Thursday, November 30, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 11: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack


We are one step closer to the end of the Year of Garak and I'm actually really sad about that. Because I have loved every moment of thinking and discussing everyone's favorite plain, simple tailor. Garak is a character that grows a lot during his time on the original show, and yet it's not until after the show ends that I think we find the most interesting stories about him. That deal with his fated return to Cardassia and what it has become. It's something we've explored a great deal already but coming into the home stretch we're looking at two incredible books by Una McCormack. First up of those is The Crimson Shadow, which finds Picard and the Enterprise dealing with a messy situation on Cardassia Prime. Do please, if you haven't, also check out the Year of Garak so far, because there might be some spoilers. You can find all the posts here: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October.

I'm also briefly joined again today by Nicasio Andres Reed, so please welcome him back. If you're unfamiliar with his work (first off, how dare you?), here's a reminder:

Nicasio Andres Reed is a Filipino-American writer and poet whose work has appeared in Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Shimmer, Liminality, Inkscrawl, and Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi and Fantasy Comics Anthology. Nico currently lives in Madison, WI. Find him on Twitter @NicasioSilang.

And now, to the discussion!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #239

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings an eye toward fable and parable, as well as interesting takes on nobility. In one, nobility is embodied by a couple trying in the face of great loss to operate within the bounds of their morals while still pursuing their business interests. It finds them relying on each other and discovering what their devotion has allowed to bloom. In the other, nobility is something someone is born into and that one exploits, kills, and betrays to maintain. It features wealth without consideration of wisdom, and it offers a brilliant counter to the other piece. It’s a dizzying one-two punch when it comes to looking at what nobility can mean, and what it can conceal. So yeah, review time!

Art by Veli Nyström

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q34

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly closes out its 2017 offerings with a new issue full of fiction and poetry that explores magic and mystery, darkness and the light of hope. With three stories and three poems, it’s a nicely balanced issue, closing the mega-narrative it began with the last issue and offering yet more worlds to explore. The pieces range from strange and disturbing to more joyous and tongue-in-cheek, and in general the pieces do a great job of evoking a sort of classic feel while remaining wholly original and fun. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Monday, November 27, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #40 [November 2017]

Shimmer Magazine brings two stories to its November offerings full of science and family, hurt and regret. Both piece feature characters who are driven to study, to document, to create. They let this desire drive them on and on, not quite seeing in time that their drive is taking them very much away from those that they care about, and away from the peace they can have with themselves. These are situations where they are touching great power and learning how to harness it, and any question of should is ignored and forgotten, sacrificed at the feet of necessity, or desire. The stories are ornate and moving, strange and wonderful, and present two very different ways of showing how scientific drive can be a double-edged sword. Now, to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, November 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #102

November brings a pair of rather interesting and wrenching stories to Apex Magazine. Stories that are touched by darkness but that, ultimately, give way to joy and healing and the hope for better days. These are stories that focus on unlikely pairs and unexpected meetings. That show that sometimes the characters that seem most strange can see more clearly in instances where the system fails. Where hope fails. Where there seems to be no way forward. Because they can see in different ways, it makes them guides, even when they are younger, and seen as a bit odd. These are stories about friendships, about connections, and about finding ways to understand and be understood. They are very different pieces, but make for a wonderful issue, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Max Mitenkov

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #19 [November stuff]

It’s an extra helping of SFF poetry for November’s Uncanny Magazine, with three original stories and four original poems, all exploring love and resistance, history and harm. The stories range quite widely, from a wrenching historical fantasy to a strange alt present to a love story from an artificial to a human. They interrogate art and love, design and trajectories. They feature characters wondering what to do next, fleeing violence and abuse, reaching out for kindness and trust. The poetry is rich and reveals a sense of place and family and the need to come together and work toward a better world, to rewrite the accepted past in order to find justice and identity and a space to be. It’s a full month of content and an excellent crop of short SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #62

It’s November at Nightmare Magazine and the month has brought a definite feel of impending winter. Of a chill that sinks into the bones. The stories actually take on different aspects of beauty and art. The first looks at the beauty of murder, the art of the killer, imagining a future where anything is possible, and the form of being a serial killer has been spread out among the stars. The second looks at beauty and disfigurement, ugliness and sacrifice. It shows a very different sort of artist, a more conventional kind of artist, seeking to find the magic of beauty, and to give himself to that magic. Both stories are dark and difficult and rather unsettling, but it makes for a great descent into these colder months. To the reviews!

