Thursday, February 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #245

Science Fantasy Month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with a special double issue, featuring four stories the bend genres and expectations. And these stories look very much at worlds that have suffered. That have gone through some sort of disaster or apocalypse or major fucking event that have left them more damaged. And the stories explore these broken worlds, revealing how that damage was done, and why, and in some instances how it can be healed (but in most of them it's more about how they cannot be). These are stories of people struggling to survive and, more than that, struggling to find meaning in places where bare survival often takes every possible effort. But they're about reaching for more, and perhaps helping each other get to someplace better. To the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #20 [February stuff]

Uncanny Magazine lands with four original stories and two poems in its February release. And throughout the works the theme I think I feel plays through is visibility. Is release. In most of the pieces, there are characters who are struggling against a system, against a world and culture, that has erased them. That has covered up uncomfortable pasts. That have demanded that those who are different censor themselves and constrain themselves so as not to offend the dominant. And the stories explore how the characters push back against that, how they are seen, how they are freed. In some, that freedom comes with a heavy price, with the destruction of something, maybe everything. And yet the stories seem to ask if that destruction might actually be necessary, to wipe away the corruption and the abuse. To unravel the mess of hurt and fear and exploitation. It’s an issue that covers science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and does a great job of giving fans of SFF a lot to experience. To the reviews!

Art by Tran Nguyen

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

X Marks the Story - February 2018

Hello! My latest column for The Book Smugglers is now live! It's full of (mostly) recent short SFF that I loved, so be sure to go and check that out. For those who just want the recs, here's a list of the stories I featured:

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire,” Jamie Berrout (Strange Horizons) (Short Story)
“The Starship and the Temple Cat,” Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) (Short Story)

Umberlight, Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld) (Novella)
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow (Apex) (Short Story)
"The Fisher of Bones," Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine) (Novelette)
“Try Looking Ahead,” Jason Rodriguez (Try Looking Ahead, Rosarium Publishing) (Short Story)

I also give some further reading, but I'll let you X-plore that on your own. Cheers!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #41 [February stuff]

The stories from Shimmer Magazine’s February offerings excel in coming from interesting viewpoints. From ghosts of boys who never were and never should have been to bags full of dreams and magic, the character work here involves narrators whose primary function is to accompany someone else. In that these are two excellently paired stories that highlight the ways in which these companions, these burdens, these people relate to those who carry them. And the stories offer two widely different takes on that theme, one of the narrators kind and helpful and loving and the other…well, not so much. The stories show just how much these presences can help the people carrying them, and just how much they can hurt as well. To the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, February 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/05/2018 & 02/12/2018

February brings a touch of the weird and rather literary to Strange Horizons, and the first two issues each feature a story and a poem that explore violation, bodies, and exposure. For me, the stories have a dense, rather poetic quality to them, the sense of reality bent around metaphor and pain. There's a heavy weirdness to them as well, with people becoming bears, bodies becoming art, and an all around just kind of uncomfortable/icky feel to things (I know icky is like the most literary of terms, right?). But there's a sharpness to the discomfort, an edge to the disturbing that these pieces reveal. And the poems are as always deep and layered and interesting and let's just get to the reviews!

Art by Dan Rempel

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #65

February brings a pair of stories to Nightmare Magazine that deal with violence and with magic and with women. With adaptation in the face of oppression and the threat of violence. It’s a very nicely paired issue that sees characters who change in the face of the difficult environment where misogyny is a force stalking them, hoping to devour them. In both stories, though, women find ways to take a power to themselves, to embrace perhaps a different way of being, a different way of organizing and valuing the world. In both, the pressure begins to become whether or not these women will betray each other, if men can convince them to embrace a system that has only marginalized and destroyed them. They’re not the easiest of reads, poised as they are between erasure and freedom, but I love the resonance of the issue and let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Kevron2001 / Fotolia

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus February 2018

Perhaps appropriate for the month, GigaNotoSaurus brings a rather romantic piece for its February release. Or, at least, a story very interested in love and trust, hope and freedom. It’s a story that features two very different characters finding a common language, a common purpose, and staying true to each other in order to do something they couldn’t do alone. It’s a touching and beautiful piece, for all that it’s dominated by the weight of captivity and the desire for release. But before I spoil everything, let’s get to the review!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #137

February brings four stories to Clarkesworld Magazine (2 short stories, 1 novelette, 1 novella) that explore humanity’s future, its hopes, and its failures. The pieces all explore future in which humanity has suffered great losses. For almost all of them, the loss comes from space, from forces that wreck humanity’s satellite net, or fry all its electronics, or see humanity set up on a distant and hostile world, or just manage to take out one person’s stored data. Whatever the case, the stories look at misfortune and winter, with people who find themselves (through no real fault of their own) living in times they very much would rather have avoided. And showing how they deal with it, how they deal with corruption and with the injustices small and large that plague them. It’s an issue with a lot of action that moves with a power and tight pacing and I should just get to those reviews already!

