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!
Zooscape #13 (6 short stories total
- “Rabbitheart” by Archita Mittra (short story) - A story about death and resilience as a small rabbit risks everything to try and repay a debt and a friendship. It’s a story shaped like a fable, framed as a story, and I love the way that it captures the harsh realities of the world and the small boons, the small mercies and kindnesses, that still make life warm at times, and wonderful. It’s a lovely read! Rabbits, Bargains, Friendship, Bears, Owls. CW- Death. [c3 t3]
- “Scale Baby” by M. H. Ayinde (short story) - This story imagines suburbia with the latest pet craze--dragons. And the narrator, called Cookie by her humans, has something of a turf war on her hands as two newcomers to the neighborhood think that they can be the dominant dragons around. The piece is laced with humor and action, the personalities of the dragons coming across nicely and seeming just a bit similar to other domesticated predators people might be familiar with. A delightful read! Dragons, Pets, Fire, Rivalry, Suburbs. CW- Battle/Blood. [c2 t2]
- “To Gentle the Wind” by Deborah L. Davitt (short story/flash) - In this story, a storm is captured and turned into flesh. Into a horse that is also a tornado. And though they resist the transformation, though they don’t really care for the conflict they are forced into, through the riding, through the battle, they come to care for their rider. Come to care about being a horse that thinks and feels rather than formless air. And so when they are given the choice to turn on their rider or not, they make the best decision available to them. A short but wonderfully evoked and emotional story! Horses, Storms, Tornadoes, Transformations. CW- Captivity, Battle/Death. [c3 t3]
- “Be Productive Like Cha-Cha” by Katlina Sommerberg (short story/flash) - A very short but rather grimly cute story about a crow, Cha-Cha, and their scheme for staying rich in peanuts. On the one hand, it’s an almost meme-like “be like Cha-Cha” rather than those lazy animals who just wait for peanuts to come to them, and on the other hand it’s a sharp but humorous critique of just that kind of thinking, showing that Cha-Cha is productive, yes, but only when they can scavenge body parts from dead humans who might have lived had their been a bit more safety regulations and less rush rush productivity. So yeah, a very quick read but well worth spending some time with! Crows, Bionic Eyes, Peanuts, Productivity. CW- Death/Dismemberment. [c3 t3]
- “The Incandescence of Her Simulacrum” by Logan Thrasher Collins (short story/flash) - This story finds Eudaimonia searching for her lost love, finding her in a small crab in a distant tide pool, no less lost for being found. The piece is strange, dealing with addiction and loss, and with an ending that in some ways is happy, but in some ways is incredibly grim. And honestly it leaves me unsure of how to feel. But it’s messy and well told and very much worth checking out! Crabs, Sponges, Queer MC, Relationships. CW- Addiction. [c3 t4]
- “A Chance to Breathe” by Daniel Ausema (short story) - This story finds Tirkit an immigrant to a city of birds, looking for some fresh air beyond the city to help with her health and breathing issues. Trapped in the heart of the city, though, there’s no real way for her to get outside to that fresh air, and so she’s mostly just witness to the brutal cycles of the city, the consumption, the corruption, the class and caste divides between bird and insect, insect and human. And I like how the piece finds resolve in that, to do something, to inspire and be inspired to make change and reach of health and help. A great read! Insects, Birds, Immigration, Humans, Dreams. CW- Illness, Pollution, Racism, Human Consumption. [c4 t4]
It’s a new issue of Zooscape for all those a little furry at heart, this time featuring six stories of animals and animal-people all trying to make their way in the world. Often dealing with corruptions and difficulties they can do little about, but trying their best regardless. It’s a grim issues but with some humor as well, and plenty of heart. Some wonderful work!
Mermaids Monthly #12 (3 short stories, 4 poems, 1 graphic story total)
- “The Rime of the Midwinter Mermaids” by Kelly Jarvis (poem) - This piece beautifully evokes the cold and winter, the harsh reality of the season at sea and also the wonder and magic that resides in the dancing lights and the sense of distance and isolation the cold brings. It’s a touch haunting but also filled with a kind of chilled warmth, a sense of return and serenity even in the grip of winter. Amazing way to kick off the issue!