Art by Psychoshadow / Fotolia

Monday, November 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/06/2017 & 11/13/2017

Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems to its early November offerings—pieces that swirl around growing up, danger, and being trapped. These stories feature women trying to navigate waters where they're not really protected from abuse or damage, where they are expected to act as lifeguards of their own bodies but are also essentially stripped of any ability or power to act when bad things happen. A lifeguard without the ability to swim or a floatation device isn't so much a lifeguard any more so much as a witness to drowning. The pieces show how abuse and vulnerability is passed down while keeping a taste of magic alive, in all its beauty and darkness, in all its complexity and tension. It's a lovely two weeks of content, and it's time to get to the reviews!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Quick Sip Reviews 2017 Recommended Reading List

[At the time of posting this list only includes selections through November 2017. More stories will be added to complete 2017, for a total of 78 stories. There are currently 72 stories from 23 publications, by 67 authors]

Hi all! It's that time of year, so I'm going to be posting up my recommended reading list. Just some wonky details first, though, so I'm up front about the limitations of the list. This comes courtesy of my monthly recommendation column, The Monthly Round. The rules are fairly easy, in that the stories must come from publications I regularly read. It's the single greatest limiting factor for the list, because I do not read everything, but this prevents me from essentially cherry-picking stories from other publications. So there are my favorite stories published at the places I read regularly and have reviewed. There's a whole wide world of other stories out there, but I did dearly love these. So I hope that, even with that limitation in mind, the list is helpful for finding some truly awesome short SFF. If you want more info on any of the stories, there are links to each or you can do a search of this blog to find my more in-depth reviews. Okay, enough preamble. To the list!!!!


Charles Payseur 2017 Awards Eligibility Post

Short Stories

Special attention to:

"The Sound of" from Nightmare Magazine #56 (May 2017)
Science fiction horror; bi main character; themes of erasure, self-censor, defeat.

Other stories:

"A Lumberjack's Guide to Dryad Spotting" from Flash Fiction Online (January 2017)
"Snow Devils" from Persistent Visions (January 2017)
"Feathers and Void" from Shimmer Magazine #37 (May 2017)
"Rivers Run Free" from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #230 (July 2017)
"Shoots and Ladders" from Diabolical Plots #33B (November 2017)

Poetry

"Those I found in the dark" from Twisted Moon #2
"becoming, c. a. 2000" from Glittership

Other things

I am NOT eligible for the Campbell

I very much am eligible for fan writer-type awards for my work on Quick Sip Reviews, Nerds of a Feather, and many more.

Cheers!

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Monthly Round - October 2017

The Monthly Round turns 3 today over at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. Go check it out. For those just interested in knowing my favorite short SFF reads of the month, the list is below. Cheers!

Tasting Flight - October 2017

“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny)
“Barbara in the Frame” by Emmalia Harrington (Fiyah)
“To Us May Grace Be Given” by L.S. Johnson (GigaNotoSaurus)
“My Struggle” by Lavie Tidhar (Apex)
“Claire Weinraub’s Top Five Sea Monster Stories (For Allie)” by Evan Berkow (Flash Fiction Online)
“The Whalebone Parrot” by Darcie Little Badger (The Dark)

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quick Sips - Lackington's #15 [Diseases]

Lackington’s is back with a new issue, and this one’s all about diseases. Ick. And yet for an issue devoted to sickness and corruptions of various sorts, the stories are as beautiful as I’ve come to expect from the publication, with prose that sings and stories that provide some complicated and lovely views of disease and those effected by disease. As much as the stories are about sicknesses, too, they are also about conventions, about the ways that we are taught to treat disease, and how effective (or not) those treatments can be. Often times, the stories show that diseases are but symptoms themselves of deeper maladies, ones that cannot be easily excised, that must be confronted and dragged into the light, dissected and examined and exorcised. My diagnosis? Review time!

