Friday, July 23, 2021

Quick Sips 07/23/2021

So a new week brings a bunch of reviews, and some special coverage. Namely, I’m looking at a spinoff of Reckoning, a special anthology of poetry and nonfiction (with one story) all about creativity and the coronavirus. It’s a timely thing, and while I’m not looking at the nonfiction, there’s a lot of poetry to look at in it as well. Kaleidotrope has a new quarterly issue, and The Future Fire put out their third issue of the year. Baffling Magazine also had a quarterly issue full of queer short SFF, and I tried to quick catch up on Strange Horizons, as well as the latest from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Mostly short stories and poetry aside from the BCS issue, which was two novelettes. And just rather busy for me.

Next week I’ll try to catch up on the various Escape Artist podcasts, and probably try to get Diabolical Plots, The Deadlands, Mermaids Monthly, and another else I can think of. I’m running on empty but I’m still running on.

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!

Kaleidotrope Summer 2021 (9 short stories, 5 poems)
  • “Drown You With Me” by Sidney Maris Hargrave (short story) - A story of Mag, a fae who at one point would have freely given her heart to the young man who claimed to have saved her. But Tristan wasn’t satisfied with that, and what follows is a piece interested in captivity and the breaking of chains. The ways that Tristan kept so much imprisoned, and how the tables turn, and how Mag is able to find some measure of justice. A grim read, but also grimly satisfying and vividly rendered. Fae, Names, Split Selves, Chains. CW- Prisons/Confinement, Assault, Rape, Murder/Poisoning. [c4 t4]
  • “A Natural History of the Cityherd and the Humantree Grove” by Paul R. Hardy (short story) - A visceral and unsettling story about a valley of humantrees and the violence that takes them, the urban assault that claims them and reduces them, through there is something of a reprieve, something of a hint that this is part of a cycle. The loss and brutality is still difficult for me, though, and the piece is powerful in its vision and execution. A fine read! Trees, Roads, Cities, Life Cycles, Buildings, Seeds. CW- Violence, Eating People. [c4 t4]
  • “House of Wolves” by Gillian Daniels (short story) - This story follows a young narrator into who neighborhood a pack of wolves has moved. Not exactly the wild animals, as these can talk, live in a house, that sort of thing. But there’s something wild all the same about them and in their fierce freedom. Something that resonates with the narrator. The piece has a hungry shadow in it, a grim possibility opening like a mouth, and I like that it’s left mainly unresolved, a question the reader must bring their own answer to. A great read! Family, Wolves, Adoption, Casseroles. CW- Death of Parents. [c3 t4]
  • “I Was Meant to Live Another Thousand Years” by Matthew Sanborn Smith (short story) - A story of a generation ship that experiences a series of catastrophes. The latest of which seems to have doomed the ship, Lucy, and it’s mission. Except that there’s a way forward still. And hopefully will continue to be, despite this being only one in a line of terrible calamities. Even as the next one looms large. But the focus is on the moment, adapting and surviving, and the story does a great job of capturing that and exploring that in a strange setting with very high stakes. A complex and interesting read! Generation Ships, Uploaded Consciousnesses, AIs, Votes. CW- Pregnancy/Childbirth, Death/Murder, Disaster. [c4 t4]
  • “Let the Buyer Beware” by Michelle Ann King (short story) - A rather charming story about a string of accidents all circling some magical kits that...didn’t get used properly. And a group of people drawn into the drama as they all try to set things right, all while each of them is somewhat to blame for the state of things, from the grandma hoping to cut some corners in a spell to a woman trying to earn money as an independent spell worker to a corporate fixer who doesn’t really want to fix anything. It’s a fun story with some nice pacing and plenty of laughs. Just wonderful! Portals, Spells, Demons, Kits, Family. CW- Aggressive Capitalism, Gore/Body Fluids. [c4 t2]
  • “The Stealing Gift” by Richard Ford Burley (short story) - A story of war complicated because a lot of people have gifts, powers that allow them to do incredible things. That apparently made Thea into a War Hero. The truth, though, is more complicated, and when the military returns to try and find Thea’s secrets despite her retirement, it opens up a lot of wounds that hadn’t even really closed. The piece is emotionally powerful, a shaking look at a horrifying situation and at a sacrifice that Thea never asked for, a heroism defined not by her, but by someone forever unable to be properly credited for it. A beautiful and moving read! War, Family, Twins, Superpowers, Theft. CW- Military, Battle, Blood, Death of a Sister. [c4 t4]
