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!
Mermaid’s Monthly #11 (6 short stories, 3 poems total)
- “How to Give Your Toddler a Tail” by Amanda Helms (short story) - A beautiful story of family and generations, where a mother feels somewhat powerless in the face of her daughter’s desire to be a mermaid. Not because it’s impossible, but because it speaks to a connection that the daughter feels to a part of herself that the narrator, the “you” of the story, never fully embraced. It’s a touching and lovely read! Mermaids, Family, Seas, Transformations, Hearts. CW- Death of a Parent, Child in Peril. [c3 t3]
- “I’m Not Ready to Leave” by Zion Mc Neil (poem) - The piece begins full of parental guidance and warnings but rises, or descends, into something more tense, more grim. The piece follows an education of sorts but not a very happy one, as the narrator is drawn from danger to danger, trying to find their way in hostile waters. A great read!
- “Ife’s Ride” by Tracy Ramey (short story/flash) - A quick and fun story about a little sibling rivalry. The action is clear and full of wonder, and the effect is charming and refreshing, a rush of air, a whoop of laughter, and a wonderful read! Races, Family, Seas, Mermaids. [c1 t1]
- “Field Trip to See the Mermaid” by Beth Cato (poem) - A piece that finds a group of school children on a field trip to a zoo or aquarium to see a mermaid (if the title didn’t make that clear), and of the mischief, or justice, that one of the students might be planning. It’s a piece that hints, that gives a knowing smile that there will be trouble later, of the best kind. A great read!
- “Love Unlike Us” by Beata Garrett (short story/flash) - An interesting piece that finds a pair of sisters watching their father care for a clutch of mermaid hatchlings. And the piece finds in the sisters people who have been starved for love, and who find something like it when looking at the mermaids. For all the beauty there, though, the piece carries a shadow to me, a grimness that comes from the way that they are made to sacrifice, that they denied affection but in this limited sense. It’s almost eerie and quite beautifully done, and well worth spending some time with! Mermaids, Family, Tears, Salt. CW- Neglect. [c3 t3]
- “Babysitting a Kraken” by AJ Hartson, with art by Wakey Nelson (short story/flash) - Kira has been stuck with babysitting duty for a willful young kraken, and...well, it’s not all bad. In fact, some of it downright adorable. A fast and warm story and a delightful read! Kraken, Babysitting, Bedtime, Seas. [c1 t1]
- “Cupid Under the Sea” by Debra Goelz (short story) - A rather flirty story featuring the god of love himself, who might be best at loving himself. When Poseidon rolls onto the scene, though, a minor confrontation leads to some major challenges for Cupid, who has to work to not lose everything he has with his boyfriend, the prince of the merfolk. I love the voice here, and the deep humor. Some wonderful reading! Mermaids, School, Art, Gods, Curses, Queer MC. CW- Mind Manipulation/Curses. [c2 t1]
- “Dumi” by AJ Hartson, art by Wakey Nelson (short story/flash) - A story of a meeting between the narrator, a sea creature, and a merfolk named Moran. The piece is quiet and full of hunger, though also or a kind of innocent exploration. And in that I feel there’s a touch of something grim here as well, not in the events exactly, but in the story behind the story, of why all the food has gone, and why the merfolk mostly left. A mystery, and in general a great read! Merfolk, Food, Seas, Change. CW- Hunger, Pollution. [c2 t3]
- “Reunion With My Mermaid Dolls” by Jennifer Fenn (poem) - A piece that looks at nostalgia tripped by looking at online image boards, at toys from childhood that evoke strong memories and feelings of warmth...and a little bit of loss. Both felt again as the images come through, the toys alive again--just as the memories surface and are renewed. There’s a joy here at seeing the artifacts of childhood, at imagining them still out there, cherished, loved. It’s a wonderful read!
A new Mermaids Monthly and the theme this time very much seems to be growing up and family. Learning lessons. And care for one another. Throughout, the works feature young people learning more about the world and themselves. Older people trying to help guide people away from mistakes. Sometimes successfully, sometimes less so, but it’s a warm issue without a whole lot of grim tidings. At least in the original fiction and poetry, there’s a warmth that swims through and delivers a lovely experience. Though don’t miss out on the reprints, of which there are quite a few this issue!
