Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasty Quarterly Q33

There's something of a surprise in this issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly—a pair of linked novelettes! The stories are dark and center on the European invasion and colonization of the Americas, and the death and sins associated with that time. The stories feature characters in some ways divorced from their people, alone and looking for punishment for the direction their lives have taken. Instead they find new purpose in the face of a dark and twisted threats that go far beyond the Europeans knocking at the door. Along with another short story and a nice range of poetry, the issue marks an interesting complication of what's normally considered Heroic Fantasy. But it works, not only to fit into the guiding theme of the publication, but to find new territory to discover. Onward to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #59

August brings a pair of rather short short stories to Nightmare Magazine. In both, characters find a bit of magic lurking at the edges of the mundane. The two stories differ sharply, though, in how the main characters approach that magic. In the first, the magic is familiar, grown out of the land where the character is from, as much a part of him as not. In the second story, though, the magic springs forth from something quite foreign, for something dark and alluring that turns out to be incredibly dangerous. These are both stories about a loss, about a disappearance, but they take very different paths to that final moment when someone realizes they’ve been left behind. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Chorazin / Adobe Stock Art

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #17 [August stuff]

August brings another packed month of content from Uncanny Magazine. And as much as it pains me to do so, I’m going to be stepping away from reviewing the nonfiction, not only here but probably everywhere. I love Uncanny in part because of its nonfiction, but I feel I need a little bit of slack in what is a difficult time for me so my apologies. I will still definitely be reviewing all the original fiction and poetry, though, and there are three stories and two poems to look at. Everything this month seems to hinge a bit on transformations. Seasons shifting. Women being made into trees. A person becoming a city. These transformations reveal a certain corruption at the heart of the worlds the pieces explore—our world. And they show that often there is no good way to avoid unwanted change, that when there are those with power and those without, harm and injustice often follow, and those without are often the ones to suffer regardless of what they do. It’s a brace of difficult and rather dark SFF, but there’s some light as well. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Kirbi Fagan

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Monthly Round - July 2017

The Monthly Round is up over at Nerds of a Feather, Flock together. It gathers up my favorite July 2017 short SFF reads and pairs them with booze, tasting notes, and reviews. It's a lot of fun.

For those who just want the title and links, well...

Tasting Flight - July 2017

“A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power” by Rose Lemberg (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“Owl vs. The Neighborhood Watch” by Darcie Little Badger (Strange Horizons)

“Cracks” by Xen (Fiyah)

“Waiting on a Bright Moon” by JY Yang (Tor dot com)

“Elsewhere” by Meera Jhala (Flash Fiction Online)

"A Question of Faith” by Tonya Liburd (The Book Smugglers)



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/07/2017 & 08/14/2017

There's a pair of stories and a pair of poems in the first two weeks of Strange Horizons' August content. The stories present brilliant portrayals of minds that are part human and part computer. Minds that have been made into something else—into a ship, into a solar collector. This is not always a consensual act, and the stories look not only of the cost of such a transformation, but how these new beings interact with their world, their civilizations. Through war and extinction, the stories manage two very powerful looks at decay and hope. The poems as well provide a nice array of strange ideas and poignant memories, as they tour a house of birds and the filmography of a dead actor. It's an incredibly two weeks of content, and I will just get to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #38 [August stuff]

It’s a rather action packed month of stories from Shimmer Magazine. With two original pieces, the settings move from old myths to weird West, from a pair of monsters circling each other unaware to a woman trying to outrun those that would suppress the truth. Both stories feature women who feel the need to act. Mostly, to act against the injustice of their situations. The cultures that pressure them to accept what domestic service they can offer and a death because of the inequities of the system. Instead they decide to risk a much younger death in order to fight back. To push against the pressures wanting them to conform in order to make space. It’s not always a very successful fight they wage, but it’s one that they believe in, and it makes for some interesting reading. So let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #131

It's another full month of stories from Clarkesworld, though only the translation this time is a novelette. The stories are dense, though, and wonderfully strange, revealing the topography of meat, the tapestry of stars, the malleability of human flesh, and the tenacity of scientists working to protect data. There is a theme running through many of the stories of form and perseverance. People stand against the enormity of societal pressures to conform, to accept erasure or corruption or expectation. They follow what they know to be right even as it threatens to tear them apart. It makes for a nicely balance, emotionally impacting issue. To the reviews!