  • “Bronze in Slow Motion” by Bo Balder (short story/flash) - A quick story of a narrator weirded out by a statue in a park that seems to keep moving. It’s unsettling, frightening, even as the narrator keeps going back there to check on its progress. And it turns out that what the narrator thought was menace might indeed be something very different, as an incident puts things in a new and brighter light. It’s a quick and well constructed story, sharp and fast and with a great finish. A fine read! Statues, Family, Movement, Parenting. CW- Accidents, Child in Peril. [c3 t2]
  • “Yaakov, Meyn Bruder” by Filip Wiltgren (short story) - A haunting tale of two brothers in 1920 Warsaw, and a woman they meet with smoke for eyes. It’s a story about obsession, and something that’s like a muse but hungrier, and a war that interrupts it, and violence and fear and all of it tangled and messy. I like the way the story finds the narrator struggling, pulled by a force he can’t fully fight but able through trauma and hardship to see through it, to learn enough to recognize the jaws of death, and do something about it. Still, though, the piece faces tragedy and loss, and an enemy that can’t fully be defeated, even as hope seems to peek through occasionally. A great read! History, War, Family, Brothers, Art/Paintings, Muses. CW- Battle/Blood/Death/Gore, Guns, Death of a Brother. [c4 t4]
  • “The Hedge-Witch of Welland” by Ada Hoffmann and Jacqueline Flay (short story) - A beautiful story about a witch, Gabby, and the world after the end of the world. Or at least, after most people were strangely and inexplicably whisked away. Now Gabby lives with her partner, Amber, doing what magic she can to help people, trying not to get eaten by dinosaurs which are, you know, back. The piece looks at survival, and guilt, and all the ways that doubt and worry can sneak into a person who carries trauma and baggage that isn’t easily unpacked. It’s messy and magical and rather wonderful, and I highly recommend checking it out! Witches, Dinosaurs, Queer MC, Relationships. CW- Abuse/Beatings/Violence, Intolerance/Family Rejection, Sickness/Injury. [c4 t4]
  • “Dracula Among the Ruins” by Mari Ness (poem) - As the title suggests, the story finds the titular vampire musing on life and mortality, looking back on someone who he has left behind, or rather who left him behind. Lamenting perhaps the choices that she made, even as his primary concern is always his own continuation, his own hunt. It’s a piece that feels time keenly, even as Dracula passes through so much of it. Not idly, though, and not ignorant of the weight of it. A great read!
  • “The Dinner Party” by Jennifer Bushroe (poem) - This piece sets the table in the underworld as the narrator attends the titular dinner party hosted by the gods of Greek myth, Hades and Persephone. The piece is rather charming and cute, the narrator struck by the lack abundant in the setting, the small portions, the lack of dessert. It’s a nicely imagined piece that had me smiling, and it’s well worth checking out!
  • “The Light Market and the Language Market” by Jessy Randall (poem) - A sharp piece that speaks to me of the ways that money and capitalism poison things, making commodities of things that should be for free by taking them away from people and then selling them back. A toxic practice that is done all the time. With time, with fresh air, with clean water, with so many things that are supposed to be human rights, that are supposed to be free and available, but which are increasingly not. A wonderful read!
  • “Post-Metazoan World” by David C. Kopaska-Merkel and Kendall Evans (poem) - A strange piece that finds a narrator who has become a cloud, a kind of being made up of constituent parts all floating together, wondering if there are those out there who haven’t made the transition, who remain solid, and feeling perhaps a yearning to reach out to them while having a physical impossibility of doing that. A piece that seems to trace the outline of change and possible loss, of going through something and never being the same. A fine read!
  • “Pwca” by James Lilley (poem) - A story that finds a shadow, a presence that has come into the woods. That sort of builds that, that first hint of something coming, something arrived. The power and the danger of it, and how it’s just the beginning of something that is going to grow. I like the feeling of slow inevitability to it, that is seems to be something people can all feel and react to without really knowing everything it means, and without doing anything to try and push back against it. Like a storm darkening the sky, it’s something that must be weathered. A nice way to close out the issue!
And it’s a big issue of Kaleidotrope this quarter, with nine stories and five poems. The works lean on the grim side of things, exploring monsters and rejection, unwanted transformations and the weight and power of survival. It makes for a powerful issue, with characters caught on the brink of destruction, of exhaustion, of something terrible, and having to push forward anyway. It makes for some great reading!

