Friday, December 24, 2021

Quick Sips 12/24/2021

For those keeping score, yes, I’m still on my slowdown. And, given the next two weeks will have holidays and etc, it might continue to be slow for a while. But I’m still going. And I even have an early holiday present, because I’m covering Baffling Magazine a little bit early! Adding to that is my looks at the December Lightspeed and Fantasy, which means that numbers-wise I’m about where I have been recently. More than that, I’m starting to tick off more magazines that I’ve been covering forever that I won’t be covering in the same way anymore. Which makes me a little sad, even as it’s extremely necessary. Anyway, onward!

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!

Baffling #6 (7 short stories total)
  • “Elastic Collisions” by TJ Berry (short story/flash) - Time manipulation meets a strange love that resonates through time, backwards and forwards, as Arthur and the narrator try to maintain the timeline. One old, the other young, their love might seem odd or uncomfortable but manages to be something else, something profound and moving. And The nature of their relationship makes their intimacy complex but not really at all creepy. A lovely read! Timestreams, Machinery, Queer MC, Aging. CW- Blood/Injury. [c3 t3]
  • “Pod 530217-A” by Emma Lindhagen (short story/flash) - A touching look at the broken promise of cryogenics as told through a person who grew up to care for the frozen. Who has to dispose of those whose relatives can no longer pay. And who carries the weight of the lost hope that the people frozen will be able to be thawed and come alive again. It’s a touching look at technology and the bright shiny hope of it, and the bitter and sharp edge of disappointment and failure. A fantastic read! Cryogenics, Growing Up, Family, Friends, Queer Characters. CW- Death, Illness/Cancer. [c3 t4]
  • “The Little Time We Have” by Georgia Cook (short story/flash) - A neat and tender take on vampires as Katie reflects on her relationship with Olivia. On the way they are together, the strangeness, the sense of cold and time. But how the warmth cuts through that, infuses their relationship with a sense of beauty. Fragile and resilient all at once. Eternal and finite. Able to just be, and be nice. A wonderful read. Relationships/Dating, Vampires, Coffee, Queer MC. CW- Blood. [c2 t3]
  • “Brighter Than Stars” by Perry Ruhland (short story/flash) - This piece finds a Boy-Emperor who claims a monopoly on…faces. By ordering his people to cover theirs in grotesque stone masks. Which doesn’t end up going so well for him during one fateful orgy. The piece is sensual and grim, the horror sharp and spreading nicely into a tale of excess and consumption. A fine read! Rule/Royalty, Stars, Orgies, Queer MC. CW- Death/Blood. [c3 t3]
  • “Very Fast and Very Far Apart” by AJ Lucy (short story/flash) - An astronaut and soldier of sorts begins an assignment orbiting Jupiter and being involved in the conflict there as she also begins a kind of relationship with her contact at mission control. As the two talk, they grow closer, building dreams that could shatter with the next attack or retaliation. It’s a warm story for all the danger and death it’s steeped in, and it doesn’t lose sight of a distant happiness. A great read! Space, Jupiter, Radio, Queer MC. CW- War/Battle/Death. [c3 t4]
  • “To Exhale Sky” by Shingai Njeri Kagunda (short story/flash) - An absolutely stunning story about a woman who can breathe stars. Who holds that immensity inside herself and lets it out sometimes in grief, so that it becomes things. And sometimes protects her. And then she meets Tam, and they share a love, and the piece is just gorgeously told, a fairy tale and a myth and an achingly intimate look at grief and hope and love. It’s beautiful, it’s shattering, it’s healing all at once. So so so good! Stars, Breath, Relationships, Queer MC. CW- Illness/Cancer/Hospitals, Mugging/Violence. [c4 t3]
  • “Assimilation” by Sharang Biswas (short story/flash) - Back from war, Adam isn’t exactly the person he was before. He died. And then…not? The process is rather mysterious, this “assimilation,” but it leaves his memories scattered and his personality different. Something his closest friend and family have a hard time coping with. For that closest friend, though, Rodrigo, reminding and teaching Adam who he was is something that might hold some hope, and a chance to get close all over again. It’s a bittersweet piece, difficult and messy and emotionally resonating. A beautiful read! Memories, Music, Family, Aliens, Queer MC. CW- War/Battle/Death, Mental Alteration. [c4 t4]
I’m putting out my review of the December Baffling Magazine a little before its release (perks of being a patron is early access), and it’s a gorgeous issue. Seven stories that move from fantasy to science fiction to fantasy but that always hold a beating queer heart. A passion and a love that can’t be denied. That overcomes, even when the circumstances are difficult. And it’s a fantastic issue!