Art by Pascal Blanche

Monday, August 14, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #99

The subtitle for this issue of Apex Magazine is “A Celebration of Indigenous American Fantasicsts,” and I think that’s a great way of framing these four original short stories. Selected by guest editor Amy H. Sturgis, they are a celebration, though not always an overjoyed one. It’s a celebration with an edge of memory, with a weight that comes from constant danger and corruption. These are stories that examine identity and authenticity and family. That look at the way that relationships can fray or be strengthened by being in danger, by being isolated and marginalized. They are a wonderful bunch of stories, and form a nicely coherent and flowing issue that you should go and buy immediately. To the reviews!

Art by Dana Tiger

Friday, August 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies # 231

August at Beneath Ceaseless Skies starts out with blood and war and cruelty. With two stories that look squarely at corruption and the specter of overwhelming power and corruption. The two stories show very different scopes of a similar core conflict between...well, not exactly good and evil, though if you squint it might seem that way at first. More like between cruelty and compassion. Or between freedom and enslavement. The stories show just how similar these sides can be at times, in their methods and their results, and how it can seem incredibly pointless in the face of the limitations of hope. And yet both still leave room for the characters to strive for something they might never reach, that they will probably never reach, because in the striving there is something beautiful and rewarding and valuable. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jordan Grimmer

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus August 2017

It’s a longer release from GigaNotoSaurus this month, with a long novelette that warms the cold, lonely chambers of my reviewer-heart. There is something to be said about a story that just embraces being an adventure, that features characters striking out into the unknown wilderness for the joy of it. And it reveals a world of striking beauty and harsh reality. Of danger and mistrust and old hurts, but also the possibility of new growth and new hope. Of healing. It’s an absolutely gorgeous story that is well worth the time and effort, and I’ll just get to the review!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #87

It’s a rather subdued batch of stories for August’s Lightspeed Magazine. Most of them focus on conversations and internal motivations. They focus on both great kindnesses, and great abuses. Throughout the stories there is a sense of slowness, of time. These pieces are not in a hurry. Instead they unfold thoughtfully, patiently, holding important truths toward the end when they can be revealed in all their complex beauty and ugliness. These are stories that hold a weight to them that goes beyond explosions or monsters—what they face instead are corrupt institutions that form the bedrock of society. They look at the pain and the hurt being done and they offer no easy answers, no ready solutions, just the assurance that people helping being can be a source of magic and light, just as people hurting people can be a source of a darker sort of magic, and one that’s all around us. To the reviews!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2017

Summer is still going strong at Flash Fiction Online, but with August comes a slow slide toward autumn, the bright colors of spring now distant and the heat of the summer leaning toward oppressive. To push back against that, here are three original stories that focus on relationships and, mostly, the redemptive potential of relationships—friendships and partnerships that allow people to grow in ways that they might not have been able to do alone. The stories can be heavy at times with fear and uncertainty and hurt, but end up shining with the beauty of the connection they highlight. And the issues doesn’t stay completely serious, offering a lighter, funnier tale to ease the heavier impacts. So yeah, to the reviews!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #27

August brings a pair of rather strange stories to The Dark Magazine, including one that’s much longer than I’m used to from the publication. Both stories look at different kinds of hunger, different ways that the main characters seek to fill up an emptiness inside them. For both characters, the emptiness has something to do with the loss of their mothers when they were quite young. For one, that loss is a trauma that he can’t seem to heal from. For the other, the loss opens up a void that cannot be filled, that is filled with anger and uncertainty. These are stories that do a good job exploring place and grief, the characters trying to find some map to lead them toward peace and fulfillment. How the characters follow those maps, though, is quite different. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Tomislav Tikulin

Friday, August 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/17/2017, 07/24/2017, 07/31/2017

It’s a nicely balanced three weeks of content from Strange Horizons. For my part I’m looking at a story and three poems, though there was also a bit of nonfiction that is certainly worth checking out. All the pieces do a nice job of mixing the strange and the mundane, the exotic and the familiar. The story shows the magic of desperation and family, and also the ache of growing up and growing apart. And the poems look at fairy tales and out space, food and freedom. All the pieces digs a bit at something that seems like it might be ordinary and finds something fantastical to hold on to, even as they reveal very intimate, personal truths. So without further delays, the reviews!

Art by Sebastian Gomez

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2017

The stories from Tor dot com this month offer a bit of everything—shared universe urban fantasy, far future space opera, near future apocalyptic science fiction, and a sort of twisted fairy tale. And the stories are about resistance and standing up to bullies, or at the very least standing up for the vulnerable, for those who society has let slip into danger, pain, and erasure. The stories sing with a power that crosses galaxies and makes bones dance for justice, and they center characters in some ways just trying to get on with their lives who must stop and take stock…and then take action. To the reviews!