Reckoning: Creativity & Coronavirus (1 short story, 13 poems)
  • “Papa’s Scary Talk About COVID-19 and Pollution” by Tim Fab-Eme (poem) - This piece captures a narrator watching his father during the pandemic, as that father interacts with the narrator’s daughter, as the world is thrown into turmoil. As people die, and the grandfather finds a kind of silver lining, but one that looks away from the tragedy. That almost seems to welcome death as a judgment on the morals of the present day and all the ways the grandfather might feel left behind and bitter. A sharp read with a shattering, powerful finish!
  • “Summer Song” by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam (poem) - This piece speaks to me of plans broken, delayed, hope deferred. Of people reaching out not with arms because of the danger, the risk, but with their words. Their poetry. The narrator speaks of a person they want to spend time with, they want to be near, and failing that there is a sense of frustration mixed with something rotten, rancid, spreading, and the result is a complex and moving poem that’s definitely worth spending some time with. A fine read!
  • “A Memory of the Future” by Floris M. Kleijne (short story/flash) - A piece that imagines a future where the transformations to how we work, or how many of us work, are made more permanent even after the pandemic is over. It’s a future where people don’t need to commute to work for things that can be done elsewhere. And it imagines how that might open space to have less reliance on cars, on congested roadways. It’s a short, fun read that definitely finds a bright spot amid the grimness of the pandemic. Employment, Roads, Cars, Conversations, Family. CW- Pandemics, Pollution. [c2 t2]
  • “Art Installation in the Time of COVID-19” by Krista Hoeppner Leahy (poem) - A poem that speaks to me of uncertainty, of a kind of challenge to the values that we hold. A challenge that comes from the pandemic and the way it changes us, changes what we consider essential, and how we prioritize that. It’s also a piece that looks at the natural world and elements and finds in them a beauty and grace. A work of art. A teacher perhaps. And it’s a lovely read!
  • “Dynamic Equilibrium” by Teika Marija Smits (poem) - A piece that speaks to me of perceptions, and the way that the pandemic can seem to be, when in reality it’s something very different. And that really speaks to me, because of how...quiet almost the pandemic has been portrayed. As people distancing, being isolated, waiting for things to go back to “normal.” When really it’s been a time of such fast change, such action, just not what people are used to seeing. And I love the focus and the impact of the poem. A great read!
  • “In the Flowery Countryside” by Kelly Madden (poem) - A cyclical poem that works as a conversation between people seeking to bury the overflow of casualties from the pandemic. Bodies that need to be put into the ground, but have overburdened the system, and so are finding mass graves, all while the two speaks congratulate each other on their kindness and creativity, all while they poison the land, while they treat people like numbers rather than humans. A wrenching and powerful read!
  • “Times and Seasons and Vanity upon Vanity” by Tim Fab-Eme (poem) - A story about a kind of loss, and about a narrator who is struggling under the weight of change. The sudden absence, without the chance to save up against shortage, because there’s no way to save, really. And the piece looks at what might be the reactions to that. A kind of descent into greed, or recognizing instead that this event that might be defined with loss is no reason to react to people in anger or fear or desire. That it’s a time for love, because everyone is hurting, and everyone should be able to understand a bit about that hurt.
  • “Each day the world grows smaller & larger” by Holly J. Hughes (poem) - This piece looks at the changes that the pandemic brought. The ways that people had to isolate, to catch themselves from reaching out and embracing. A move that might have left people more paranoid, more violent to intrusion. But that has instead seemed to inspire a kind of bonding. A common situation that links people, and a common desire to survive together, to join into the movement to protect each other, to shelter in place, to hope that there is something through this, after this. To want to be a part of that, and take steps to get there. A wonderful read!
  • “Retreat, April 2, 2020” by Adelia MacWilliam (poem) - A rather haunting piece for me, the narrator moving through a world that feels suddenly still, almost empty, yearning for something but also caught by the beauty of it all the same. There’s a sense of inhale here, of taking in the sights and the experiences, the sensations, btu also a waiting, that in a moment the exhale will come. But there’s a tension for me in the meantime, a sense of not knowing how long between the in and the out, before everything rushes back, the sports and the noise, the traffic and the speed. A really beautiful poem, and well worth checking out!
  • “COVID Summer: After, Now” by Marissa Lingen (poem) - This piece looks at the kind of abrupt shift the pandemic brought. The sudden weight of having to consider so much about going out, about risk, about not touching and not spreading. It’s a bit nostalgic in that, reaching back for a time when things were easier, resolved to do what’s necessary but still yearning, still in want. A great read!
  • “COVID Summer: Against Dystopia” by Marissa Lingen (poem) - This piece speaks to me of the need to resist the urge to assign big, dramatic labels to things. To avoid the rhetoric of powerlessness, of claiming something is bigger than it is while grappling with just how big it is. Because yes, it’s big. It will require a lot to handle responsibly. But it is not bigger than us. Not bigger than what we are capable of. And it’s important to note that. This isn’t the end of the world, isn’t a dystopia exactly. Or, at least, it doesn’t need to be, and there’s work to be done. A fantastic read!
  • “Grieving Season” by Rachel Watts (poem) - Another rather haunting piece, this one looking at death and loss, at people looking away from the truth bearing down on them, the boulder building steam as it careens down the mountain, and people too preoccupied, to invested in not having to deal with it, to do anything. The piece evokes extinction, and complicity, and a sense of time running out. It sells an urgency that pounds in the lines, and leaves a powerful and profound impact. Definitely one to spend some time with!
  • “Kondottiyans” by Fabiyas M V (poem) - This piece speaks of movement to me, of populations and populations, visitors and residents, all of them mingled, and all of them now complicated by the pandemic. The action of the piece focuses on flight, on people leaving for home, or arriving with what seem to be supplies. The last lines seem to speak to a kind of hope tucked into the piece, a finding of humanity in people who don’t always show it. Though through that there just feels to me something sharp, something grim, a shadow that doesn’t quite lift. It’s a poem that I’m not sure I entirely have figured out to myself even, and I fear I might be missing some context, but it’s an interesting and provocative read all the same!
  • “Green Papayas on a Sunday Evening” by Shikhandin (poem) - This piece finds a narrator trying desperately to avoid a visitor. A wind. A voice. A truth that they don’t want to know. That they don’t want to see or hear. Because it will upset their lives. Throw it into turmoil. Because they can do nothing about it anyway. And it’s a powerful and stirring piece for that, the ending a kind of crumbling, an admission, a lament. It’s a fantastic way to close out the issue!
So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started this, and quickly found it’s an intelligent and elegant collection of poetry, nonfiction, and a spot of fiction. I’ve done my best to cover the poems and stories, though the difference between poem and nonfiction, or between fiction and nonfiction, can seem a little blurry at times. It’s a wonderful collection of works, though, and I highly recommend checking it out, if you’re ready to engage with the thing we’ve all be dealing with for a year and a half now. Go check it out!

