Friday, June 18, 2021

Quick Sips 06/18/2021

And like always, there’s a lot to get to this week. Most of it is regular monthly/weekly stuff, though there’s a new issue of Hexagon as well as a new Driesch story that I had missed from earlier. The week is almost entirely short stories, too, which isn’t incredibly odd but two poems (and only 2 novelettes) means that short stories are far and away the majority of what I’m covering. Taken over the year so far things are a little more balanced, with 554 short stories, 49 novelettes, 8 novellas, and 174 poems. I have a few more novellas to read (mostly from Neon Hemlock) coming up, but otherwise I think the mix is about right. Honestly I think it would be difficult to really increase novelettes and novellas without taking on more of the digests, and at this point I’m not in a place to do that. I don’t have flash fiction marked out, either, though I’m sure that’s pretty well represented as well, given trends. Indeed!

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!

Hexagon #5 (6 short stories, 1 poem total)
  • “Dust of Red” by Emily Blue (short story) - A bleak and rending story about a mother trying to reach the safety of the remnant of humanity that might help her survive. Moving through a broken world, pursued, the main character, Basil, tries to save what can be saved even as her anger about what has happened to the planet. It’s raw and sinking and grim indeed, but still well worth checking out! Deserts, Rain, Family, Storms. CW- Post Disaster, Climate Change, Pregnancy/Childbirth, Death of a Child. [c4 t5]
  • “Shadow of the Ziggurat” by Isobel Mackenzie (short story) - Two people on a strange and desert-like world go out to participate in the building of a great ziggurat, hoping to be a part of something large. Something that will outlast them. That will help them find a kind of immortality. And it’s a tender and touching story of these two people together, living and loving and trying to be a part of something wonderful. A great read! Monuments, Deserts, Building, Queer MC(?), Bricks, Relationships, Family. CW- Pregnancy. [c2 t3]
  • “Always Finds a Way” by Sadie Maskery (poem) - This piece speaks to me of the perseverance, the indomitable will of life. The way it has to, even in the heart of destruction, to keep itself going. To renew itself. To throw out a bit of seed into the vast dark in the hopes of reaching a new world. Of implanting a new possibility that it won’t play out the same way again, even if it’s going to do just that. A fine read!
  • “A Daughter’s Aim” by Anna Madden (short story) - Emma and her father are fulfilling a promise made to Emma’s mother—the last request of a woman dying of a terminal disease. They are in the desert, looking to spread her ashes but also looking for an injured dragon, and in the mess that follows, the silence and the blood, Emma explores her relationship with her father, what it is and how it might be better. A great read! Deserts, Family, Dragons, Fire/Ashes, Hunting. CW- Blood/Death/Guns, Terminal Illness/Cancer, Death of a Parent, Pregnancy/Eggs. [c4 t4]
  • “Roll the Bones” by Michael M. Jones (short story) - A short and fast-paced piece that looks at the allure of gambling, as the main character (you, as the story unfolds in second person) tries to escape a fate that seems doomed. And in a special casino in the desert, people play for love and hate, for wealth and influence, for a change of fate. The piece looks at the draw of going further, of risking more for a bigger payout, and how that too often ends. A wonderful little story! Casinos, Deserts, Fates, Temptations, Dice. CW- Gambling. [c2 t4]
  • “Vultures on the Ground” by V. R. Collins (short story) - A lovely story of longing and hope set against a world where all its wonders seem to have come to rust and ruin. Where a mech team finds an ancient and huge mech alone in a field, covered in grass, and use it as a means to navigate the new world, in more ways than one. It’s a beautiful piece, for all that there isn’t much action, but what’s going on is complex, layered, and wonderfully captured! Mechs, Grass, Notes, Exploration, Maps. CW- Post Apocalypse. [c2 t3]
  • “Born Unto Trouble” by K. A. Sutherland (short story) - This story finds Elly, a zoologist, desperately trying to first outrun, and then distract an enormous dragon that he had been hoping to study. Just...not as up close as she ultimately gets to. The piece is well paced and full of action, and has a nice breathless impact to it. Where the characters are trying so hard to do the right thing, riding the edge of disaster and triumph. A fantastic way to close out the issue! Deserts, Dragons, Sand, Fortresses, Zoology. CW- Burns/Injuries. [c2 t3]
This issue actually holds together fairly well, with through lines of deserts, dragons, and family. Old growth and new life. Hope and despair nestled together, impossible to separate. The pieces can be slow or full of action, but they reveal burnt and broken worlds and people just trying to navigate them. Plus there’s a story in French that I’m not reviewing because I can’t read French. But definitely do check that out if you do. A wonderful issue!

