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 October 2017. More stories will be added to complete 2017, for a total of 78 stories. There are currently 66 stories from 22 publications, by 61 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)


"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.


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)


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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 10: "When It Rains..." "Tacking Into the Wind" "Extreme Measures" "The Dogs of War" & "What You Leave Behind"

Welcome back to a year-long celebration of everyone’s favorite plain, simple Cardassian. Every month I’ve been looking at various media starring Elim Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and this month I’ve reached the end of the television series. The culmination of all the various plot lines that had been building over seven years of Garak stories. It’s...well, it’s big. And it pays off in huge ways, just as it disappoints in others. But if you’re just checking out the Year of Garak, I very much recommend starting at the beginning, as there are things that will be referenced from previous talks. You can find all the posts here: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September.

And I’m flying solo this month, looking at the final episodes of DS9. Or, at least, the parts with Garak. The finale of DS9 spanned a great many episodes, after all, and a great many plot threads. Garak returned to play a rather significant role, though, first with Kira and Odo helping in Damar’s resistance, and then on Cardassia itself, helping to push the people toward open rebellion against the Dominion. The finale as a whole does a great job of wrapping up everything that DS9 had begun, weaving together character arcs and larger political arcs to bring the Alpha Quadrant to a whole new era. So buckle up and get ready for a whole lot of me talking about Garak. Cheers!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com October 2017

It's another rather light month from Tor dot com, with one short story and one novella, though the two pieces deliver powerful messages of art and fear and the way that a toxic culture can lead to people falling victim to demons internal and external. Both look at characters being pushed to participate in systems that are...not exactly healthy. One is a model influenced by financial reasons and a pursuit of "the art" who nearly helps to usher in a true nightmare. The other focuses on a young man pressured by his own insecurities, fears, and weaknesses toward self-destruction and endless anger. Both stories show a sort of abuse that is insidious and deep, and how characters can begin to push back against it. To the reviews!

Art by Goñi Montes

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Regular Sip - "Reenu-You" by Michele Tracy Berger [Book Smugglers]

Okay, so I’m a little behind in my novella reading, but I’m making a start of things with this, the second of the Book Smugglers Novella Initiative releases. It’s a story that revolves around hair and community, injustice and identity. Hair is something that is not politically neutral, after all, carrying with it a slew of expectations, prejudices, and exploitations. And, of course, these pressures and pitfalls fall along racial, gender, and social lines, explored in this novella to sharp and shocking effect. As a bald white guy, it’s something that both is hard to understand as well as incredibly easy to see. After all, if someone started poisoning hair products aimed at white men like me, desperate to retain or regrow hair, the reaction, I imagine, would be immediate and intense. But of course, likely things would never have gotten that far. Testing and science already favor white cis men as research subjects, skewing most data about health risks, and that’s not even mentioning what happens when corruption and systemic racism mix to fail to regulate products and services aimed at people of color. So yeah, sorry, I really should just get to this review!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/16/2017 & 10/23/2017

It’s a somewhat brief two weeks of content from Strange Horizons in some ways, and I’m looking at a story and two poems. In other ways, though, the content is a bit deceptive, as one of the poems is certainly story-length and there’s a very in depth and expansive essay on Blade Runner that everyone should read but that I’m not going to react here, mostly because I’ve not seen the movie. So yeah. But there’s a sense of transformation and time captured in all of the pieces that I’m looking at, a sense of different worlds coming together or diverging. In some ways these works explore perspective and scope and the way that individuals lose themselves—to collectivity, to dreams, to time. The people in these works are looking for something and are giving away themselves in that pursuit, though whether to become more themselves or more something else is something you as a reader will have to decide. To the reviews!

Art by Sarah Webb

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Quick Sips - "The Splendid Goat Adventure" by Rose Lemberg

It’s not super often that I look at projects that aren’t available for the general public, but when certain stories come along I just can’t help myself. And getting a chance to tell you about a new BirdVerse story? Well, I kinda gotta. The story is available as a download to any and all backers of Rose Lemberg’s Patreon, found here. And for this story alone, the price of admission is well worth it. I myself am a patron, just for full disclosure. But this story. Told originally as a serial story, it features a fairly minor character from “A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power,” Marvushi, and gives them their own epic adventure. Or, if not exactly least very fun and blissfully ridiculous. Often the BirdVerse stories can be deep and wrenching and just a bit shattering, but this story...well, goats! Academics! The promise of a Secret Goat Society! People, this is exactly the joy you might need right now. So yeah, definitely go and support Rose and their Patreon, while I jump into this review!

