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!
Beneath Ceaseless Skies #337 (2 short stories total)
- “For Rain Is To Wet and Fire To Burn” by Robert Minto (short story) - A story about loss and faith, centering a man, a sceptic in the dominant religion, who still feels his lack of faith provoked a stronger and more radical faith in his wife, and in their son. One that recently led to their son’s death. And now, forty days later, at work at his kiln, that man is witness to a choir of angels plunging into the fire, ruining the work. Only what seems like a random and senseless act turns into a provocation to really examine what happened, his own beliefs, and the loss he and his wife have suffered, though at the moment they are suffering alone. It’s a quiet and haunting piece, careful and deep, and definitely worth spending some time with! Angels, Kilns, Family, Faith. CW- Death of a Child, Animal/Angel Death, Fire/Death by Burning, Religion/Religious Intolerance, Execution/Prison/ACAB. [c4 t4]
- “The Bonfire of the Unknown and the Foreign” by Abhijeet Sathe (short story) - A story of a person on a journey trying to save the life of their love, who they left behind to search out a cure for their sudden illness. Only everything is not what it appears on this quest, or with the situation back home, or with the narrator. And I love how that works, the ways that the narrator finds themself circling images of loss and death, desire and vengeance. The setting they move through is well built, and I love the focus on the known versus the unknown, the local versus the stranger, and how that works when it comes to interactions, safety, and love. How love across this divide is so fraught, and so often tinged with tragedy. It’s not a happy story, but rather about coming to terms with tragedy, and rage, and revenge, and settling into a role that, while not ideal, is still empowering and honoring love that cannot be fully destroyed. A great read! Travel, Myths, Love/Relationships, Family. CW- Death/Murder/Poisoning, Assault/Groping. [c3 t4]
A bracing issue that looks at tragedy and loss. That features two stories that circle myth and belief, faith and change. That find characters who have lost loved ones and who find themselves isolated in that grief and pain, and who stand to lose more yet before they see that it will take connection to help them through. And in some case, to help them get even. A fine issue!
GigaNotoSaurus 08/2021 (1 short story total)
- “Teaching to the Test” by Sarina Dorie (short story) - A visceral take on zombies, and not at all in a way that I would have expected. The narrator is a teacher of a kind of...zombie class. Where the virus only effects children, and where sometimes those children can get better, though this was learned only after a lot of people sacrificed their children they thought were already lost. And so the narrator is trying to teach a classroom of restrained zombie kids who want to eat her, in the hopes that some of them will be saved. It’s a penance and a calling, and of course it goes terribly wrong one class period. The piece is sharp and emotionally resonating, looking not only at how people respond to tragedy and infection, but how schooling works, and how people are so eager for some to be isolated, culled, and perhaps murdered because they don’t fit the testable ideal in teaching. It’s a wrenching and ultimately heartwarming piece, for all that it gets uncomfortable and grim at times as well. A fantastic read! Zombies, Teaching, Tests, Snacks, Family. CW- Death/Death of Children/Sacrifice, Discrimination, Blood, Cannibalism. [c5 t4]
I’ve read a lot of zombie stories in my time, and whenever one finds its way to publication it’s normally a sign that it’s doing something interesting with the tropes, because they’ve been used so often. And this story does indeed bring some things I haven’t personally seen before in a zombie story, mixing zombies and education, a deep world building with a shattering emotional core, for a wonderful issue!