- “What to Do After Receiving a Starlit Pearl” by Mari Ness (short story/flash) - A story as instructions, this piece guides would-be travelers to a Faerie Court under the waves, a moveable and magical party that carries with it just as many dangers as delights. There are risks aplenty but also so much to see and experience, and for those who follow the guidelines there’s a whole world that opens up through the touch of that starlit pearl. A wonderful read! Faerie, Seas, Mermaids, Pearls, Travel. CW- Bones/Death. [c2 t3]
- “Which Inland Waterways Merfolk Are You?” by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas and S.R. Mandel (short story/flash) - An interactive story that asks you questions and gives you a result about, well, it’s right there in the title. And it’s a lot of fun, the answers being limited to three outcomes but all of them rather charming and with a depth to them that does a great job of world building and dashing in the magic of a world we just might not be seeing. A great read! Quizes/Exams, Rocks, Mermaids, Rivers. CW- Death. [c2 t3]
- “Mermaid Care” by Jonathan Crowe (short story) - This story reveals a problem going on--mermaid poaching for exotic pets, mostly by people who have no idea how to actually care for the animals. The piece foregoes the magic of mermaids to place them into a more mundane (though not really) classification, where they are fish and in need of protection, and very adversely effected by human interference. The piece is sharp and captures the voice of a dry care guide well, with a bit of something grim and sharp underneath. A fine read! Pets, Fish, Mermaids, Care, Aquariums. CW- Poaching, Death. [c3 t4]
- “The Catfish Sisters” by Lisa M. Bradley (poem) - A rather epic piece that follows two catfish mermaids who come along a tragedy in post-Civil-War Mississippi and are pressed to act, to punish a city for polluting their waters, and rallying all the citizens of the Big River to do it. The piece is lively and magical, a story in poetry and a fantastic read!
- “The North American Wombat’s Guide to Random Sea Creatures” by Ursula Vernon (graphic story) – A rather delightful one-page comic about the noble sea hare. A bit of history, mostly just trivia about a kinda weird creature, it’s nicely illustrated and amusingly voiced. Really, a delightful read!
- “Merbraids” by Amal El-Mohtar, Caitlyn Paxson, and Jessica P. Wick (poem) - This piece moves between three characters, all competing for the same sailor, the same sailors, three predators who are yet beautiful and alluring. Who are offering things based on their natures--the sea, the lake, the river--all of them calling and singing in the way of sirens for the sailor to join them. And die, of course, but that’s the grim and sharp edge of the poem, and is wonderfully done!
- “The Space Mermaid’s Garden” by Beth Goder (short story) - This piece follows a mer who loves to make gardens, despite how pointless it might seem to her fellow mers, who are more scientists and explorers. When her gardens start turning to dust, though, she’s confronted with something she’s not quite prepared for, and has to face all the reasons she loves what she does. A warm and lovely story about expression, even in the face of destruction! Mermaids, Space, Gardens, Entropy, Family, Bargains. [c1 t3]
- “How to spot a mermaid” by Emily Fox (poem) - An almost haunting piece that gives some advice on, well, again the title here is rather accurate. And yet it’s not telling you what to look for really, not about patterns or differentiating between mer and other creatures. Rather it’s about belief, about yearning, about wanting something and being open to something enough that it bridges a gap between two things, reader and mermaid, and there’s a kind of miracle. It’s a beautiful read!
The final issue of 2021 for Mermaids Monthly and perhaps the penultimate issue of the publication full stop, this one doesn’t have as clear a thematic link as some of the other issues. There’s a sense of cold, and a focus perhaps away from just the mermaids of the oceans, featuring many fresh water mermaids as well. It’s an issue full of longing, though, of seeking out magic and wonder, and finding it in the rippling stretch of water, regardless of its form. A great issue!
Works read this year to date: 1336 stories, 389 poems (+11 stories, +4 poems)
Full Jackson Browne mode here as I’m running on empty, but that doesn’t mean I’ve broken down quite yet. I have cleared two more pubs off my list and am hoping that by next week I will be done with my 2021 reviews! That means transitioning over fully to focusing on my Locus column and clearing this space for…I’m not sure yet! Something! Really, though, it’s full crunch mode for me. It’s like I do too much…
In other news, I’m pushing forward with my small amounts of free time playing some Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The Blue Lions run isn’t quite as satisfying for me as the Golden Deer, and I’m glad I did that house first. Not that the Blue Lions don’t have some good characters (I admit I kinda love Felix for all his prickles, and Annette is pretty great so far, especially since I missed her in the Golden Deer route). My goal this time is to recruit everyone, and I’m off to a decent start, knowing a bit better how it works this time. I have Linhardt, Ferdinand, Raphael, Catherine, and…I feel like I’m forgetting someone but maybe that’s it for now. Ferdinand was something of a tank my first playthrough, though I might opt for Sylvain because he was someone I missed my first time. I’m just much more on top of things this time now that I know what I’m doing. This is my first Fire Emblem game, after all, and it took me a while to get the hang of things.
In my X-books reading, I’ve caught up to where I was going to get in the original Wolverine ongoing, which ended with the death of Yuriko in a rather 90s arc involving Gambit for some reason. So it’s back to where I was in Uncanny, early in the Lobdell years, where the Morlocks attack the surface and Peter’s brother Mikhail goes a bit extreme with his power. The book is suffering from a case of the 90s, too, and honestly I feel a little bad for this one, which is also suffering from a very odd team choice who have very little chemistry or cohesion. There’s neither the authority vs rebel of Cyclops vs Wolverine nor the weird romantic tensions of Rogue/Gambit or even Psylocke/Cyclops. I’ll see how X-Men stacks up when I switch over to that, but there’s also a lack of a great villain, bouncing around a bit between morlocks, alternate realities, and bad guys from the future. Meh.