Clarkesworld #177 (5 short stories, 2 novelettes total)
  • “Little Animals” by Nancy Kress (novelette) - A slow and careful story about time, science, family, and depression. One that finds the narrator, a researcher in quantum entanglement that allows people to share memories and feelings with people in the past, trying to commune with Maria van Leeuwenhoek. What they share, though, is not only an interest in science, though, but also something more profound, and more intimate. A sense of unfairness, a desire for better. The piece is lovely and powerful, and very much worth checking out! Time Travel, History, Science!, Microscopes, Quantum Entanglement, Family. CW- Depression/Suicide/Hospitalization, Death of a Parent/Lover. [c3 t4]
  • “Poubelle” by Robert Reed (short story) - A strange story about castes and about two people caught up in them, little more than children acting out their desires for adventures. Not quite understanding the dangers that they have never fully known. There’s a neat far-future aesthetic and quick pacing with some wider, big picture stuff going on that really brings the world together. An interesting read! Mortality, AIs, Space, Family, Wealth. CW- Slavery, Caste Systems, Violence, Pregnancy. [c4 t3]
  • “Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer (novelette) - A delightful account of the continued adventures of 9, the little bot that could, as they have to once again navigate a delicate situation and try and save their ship (and their Ship) from certain destruction. It’s a really fun and nicely plotted piece with lots of moving parts, plenty of humor and heart, and a great payoff. Just a wonderful read! Ships, AIs, Space, Programming, Service. CW- Violence. [c2 t2]
  • “Face Changing” by Jiang Bo, translated by Andy Dudak (short story) - A story of identity in the digital age, where a financial police officer, Xu Haifeng, is hot on the trail of a sophisticated criminal. One who might be looking for a way out of the game, even as Xu is being dragged deeper and deeper into it. The piece looks at the fragility of identity even when and perhaps especially when the methods for proving identity are based on things technology can fool. A fine read! Finances, Identity, Masks, Trials. CW- ACAB, Corruption, Prisons. [c3 t3]
  • “The Shroud of the Mourners” by Yukimi Ogawa (short story) - A new story set in a place where people can where colors on their skins in intricate patterns, and where two craftpeople can see and sense those patterns and try their best to help people whose patterns might be a little out of whack. In this piece, they’re trying to trace a strange but mild malady and come across a different wrong than they were expecting, one with a complex and compassionate solution. A great read! Colors, Patterns, Friendship, Androids. CW- Doctors, Cremation/Burials, Discrimination. [c3 t3]
  • “Our Fate, Told in Photons” by K.W. Colyard (short story) - A story about a prophecy about the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and seeing the stars go out twice. And twins, not really sure who is the seventh and who the sixth, living their lives wrapped in that prophecy. The piece is quiet but deep, loaded with an understated power, the desire for importance and life, the comfort of family, and ultimately the lengths one person will go to for someone else, to see a prophecy fulfilled that helps close a circle long in coming. A warm and wonderful read! Family, Twins, Prophecy, Stars, Travel, Mars. CW- Childbirth, Dementia/Memory Loss, Healthcare. [c3 t3]
  • “Embracing the Movement” by Cristina Jurado, translated by Sue Burke (short story) - This story follows a meeting. Not exactly a first contact, though it’s the first contact between the narrator, a swarm of migratory beings who live in huge hives dotting the galaxy, and a lone being who might be human, or else some other singular entity apparently trying to meet with the swarm. Things...don’t exactly go as the singular being probably hoped. But it’s a fascinating look at a structure, at a people living in and through space, and at the limitations of communications that are not verbal, that are not singular, and the dangers and barriers that represents. A great read! Space, Swarms, Hives, Communication, Contact. CW- Death/Murder, Cannibalism(?). [c3 t3]
Another big issue of science fiction from Clarkesworld, this month featuring two different translated works. The works does a lot with space, with distance, and with people working against some large, seemingly insurmountable forces. Sometimes finding that yeah, there are something things you can’t win against. But there are some you can, and finding the difference provides a great deal of entertainment and meaning. A fine issue!

