Thursday, October 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #101

October has arrived at Apex Magazine and I have to admit, I keep expecting the month to be a bit…spookier than it’s shaping out to be. Which isn’t really a complaint, because what I’m getting instead are much subtler dark stories, full of atmosphere and a sort of suffocating oppression that sinks into every nook and cranny of these stories. We find a piece reimagining the fate of Hitler in powerful fashion, a story of performance and pain and destruction, a story of yearning and possibility and potential, and every a flash fiction with some suspect Salisbury Steak. So it’s a rather large issue of Apex, all told, and one that brings many different flavors of dark SFF. Some tinged with hope and others more heavily laced with despair and crushing need. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Rubén Castro

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #61

Hey horror fans, it’s October, which means the specter of Halloween is out in full force and for Nightmare Magazine that means there’s a pair of gruesome little horror stories to enjoy. The pieces are very much concerned with the way that we tell stories, both the ways that we imagine horror and the ways that horror tinges even those stories we think of as innocent and pure. Both pieces look beneath the words we tell to find fresh terror and inventive hells for unwary readers to stumble into. These are some dark and deliciously affronting stories that don’t pull their punches. They hit and hit hard and force the reader to confront the depths of the human psyche in all its profound capacity for horror. To the reviews!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus October 2017

October’s GigaNotoSaurus brings a sort of paranormal Western longer novelette, with a whiff of ash and the taste of blood and coming violence. It’s a storm of a story, sweeping through the life of the main character and leaving nothing untouched. It’s a piece that explores the vast frontier that the American West used to represent, the potential or at least the hope of renewal and forgiveness. And yet it was all built on murder, and exploitation, and blood, and the story paints this place as incredibly dark, perilous, and toxic. It’s a wonderful take on the setting and genre, though, and before I give to much away, let’s get to the review!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #133

The October issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is a wonderful examination of isolation and change. In each of the stories, characters find themselves in situations that they didn’t really expect. Situations that push them away from people, into their own heads, their own regrets, and their own desires. Whether the setting is a world where squids have taken the oceans, or where a group of young people find themselves trapped beneath a sea, or a religious man and his ship of Greeks are stranded on a nomad planet, or a world where nanobots build endless cities of no one to inhabit—these are places defined by boundaries and decline. And the stories focus how, even in these settings, people find ways to connect to one another. Not always in the healthiest of ways, but in order to make sense of their lives and to try and find a way forward. For some, that forward isn’t possible, or is lost, or was a lie all along. They are not overly happy stories, but they possess a power and a beauty and I should really just get to the reviews!

Art by Marianna Stelmach

Friday, October 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/02/2017 & 10/09/2017

Strange Horizons is back to your regularly scheduled content now that the fund drive has been successful, which means two stories and two poems to kick off its October releases. The fiction, and perhaps a bit the issues in general, revolve around loss and around connections. Whether because of natural disaster or murder, the stories are about people who have been suddenly cut off from a person or people and forced to keep on going, to try and find a way forward to healing and hope. The situations vary widely, but the core of the stories remain the desire to reach out, and the ability of people to help other people to begin to overcome trauma and loss and start to make some positive change. So let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online October 2017

Well, this wasn’t exactly the issue I was expecting from Flash Fiction Online in October, a month that’s normally reserved for tales of horror. Instead, there are three very nicely paired stories about relationships and the prospect of loss, grief, and despair. Each of the stories follows a narrator that is in danger of losing the person that they love. To illness or a call from beyond, they must navigate how to deal with the weight of that potential parting, needing to decided when it right to go out and pull their partner back into the light or whether it is more powerful, more right, to let them go, and try to find a way forward without them. Obviously there’s not always a choice in these sorts of things, and the stories explore what happens when the unthinkable happens, and what it means for those left behind. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #89

Well Lightspeed is getting in on the novella game this month, with a sci-fantasy novella alongside two sci fi short stories. Which, the magazine does shine in the ways that it brings science fiction and fantasy together, which makes the new project in keeping with what I’ve come to expect and appreciate from Lightspeed. In my opinion, though, it’s the shorter works this month that stand out a little more, capturing setting with a present and pervasive darkness but also finding something bright within. A spot of kindness. A small connection. Of course, in all of these pieces the worlds revealed are not exactly kind, and find characters just trying to make their own way. Mostly, trying and failing. But there’s some beauty in the trying, and some hope that won’t be killed. So let’s get to reviewing!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Quick Sips - Fiyah #4: Roots

Fiyah has reached a full year of releases with this issue and it’s time to celebrate! In this case, it means getting back to roots, the theme of the issue. It’s a theme very well captured by the stories and poetry, which find characters approaching the past, reaching back into it, finding strength from it, and in some instances having to kill it. The issue opens with the sound of a gun’s report, with a touch of brutality and loss, but slowly brings things out of the shadows and into a place more open and hopeful. These are stories about people coming into their power, and mostly about people overcoming the looming specters and fears plaguing them in order to find a bit of healing and relief. It’s about the power of community and the horror that can happen when that community is lost and isolation reigns. And it’s just an amazing collection of short SFF that you should read and I should get to reviewing!