Tor dot com 08/2021 (3 novelettes total)
- “Aptitude” by Cooper Shrivastava (novelette) - This story unfolds inside a job interview that the main character, Alena, isn’t even trying to “win.” It’s a series of interviews and tests for a role of god. Basically. Kinda sorta. Basically, the position is for a creator of universes. Something Alena has strong opinions about because her own universe is collapsing, her own outlook bleak, and she wants answers as to why. So she’s out to find them from the Builders, people she hopes she’ll get the chance to talk to, as long as she can lie, cheat, and steal her way through the rounds of tests. Only...along the way, she might come up against something that makes her pause. That speaks to something other than her outrage, her sense of injustice at the fate of her universe. And the piece is interesting, deep, and I love the sense of triumph in its ending. A great read! Job Interviews, Tests, Universes, Gardens. CW- Death/Universal Collapse. [c2 t3]
- “The Future Library” by Peng Shepherd (novelette) - A story about climate change and love, where the narrator and is an arborist overseeing what is the last forest on Earth. A forest that also turns out to be a library, one that reveals each new “book” when the tree is cut down, the books supposedly the last works of authors whose remains were buried at the base of the trees. It’s something that becomes a sensation, that launches a huge contest and program. But it’s built on a lie, one that the narrator wants to let out into the world, one that might finally change how people view the trees that once grew all around them. It’s a tender story about stories, about life, and about the ways that people fuck it up reaching for quick fixes, for power and wealth, for comfort instead of inspiration to act. And it’s a complex and intricate story, lovely and lonely and sharp, and well worth checking out! Trees, Relationships, Books, Queer MC, Contests. CW- Death, Cancer/Terminal Illness, Climate Change/Deforestation, Aggressive Capitalism, Prisons. [c4 t4]
- “L’Espirit de L’Escalier” by Catherynne M. Valente (novelette) - A grim take on an already grim myth, this story finds Orpheus and Eurydice in contemporary times, tinged with classic rock and death and mold. Only here Orpheus successfully “rescued” her from the underworld, and that brought with it its own complications and transgressions. Ones that have left their relationship not so much strained as revealed, whatever love they might have had consumed by the way that Orpheus center himself in all things. Even her death. Even her resurrection. Especially those, in fact. And the story brings a cast of gods and demigods to visit, to built up this situation and relationship, to complicate it in this modern world still ripe with age-old issues. It’s a neat twist on the source, and a fine read! Gods, Greek Mythology, Mold, Dogs, Relationships/Marriage, Family. CW- Death of a Spouse, Marital Strige/Abuse, Decay/Rotting Flesh. [c3 t4]
All novelettes from Tor’s August offerings, with three stories that span fantasy and science fiction, mythology and storytelling and...job interviews. And in the ecclectic mix there is a focus on relationships, on things that can’t be undone, that can’t be done over even. Of stories that echo, that are waiting, waiting to grow. A nice mix of stories!
Cast of Wonders #461 (1 short story total)
- “Factory Mother” by Sid Jain (short story) - Hani has lost a lot since nuclear conflict melted much of her home city. Two children. A leg. And a sense of home and safety. Now an immigrant hoping to become American, she’s moved from lab science to part time production work, trying to apply her knowledge and expertise despite the racism around her and the constant exhaustion from working too hard for too little. For all that, though, the piece is about resilience and hope. About building something, and using knowledge and skills to reach for some measure of security, some measure of stability. It’s a tense, rather difficult read for the grimness, for the sheer amount of shit that Hani is dealing with, but it also makes for a powerful read for how she sees sharply what’s going on, and where she wants to be in the big picture. A great read! Employment, Food, Mushrooms, Immigration, Family. CW- Nuclear War, Amputation, Death of Children, Death, Microaggressions/Racism, Aggressive Capitalism, Guns/Gun Violence. [c4 t4]
Though it appears in Cast of Wonders, this story features an adult cast and some very big problems, looking at conflict, war, immigration, and employment. On the need to be constantly perfect because of the prejudice in others, and striving for something that feels constantly just out of reach. It’s a moving and solid issue/episode!
Cast of Wonders #463 (1 short story total)
- “Loving the Falls” by Marie Vibbert (short story) - This piece deals with life and death and undeath in an interesting way, opening as the narrator, Nikki, wakes from dying. Having been resurrected (kinda) thanks to a father who had already done the same to his wife, though their marriage did not survive her undeath. The piece is heavy, though, with the strange place it puts Nikki, dead from an accident but no more choosing to live again than she ultimately chose to die. It’s all layers of trauma, Nikki and her father circling what happened and what their fault might be in it, all the while wounded and lost, Nikki dealing with new prejudice against her, a sudden change in her trajectory, and I love the way it looks at falling, at waterfalls, at love. A lovely and moving read! Waterfalls, Family, Falling, Employment. CW- Death of a Child/Parent, Undeath, Suicide (mentioned), Accidents. [c4 t4]
Another episode/issue that deals with some heavy themes and ideas, and another that looks at family and hardship, drastic changes and the fingerprints of death. It’s careful and it’s provocative, and I really like the way it captures this impossible position the narrator finds herself in. Good stuff!