Art by Victo Ngai

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction July 2017

The July stories from Fireside Fiction keep things rather short and sharp, with three flash pieces and a short story. The fiction is moving and rather violent, showing characters faced with difficult or even impossible situations—the betrayal of a sibling, the dangers of unknown worlds, the end of human life on Earth. The stories all take a rather measured look at people who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and asking if they really have to. In some of the stories, the answer is a resounding yes, reported with a gun's firing. In some, the answer is no, as people can decide to step back from the brink, to change their role from active to support. And in some, the answer is more nebulous, less certain. But in all of them the characters must look within and ask how far they will go for their cause. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that the new BlackSpecFic report is up for 2016 and the numbers are…less than ideal. In any event, very much go read the report by Cecily Kane and then all the commentary by a slew of contributors. Do it!!!

Art by Galen Dara

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers July 2017

It's another busy month at The Book Smugglers this July with two new Gods & Monsters short stories! And really the stories are very different takes on the central theme, the first looking at faith and how it's constructed, how it's framed, and how it can take on a life of its own. The second visits much more the monsters side of things to present a gothic horror that is full of gasps, fainting, and things lurking in the dark. Both stories take a close look at the characters first, and on family. They examine the ways that family can be a burden, or a great strength. And they both provide moments of action, moments of quiet contemplation, and moments of staggering horror. So yeah, let's get to those reviews!

Art by Jennifter Johnson

Monday, July 31, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, Part 7: The Never Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack

Welcome back! The year of Garak continues in glorious fashion, though this week we might be sidelining our hero to look at a work where he's not really the focus. For those just tuning in, I've been looking at various Garak media, from short stories to novels to the original DS9 episodes. Basically, if it's got Garak, I want to examine it, because I love Garak and something needs to distract me from...other things 2017 has brought with it. If you want to catch up, here's links to the previous posts: January | February | March | April | May | June.

I'm joined again today by SFF poet, writer, and all around awesome person Nicasio Andres Reed. We're looking at another tie-in novel by Una McCormack, The Never Ending Sacrifice so SPOILERS apply. Feel free to jump into the comments (they are moderated so it might take a little while for them to show up but I will try my best to check in regularly). Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the discussion!

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!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #6: LET'S GET INVISIBLE!

Can I just say that I love that these titles feel the need to use exclamation points. Like LET'S GET INVISIBLE would have been too weak and dull. No, fuck that! the book seems to say. If we're doing this then WE'RE FUCKING DOING THIS!!! I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense when you've got death in the mix. SAY CHEESE AND DIE! seems like less an overstatement, same with TICK TOCK, YOU'RE DEAD! But...getting invisible just doesn't have the same weight to it. The same need for that exclamation point. Maybe if it was LET'S GET INVISIBLE...TO DEATH! I could more fully behind it. As it is, and especially with how this book turns out, that exclamation is a promise that the book does not follow through on.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Queer Smut Reviews - Nasty: Fetish Fights Back, eds. Anna Yeatts & Chris Phillips

Welcome to the second installment of Queer Smut Reviews. So make sure you’re wearing your protective poncho and buckle in, because it’s a rather wild ride. I’m looking at a collection of short stories today, Nasty: Fetish Fights Back, edited by Anna Yeatts and Chris Phillips of Flash Fiction Online. It’s smut for a good cause, too, as a portion of proceeds go to Planned Parenthood (which is even more important now, given all the health things going down right now). There are 27 stories in all, And full disclosure, I wrote one of them. So really I’ll only be mentioning 26 stories in this review.

Now, I tried to look more closely at the stories that were specifically SFF. That doesn’t mean I just skipped the rest, but you’ll probably notice that my reviews are more robust for the SFF stories. This is both because smutty SFF is exactly what I want to be looking at and because if I wrote long thoughts on them all my hands would fall off. It’s a rather great collection, though, and I definitely recommend that people pay attention all of the stories. Part of the reason I want to look at smutty SFF with a critical lens is much the same reason that this collection exists—to try and bring people together to resist the idea that sexuality and bodies are topics that don’t belong in polite conversation. Where the stories shine the most, I feel, is where they look at consent and transparency, people talking to people and negotiating to make sure everyone is safe and getting what they want. Where I think the stories falter a bit is when they neglect that.

