4]
This March issues finds three stories that deal with distance, with reaching out, though in different ways. They find people who are being contacted, but the communication is often one directional. Either people there might not be anyone out there to get the message or because one side is beyond reach, but whatever the case the stories all explore that kind of communication and connection, across genres and in some fascinating ways!

The Dark #70 (4 short stories total)
  • “Where We Will Go On Together” by J.S. Breukelaar (short story) - A story of a young woman haunting an old building, trapped in her memories and doubts, her anxieties and her death. And then someone new comes into the woman’s orbit, and things change, and things don’t. Wrenching and strong work. Ghosts, Clocks, Adoption, Cats, Hauntings. CW- Death of a Child/Spouse/Cat, Abuse, Blood/Gore, Murder. [c5 t5]
  • “Little Doors” by Clara Madrigano (short story) - A creeping story of siblings who came out of a bad upbringing, and how one of them lost himself to a story, a rumor, an idea, a promise. And how that plays out, as seen through his nephew. A beautiful and subtle piece. Family, Portals, Queer MC, Notebooks. CW- Death of an Uncle/Cat, Abuse. [c3 t4]
  • “A Cold Yesterday in Late July” by David Tallerman (short story) - A quite and slow story about grief and loss, change and desire to keep change at bay, all unfolding around a man who lost an estranged father, and inherits a guidebook for hiking, and enters into a cycle he might not have been aware he was already a part of. Hiking, Paths, Walls, Marriage/Relationships. CW- Death of a Parent, Divorce. [c2 t3]
  • “Immortelle” by Jelena Dunato (short story) - A chilling story about predation, about a vulnerable young woman who finds herself in an impossible situation, and that changes her in some terrible ways. Family, Poverty, Sheep, Graves. CW- Abuse, Misogyny, Pregnancy/Childbirth. [c3 t5]
A grim issue full of stories about people trapped in yearning. In want. Isolated and alienated from the world they move through. Because they don’t fit or because they’re vulnerable and just want somewhere safe. Whatever the case, though, that yearning is used against them, used to draw them into something like a trap, something hungry and knowing exactly how to prey on them. Some really chilling and effective horrors stories!

GigaNotoSaurus 03/2021 (1 short story total)
  • “Slow Eshtyca” by Damien Krsteski (short story) - An interesting and strange piece about war and abotu two women shaped by it, grown for it, to work for their country, to fit into the plan of war and death. And who start to see that the machine they are cogs in might be larger than their assistance or struggle, might be unstoppable. War, Calculations, Queer MC, Cities. CW- Imprisonment/Coercion, Eugenics/People Modification. [c2 t4]
A short story this month, not too long by the standards of the publication, but deep when it comes to how it engages with war and resistance, with the ways these women see and interact with their country and the system they are a part of, unwittingly or not. Plus some solid world building, all adding up to a rather good read!

Uncanny #39 (6 stories , 4 poems total)
  • “The Sins of America” by Catherynne M. Valente ( ) - This story features a small down diner and a woman full of broken dreams made to eat the sins of America in food form, as part of a ritual that does nothing but allow the crimes and injustices of the nation to run deeper and deeper. A difficult but powerful read. Diners, Food, Butterflies, Rituals, News. CW- Pregnancy/Death of a Child, Abuse/Rape, Corruption/Injustice, Murder/Brutality. [c5 t5]
  • “The Perils of a Hologram Heart” by Dominica Phetteplace (short story) - A strange and moving story about a woman unfrozen in the future, experiencing different lives open to her, falling in and out of a relationship with a man interested in her perhaps more as a piece of nostalgia than as a person. A good read! Immortality, Cryogenics, Relationships, Bodies. CW- Body Modification/Genetic Manipulation. [c2 t2]
  • “Colors of the Immortal Palette” by Caroline M. Yoachim ( ) - A gorgeous story about painters, immortality, and change, as told by a woman who bristles under the unfairness of her situation and fights, always fights, to express herself and find beauty in the world. At times aching and yearning, it doesn’t always remain so, and there’s a peace and power in the ending that’s fantastic. Painting, Artists, Marriage, History, Immortality, Mists. CW- Racism, Death of a Spouse. [c2 t3]
  • “The Book of the Kraken” by Carrie Vaughn (shor story) - A fun and exciting story that reads and is framed as an excerpt from a longer work, this one focusing on the chance meeting at see between a young man in the British Navy and a young American woman who has partnered with a giant squid. A nice read! Navies, Ships, Squids, Family. CW- Attempted Imprisonment/Animal Cruelty [c2 t2]
  • “Eighteen Days of Barbareek” by Rati Mehrotra ( ) - This is a wrenching look at war and death, gods and demigods fighting a great battle as the narrator, a severed head, looks on, cursed by the vows he’s made and increasingly disillusioned about his place in the world he sees stained in blood. A great read! War, Battles, Family, Gods, Vows. CW- Death/Gore/Cannibalism, Death of a Parent/Family Members. [c4 t4]
  • “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker ( ) - A mysterious and complex story told as a sort of wiki/moderated post about a folk song that might have some chilling real-world roots (tree pun!). It’s a creeping story for me, reaching out from the more studious/speculating talk of the post and into those woods half a world away where a strange and grim cycle might still be playing out. An amazing read! Trees, Songs, Research, Speculation, Hearts. CW- Hangings, Gore. [c3 t3]
  • “the most humane methods could involve a knife” by Tamara Jerée (poem) - A lot of this poem to me is about the narrator, their nature, how they see the world. Because their observations, their questions, aim at what it might mean to help someone, to protect someone, in some real and messy ways. It’s great!
  • “lagahoo culture (Part II)” by Brandon O’Brien (poem) - The second part in this poetic series, this piece feels to me suffused with the feeling of a kind of lostness, out of time and unused to change. Finding the world and all its sharp parts, trying to find a place to be, to belong. There’s a loss here, but to me also a resilience, and it’s a powerful poem!
  • “Future Saints” by Terese Mason Pierre (poem) - For me this piece speaks to its title, imagining forward what saints might mean to people in the future, not gods exactly but sources of miracles, needed miracles, needed perhaps moreso with the many ways people can be made helpless and hopeless and needing. A sharp and layered poem!
  • “Of Monsters I Loved” by Ali Trotta (poem) - A story of a narrating facing their patterns, their cycles of hurt that they have tried to divorce themselves of but can’t quite, not fully, not without first fully confronting them, and starting to change. A lovely and wonderful read!
A big issue and so much to enjoy here, with perhaps a focus on the metaphorical, the mythic, the mysterious. Characters are put into places to witness, to be limited in how they can act, to have to absorb what’s happening around them and maybe give some relief to it. Or catharsis. Whatever the case, it’s another excellent batch of short SFF!