The Future Fure #2021.58 (5 short stories, 3 poems total)
  • “The Bone Prophet” by Hester J. Rook (short story/flash) - A story that finds a Cassandra who survives, not just personal and political tragedies because of her foresight, but the apocalypse itself. Alone, she searches for bones to create something that might cut the isolation a bit, even as she remains separated from others by her gift and her fate. Her survival, despite everything. A lovely and haunting read, and definitely worth checking out! Prophecy, Bones, Dinosaurs, Bunkers. CW- Apocalypses, Death, Loneliness. [c3 t4]
  • “Stitched” by Sarah Salcedo (short story) - A neat twist on the Red Riding Hood story, where Cara is a young woman sacrificed to the spirits of the forest, to a wolf, because she was different. Deviant. And Cara has survived in part by trying to be nice to the wolf, until the truth of its abuse and intentions becomes impossible to ignore. The piece is grim, bloody, but with resolve and a push toward empowerment and freedom. A great read! Wolves, Red Riding Hood, Caves, Monsters, Family, Queer MC(?). CW- Death of a Grandparent, Sacfice, Grafting/Torture, Abuse, Family Rejection, Blood. [c4 t4]
  • “The Derelict” by Nicasio Andres Reed (short story) - A haunting read about a narrator, Elena, who has lost a future in a lot of ways. Whose plans have fallen apart, and who is now left alone in an apartment listening to the sounds of a dog crying, at first bothered by it but after a while it becomes a messy thing. Much like their relationship to the city they’ve come to, the hopes that have fallen to the prospect of for hire work and loneliness. All while a presence shadows them, huge and terrible and yet not something they can really turn away from. It’s a strange and beautiful read! Dogs, Cities, Employment, Queer MC. CW- Animal Abuse. [c2 t4]
  • “The Mountain’s Wife” by Jennifer R. Donohue (short story) - This story finds a woman living on a mountain, married to it. The mountain seems to care for her while also holding her in place, making her caretaker to those who climb the mountain, who live and die there. All the while waiting for her to decide to reach for the summit, for a transformation that might be waiting there. The piece is quiet and yearning, featuring the narrator and her home, her prison. And her decision to go out one night to try and save two climbers. And what that ends up opening, and closing. A wonderful read! Mountains, Dogs, Climbing, Marriage, Queer MC. CW- Death of a Spouse, Confinement/Isolation. [c3 t4]
  • “Desolation Corner” by William Squirrell (short story) - A difficult and perhaps all-too-familiar story about employment, police, homelessness, and corporate bullshit. It finds Sammy working at a gas station and trying to get through school, dealing with all the ways his life is made more difficult for no real reason but to make him more dependent on his shitty job, and how the world just works like that, punishing people for doing anything that takes them outside the control and authority of corporations, away from being monetized and exploited. It’s a sharp and rather brutal read, but one that has a lot of things to say, and it makes for a memorable and fantastic story! Employment, Gas Stations, Roads, AIs, Cats. CW- Police/ACAB, Homelessness, Aggressive Capitalism, Violence. [c4 t4]
  • “Not for Sale, Used Asteroid, One Owner” by Mary Soon Lee (poem) - A strange piece that builds around the title, the play on words that evokes the famous Hemmingway line. But it takes this rather seriously, building up this place of mourning, where once a matriarch lived and ruled and now there is an absence, a memory being honored. It’s quiet but poignant, that memory, and the tomb that is her legacy. A great read!
  • “Until a Hundred Generations of People Have Departed” by E. Saxey (poem) - A piece told once in Old English and then translated, and it acts as a warning. A warning on a place that should be shunned, that contains something from the past that was destructive and still is, a shadow that can kill, that the writer of the warning doesn’t want the readers to tap into. It’s a warning, and one that given the language might be easy to overlook or ignore as superstition, as wrong, but that carries a deadly peril. A fine read!
  • “Of Weeds and Witches” by Shelly Jones (poem) - A piece that speaks to me of cycles, of a narrator who is getting out of a bad situation, who has gone to a witch for relief, to make it all better. But who in seeking this cure seems to be locking herself into a pattern, a cycle, by not remembering it. So that she comes back to the witch again and again, a victim twice, of the man she wants to escape the memory of, and of the witch who sets her up to do it all again. A complex and powerful read!
So I rather enjoy that for the fiction, all of the works here include some kind of pets or animals. Dogs, mostly, but also cats, dinosaurs, and okay the wolf doesn’t really count because oof but still. The issue is another strong one, with stories that challenge and reveal some deep wounds, and characters trying to take control of their own lives. Definitely an issue to check out!