Art by Gregory St. John

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #238

I will continue to say that Beneath Ceaseless Skies impresses me nearly every issue with how well it puts together stories that amplify each other. That resonate. That enrich each other. And here I find a pair of stories very much about pageantry and theater, about masks and masquerades. About playing different parts, and about theft, and about freedom. About people finding places to belong and people to belong with. And fuck is it a joyful, beautiful issue that makes me want to cry for how amazing it is. I know, I’m known as something of a positive reviewer, but if all stories were as fun as these, all issues as healing and hopeful as these, then I think any reviewer would be hard pressed to be negative. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Veli Nyström

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus November 2017

November brings a rather kickass novelette to GigaNotoSaurus, filled with magic, cooking, and family complications. I love pieces that look at food and how it’s used in speculative situations, and this is a wonderful spread of tastes and smells and spells. It moves quickly, part mystery and part action, an urban fantasy that adds a dash of romance and a heaping helping of fun. And it features characters dealing with the weight of what their parents want from them, walking the difficult path toward a future where they can be happy and themselves. It’s a path made easier, and safer, when not walked alone. So yeah, before I give too much away, let’s get to the review!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #134

November seems a rather experimental month for Clarkesworld, with five stories that are all a bit weird in some ways. They are five very different stories, about progress and about loss and about wonder. They feature settings deep in space or on Earth’s very different from the one we know. And really, for me, what binds them together is memory. The stories all deal with characters looking back on events, trying to form a picture of what’s happened and being confronted with the story that time has told. For some, it’s a way of moving on from the past and reaching toward the future. For some it’s about mapping a present that’s a closed loop, where progress is impossible. For some, it’s about tracing the paths of harm and hope to try and make sense of a present that is uncertain. But these are stories of time and memory, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Jonas De Ro

Friday, November 10, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online November 2017

The November issue of Flash Fiction Online takes on the theme of being thankful with three original stories that all revolve around ideas of finding kindness in the heart of struggle and hardship. In each of the stories the main characters find themselves in a bad situation, faced with being a witness, participant, and victim of pervasive conflict and loss. In the face of this, they all face questions of what to do, whether to turn away from the struggle and try to find an easier road for themselves, or to face the larger issue and resist it. The stories show characters finding small ways to push back, even when it seems hopeless, even when it seems useless. It reveals the power of hope, and how helping even one person makes a difference. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #30

The Dark Magazine brings a pair of original stories to their November issue that have a lot to do with hunger and with death. With souls and with moving on. In each the main characters face settings that are characters in themselves, places that define the rules of their lives—and the rules are as corrupt as the surroundings are fetid and worn. Survival isn’t the only dilemma, though, and in many ways it’s the least worry, almost an impulse. The real conflict is finding ways to try and make things better, to try and thrive despite the oppressive nature of the setting, and the cruelty of the other people living (or dying) around them. These are stories that balance tragedy and hope and try to reach for some way for the characters to remake themselves, and in doing so remake a bit of their world. To the reviews!