Pseudopod #771 (1 short story total)
- “The Human Chair” by Edogawa Ranpo, translated by Allen Zhang (short story) - An interesting and sinking story that makes me glad that I do not use a large chair to sit in. It finds a famous writer getting a very strange letter that takes the form of a confession. And the horror is in the implications, blunted perhaps by a twisting ending but one that still does leave a lingering sense of unease and a kind of paranoia about where one might choose to sit. The form is effective, the letter/fiction nesting done well and with a devilish and depraved tone, and it makes for a decidedly creepy read! Chairs, Letters, Manuscripts, Writers. CW- Assault/Groping, Non-consensually Involving Others in a Kink. [c3 t4]
Well people might be wanting a shower after this one, which features a very creepy letter to a writer. The premise is one that might get people’s skin to crawl a bit, and while the story as a whole is more complex than the premise, it uses the sense of violation and paranoia very well, imagining a whisper where there should only be silence. A fine episode/issue!
Pseudopod #772 (1 short story total)
- “A Short Story in Seven Looks” by Sarah Turi Boshear (short story/flash) - As promised, this piece tells a story through different looks at a fashion show, each one embodying part of a journey, not through space but through time, of an artist, a fashion designer, who becomes a part of something shadowed and grim, tinged with murder and always grasping for power. As the show moves, as the arc of the story becomes clear, the story moves toward a conclusion, but in many ways it’s a clash of conclusions, of people trying to write the same story with different endings. One person who is used to wielding power, and one who is used to doing whatever it takes to survive. The result is a nicely punchy piece about drive and ambition, about sacrifice and hunger. And about breaking free from having someone else tell your story. It makes for a wonderful read! Fashion, Employment, Patronage, Clothes, Blades. CW- Killing/Assassination/Death, Blood, Hunger. [c3 t4]
This issue/episode has three stories, actually, but as two of them are reprints, I’m only looking at the original. And it’s a sharp piece, full of hunger and need, art and desperation. And someone willing to take advantage of that ruthlessly. Someone who thinks they’re writing the story, until they find they aren’t. It’s a really fun read!
Strange Horizons 08/30/2021 (10 poems total)
- “Firework” by Ian Goh (poem) - A piece that for me speaks of memory and distance, a family trip that casts a shadow across the distance between planets as the narrator relates visits that mark time, that mark revolutions of time, cycles, but also brings the narrator farther and farther from the past, never looping back in that way. For me, the piece captures a sense of almost-nostalgia, almost-inspiration, echoes of loss and longing strung out into the business of living in space and looking to a future without the solidity of a terrestrial horizon. A wonderful way to open up the issue!
- “空心菜 ¹” by Andy Winter (poem) - A piece that grows around food and plants, around vegetables and greens and the way they sort of link everyone together even as they draw lines and borders. I like the look of this poem, a brick of text, a paragraph more than a stanza, and how that too captures something about different and similarity, using the very medium of poetry rather than green vegetables. Because poetry too passes through a lot of different cultures, is used and imagined and presented different, but is still poetry. And so we have a piece that echoes with that to me, that traces this strangeness, this way that people relate to food, how it can become a metaphor for them, for their travels, for feeling displaced and lonely, but surviving and indomitable all the same. A great read!
- “City Lights as Myth” by Yong-Yu Huang (poem) - This piece speaks to me of destruction, finds a narrator passing through a city. One that seems to have faced a kind of destruction and desperation. One that the narrator has survived, though not easily, not without cost it seems. Whether the destruction is personal or larger than that is unclear to me, whether the desperation to survive poverty, to escape the crush of the city and its dangers, or whether it speaks to something bigger, some conflict or disaster, I don’t know, but I like the feel of the work, the sense for me at least that this great task the narrator was part of, and they can in some ways look back on it now. Search for some mark of it, when that mark might not be physical, when that mark might be gone, ash in a fire that might no longer even be burning. A moving read!
- “Âu Cơ in the Water Palace“ by Sunny Vuong (poem) - A piece that seems to retell a story that I, sadly, am not familiar with. But I love the feel of it, the tragedy, the complexity of the characters and their drives, their loves, their tragedies. How they are drawn to each other, to power and to giant jaws. How together they have something that is strong and fragile at once, part of a story that will rip them apart, one of them knowing all along what will happen, the cruelty that he is a part of in not revealing the truth. For all that, though, it’s passionate and tender, raw and yearning, and I like how it all comes together, the way it paints this picture full of want, full of lack. It’s a stunning read well worth spending some time with!