Lightspeed #139 (6 short stories total)
  • “Fairy Tale” by Adam-Troy Castro (short story/flash) - Short and entirely dialog, this piece introduces a future that seems fairly bleak, where technology has fallen and food insecurity is common, and a child asks their father about the old days, the utility of stories and fantasy, and the need for escape. An interesting if bleak read. Family, Stories/Storytelling, Television, Memories, Stars. CW- Hunger/Food Insecurity, Post-Disaster. [c3 t3]
  • “Red Is Our Country” by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko (short story) - This piece casts its action on Mars as a small group of would-be explorers try to reach the center of a great storm, the remnants of a failed terraforming effort from long ago, that people think was part of an equally failed colonization effort at the time. Only the narrator of the story would disagree with history on that one. As would the person the narrator is speaking to, one of the explorers--the only one able to maybe see the truth. It’s a nicely paced and action-packed story with a slightly creepy feel, and a great read! Mars, Colonization, Exploration, Rovers, Drones, Dragons. CW- Suffocation, Death, Violence. [c4 t4]
  • “Top Ten Things to See Before the World Burns” by Aimee Ogden (short story) - A yearning and wrenching story that finds Mer on a tour of a dying Earth without a home of his own. A refugee, he’s taking time he doesn’t know how otherwise to use to see the sights and try to distract himself from his own sadness, grief, and loss. It’s a beautifully worked story in list format, sweeping and melancholy and very much worth checking out. A beautiful story! Earth, Space, Diaspora, Tourism, The Moon, Queer MC. CW- Death, Death of Family, Aggressive Capitalism. [c3 t4]
  • “When Sri Left the Ruined City” by Donyae Coles (short story) - A nested story about Sri and the City she lived in. Forged by a god, Irx, on the prison of the Unnamed One, the last of the vanquished gods, subjugated so that Irx could rule. But when an invasion comes and Sri sees that Irx cares nothing for the City’s people, she makes some dig decisions, and brings about the ending of an age, and perhaps setting into motion the doom of the planet. It’s a strange story but a compelling one, full of choices, and power, and the magic of storytelling. A wonderful read! Gods, Cities, Chains, Bargains. CW- Death, Destruction. [c3 t4]
  • “Entanglement, or How I Failed to Knit a Sweater for My Boyfriend” by Carrie Vaughn (short story) - A sweet story about a woman trying to knit a sweater for her boyfriend. Who is also an angel. And things...don’t quite go the way she was expecting, in a slightly ominous manner. But it’s a story with a lot of heart, and a rather straightforward and earnest narration, and just a great warmth and romance between the characters. A fantastic read! Relationships, Angels, Knitting, Sweaters, Gifts. [c1 t3]
  • “Writing You” by Sharang Biswas (short story/flash) - A piece that’s ripe with grief as two parts of a triad try to cope with the shared loss, and try to compose a letter that can encapsulate their feelings. That can remind themselves of the strength they have to go on, all while the funeral rites of their home transform their lost loved one into a book. Beautiful and heavy and so worth spending some time with. A wonderful read! Books/Binding, Funerals, Poly/Queer MC/Relationship, Family, Letters. CW- Death of a Partner, Death/Funeral Rites, Bodies/Corpses. [c4 t4]
A wonderful issue that keeps things rather grim despite moments of beauty. There is a sense of loss the carries through the stories, of people who are trying to put back the pieces of something. A planet, a life, a love. All of them trying to reach for something, backward or forward, in hurt and need. It’s not an easy issue but it shines with beauty and care!