Baffling #4 (7 short stories total)
  • “An Island in His Splendor” by Christopher Caldwell (short story/flash) - A young man beseeches a giant fish he helped once, yearning for an end to the pain he feels from his broken heart. The piece is sweeping and mythic, magical and warm. The man, Eric, is impassioned and dramatic and queer and wonderful, and I love the way the story approaches the way that the world seems to be ending from the pain he feels, the way that he’s so willing to make mistakes, but how his compassion and heart are things the fish is unwilling to taint or suppress. A wonderful read! Fish, Bargains, Love, Breakups, Drag, Queer MC. [c1 t2]
  • “Choosing” by Susan Taitel (short story/flash) - Unfolding in the second person, you are a young woman who wants to join a temple but who is snared in an engagement when a prince falls in love with you. A prince with a young woman following him, silent, in pain. It’s a wonderful twist on the Little Mermaid story, full of choices, and characters realizing they can make their own future, or at least try to. A fantastic read! The Little Mermaid, Mermaids, Studies, Queer MC, Asexual MC. CW- Forced Marriage. [c3 t3]
  • “The Rabbi” by Esther Alter (short story/flash) - A strange piece about online dating, where the narrator is looking for a change. A place to belong. Relief from not being in a place or body that fits. And they find a kind of solution to that. A person who promises what they’re seeking. And I can’t tell if there’s a hint of something sinister, as mostly I feel that the situation is one the narrator is walking into with eyes open, a possibility that offers a way forward after feeling so stuck because of the pandemic, because of the world at large. Definitely a story to spend some time with, and a fine read! Online Dating, Queer MC, Jewish MC, Bargains, Chatting, Kink. [c1 t3]
  • “Our Days of Tear-Stained Glass” by Avra Margariti (short story/flash) - This story imagines a ship caught inside a giant bottle, with a giant mermaid holding the ship and crew prisoners, crying into their bottle every day. The narrator, a thief, seems the only one drawn to the giantess, enamored by her, desiring to grow and break the bottle and join her love and soothe her sorrows. A strange but beautiful read! Mermaids, Giants, Ships, Seas, Tears, Queer MC. CW- Imprisonment/Confinement. [c2 t4]
  • “Beyond the Veil” by J. Kosakowski (short story/flash) - A trans man faces a family trying to marry him off rather than dealing with his identity. Faced with the obliterating reality of what is happening to him, Mara waits, protesting as he can but without a lot of power. At least, not until someone reaches out to help him. Someone who can see the true him, who recognizes his need and is willing to do something about it. It’s a story about freedom and the reach of it, and despite a grim atmosphere it’s a piece that resolves into something wonderful. A great read! Weddings, Rivers, Trans MC, Family, Fire. CW- Forced Marriage, Misgendering. [c3 t4]
  • “Mother to None” by A.Z. Louise (short story/flash) - Another strange piece, this one finding a narrator in some sort of future or situation where they are guarding books like their ancestors have. But there doesn’t seem to be anyone left to read them, and the plants, the moss around them, are talking. And something is coming that has been building for some time, something that will leave the narrator with a completely different place and role in the world. A haunting and verdant story about plants and destruction, and a fine read! Moss, Books, Poetry, Water. CW- Destruction of Books/Flooding, Blood/Death. [c3 t4]
  • “The Heart is a Spare Part” by Hailey Piper (short story/flash) - A rather raucous and fun story about a robot sheriff and the bot he loves. The bot who betrayed him and who wants to make an example out of him. The piece moves fast and loose and I love the way the narrator, RZ-D, keeps his head and his faith, holding to the very heart that led him almost into ruin to lead him back out, and maybe bring a rather bad bot a little closer to the light. A really fun and wonderful read! Robots, Hats, Love, Queer MC, Bargains. CW- Beatings/Violence, Betrayals. [c3 t3]
A new issue of Baffling brings seven new stories and they’re a mix of tragic and hopeful and really fucking fun. The stories are short but that doesn’t mean they aren’t deep or powerful. They’re amazing and queer and just exactly what I needed right now. Do go check this issue out!