- “All the Army Ghost Stories I Have Heard” by Natalie Wang (poem) - Oof. This piece really builds to a sharp and rather devastating final line and I really love that, the way that it mentions all these different ghost stories, the army full of them, of superstition and fear, of ghosts. Because of the death that surrounds that army. Because an island, any island, might be so full of ghosts as to be overflowing, every tree and rock already occupied. And the soldier, a part of that system, lost in the aftermath of whatever has happened, the wars and the conflicts, the killings and killings and killings. Left to pass through these thickets of ghosts just waiting for connection. It’s a powerful and understated piece for me, almost funny in the way it sets up the title and the ghost stories but in the end profound and amazing!
- “Housekeeping Duties” by Mark Dimaisip (poem) - This piece speaks to me of time passing, of assimilation, of changing customs. Where the narrator’s family seems to be in flux, dropping older beliefs that fade but that don’t disappear. That still reach out, that still whisper and wail as much as they can. Who have been diminished in some ways but that can still touch and effect. And the piece seems to me to explore that through the narrator, caught between that past, those forces, and the new world around them, the “modern” world that has adopted a different god and different values. And there’s something just great and a bit haunting about the final lines, the image of this line strung out from the past, waiting for a narrator who has moved away. But who might yet return, who could still pick up that tin can and speak to ghosts. There’s a possibility there, even as there’s a kind of melancholy and distance, and it makes for a fantastic read!
- “Rites of Becoming a White Lady” by Yvanna Vien Tica (poem) - This piece speaks of transformations, of longing, of a kind of...not curse exactly, but from the title and the action of the piece is seems to me to describe what makes a kind of myth. A kind of monster. A being full of longing, a being who wanders, who lives in lakes, who is beautiful but cold, distant and haunting all at once. I like the use of water and the way the narrator keeps on contracting their world, smaller and smaller, that act part of the chains that might bind them. That might transform them. That might become the tragedy that leads them into a new and diferent kind of being. For me it’s a sad piece, deep and drawing, with some lovely and shadowed imagery. Definitely worth checking out!
- “Kuala Lumpur Urban Legends” by Jack Kin Lim (poem) - This is a sharp piece about monsters, about hauntings, about exploitation and hunger. And I love that it unfolds from the point of view of a monster, a ghost, a being who lives to scare, to feed off people. And who has found that the business of scaring people, of surviving as a monster, has been bad. Increasingly so, and disastrously so for those like the narrator. New monsters have grown and buried the old ones in concrete and fresh miseries. The monsters of old might seem less necessary or less frightening because the monsters that have cropped up to replace them, the human monsters that feed on causing misery, who earn their money by it, have left so little behind for the older monsters to squeeze. It’s a wonderful and blistering poem, and a fantastic read!
- “Bunian Laundry” by May Chong (poem) - This piece carries to me a sense of distance and closeness. A distance in the way the narrator seems to have gone from a place filled with natural life, trees and insects and animals of all sorts, to a city more full of pressed buildings and human bodies and a kind of grim loneliness. Though the narrator seems to be reassuring someone that they are fine, that they are fine, that they can find the familiar even there, in the city, can find something to help them sleep, to help them feel less isolated, for me the piece doesn’t really sell that. Rather, it sets up that idea like a wish, like a mantra, like something the narrator wants to be the case even when it might not be. For me, at least, the last line is a kind of realization not that they can easily survive the city, but that they could be home, and that their heart might be pulling them there, despite everything, despite that home perhaps not even existing in the same way any more. A great read!
- “Ode” by P. H. Low (poem) - This piece speaks to me of hope, the narrator describing a person, speaking to a person, who might--who hopefully exists in their future. A partner. A person who makes the world that much more bearable, who is everything that the narrator seems to need. Who doesn’t ask too much of them, who doesn’t take too much from them, who is a partner in that way, trusted and trusting, a counterweight to whatever the narrator has been through, the pain and loneliness and trauma they’ve already survived. And for all that, it’s the hope that still carries the poem for me, that implication that while they might be too wounded to imagine this person, they are still pushing for it. For all they can’t really see this person, they are a step away, and might be getting closer. And the future is still open, their fate not sealed, and that hope still exists, unextinguished. A powerful way to close out the special issue!
Well I was right that there was a special issue inbound to Strange Horizons to close out the month. What do I win for being right? A whole bunch of SFF poetry from Southeast Asia! Which is a pretty amazing prize, tbh. There’s a nice range of styles and voices on display, and a whole lot to dive into for fans of speculative poetry. So get ready to dive into some strange and shadowy waters!