But enough stalling—let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Regular Sip - In Search of Lost Time by Karen Heuler

I’m back for a new Regular Sip review of a recent novella out from Aqueduct Press. My main familiarity with the press has actually been through WisCon, as the press until recently had produced small collections that would collect work from the Guests of Honor of the convention. And their table is always well worth checking out in the dealer room. This novella is part of a line of theirs called Conversation Pieces, which are typically small paperbacks meant to promote, well, conversation. And in that this novella is incredibly fitting, providing a dense and fascinating experience focusing on moral dilemmas and personal tragedies. But before I give too much away, I’ll just jump right into the review!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #17 [July stuff]

July finds Uncanny Magazine full once again, this time with three original stories, two poems, and two nonfiction pieces. And may of the pieces examine the idea of home. Of community. Of something encroaching, and how people react to that. In some of the pieces, how is a physical building, a place of healing and haunting. In some it is a neighborhood, or a country, or a place among the stars. Many of these works show people reaching for a home that is different, that is better, where change is possible, where injustice and corruption can be put aside at last. These are stories, poems, and nonfiction pieces that reveal stunning compassion and blistering resistance. They are sometimes tender, sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, and all in all an incredibly collection of SFF. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #98

July’s Apex Magazine features a nice little editorial that celebrates the USA’s birthday in a rather nice way. And the stories it brings to the table are an interesting pair, keeping things firmly in the realm of science fiction, probability and time travel, rabbits and desperation. In both we find characters on missions. In the first, it’s a mission to make sense out of a random universe. In the other, it’s a mission to undo what is being perceived as a great wrong. The stories differ greatly and offer up some very different interpretations of dark SFF, but they offer up some interesting and rather philosophical points to ponder. And before I get to distracted, it’s time to review!

Art by Quentin-Vladimir Castel

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #38 [July stuff]

It’s a bit of a strange month at Shimmer Magazine, with two original stories that full embrace the weird. Whether that means imagining a world where mutant zombie-lizard-people face some Western-tinged gunslinging or a world something like 1920’s France where people are deconstructing themselves in the face of war, these are pieces that embrace SFF’s ability to be different. And they are stories of characters in turmoil, in pain, trying to make sense out of a world that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. These are story with action and with something distinct and rather undefinable about them and lacking the language to describe them in broad strokes, I’ll try to get to specifics in the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, July 21, 2017

Regular Sip - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #230

Okay, so...this is something of a special review for me. Firstly (and most importantly), it's NEW BIRDVERSE OMG YAAAASSSS!!! Ahem. Aside from that, it's the longest title that I've read from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a stunning novella that is available for free both to read and to listen to (as a 5 hr podcast!). The second part of the novella is also appearing alongside a short story of mine, "Rivers Run Free," which of course I am not reviewing but hey, if you all want to read and review it, feel free! :D Anyway, this novella is one of my favorite reads, proving once and for all that one of the sexiest things in the universe is consent. So without further ado, the review!

Art by Jeff Brown

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #130

It’s a rather dark month of content at Clarkesworld, where the CW might well stand for content warning for most of the pieces. These are stories that take a look at the aftermath of harm. They look at post-apocalypses, post-traumatic plots that lead to further traumas. These are stories where, by and large, characters find themselves in situation they never asked for. Pressed into guarding a strange bridge. Woken from a space hibernation. Taken by raiders to do dangerous work. The stories are not as a general rule very happy. Instead they are full of violence and the looming threat of violence. But many of the stories are also full of hope and resistance. Some…not so much, but it’s a very interesting group of stories. Review time!

Art by Eddie Mendoza

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #58

The July stories from Nightmare Magazine seem to me to be all about consent and victims. About the ways in which people seek their own gratification, their own wishes, without pausing to think about what they’re doing. Or, when they do stop, they still privilege their own wants over the safety of others. These are some complex stories that look at the ways that relationships fall apart and people can turn on each other, hurt each other, by not asking the right questions, by losing sight of those around them in their pursuit of what they want. These are some rather uncomfortable and violent stories, and yet the violence is pointed and impacting, revealing the systems in place that reward ignorance and punish empathy. It’s definitely a matter of degrees, though, and the stories show different kinds of hope in moving forward, in reaching for a world without these cycles of violence and abuse. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by grandfailure / Adobe Stock Art

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus July 2017

July’s long short story from GigaNotoSaurus explores war in a way that’s deep and moving and a bit weird, frankly. On an incredibly refreshing note, it’s a story about World War II that doesn’t involve Nazis, which I am always up for reading. It’s also a story that’s somewhat difficult to define, which is also something I appreciate. It’s not traditional fantasy and it’s not exactly historical science fiction. It’s some mix of things, a literary speculative history story that focuses on two sets of twins and how they handle the circumstances the war finds them in. And before I spoil too much, I should just jump right in to the review!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/03/2017 & 07/10/2017