The Dark #73 (4 short stories total)
  • “The Urn” by Frances Ogamba (short story) - A young woman with dreams of being a writer finds her future in peril, beset by no prospects, depression, and needing to pay rent. At least until her mother takes her to see a relative, and a goddess. One who gives her a special urn and a bird to guide her toward better luck and prosperous fortunes. The price, though...isn’t cheap. And things are complicated further when she meets another woman at a convention and begins a strange friendship that seems destined for tragedy. A fine read! Birds, Books, Bargains, Gods, Urns. CW- Death. [c2 t3]
  • “Welcome, Karate” by Sara Saab (short story) - Jock, a queer septuagenarian, returns to her hometown after over half a century away in order to try at a fresh start. What she finds when she returns, though, is the weight of the past still pressing down on her. And a strange sound and stranger omen in the building she buys and hopes to turn into a gym and dojo. The piece carries with it a grim sense of anticipation, Jock seeing the path of her life and feeling that something has to give. It’s a tense and melancholy story for me, inevitable but crushing all the same, and in a sickly familiar way. A wonderful story! Gyms, Pools, Cameras, Queer MC, Martial Arts. [c1 t4]
  • “Lipopire” by Jack Klausner (short story) - This story finds the narrator beset by a kind of parasite. A creature whispering, feeding, trying to convince that skinny is possible, that skinny is good. And skinnier. And skinnier. The piece is visceral and difficult at times, looking at the toll eating disorders can have on a person’s health, their relationships, their everything. And how, personified, they can feel undefeatable. And yet from that grimness there comes a resolve, as well, a hope. And it makes for a great read! Food, Exercise, Relationships, Voices. CW- Eating Disorders, Addiction, Parasites, Therapy/Group Therapy. [c4 t4]
  • “I was a girl once but I slipped” by Rupsa Dey (short story) - This is a strange story about borders and about a girl who finds herself pulled to one. To a river, which is just a river but also carries the weight of being a border, the blood and the corpses and the history of violence and loss. It’s a haunting read, one that finds the narrator wanting to make sense of the world and finding something senseless, something that can’t be reasoned with, and the horror and tragedy of that. It’s a great read, and definitely a story to spend some time with! Rivers, Ghosts, Borders, Family. CW- Death, War, Guns/Gun Violence. [c4 t4]
Another nice issue from The Dark. Or, well, maybe not exactly “nice” given that there’s a lot of grim content, a bit of death, a bit of creeping dread. But that’s not to say there isn’t hope as well, and the works offer a range of moods and tones, from pitch dark to a shadow lifting.

Strange Horizons 06/07/2021 (1 short story, 1 poem total)
  • “Tower of Ivory, Tower of Horn” by Reno Evangelista (short story) - This is a deeply weird story about a Maiden in a tower, living with the Other, and how the Maiden lives, gets lost, and might find her way back to being found. Through that the piece wraps itself in fairy tale, in shadow and uncertainty, in something hungry, and the Maiden’s journey is one full of danger, of men with uncertain natures and sharp axes. And it’s definitely a piece to spend some time with. A lovely read! Towers, Forests, Wells, Water, Travel. CW- Death, Violence/Assault. [c3 t3]
  • “dry land” by Maria Zoccola (poem) - This piece speaks to me of belonging, of change, the narrator seeming to have left the sea for the titular dry land and found it much more to their liking. A place where they can be, where things feel more right. But they are reminded of their past and in some ways they find the reminders the poking of a fresh wound, one that is and isn’t about leaving the sea. One that gives lie to the saying like a fish on dry land, because it seems for some, that’s where they’re going to thrive. A wonderful read!
A rather weird issue, all told, with a lot of metaphor, a lot of puzzle over and make your own mind up about. But I also quite like that, because it’s an opportunity to encounter some deeply strange things and have to find out what they mean to you as a reader. It’s a great issue!

Escape Pod #787 (1 short story total)
  • “Ascend, Exalt, Love, Propagate, Rise!” by Sarah Kumari (short story) - A story about a kind of infiltration, where Jehanne has been tasked with being a part of an almost religious ritual to fuel an enormous plant whose seeds allow the company in charge of the plant a resource to maintain their corrupt empire. Jehanne is there to take it down from the inside, but it might be a little more complex than he imagined. Strange and tense, full of resolve and a surprising beauty. A fine read! Plants, Resistance, Fungi, Rituals, Telepathy. CW- Drug Use, Ritual Sacrifice, Rape, Revolution, Death. [c4 t3]
An interesting issue/episode, featuring a rather desperate gambit and a character who is willing to die for a cause. Who is willing to kill for a cause, though that gets complicated a bit as the piece moves. And it’s a neat exploration of revolution, corruption, and communion!

Pseudopod #760 (1 short story total)
  • “Akiko’s Legacy” by Eugie Foster (short story) - An at-times difficult story about human cloning and the toll it takes on one particular family. The piece circles the ideas of clones as monsters, as people, as lightning rods of controversy. Always centering the nature of science and the boundaries placed on it by dogma and prejudice. It’s an interesting piece, at turns conversational and intensely raw, and driven by a kind of tragedy toward something that might be hope. A fine read! Clones, Family, Science!, Research. CW- Pregnancy/Childbirth, Murder, Suicide, Assault. [c4 t4]
An issue/episode that takes on a rather controversial topic--human cloning. And through the topic the piece explores what science does and what limits it, and how for this family it’s not the sin of controversial science that destroys them, but the fanaticism of those who don’t want their research to succeed.