Mermaids Monthly #8 (5 short stories, 1 graphic story, and 9 poems total)
- “The Heart Sings a Siren” by Ali Trotta (poem) - This piece speaks to me of desire, the narrator hesitant when they meet or in the same place as the person they are speaking to, a subject who calls to them, who sets them on fire, to leads them willing into the rapids, the rocks, the wrecks. And yet there is a power there all the same, for all that this laison seems to promise destruction, disaster. It also promises something that can’t be denied, that siren call that the narrator will go toward heedless, though there’s also a sense for me at least that this might not end in tragedy. That it might simply be fear that makes the narrator pause, and that the song might turn into a soundtrack for something glorious and freeing, though that remains to be seen. A great read!
- “A Nereid’s Guide to the Underworld” by E. Catherine Tobler (short story) - A story that dives into Greek mythology, finding the narrator on a quest to guide Thetis to a meeting with Charon, to help give her son the famed invulnerability (and weakness) that would become important in the Trojan War. To do that, though, the narrator has to leave her cave, making herself vulnerable to the affections of Poseidon, and it’s there the story rings with complexity and a strange kind of tragedy. Because here the god is the water incarnate and the narrator a being of that water, trapped by it, and indeed her fears are embodied when she tries to help Thetis. The result is strange and drowning, the story finding no real escape for the narrator, focusing on the cycles of tragedy that wrap around them. A wonderful read! Greek Mythology, Water/Seas, Transformations, Mer-people/Nereids. CW- Assault, Consumption. [c2 t4]
- “Mammiwata Bay” by David Ishaya Osu (poem) - A strange and moving piece that speaks to me of spaces, between the human world of city and bustle and the natural world, the sea, the endless blue. And a person that seems to be able to walk between them, a woman who comes out of silence and finds the magic of the water, and carries it with her as she moves back to the human world. The piece sticks to short lines, though, and a lot of open space, open water, leaving the reader to sort of fill in the rest, touched by a shared memory of water, of space, perhaps so that we, too, can carry it with us through this human world. A fantastic poem!
- “Only Circles in the Sea” by Carlie St. George, Art by Clare McCanna (illustrated story/flash) - This peice unfolds a bit like one side of a conversation, an interview, an interrogation, and a bit like a confrontation. The narrator is being studied, is being categorized, and they don’t like it. They are asked for the future and they give a bit of the past, the interviewer, the scientist, not really understanding the full importance and significance of it. Not realizing their own connection to the sea, the family connection that only tastes like tragedy to them but might, the narrator reveals, be something else as well. It’s short but sharp and I love the way that taxonomy is called out, a misplaced gesture in the face of the sea and everything in it. A great read, paired with a lovely picture! Mer-people, Prophecies, Seas, Family. CW- Death/Drowning/Transformation. [c2 t3]
- “Twenty Thousand Last Meals on an Exploding Station” by Ann LeBlanc (short story) - This is a complex and beautiful story about Riles, a merp-aug engineer stuck in a time loop, aboard a seemingly-doomed station whose core keeps exploding. After a year relative time trying to fix it, though, Riles has embraced what’s happened, and changed tracks, deciding instead to try and eat at and review every restaurant on the historically foodie station. That is, until her sister, employed by the insurance company that covers the station, arrives to “fix” things. The piece is wonderfully built, the universe feeling well lived in and messy in all the best ways, and I love the sibling dynamic, the way it all fits together, and the way that it’s not about giving up, not really, but is about taking breaks, and self care, and community. And it’s a stunning and amazing read! Mer-people, Queer MC, Space Stations, Time Loops, Family. CW- Abuse, Prejudice, Death, Violence/Blood. [c4 t4]
- “An elegy for voices Ariel traded for legs” by Agwam Kessington (poem) - This piece speaks with a voice that isn’t going to sacrifice itself for a human, for dry land. That still lusts, that still desires, that still wants this boy, this prince, this person. But that isn’t willing to make that trade, who is in essence demanding that the person they’re speaking to give something up as well. Or meet them halfway. to enjoy each other and their desires but not to forsake the water, not to forsake voice. And I like the energy of it, the conviction, the assurance, the sensuality and confidence. It’s a lovely and sharp read!