Strange Horizons 03/01/2021 (1 short story, 1 poem total)
  • “Mouth” by Sasha LaPointe (short story/flash) - A beautiful story about a woman and a language, and the loss she suffers for saying one phrase in her grandmother’s native tongue. The piece looks at preservation, at the weight of history and culture and, yes, love. Mouths, Museums, Languages, Love, Candy. CW- Body Modification. [c2 t3]
  • “After the Living Dead Girl” by Bianca Rae Messinger (poem) - A strange and at times violent and unsettling poem that circles around death, consumption, violation, and monstrosity. I do like the way it ties to horror movies, to gore, to expectations and violence. Definitely one to spend some time with!
A fairly quick issue but one that’s certainly not easy. The stories are complex and require some care, dealing with themes of violence, of loss, of silence and power. As always, the issue is sharp and very much worth checking out!

Podcastle #668 (1 short story total)
  • “Circle of Memories” by Jessica Meats (short story) - A story about memories and magic and two women whose love moves in heartbreaking but also healing cycles. The world building is strong, and the romance is lovely and aching and so good. A wonderful read. Memories, Magic, Bargains, Queer MC, Relationships, Healing. CW- Memory Loss. [c2 t4]
A fantastic issue/episode, with a story featuring a cycle of queer love and loss that is rending and resilient all at once, featuring characters who care more about others than themselves, offering selflessly what they can to help others. Just amazing work!

Fireside #88 (1 short story total)
  • “Diamonds and Pearls” by JL George (short story) - Language comes with gemstones in this story, where people who learn new words find themselves working the stones up out of their throats. For Osian, it’s a phenomenon complicated by his heritage, a lost language, and a university experience that brings it all crashing back. Complex and a but messy, it’s a wonderful story about love, identity, and finding words. So good. Language, Gemstones, Queer MC, School, Family. [c1 t3]
Most of this issue is still stragglers from 2020, but there’s one brand new story, and everything from this point will probably be new, so yay! Plus, the original is gorgeous and amazing and I love it so much! So, there’s that. Anyway, yeah, more great reads here!

Works read this year to date: 271 stories, 46 poems {+24 stories, +8 poems)

No new additions this week, which might be a first for the year. One thing I’m running into, if it wasn’t obvious, is that it’s a lot easier for me to miss things now. Brain farting about Diabolical Plots aside, covering more means just sort of forgetting at times what the hell I’m supposed to be doing. Which is great (no, not really). But it is a danger that I wasn’t quite expecting, because after so long running my reviews as I had been, I got a good routine down and knew when most things would be coming out. There would still be surprises but not like, huge ones. With adding more it’s a bit harder to know ahead of time, and harder to remember where all to check. I hope I get better at that, at least. Here’s hoping!

In other news, I’m just staying all kinds of busy. The Locus Rec List stuff has been done for a while but I need to get some recs together for a few other awards related things I’ve been asked to participate in, and I’ll be once again on an actual jury for one, though the work for that won’t start right away. I’ve turned over my short list for We’re Here to my co-editor, who will mostly be making the final decisions with regards to the ToC. And I’ve turned in my second X Marks the Story of the year. Next up will be The Sippy Awards, which I hope to run this month yet, probably during a single week. But wow have I been worn out. Hoping that things will cool down so I can maybe get some writing in. We’ll see. Anyway, that’s about it for me. Cheers!

Other Media:

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3
So I think the last episode I watched was the one where Bobbi and Hunter get disavowed. Which, I mean, I didn’t stop because I was super attached to those characters, but probably just because it was kinda annoying to watch (this was before it was on a streaming service, when it was just on the ABC website, which was a pain to use). I do think I might have been kinda sick of seeing Ward around in yet another iteration of his character. Hive is an interesting character, but also really boring. I liked him after he got messed up with his memories, because that seems like it would be hard to handle. On a more positive note, I do think the season did a good job setting everything up. The episode with the guy who can see the future seemed both really well done and kinda cringe. So there’s that. And the whole prophecy angle with the necklace was a nice trick as the finale neared. The “Primitives” thing was a little ehhhh to me, too, but I did like that Daisy was basically being mind controlled and how Hive in general worked. And the movement between the mid-season peak and the finale was well done, though I dislike that they just sort of waved away the only queer Inhuman (and character) the show had. Though Piper reads as super gay to me. I admit I’ve started season 4 and she has that line where May tells her to call her May and she replies “I can do May” and then there’s that amazing awkward pause and I am here for it. But she’s super minor. Also not super sad about losing Lincoln. I did think that Dr. Garner/Lash could have been better utilized, but so it goes. Anyway, I should cut myself off. I am enjoying the show and glad I picked it back up!


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