Lackington’s #24 (Botanicals) (7 short stories total)
- “Dr. Ormeau’s Botanical Menagerie” by Morgan L. Ventura (short story) - This piece unfolds in found documents that detail the creation by a scientist of a group of sentient and moving plants. And a strange situation that finds them learning about workers’ rights even as their creator intended them to be a servant class. The piece mixes humor with some rather deep and sharp insights into justice and labor. Weaving together a story that doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, but that does reach for something better than the situation as is--that reaches for a world where humans and plants can all have justice and fulfillment. A great read! Plants, Science!, Trials/Courts, Unions, Non-binary Characters. CW- Aggressive Capitalism/Slavery. [c3 t3]
- “I, Mandragora” by Phoenix Alexander (short story/flash) - A piece that comes from the point of view of the titular plant. A plant with a power that they have been hiding. Waiting. Knowing that, if left to their own devices, the human royalties will destroy and ravage more than they might if, instead, they are all brought under the deadly sway of their pollen. The piece is cunning and violent, a release of impulses as the narrator revels in the destruction they cause, contained at least to those who would author it across a much greater canvass. A sharp and wicked and fun read! Royalty, Ceremonies/Parties, Marriage, Plants, Songs. CW- Battle/Blood, Mental Influence/Mind Control. [c3 t3]
- “My Face to the Sun” by Kelly E. Dwyer (short story) - This piece finds a narrator in a place where everything funnels through corporate farming interests. Only patented seeds that respond to patented insecticides are used, and it squeezes everything, everyone. Amidst that, the narrator is being sought by a wealthy man who sees him as a conquest. A summer fling. The piece is heavy with the weight of the setting, the impossible struggle the narrator finds himself in, against the fleeting and brutal beauty of this relationship, the pleasure not elegant but pleasure all the same. An interesting piece well worth spending some time with! Seeds, Flowers, Queer MC, Family, Patents. CW- Aggressive Capitalism. [c3 t4]
- “In Which Mushrooms Carry History Through a Door Between Worlds” by Sharon J. Gochenour (short story) - A story told between different perspectives. From mushroom, from treegod, from humans who might also be witches. All revolving around a kind of infestation. A decline. Memory mingling with emotions and hope and escape. Movement and communication and communion. And it’s a warm and touching story that finds some beings facing an end, but facing it with grace and strength, pushing for something more like a transformation and rebirth. A wonderful read! Mushrooms, Gods, Trees, Family. CW- Infestations, Death/Illness. [c3 t4]
- “Ten Poisons That Cannot Kill the Queen” by Marie Croke & Anna Madden (short story) - A beautiful story that finds a woman trying to kill the queen for a war that killed the woman’s brother. That has killed so many people. And yet as the narrator gets close to the queen, as her poisons fail again and again to take the queen’s life, something else begins to happen. The piece is moving, slow, and ultimately rather gutting. About purpose and about getting what you want at a terrible price. Careful and seductive work, and a great read! Royalty, Poisons, Family, Trees/Plants, Queer MC. CW- Death/War, Poisoning, Death of a Sibling. [c4 t4]
- “The Mysterious Theft of St. Aureline’s Arboreal Collection” by Haralambi Markov (short story) - This story is told by a group. By a town of people who only kind of tolerate the queer, witchy woman living in their heart. Who take their chance to insult her and to steal from her, and who unleash in that the seeds of their own destruction. The piece looks at mob mentality and the uncaring push of the forest freed from constraint. The collective narrator refuses to accept something they have no power over, no dominion over, and yet they are proven chillingly wrong. A fantastic read! Forests, Trees, Queer Character, Seeds. CW- Death/Murder/Hanging. [c4 t4]
- “Que la grenade est touchante” by Cécile Cristofari (short story) - A story set in France following World War I, where a young girl is surrounded by strange weeds and mushrooms that grow from nowhere. Haunted by a brother she never really got to know. The piece is touched by strangeness and quiet, featuring a nice range of characters all shaken by the events of the war. Cut off into a world they don’t quite understand. Lost. But not destined to stay that way. Not really. The piece is beautifully rendered, careful and kind, and yearning for a world more full of compassion than the one the characters encounter. A great read! Family, Doctors, Weeds, Mushrooms, Hauntings. CW- War, Death of a Parent/Sibling, Illness. [c3 t4]
The latest Lackington’s is botanically themed, and features seven original stories and one reprint. And I love the ways that plants are weaved into the stories, the way they creepy and bud into the different narratives. Sometimes giving the plants voice, sometimes making them silent witnesses, sometimes making them passive actors and even weapons. The stories can be grim at times, plants struggled through difficult soil, but there is an enchanting beauty that moves through them all, and it makes for a wonderful issue!
Tor dot com 11/2021 (1 short story total)
- “A Better Way of Saying” by Sarah Pinsker (short story) - A story that unfolds in the time of “silent” movies, where the narrator once worked in a movie theater shouting title cards. A job he enjoyed, and that unlocked his desire to write and edit movies, but also a job that showed that he had a kind of super power. One to alter title cards to make them better (in his opinion, at least). It’s a very strange power, and one that might flare out on a fateful day he’s pretending to be someone else on the roof of a hotel as an actor shows off how good he is at shooting a bow and arrow. The piece is quiet and ponderous, but still feel with a sense of some small, real magic that he taps into, that changes the world in one small but very meaningful way. A lovely read! Movies, Acting, Editing, Reporting/Journalism, Actors. CW- Violence/Injury. [c2 t3]
Just a single short story out for Tor’s November online offerings, but it’s a story that captures a nice sense of wonder in a mostly mundane world. A single instance of magic that manages to shift reality itself away from something that could have been much worse. And it’s a elegantly told story about the earlier history of movies and New York, and well worth checking out!