- “Dream” by Mila Nowak (graphic story) - A wonderful single page comic about a person and a dream. A dream that has taken the place of dreams of flight. Instead of the sky, freedom now exists in the sea, in a transformation of the body into a mer-person. Scaled and lithe, able to move through the water in a way that’s joyous and free from the weight of the past. A new dream for the new person they want to be, that they are upn waking, and finding that the dream has leaked from unconsciousness into reality. It’s bright and lovely and I love the flow of it, the way it views as it through water, broken by veins of white almost like clouds, a surface begging to be broken, descended into. Fantastic stuff!
- “mermaid life” by Susmita Ramani (poem) - A super fun piece that speaks to me of adventure, that finds a narrator speaking of a you who sails through the world, who grasps what they want, who enjoys the occasional dalliance with a human, short and sweet, before moving on again. It’s a quick poem, but big enough that it really captures an energy and vibrance that is wonderful, so full of humor and life, a defiant laugh in the face of the tragedies of the world. Here there are flings, there are messy mistakes, and always an eye on the horizon, and the next bit of fun. I love it!
- “Mystery of the Deep” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (short story/flash) - A gorgeous story about two sisters who go on vacation together in part to repair their relationship. The older, married, more settled it seems and the younger one, the narrator, still wild in some ways. In ways enough at least to attract the attention of a goddess while at the beach, and the story does brief but moving work showing what happens next. The joy and possibility of it. The vulnerability and the trust. The wonder that this happened, though it’s never cast in shadow or doubt. It’s never implied this is dark or hungry. Rather, it’s a triumphant and wonderful story about finding love, and a whole new world. So good! Family, Vacations, Beaches, Goddesses, Queer MC. [c1 t1]
- “-more fat mermaids” by Linda M. Crate (poem) - This piece is a call basically for what the title says--more fat mermaids. More than that, though, it’s a call for more good fat representation, more fat characters who do things that doesn’t have to do with being fat. They have adventures, they fall in love, they are held up as heroes and it’s not being beautiful despite or because of their fatness, or anything like that. The piece recognizes that intense pressure that is put on people and on stories to conform to what so many consider superior, morally and physically. Forgetting that the meanness that fat people face comes from those very supposedly better people, showing their nastiness through their words and actions. It’s a sharp piece, and I definitely agree with the call. More fat mermaids!
- “Honey and Vinegar and Seawater” by Keyan Bowes (poem) - A nice and rather wicked piece that speaks to me of roles and of consequence. How especially men feel like they can walk through the world without kindness, full of vinegar, demanding what they want and following it up with threats and posturing. And how for all that other people, in this case a mermaid, might seem to be passive, to be yielding, there are other ways to hunt. And it’s no less effective, no less deadly, given the trajectory of the poem and the fate of the man. And I just like the way that the piece turns the tables, revealing that for all his show, when it comes to it, the man is trapped in a web already, and only thinks himself the alpha predator. A wonderful read!
- “The Sea King’s Second Bride” by C. S. E. Cooney (poem) - I love the flow of this story, the rhythm and the kinda rhyme. The beat of it, and the fun of it, finding a narrator finding a Sea King bereft. And the narrator tries to fill the gap left in his life why the wife who left him. And she does, though the getting there requires the Sea King to learn a thing or two, to be able to appreciate what’s in front of him, the joy that he might have and not the one he thinks he lost. Not that he seems like a huge catch to me but I do like that they seem to fit together, and it might take the narrator to knock the Sea King off of the track he had been on, get him to really open his eyes to what’s out there instead of obsessing over someone who never chose him to begin with. It’s a fun and somewhat naughty poem and it’s a great read!
- “Self portrait as an ocean bed” by S. Rupsha Mitra (poem) - This piece for me is a lovely but also haunting way of capturing a feeling. A kind of flatness, crushed beneath an immense liquid pressure, spreading out under that, over silt and sands, mud and rock. Becoming an ocean bed, witness to a darkness and a vast spread, almost lonely but accompanied by the strange beings who live at the bottom of the sea, in that dimmed expanse, that crush that hardens them but doesn’t kill them, as it doesn’t kill the narrator of the poem. Though the pressure is there, there is a sense for me of a kind of peace and wonder as well, a waiting, a possibility of healing. And it’s a poem definitely worth checking out!