Art by Tomislav Tikulin

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #90

The November issue of Lightspeed Magazine is full of twists and turns, adventures and magic, dark bargains and chance encounters. And, for me, the issue is all about connections. About strangers and family. The pieces as weave around the bonds made between people who might not be related by blood. Who are drawn to each other by care and by shared memory and by the mutual desire for something different. The story is about finding friends in odd places and having that bond, that friendship, become something transforming and affirming and amazing. The stories are not exactly romantic so much as they show how powerful human connections can be, how trust and love go beyond the romantic or sexual and unite people trying to create better worlds, even when it seems impossible. To the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/30/2017

It’s a special Arab SFF issue of Strange Horizons, thanks to the successful stretch goal from the fundraiser earlier this year. Two stories and four poems anchor an issue that is loud in its quiet, that keeps the speculative elements subtle and wrenching, and that focuses on frustration, fear, and corruption. These are works that show characters trying to live their lives and finding that other forces and factors are making that difficult where it’s not impossible. The works look at immigration and distance, voice and home and faith, and they all do a great job of showing why international SFF is important to experience, to find the visions of the world that we might not otherwise be exposed to. So let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers October 2017

Just when I thought the season was over, The Book Smugglers return for a special Halloween story. It's...well, it's not incredibly Halloween-y, but it is a rather touching and ultimately dark story about utility and purpose and humanity. The story does a great job of building up a weird, slightly magical science fiction setting with a great hook and a devilish ending. It does have something of a ghost story aesthetic going for it, too, so I suppose you can consider it fit for the season. In any event, it's unsettling at times and decidedly creepy and before I give too much away let's just get to the review!

Art by Desirina Boskovich

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Regular Sip - "Bearly a Lady" by Cassandra Khaw

I’m back looking at the Book Smugglers Novella Imitative, this time with a paranormal rom-com featuring a werebear, the London fashion scene, and the trials and tribulations of magical dating. In the past, Book Smugglers certainly have not avoided romantic stories or plot lines, and this piece revels in the high tension, high drama world of dating within the supernatural population, full of strange abilities, powerful appetites, and occasional blood-lust. It’s a fun story, wrapping as it does some of the difficulty of dating while large, dating while bi, navigating an industry and world where toxic men seem most insulated from harm and already marginalized women are most at first. To be powerful in this setting is itself an aggressive act, one met often with cruelty and abuse, and the story does a fair job of balancing that. But before I give too much away, to the review!

Art by Muna Abdirahman

Friday, November 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction October 2017

October's Fireside Fiction offers up five short stories (four of them flash fiction) and two more chapters of the ongoing Fisher of Bones novella. The fiction is definitely fitting for the season, dealing with monsters and with children, with harm and with ghosts. The stories circle around the idea of victims and how those victims seek to find voice and power. And how, occasionally, that power isn't enough, and the flow of power and history is too much to fight against. The stories carry with them a darkness and a creepiness, but one that is offset by hope, and by people helping people. Sometimes the help isn't quite enough, but often it is, and in any event it makes for some very compelling reads. To the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform October 2017

Just in time for Halloween, the October Terraform story are a bit spooky. They explore what it means to be human, and especially what it means to be human in a time when technology and abuses both personal and societal are accepted and normalized. It visits people and robots and ghosts and stranger beings still who must grapple what is to live with the inheritance of humanity, or by changing themselves who try to avoid it. It's about reinvention and learning, about compassion and movement and evolution. And the stories are beautiful and just a bit eerie, which makes them perfect for the season. So let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #237

Whenever I get a new issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, my first inclination is to find out how the stories fit together. More than any other publication, BCS does an excellent job of pairing its stories. Perhaps because it does just two an issue, but there’s almost always something to link the tales, and this issue is no different. While the stories are thematically rather distant, and aesthetically fairly different as well (though each with perhaps a bit of a Western feel), they are linked by some key ideas. Metal, first and most. The first story deals with Iron, the second with Silver. And in each, these metals are used for magic, for a perceived justice, only to have that justice come into question, and the righteousness of the main characters comes into conflict with the harm that they do. These are stories of elections and revenge, voice and hunger. The pieces go together well, drawing a picture of desperate people and the complex idea of freedom. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!
Art by Veli Nyström