Art by Rose Lemberg

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #18 [October stuff]

October arrives at Uncanny Magazine with a flush of monsters and love letters, a complex web of desires, communities, and speculative traditions. The stories aren’t really what I’d consider spooky, though they do have an eye toward “classic” costumes—monsters, historical fashion, and robots. Instead, the stories and poems as well seem more concerned with the ideas and styles of the past, about the ways the present erases the past in order to create a new vision of the future. Or, perhaps, the ways that people now imagining the future come to override the imaginings from the past, so that what is futuristic and what is contemporary and what is anachronistic all are thrown into question. In some of the pieces, it means the styles of the past are updated and reinvigorated, while other works seek to find strength and joy in how the past imagined the future and how the past actually was, before time and taste and injustice erased everything that didn’t fit into the dominate narrative of history. So yeah, these are some complex and deep stories that still manage a sense of fun and focus. To the reviews!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #236

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings a pair of stories very much concerned with harm and vulnerability. Both present tales where pairs of people circle around each other, trying their survive and thrive but also trying to do the right thing, to find some measure of peace and healing for themselves. In both stories, though, that healing isn’t really wholly possible. In one of the stories, the harm done cannot be erased, has to be faced and dealt with every day, at every moment. In the other, the characters try to erase the harm, to just ignore and forget about it, and yet that ignorance is fragile, no where near as strong as the awful knowledge the other story’s characters live with. So really it’s another very well paired issue involving people living on the margins of their communities, subject to violence and other dangers the moment a scapegoat is required. To the reviews!

Art by Veli Nyström

Monday, October 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #39 [October stuff]

October at Shimmer Magazine brings a pair of stories that are very much concerned with place. In each, characters move through a world that is full of small wonders and magic. Their lives, their dreams, their identities—these are all tied to where they are and where they are from. Their homes, beautiful and yet, as the stories reveal, not without their problems, not without their shadows. Because in both stories the characters are faced with evidence that their worlds are not as innocent as they want to believe, and in both those characters must decide whether to retreat from the hard truths facing them to face the darkness and expose the truth of what has been done. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Monthly Round - September 2017

The Monthly Round, which pairs my favorite short SFF with booze, tasting notes, and reviews, is now live at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, covering my selections for September 2017. Please go check it out here.

For those just wanting a list and links, though, I've provided those below.

Tasting Flight - September 2017

“Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)
“The Last Spell of the Raven” by Morris Tanafon (Glittership)
“On The Other Side of the Sea” by Nerine Dorman (Omenana)
“Feeding Mr. Whiskers” by Dawn Bonanno (Fireside Fiction)
“They, We, Me” by Ryan Bloom (Terraform)
“Stories We Carry On The Back Of The Night” by Jasper Sanchez (Mithila Review)



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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 9: Scorched Earth by Altariel

So, today is something of a treat for the Year of Garak. Where the rest of the year has looked at canonical Star Trek in all it's glory, today we're shifting focus a bit and looking at a fan work that features Garak in a much different light than we've seen him so far. Fanfiction, people. Fanfiction! For those just tuning in, the Year of Garak is an exploration of whatever Garak texts I can find. Please check out the discussion thus far: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August.

I'm joined again today by SFF poet, writer, and all around awesome person Nicasio Andres Reed. We're looking at "Scorched Earth" by Altariel, a fanfiction novella that explores an alternate timeline where the Cardassian/Romulan plot to destroy the Founders (and their homeworld) was a complete success. Not that things go exactly to plan, but as we discussed in August, the episodes the fanfiction spin out of feature Garak welcomed back into the fold, and the story follows his return to power, in all its chilling detail.

Also, in case you forgot...

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!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #9 [poetry]

People, there’s a whole lot of SFF poetry in the most recent issue of Mithila Review. Twelve poems from nine different poets means there’s a hell of a lot to experience. The pieces swirl around a lot of themes, but some major ones are growth and imagination. Not surprising, perhaps, given that SFF is about wonder and imagination, about chasing those visions and dreams that are often called foolish or childish. Here we find the value of keeping something of a child’s view of the universe, without borders or limitations. There are other works that look at what happens when we let those borders constrict too much, and how sometimes we might struggle against the injustice of complacency. There’s a lot to get to, though, so I’ll jump right into the reviews!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #9 [prose]

This special issue of Mithila Review is so big I need to take it in two courses! The first, this one, will focus on the original fiction, while the second go will look at the poetry (and wow is there a lot of poetry). The fiction is no slouch either, though, with five new pieces, including an older German story translated in its entirety to English for the first time. The stories examine borders and difference. Violations and connections. They look at what makes people vulnerable, and what makes people strong. These are stories that feature aliens and visions of other worlds but also very intimate glimpses into the lives of others, and how we might better empathize with our fellow humans. These are stories to inspire and, at times, confound, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Quick Sips - Omenana #10