- “I Am Not Your Tragedy” by Carlie St. George, Art by Clare McCanna (illustrated short story/flash) - This is a defiant and quick read, paired very nicely with the art, and I love the voice here. What it describes is a bit grim, really, a devastating attack. And I like how it outlines this conflict of old versus new, conservatives always hesitant to embrace something that makes life better for others because they think on some level people who suffer misfortune deserve it. It’s sharp and it’s about people getting help, being able to live on their own terms, and that’s wonderful! Prosthetics, Mer-people, Sharks, Cyborgs. CW- Amputation/Shark Attacks. [c3 t3]
- “Canto for a Mermaid” by William Heath (poem) - A strange and stark piece that seems to frame the sea and the narrator’s place nearing it, entering it, brushing along the surface and plunging into its depths. The piece is quiet while still capturing some of the noise of the sea. The splash of the waves, the call of a bird. the lapping against the shore, then drowning out to the quiet under the water, the graveyard, the anticipation as the narrator seeks treasure. And there’s an intimacy that the poem builds so well, pushing forward until it’s just the narrator and the sea, just this possible mermaid that they find, seeker and treasure bound. For me it seems like falling in love with the sea, the loneliness of it and the grim secrets it hides but still finding in it something that resonates and holds. A great way to close out the issue!
Every time I think that Mermaids Monthly has put out a huge issue, it puts out an even huger issue next month. At least, this one is absolutely packed with content, including some reprints and nonfiction that I’m not covering specifically but that is well worth exploring. And I just always appreciate the layout of these issues, which is unique and never boring, which seems at times like exploring the ocean and constantly finding hidden wonders. A great issue!
Works read this year to date: 925 stories, 274 poems (+16 stories, +19 poems)
I meant to do more this week, I really did. The plan was to do all of this and then get more into September content, because there’s already a lot of that to get to. Only…well, it didn’t happen. So it turns out that while I did read a decent amount of works at 35, I read a fairly small amount of fiction with only 16 stories (3 of those novelettes and the rest shorts). So…I could have done better probably. But, well, a few things. First, poetry is actually really difficult to cover for me, just because normally it takes a lot more careful thought when it comes to really writing up how the stories hit me. With fiction, I’m much more confident in my readings. Poetry…not so much, so it does take me a while to write those reviews, despite the works being typically really short.
Otherwise, it’s more just really still being hit rather hard by late summer burnout. Yup, it’s still here. I will work to get back on top of things but I’ve already fallen off the ball when it comes to X Marks the Story (I turned my June one in but not July or August now and I’ve lacked the energy to see if they got the June column so…sigh). I am just a mess. This week has been a lot of looking at getting the roof fixed, which has meant meetings with people. Ew. A coworker tested positive for COVID. Husband and I are trying to think about taking time off and maybe having a vacation, however small and limited, but COVID and him working frontline healthcare mean that might be a pipe dream.
Complaining aside, I am also busy with some other miscellaneous things, like working on the board of my local queer center. Which is a lot of fun and very important work, and which I have been enjoying a lot, but which has been a little hands on recently due to some issues. I am reminded of In the Pale Moonlight. I am persistent, but dogged determination isn’t enough to change the reality of my situation. Publications are working at one hundred percent capacity; I am still a fucking mess. Authors are producing legions of stories and poems every day; I’m experiencing a manpower shortage. But most important, short SFF is resolved to bury me in reviewing work at any cost. We all know I’ve already put out peace feelers.
Anyway, in media land husband and I have started watching Grantchester, which I am not sure if I like or not. It’s pretty and there’s an awful lot of brooding, yes. But it reminds me a lot of Father Brown and that’s not exactly a great thing. A strange saving grace is that my kink must be watching other people smoke because wow that aspect of the show does not disappoint. In church, in a hospital, just smoking everywhere! Strange and strangely satisfying. You all know my weakness now. Anyway, the actor who plays the cop has also been in some truly awful crime shows (in think it’s Wire in the Blood but maybe Touching Evil or both that are like so very very no) so I’m also holding that against the show. There is a doggo named Dickens, though, so on the plus side.
And I’m still reading through New Mutants. It feels a little stuck in a rut following Doug’s death, sadly. They can’t seem to decide what to do with Magik and the business with Magneto returning to his evil ways is interesting but also a little meh. Perhaps not surprising given how this is during the X-Men’s time in Australia where everyone thought they were dead, which is a wonderfully freeing time for that series, but here the New Mutants are still attached to the mansion, left behind by the adults and…yeah. Maybe I’ll do a drunk review of it next year. We shall see what all you patrons decide! But that’s about it for now. Stay wonderful! Cheers!