Art by Geneva Benton

Monday, October 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235

It's celebration time at Beneath Ceaseless Skies as the publication hits it's ninth anniversary with a special double issue! And it's a challenging bunch of stories, swirling around the ideas of war and damage, travel and healing. It's also, to me, a story about faith, and repentance, and the road to healing. These are stories full of characters running from something, whether it's a past full of death or a present full of chaos. They find themselves with their entire worldviews thrown into question and disarray, forced at last to question their most deeply held beliefs and face their most daunting fears. These are fantasy stories that either build sweeping new worlds or complicate the past of our own, building histories that never were to reveal truths that can still ring forward through time to us now. It's a great way to mark another excellent year of content. To the reviews!

Art by Veli Nyström

Friday, October 6, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #29

October is the month of Halloween, so you better bet that The Dark Magazine has come prepared, with two stories that excel at atmospheric horror and some pretty shocking violence and just solid creepiness. This month also marks the publication moving into the translation game (I can’t remember now if this is a first or if it’s happened before), which is always nice to see. Both pieces make good use of classic horror tropes and ideas, from secluded islands and malevolent ghosts to a village hostile to outsiders in a pretty dramatic way. Both feature younger characters trying to make sense of the world around them, and fighting to protect their families. What that looks like, though, is very (very!) different from story to story. In the end it’s a great pair of horror stories that might have you reaching for the light switch come bed time. To the reviews!

Art by Tomislav Tikulin

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com September 2017

Okay I just kept waiting and waiting for Tor dot com to put out another story in September but I guess it's just this one piece. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the story is punchy and captures the great sweep that space opera can offer, with its smugglers and outlaws, people trying desperately to hold a piece of the heavens where they can belong, where they can be safe, even if that safety often has to be fought for. It's a story that reminds me what space opera done right looks like, with a diverse bunch of characters all navigating the perils of corruption, freedom, faith, and love that makes even the great void of space seem claustrophobic at times. So yeah, to the review!

Art by Micah Epstein

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction September 2017

Well it's another pretty full month of fiction from Fireside Fiction, with three flash fiction stories, one short story, and two more chapters of the ongoing novella. What surprises me most about the month's releases is that two of the pieces might not be speculative, though they are definitely still worth checking out. There's only a few SFF publications that also put out stories that are completely without SFF elements, but it's nice to see, to give some variety and to show that the editorial vision is not going based on what kind of elements are in the story, but how the piece feels and impacts. And in that department these are all rather hitting stories, some of them rather fun but mostly stories about danger and injustice and the push to fight back against that. These are some excellent pieces of fiction and I'm going to get to those reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform September 2017

So Terraform appears to be back! I guess I missed a story at the very end of August and so this go-round there are four pieces to look at. The structure has changed to pair each story with a piece of nonfiction that explores something from the piece. The nonfiction reads are quite interesting and I must say I think the format plays more to Terraform’s base and larger place in the landscape, though I perhaps wish there was a bit more communication from the editorial staff about what’s going on. Still, for now I’m rather happy that the publication is picking up again and the stories are right back to the normal quality that I expect. It’s a great mix of stories this month, and without further hesitation, I’ll get to reviewing them!


Monday, October 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/18/20017 & 09/25/2017

Okay, so it’s a rather huge two weeks from Strange Horizons / Samovar, in part because THEY FUNDED 2018! Woo! So on top of the regular content there’s more bonus stories and poetry. And, well, on top of that, the last release of September is a new issue of Samovar! Now, because of time constraints I’m not going to be looking at the reprinted translations (there are two, one from the bonus content and one from the regular issue), but I definitely recommend you take a look at both of them. That still leaves me with three stories and four poems, though, so it’s a full review. The content gets a bit strange, I admit, but hey, it’s in the title of the publications. These are also rather emotionally heavy stories about war and revenge, about how the narratives we tell can shape the universe around us, for good and ill. And the pieces over all just go to show that Strange Horizons is a great publication and I’m so glad they funded. To the reviews!

Art by Odera Igbokwe