Strange Horizons 07/05/2021 (1 short story, 1 poem total)
  • “Haja Hoje” by Anna Martino (short story) - A beautiful take on relationships and grief, on magic and ghosts. The narrator has lost their love, Renata, and despite having a power that normally allows them to revive the dead in small bursts, effectively channeling them from objects they were close to, Renata remains elusive. Perhaps because their relationship was never full out. Perhaps because they kept so many secrets from each other. But what’s real is what they had and the sadness the narrator feels, their frustration at being unable to channel the love they have lost. It’s difficult and complex and messy and so so good. An amazing read! Relationships, Museums, Memories, Possessions, Mediums, Queer MC(?). CW- Death, Terminal Illness. [c3 t4]
  • “Adam-ondi-Ahman” by Audrey Zheng (poem) - This piece speaks to me of disaster, of damage. It imagines a kind of Rapture but not one where everyone is pulled up and out. Rather, Jesus has come to Earth, and it seems as though not everyone can appreciate it, though it also seems to have initiated a giant Moment. A crisis. Of faith and of resources. The result for me is a poem that looks at the promise of deliverance failing in the face of chaos, corruption, and everyday failures. It’s strange, and a bit haunting, but it’s still a great read and well worth spending some time with!
An issue that deals with loss and grief. A story that features someone who can commune with the dead. A poem that focuses on an end times that isn’t quite what people expected. Both pieces finding people trying to cope with a huge change. And both pieces are quite good!