Cast of Wonders #455 (2 short stories total)
  • “Toward the Sploff Zone” by Brenna Harvey (short story/flash) - Aww. A super cute story about a gym class full of aliens and how the human, Katie, is rather discriminated against because of her “frail” human body. With the help of a mind-swapping device, though, a bully gets a chance to see the beauty and value of kindness, and makes a promise that is heartwarming and just really well done. Short but so sweet! Gym, Aliens, Sports, Teamwork, Crying. CW- Body Swapping, Bullying. [c2 t2]
  • “A Greevbinian Parent Abroad” by P. G. Streeter (short story) - A piece framed as a bit of advice from a seemingly-popular...blogger? An alien, a Greev, who has been sent to Earth to help humanity recover from near extinction. And who apparently has something of a following, but a following who are only being presented with the good side of things. The Greev in control, competently going about their business. Until this post, where they admit the hardship they’ve faced and are facing, the struggle. And how they learn from it, and how they get better. It’s an lovely piece, warm and compassionate, about effort and burnout and hope. And it’s a great read! Parenting, Blogs, Aliens, Rebuilding, Telekinesis, Family. CW- Post-Apocalypse. [c2 t3]
It’s a double feature in this issue/episode of Cast of Wonders, with two stories that focus on aliens interacting with humans. With aliens struggling a bit with their own baggage, finding ways to push through that and try to be better. To hold on. To reach out with kindness. The stories are lots of fun and rather heartwarming, and I definitely recommend checking them out!

GigaNotoSaurus June 2021 (1 short story total)
  • “The Enchanted Gardener” by Jessica Yang (short story) - A delightful story of plants and magic. Of curses and the love it takes to break them. Of an overworked gardener, an entitled enchantress, and a whole lot of trouble. And it’s wonderful. Alive with the fierce love that Percy, the gardener, has for her friends and family. And the love they have for her. And from the cat/demigod to the joyful ghost of her grandmother, from her fearless best friend to her definitely afraid little brother, the cast is amazing, the action beautifully done, and it all comes together perfectly. You should definitely go and read this! Plants, Cruses, Ghosts, Family, Asexual/Aromantic MC. CW- Forced Sleep, Violence. [c2 t2]
Have I mentioned that GigaNotoSaurus has been having a phenomenal year? If not, let me say it now. And this latest story is another wonderful read, full of heart and heroics, magic and a bit of mayhem. There’s so much to like, and really I’ve been a fan of everything the author has done so far, so it’s great to get to read another fantastic story! Ahhh! So good!!!

Stories of Driesch #4 (1 short story total)
  • “We Girls” by Julie C. Day (short story) - A wonderful further exploration of Driesch told from the perspective of two copies being programmed for very different jobs. Waiting for their chance to escape. And the piece dovetails a lot of the characters and plots from the other, earlier stories, with many returns and complications, revealing a growing resistance hidden in plain sight, and definitely accepting new members. It’s a story about memories and prisons, about freedom, family, and cooperation, and it’s a great read! Family, Uploaded Consciousnesses, Employment, Memories, Escape. CW- Slavery, Memory Manipulation, Aggressive Capitalism. [c3 t3]
A little late to the party on this one but I’m back looking at this Driesch series and it continues to offer some great world building and now increasing interconnectedness between the stories. Recurring characters and ideas and now something of a movement. The shape of what might be possible. Definitely looking forward to reading more!

Works read this year to date: 611 stories, 174 poems (+24 stories, +2 poems)

Things have been a little bit busier of late than I’d like. Mostly just random things like helping out with the local Pride and helping my husband with a Zine project that he put together. Plus some time on the CSA farm and it feels like the time I had wanted to spend writing has largely evaporated. Sigh. But so it goes. I am still working on some things, and managed to submit the poetry chapbook project I’ve been focusing on. So that’s all good. Not really expecting to win the contest, but even if not I’ll have over a dozen new poems to send out. Concentrating on that.

In promo news, I should have a new interview out soon, this time hosted by Ephiny Gale. Excitement! And I’m otherwise trying to line up a few more interviews and such. I think I’ll have one closer to launch that will be video and put up on YouTube. So really excited to get to that. I also think We’re Here is being sent out on ARC, so I’ll be waiting for things to start coming back on that about if people like it (though I mean how could they not with the amazing stories that C. L. selected?). Basically just vibrating with worry and anticipation.

In media things, I’m not making stellar progress in anything. I have lots of opinions about Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, most of them not good. So far I think this version of Fred might be my favorite, but all other interpretations of the characters seem to rank among my least favorite. Ah well. I’m still poking at Fire Emblem: Three Houses and moving forward in the Golden Deer, but really I’ve only been able to get on maybe two hours this last week so progress is slow. Similarly, I’m beginning to get more into the new Marvel Vs and learn a bit more of the feel for it, but I think I’ve only played two games total, so it might take a while (though I have organized and built decks for the sets I have so that was fun at least). All told, just sort of going with the flow, trying not to get frustrated at the lack of time. And the work continues. Cheers!


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