It's another stellar two weeks of content as Strange Horizons moves into July. It's full of weirdness, with two original stories where magic is bleeding through into the more mundane world, where the main characters are looking either for escape through this magic or escape from this magic, and it makes for a wonderful pairing, where people find in the magic around them a pervasive danger and darkness, shattering any illusions that magic might be bright or safe. The poetry is at turns beautiful and rending, about connections and relationships. And there's even some wonderful nonfiction. I'm actually skipping one of the nonfiction pieces because it's more a review and I'm not familiar with the text, but I do very much recommend reading all of it. So yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Quick Link - The Monthly Round June 2017

The Monthly Round is up now at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. Go check it out.

For those not in the know, the Round is my monthly column where I pair my favorite stories from the month with tasting notes, thematically appropriate booze, and reviews. So if that sounds like something you're into, go give the full column a read. If you just want to know my favorite stories, those are below.


Tasting Flight - June 2017

“The Waters and Wild of Winter Street” by Jessi Cole Jackson (Book Smugglers)
 “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny)
“We Lilies of the Valley” by Sonja Natasha (Shimmer)
“Utopia, LOL?” by Jamie Wahls (Strange Horizons)
“Of Letters They Are Made” by Jonathan Edelstein (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
“Water like Air” by Lora Gray (Flash Fiction Online)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #229

It’s something of a treat from Beneath Ceaseless Skies this issue as there are two longer stories to sink your teeth into. And okay, one of those is a novella which is only half-released (though the entire piece can be listened to via podcast), but people, it is so good. So so so good. And both stories explore themes of difference and violence, systems of violence and learning and possibilities of freedom and escape. These are works that feature young people starting to come into their powers and finding that they have a lot to learn. But these are also characters who have been hurt and who are not quick to trust for very good reasons. Both have found or find that the world they live in is often unfair and brutal, and that provokes something equally intense in themselves. The stories are deep and expressive and offer up fantastic worlds to explore, though many carry within them dark shadows. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jeff Brown

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #86

The July Lightspeed Magazine offers up a pair each of science fiction and fantasy short stories that balance hope and despair, pain and longing. The stories examine injustice, characters caught in moments that they want to escape, situations that are deeply unsatisfying. For some it’s a humanity that has lost its spark, and for others it’s a world that doesn’t allow them to be themselves. In some the pressure is external, a threat or invasion, and in others it’s the seeming-injustice of chance. Whatever the characters and whatever the stories, though, the pieces all examine what it means to be discontent, to be angry and hurting. To want change. And the stories differ widely in how that hope is portrayed, and how close the characters are allowed to come to it, but all the pieces are certainly interesting, and it makes for a fascinating issue I should just review already.

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2017

It’s solidly summer time now and the July issue of Flash Fiction Online brings with it a mix of stories that burst with life and possibility even as they don’t overlook the grief and hurt that walk hand in hand with the brightness of summer. There’s magic that pulses through these stories, in the visions and hopes of the characters—a wish for a different world, the magic of wings, the consuming darkness. In all of the stories the characters must face that what they want, that where they want, might not fix all their problems, but most of the characters are determined to go anyway, to find whatever is waiting there, be it family or love or freedom. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #26

July has arrived at The Dark Magazine with a pair of original stories that deliver characters driven toward a singular goal. For one of the characters, it’s a release from an oppressive setting where he must constantly live in fear of his skin. For the other, it’s respect and power that he craves, that leads him down a rapidly darkening path. Both men face danger and face difficulty, but they handle things in very different ways. The stories show how the pursuit of a goal can be affirming or destructive, how it can work to free a person or chain them to a string of bad decisions. These are stories that show how both characters do not shy away from violence, but that they eventually have to make the decision of how that violence will define them. Will they overcome it, and find a more peaceful way out, or will they embrace it, and let it lead them toward their desires? It’s a great month of stories and I’m going to get right to those reviews!