Strange Horizons 07/12/2021 (1 short story, 1 poem total)
  • “Data Migration” by Melanie Harding-Shaw (short story/flash) - A story sharp enough to cut, where the narrator is a teacher assigned to remotely teach a group of children while the world around them deteriorates. As climate change leaves people homeless and having to move in together. As uncertainty and attempts to push for measures to survive mean that everyone is going hungry. And the narrator has to stay positive, optimistic, peppy, even as what they’re going through must be hellish, all to try and set a good example, to encourage the children that there is hope, that things can change. It’s heartbreaking and inspiring all at once, which is a feat. A fantastic read! Teaching, Math, Writing, School, Family. CW- Climate Change, Refugees. [c3 t2]
  • “The Great Missouri Tornado of 1882” by Dante Novario (poem) - A piece that looks at a moment of rise and break. A storm, a tornado, that pulled two people up into the sky. That pulverized them in a rather brutal way but in that brutality there’s also so much power that it seems a bit like a transcendence. Like they’ve transformed wholly out of their physical selves. Become smoke and air and wind. Become something other than the viscera spread far and wide by the fury of the storm. And it’s a beautiful piece for all that it’s about such a gory end for two people. It’s them, owning their own story and deaths, the narrator refusing to shrink from the mundane aftermath and lingering instead in the impossible moment of rising. A great read!
Another issue from Strange Horizons and two works that move around disasters. With people finding in the devastating hand of nature something to respect. Something to transform. Something to reframe. To varying degrees of success, but in some profound and interesting ways. More amazing works!

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #334 (2 novelettes total)
  • “The Lingering Weight of Estrian Steel” by Rajan Khanna (novelette) - Stafe is a former knight, now just a villager enjoying his life with his husband and no longer being responsible for war crimes. He had been sent to kill a nearby dragon and almost died himself, was nursed back to health and fell in love. A happy ending that is shattered when a new knight comes to town with the same mission, a mission he now wants Stafe to help him achieve. The piece does nice work around themes of guilt and honor, looking at the merits of Stafe’s life now that he’s out of the moral desolation of service to a corrupt and cruel king. And he must decide what he has to do not only to protect his husband and new village, but to protect himself from being the monster he’s tried so hard to bury. A wonderful read! Dragons, Marriage, Queer MC, Knights, Kings, Duty. CW- War/Battle/War Crimes/Blood, Death of an Infant/Gore. [c4 t4]
  • “A Land of Saints and Monsters” by Isabel Cañas (novelette) - Eumorphia is a saint, a person with powers, in her case the power to break people’s bones. To destroy them. Something she’s been forced to use on behalf of an ambitious king after her love of a human allowed her to be tricked and enslaved. Now she does what she’s told, has to by magic and will, and takes what time she can get with the man she loves. Following an attack by a kind of monster, though, she’s caught between her devotion to her love and her obedience to her king. And she finds what parts of herself can bend, what parts can break, as she tries to save her love, and herself. A moving and wonderfully built story, with a balanced, messy, and powerful ending. A great read! Magic, Love, Bargains, Monsters, Orders. CW- Slavery/Forced Obedience, Blood/Torture, Infection/Cannibalism. [c4 t4]
An issue that looks at obedience and love. At the lines between serving a king who you’re supposed to be loyal to and following a heart that refuses to betray those who are truly important. Both stories get a bit violent at times, and focus on the weight of violence, of doing things out of service that shouldn’t be done. And both find interesting and messy ways toward freedom and justice. A strong issue!

Works read this year to date: 745 stories, 227 poems (+26 stories, +23 poems)

So a bit of a busier week this week, and I’m still not really caught up. Heh. Ah well. Part of the story for this week was the amount of poetry, bolstered by the coronavirus anthology and new releases from Kaleidotrope, The Future Fire, and Strange Horizons. I’m already into the most poetry I’ve ever covered in a year, and will be into the most fiction I’ve ever covered in a year soon, too. So some exciting things. Indeed, I expect that next week I will cruise over 1000 reviews so far on the year. And wow, I don’t think I expected to hit that until late August? Looks like I might be getting to more than I planned. Which, on the one hand, good. On the other, screm!

Oh, well, big news otherwise is that my short story collection, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories, is OUT NOW!!! It was pushed up and officially released on the 18th. So…there’s that! I got to do another interview about it, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some very nice reviews out. I am over the moon about this, and really excited (and terrified) for people to start reading it in earnest. If you have a copy already, I hope you like it!

And, of course, We’re Here is out in under a month as well, so there’s a lot to be excited for otherwise. I need to get on promo for that as well, but honestly I’m just sort of hanging on at this point. So much to do! Ahhh! But yeah, otherwise I’m just trying to try. Got some projects I’m chipping away on, waiting for the hammer to drop on a few things. Yeah. I hope things are going well with you! Cheers!


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