Pseudopod #786 (1 short story total)
- “Licking Roadkill” by Richard E. Dansky (short story) - A story that unfolds as a guy bailing his brother-in-law out of jail and taking him for a drive. The brother-in-law in question is something of a fuckup, and while that might just be par for the course for a lot of families out there, for the family these two belong to, it’s something else entirely. I like that the piece manages a lot of what’s essentially world building entirely behind the scenes, creating this situation that’s a lot deeper than it might otherwise be, with implications that are somewhat grim, somewhat chilling. And the trajectory of the story matches that, never fully illuminating the shadows or revealing the secrets, but getting ready to bury them deeper. A fine read! Family, Driving, Werewolves. CW- Blood, Jail/ACAB, Murder/Guns. [c4 t4]
The title of the latest episode of Pseudopod rather promises a grim and bloody time, but for all that the story is rather disciplined and restrained. Violent but from the point of view of someone in control, trying to keep something from being discovered. And having to do something terrible in order to do that. A solid episode!
Cast of Wonders #472 (1 short story total)
- “AP Practical Literary Theory Suggests This Is A Quest (Or: What Danny Did Over Spring Break)” by Isabel J. Kim (short story) - Danny has died, and that sucks because it means the road trip he had planned with his friends is off. Or is it? This piece finds four friends on a not-exactly-but-totally-a-quest in order to resurrect one of them, and it takes the shape of a road trip--with a detour. The piece is warm and fun, focusing on the group of friends the bonds that hold them together, and might just be enough to bend life and death, hopefully with time left over for some illicit underage drinking. A really fun and charming story! Friends, School, Road Trips, Immortality, Queer MC. CW- Death. [c3 t2]
This episode has a really long title but also a really entertaining and heartwarming story behind it. One that finds a group of friends on the road for mischief and a spot of resurrection. The world building is wonderful, the characters pop, and it all makes for such a great experience!
Cast of Wonders #473 (1 short story total)
- “IF Trans THEN Mogrify” by Hailey Piper (short story) - A story that finds the Rosalyn facing her third moment of bathroom policing, which turns out to be the last straw, causing her to tap into the source code of the universe to show a transphobic asshole that absolutes break everything. The piece captures a vulnerable but defiant voice, showing that personal truths of trans people are the truths that anchor reality itself, and it’s everything else that should flow around that. It’s a fun piece for all it deals with a very ugly situation and antagonist, and it’s very much worth checking out! A great read! Bathrooms, Coding, Logic, Trans MC. CW- Prejudice, Transphobia/Transmisogyny. [c4 t3]
This episode takes a really terrible situation and explores it, delving into the nightmare while showing the power of logic in exposing the fragility of absolutes. And holding to the foundational truths people have about themselves as more important to the stability of the universe than the weak beliefs of bigots. A fine episode!
Works read this year to date: 1254 stories, 360 poems (+17 stories, +3 poems)
I think it’s safe to say that I’m a little busy. Aside from secret project, I also have some edits to work on for a story I’ll have out in a charity anthology early next year. I’m such a mess that I don’t know if the table of contents is supposed to be a secret still, so I won’t say what it is, but the story was one of the few I was able to finish this year, so excited that it will be seeing light soonish. Still, lots to do. Numbers-wise, though this week was light, it does bring me just 15 reviews shy of 7000 total at QSR, so I’ll probably hit that before the end of the year. That’s exciting. As for what I’ll be covering next week…well, that’s a bit up in the air. I’m hoping to get to the latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies, but I also have to start with the stack of December publications, including Lightspeed, Nightmare, Fantasy, Clarkesworld, The Dark, Flash Fiction Online, GigaNotoSaurus…just everything. But I’ll get through it all, even if I have to take some time in 2022 to get there. Promises, I guess.
In other news, I’m still reading through Uncanny X-Men in my free time. “Free time,” rather. Still in the lead up to the Fall of Mutants, which I don’t remember super well but that I’ve seen from a few angles now that I’ve read New Mutants and Excalibur and X-Factor. So I’m rather excited to revisit this and get into this new stage for the X-Men. It’s not a phase that lasts very long, if I recall, as this sort of marks the end of the X-books doing too much entirely on their own. Inferno is already starting to loom. But I hope to enjoy it while it lasts. It really is a fun team at the moment.