A new issue of Omenana is out, and with it comes seven original stories that move around magic and loss, hope and family. Many of the stories in this issue deal very closely with relationships and family, and specifically with the links between parent and child. For some of the stories, this means showing how parents can hurt their children, leading them into danger by not properly preparing them for what they might find. By not trusting their children, they run the risk of leaving them open to ruin. Other stories look more at the responsibility that parents have for their children, for making sure they have a future worth living. And still others look at the wounds left behind when a parent dies, when time and circumstance steal away that guiding presence, and what children might do with that open wound. It’s a full issue full of excellent SFF, so let’s get right to the reviews!

Art by Setor Fiadzigbey

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership Summer 2017 [part 2]

I’m looking at the second half of the Summer 2017 issue of Glittership and it’s another great collection of queer SFF. Because of what I got to last time, what’s left is an original story, a reprint story, and two original poems. I must say I’m an especial fan of venues that mix their fiction and poetry, and this half of the issue features outstanding examples of both. All the pieces in this half of the issue seem to follow a theme surrounding repression and fear. The pieces are about characters moving through a world that is openly hostile to them, where they don’t fit in and cannot full express who they are. Because of fear, because of hate, they have to hide a part of themselves, and the action threatens to rot them from within. In some of the pieces this gives way to acceptance and expression, and in some it…doesn’t. It’s a mix of heartbreaking and heart warming, and it’s all very good, so let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #18 [September stuff]

September brings a heavy strangeness to the pages (screen?) of Uncanny, with three original stories and two poems that all are a bit weird in their own ways. Especially the fiction seems to ooze a certain surreal quality that is unsettling even as it’s compelling, revealing worlds where the rules are just a little off, or else mapping areas of our own world where the rules are much different than we might have assumed. There is magic here, but not always the most obvious kind. And there is certainly a pervasive darkness to many of the pieces, a pain at the heart of many of the stories. But there’s also a reach toward empathy, and understanding, and community. Many of the pieces involve a community trying to build a place for themselves, to carve out something from a hostile world where their rules can hold sway. But before I drift too far afield, to the reviews!

Art by Ashley Mackenzie

Friday, September 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #100

It’s time to celebrate because Apex Magazine turns 100 this month! Woo! As a special treat, there’s an extended table of contents to this September issue, but mostly in the form of three reprinted stories. I definitely recommend you check those out, but I’m keeping my eyes on the original works, of which there are a new novelette and short story. The stories are very much about survival, and in particular about girls surviving tragedies that make them orphans and that leave them with lasting scars, either physically or emotionally. And both stories see these characters pushed to confront their pasts in order to prevent new tragedies from unfolding. These are rather uncomfortable stories at times but also carry with them a gripping tension and action and a strong payoff. It’s been 100 issues from Apex and as I get to these reviews I can only hope for at least 100 more!

Art by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #234

This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features two stories about hunting and about violence. In each, there are two sides, hungry and in many ways brutal, who move through the world with certainty in their own worth. Caught between them, though, are legions of victims whose only crimes seem to be being in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught between larger forces who want something. Who want war, mostly, and conquest, whether on a more intimate scale or on the scale of empires and cultures. The stories are dark and uncomfortable, offering no easy answers and really no heroes, just those with power and those who must try to survive being without. These are pieces about victims, and about predators, and I should just get to the reviews already!

Art by Jordan Grimmer

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #39 [September stuff]

The editorial in this month’s Shimmer Magazine gives a glimpse into the element linking the stories—ghosts. And both of the original stories for September revolve around hauntings, and around ghosts, and around stories. In each there are people who are misunderstood, people who walk through life but who never really feel a part of the same world as everyone else. That might have to do with their gender and how they are perceived, or it might have to do with their role and their power. But in both stories the characters are confronted with stories underneath stories, with unearthing hurt and violence and trying to bring some closure and healing to a bad situation. And both seem to focus on how the characters reach toward connection through a haze of difficulty, though the disconnect they often feel with other people. These are two strange but touching stories that I should just get to reviewing!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #60

Nightmare Magazine’s September issue features a nicely paired duo of original stories that explore faith and sacrifice, bargains and power. For both characters, they come face to face with a place of power, with a kind of temple, and have to make some decisions. Do they listen to the voice speaking to them, nudging their feet toward a desired outcome? Do they resist in the face of pain and violence and the prospect of losing everything they have? What does faith really mean to them, and what are distant gods in the face of those that are present, immediate, and loud? These are two stories that take a dark look at gods and power, and it’s time to review them!

Art by Foldyart1980 / Fotolia