Art by Artur Sadlos

Monday, February 12, 2018

Regular Sip - Water into Wine by Joyce Chng (Annorlunda Books)

I’m dipping back into looking at longer works today with a review of a novella from Annorlunda Books. It’s my first experience the publisher but not with the author, whose fiction and poetry I’ve read and enjoyed. And in this sweeping piece, war and family, tradition and language are all laid bare and examined. What results is a story gripped by sorrow but refusing to fall into despair. Despite a harrowing series of events, the main character remains steadfast and strong. It’s an luminous read that had me close to tears at numerous points, and before I give too much away, let’s just get to the review!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online February 2018

February brings another themed issue of Flash Fiction Online, and one that I as a speculative fiction reviewer I probably could complain about. It’s a month of literary stories, where the speculative elements are light where they’re present at all. But really, I’m not sad about it. Variety is the spice of life and while I much prefer speculative fiction on the large scale, there’s still a lot to like about literary stories, and these three do a great job of capturing some heavy emotions and tense situations. They are stories that really get at feelings and atmosphere, the prose lyrical and fairly dense but never impenetrable. It’s a bit a departure from my normal reading emphasis, but I’m always up for a bit of a change of pace. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #244

It’s sci-fantasy month at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which means a trio of stories featuring people and their connections to AI. Indeed, all three of the stories in this issue feature AI, and specifically ships that either developed or were designed to have sentience. These AI all relate back to the characters around them—a ghost cat, the ship’s captain, a former lover—in ways that shed light on the larger situations revealed in these settings. Which, by and large, have to do with conflict, war, and violence. Again, in each of the stories there is a simmering conflict if not outright war, and the characters are tasked with trying to protect what they can, to prevent what they can, and to save what they can from the jaws of destruction and prejudice. The themes show the danger of insular and adversarial thinking, of making the universe into Us against Them, and they do so with magic and with machines, with loss and hope and honesty. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #33

The February issue of The Dark Magazine brings a pair of stories that prove that sometimes a person is their own worst enemy. The stories explore the ways that people trap themselves and seek to escape themselves. The way that they want to change, want to grow, and the forces that hold them back. For some, it’s their own hesitation and trauma. For others, it’s the limitations of their setting, poverty keeping them prisoner in a cycle that seeks to devour them. For both the characters, though, it means wading through memory and disgust, hope and anger, as they push toward the unknown, and find a heaping helping of darkness waiting for them. To the reviews!

Art by Vincent Chong

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #93

February brings a rather philosophical batch of stories to Lightspeed Magazine. These are pieces that explore ideas and concepts like justice, identity, and freedom through a speculative lens. In each, the characters are engaged in some ways against incorporeal threats and harms made tangible. In each, the characters’ struggles take on a weight and power as they engage with these concepts and seek to triumph over them. They are dense and stirring stories that don’t lose their immediacy or intimacy for trading in big ideas. To the reviews!

Art by Sam Schechter

Monday, February 5, 2018

Regular Sip - Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste (Broken Eye Books)

I’m looking at a novella today from Broken Eye Books. It’s I think my first introduction to the press, but based on the piece I definitely hope it's not my last. Fitting strongly into speculative horror, the story features ghosts and roads, love and yearning and loss. The piece is dark and dense at times, a shadow moving across the night, hunting for a receptive mind. At times like this I feel it’s time to turn out the lights and open the door and invite the darkness in, to let it take you where it wants to go, to reveal what it wants to show. It’s not the easiest of reads, featuring grief and loss and a driving hunger, but I think it’s well worth spending some time with, an imaginative and breathtaking story of ghosts, Marys, and fear. So without further delay, let’s get to the review!

Cover Art by gawki, Design by Jeremy Zerfoss

Friday, February 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com January 2018

After a light November and a completely absent December, Tor dot com returns in January for a rather long novelette about Hollywood, films, and what might have been. It’s a moving piece about family and about holding to the glamor of illusion, in the hopes that in holding to it there might be some comfort it can bring to a rather bleak reality. The story mixes history and alt-history, reality and alt-reality, and it makes for a strange but compelling read. Before I give too much away, though, to the review!

Art by Dadu Shin

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine January 2018

It’s a rather packed start to 2018 at Fireside Magazine, which sort of goes against its url a bit in dipping into some poetry this month. With five short stories, a poem, and the final chapter in the gripping and wrenching novelette that’s been playing out the last few months, there’s a lot to take in, and the works range from speculative takes on the future of genetic manipulation and identity to fantasy worlds ruled by cruel gods to a literary examination of immigration and vulnerability. Basically, the works cover a lot of ground, united by their sharp gaze and moving styles, not by their tone or subjects. Taken as a whole, it’s a group of works that find a nice balance, some fun and sweet, some pitch black and difficult. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Tesslyn B