Fantasy #74 (4 short stories, 2 poems total)
  • “24 Reasons You’re Dreaming About Your Ex / 24 Razones Por Las Que Sueñas Con Tú Ex” by Dominica Phetteplace (short story/flash) - A beautiful story that really put my years of Spanish to the test, flitting between languages as the “you” of the story deals with the loss of a relationship that’s so much more than that because of the magic that your ex brought. The things you could do together. The door that closed with his departure. It’s a moving and wonderful story about yearning, about fantasy and reality, dreams and waking. So good! Relationships, Dreams, Break Ups, Transformations. CW- Loss/Death. [c3 t3]
  • “Saviour of the Light Market” by Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga (short story) - Mukamwezi has wanted to enter the Light Market since she learned about it. To her, it’s a magic place where she can finally belong. And she’s used to being able to work for what she wants and getting it. So even when she seems to be passed over for the Light Market, she decides that isn’t good enough, and sets herself on a fateful path full of shadows...and blood. It’s a tense read, well built with a wonderful feel and world and a careful character work. Definitely leaves me wanting more! A great read! Friendship, School, Magic, Moons, Seas/Fish. CW- Blood, Class Prejudice/Slurs/Bullying. [c4 t4]
  • “What the River Remembers” by C.L. Holland (short story/flash) - This piece finds a sentient river who has been dammed and dried, who has been transformed, and for whom that transformation is a loss. He consoles himself with a human who also remembers, but the story isn’t all about memory and memorial. It’s also about change. Not to erase the hurt and pain, but to offer something, a power unrealized, that might still allow for something joyous and bright. A great read! Rivers, Memories, Waters, Dams, Roads. [c1 t3]
  • “The Rainmakers” by Megan M. Davies-Ostrom (short story) - This story finds a rather dystopic future with a Wild West feel where Rainmakers move around calling down water and trying to avoid or defeat the Haters out there who want them dead. Because rainmakers are drag performers who performances enchant nature itself. And the piece follows one hopeful recruit through his first weeks on the wagon trail, learning the ropes from the narrator, who’s much more seasoned and has some wisdom to share. An interesting read. Drag, Family, Rain, Magic, Queer MC. CW- Death, Violence, Abuse, Prejudice/Hate Crimes. [c5 t4]
  • “The Other Day the Saucers Came” by Karen Brenchley (poem) - A piece that imagines a...very busy day when everything happens at once. Where the narrator finds all the speculative imaginings come true in their splendor and terror both and yet speaks to a “you” who...missed it. Who wasn’t there. And the piece seems to perhaps hope that the person regrets not being there, missing everything that happened. Hope that the person will return, will respond. But probably won’t. Though it might be lighter than that, my reading at least finds a melancholy in the end, that all of these fantastic things happened, but the narrator is still fixed on an absence. Definitely worth spending some time with!
  • “Forest Maths” by Nnadi Samuel (poem) - A very weird piece that for me speaks of shadows and wild places, a forest where the narrator moves through with intent, with possible violence. A place where they spread roots through soil that might be fertile or toxic. For me there’s something sharp about the piece, rending and raw, where there might be a relish of dropping away the technological sterility of bland settings and embracing the green, the rot, the red. A fascinating piece and a great read!
So this latest from Fantasy Magazine brings a theme of yearning, of loss, of transformation. Stories of people who want with all their hearts something. Something often denied to them. Kept from them. And if they can’t get to what they want, what they means all that energy, that desire, might twist to something terrible. A solid issue!

Works read this year to date: 1271 stories, 362 poems (+17 stories, +2 poems)

Guess what? This week’s reviews puts me over 7000 reviews I’ve posted here at QSR. 7000!!! That’s…a lot! In just under seven years that means I’ve averaged 1000 reviews a year (though to be fair I’ve only done more than 1000 this year). Obviously I’m also still dealing with other projects and my slowdown but I’m still super happy to reach this milestone, probably the last big one I’ll be hitting here as I change what I do and how I do it. Which, I mean, makes this slightly bittersweet. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do a little happy dance.

The big news recently of course is that the Hugos were over the weekend and…I did not win in either of my categories. Huge thanks to everyone who nominated and/or voted for me. It’s…so, some real talk here amidst all the other real talk. I did not expect to win. I had hoped to not place last in both categories and unfortunately that didn’t pan out as I did, indeed, place last in both categories. This isn’t a complaint about that, truly. Someone has to come in last place and it is an honor to be a finalist. I do not blame anyone for not voting for me, or anything like that. I am genuinely happy for the winners and join in celebrating them. I feel like speaking about not winning is often interpreted as being entitled about winning, and it’s not that, really.

What it is, is…it’s difficult, in some ways, knowing that trends show that I likely will never win a Hugo for my work at Quick Sip Reviews. Again, not that I…argh, it’s so hard to talk about this! What I do is fairly niche and specialized (that I get nominated on the back of short SFF reviewing and basically just short SFF reviewing for a major SFF award is weird, and I am super grateful that people find what I do valuable), and further some people don’t care for my style, my opinions, etc (completely their right and it’s probably mutual). But I do want to win a Hugo for what I do at Quick Sip Reviews. Whether or not I think I deserve it aside, when I’m a finalist, I do want to win, because…who doesn’t? And there is a certain wall one runs into, reading the stats every year and just sort of seeing that…it’s probably not going to happen. And hey, maybe that will change. I’m young yet. If I change what I do enough it might line up with what people value more in fan writing and fanzines. I get that.

But it does mean that regardless of how much or how well I do what I have been doing, it’s just probably not going to connect enough. And that’s just…hard, in the direct aftermath of the thing. Again, I am super proud of my work, super happy to be a finalist! Six times so far! I’m certainly not going to say that I don’t want to be nominated, just because I almost certainly won’t win. Nope, definitely will still be throwing my hat in the ring for fan writer and fanzine for next year’s Hugos. I mean, I’ve done a lot in 2021 and I am incredibly proud of my work. And it does mean a lot to be nominated, to be voted for. I was the top of some people’s ballots and that is amazing. I’ll try to stay positive about it, and this changes none of my plans going forward. Winning awards was never my reason for doing this. I don’t do what I do chasing after trophies. I do it because it’s what I love doing. But that does mean that these things don’t provoke…complex and dense feelings. So yeah. Mostly that.

Still waiting to hear back on the big secret thing that I turned in last week. It means that I’ll be more free to review this week, but unfortunately that’s impacted by the week being shorter for me because of the holidays. So…well, we’ll see how it goes. Cheers!


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