Art by Vincent Chong

Friday, July 7, 2017

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #3: Sundown Towns

The third issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine has arrived and the theme this time is Sundown Towns, the practice where black people had to leave certain cities before sundown or face the prospect of arrest or mob justice. It’s a heavy theme and it shows in many of the stories and poems. These are pieces that look very closely at place, at the idea of home, that complicate how people can feel belonging when they are not truly safe, when they are never really in control of their spaces. Many of the stories deal with protagonists working in nearly-hopeless situations—being exploited and legislated against, being constantly in danger from forces mundane and supernatural. But the pieces all show what community and hope can do, how resistance and beauty still flower in the harshest of realities. The stories are at turns tragic and inspiring, and the issue as a whole is another phenomenal experience. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Geneva Benton

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com June 2017

It's just a bit of a short month for Tor dot com in June, with three original stories offering a nice variety of science fiction and fantasy and horror. The stories examine the damage left behind by abuse of different sorts, whether corporate, societal, or achingly personal. The stories look at loss—of freedom, of life, of security, and show how transformation is possible, how resistance is possible. In all of these stories I see characters who don't know quite what comes next, but who find that they might have access to a power that they didn't have before. That suddenly they are able to change something, even if it's only their own feathers. But it's a great mix of stories and I'll get to reviewing!

Art by Jon Foster

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers June 2017

Book Smugglers is back for its 2017 short story season! This year’s theme is Gods & Monsters and the two first stories up are a science fiction tale that definitely leans on some tropes surrounding gods—well, more like goddesses, and a contemporary fantasy full of heart and dark magic. These are stories that unfold across a galaxy rich with life as two women discover the joy of experience even as they run up against the limitations of it as well, or inside a world quite familiar, full of middle school dances and carrot cake as two sisters and their dads find out that there is more than dust bunnies lurking in the shadowy spaces of the globe. Both are stories about change and about moving on, about discovery but also autonomy, and they are a great way to kick off another year of stories from one of my favorite publishers. To the reviews!

Art by Sparrows

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction June 2017

July brings four original stories to Fireside Fiction, but with three flash fiction pieces the total word count is back down from where it's been the last few months. Still, the stories presented are full of fun flourishes and dark implications. Many of the stories are about technology, about the friction between convenience and oppression, the way that they can feed each other and fuel tragedy. There's a nice mix of styles and genres, though, from science fiction both near and far in the future to fantasy that images whole nations of clockwork people to one that explores a much smaller plot of land, though one teaming with magic and danger. And these are stories that carry with them a heavy darkness, none of the pieces really ending in the happiest of manners, instead flavoring every victory with a hint of fear and the promise of pain. But they are also beautiful stories that explore what it means to be live and long and reach for freedom. To the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Monday, July 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform June 2017

It's another month of content from Motherboard's Terraform and I continue to not be sure what's going on with the release schedule. There's only one new piece out this month, but as it's the last chapter in the long-running Highwayman series, there's still a lot to digest. Now, this series has had some ups and downs for me personally, but it's continually told a captivating story with some interesting visuals and a great style. The ending certainly comes with a bang, leaving me to wonder that now that it has wrapped up, what might be on the horizons for the publication. But enough speculating—time to review!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Quick Sip Reviews Twitter AMA/Recstravaganza

I'm excited to announce the Quick Sip Reviews Twitter AMA/Recstravaganza for 7/9/2017!

I'm going to be holding a bit of an event in order to raise awareness of my Patreon and really just to have some fun connecting with people. The idea is that I will be available on Sunday, July 9th, for the world to ask me anything, but also to challenge me in another way--by getting SFF short fiction recommendation challenges. I'll let my graphic explain.

Yes, I like making graphics for things. But basically, if you've been wondering if there's a SFF short story out there that includes "lesbians" "whales" and "post-apocalypse" then ARE YOU IN LUCK! (btw, "We Who Live in the Heart" by Kelly Robson). Want "food" "horror" and "magic"? Try "Candy Girl" by Chikodili Emelumadu. Just send me three keywords and I will do my best to find you a short story that fits. I have no idea if this will work but I'm excited to try. To yeah, mark your calendars!


Friday, June 30, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, Part 6: "Cardassians," "Profit and Loss," "Civil Defense," "Second Skin," & "The Way of the Warrior"

Yes, I made a Year of Garak graphic. It called to me. 
Welcome back! The year of Garak officially reaches its halfway point this month with its sixth installment. For those just tuning in, I've been looking at various Garak media, from short stories to novels to the original DS9 episodes. Basically, if it's got Garak, I want to examine it, because I love Garak and something needs to distract me from...other things 2017 has brought with it. If you want to catch up, here's links to the previous posts: January | February | March | April | May.

I'm joined again today by SFF poet, writer, and all around awesome person Nicasio Andres Reed. We're looking at a whole slew of episodes from DS9 so SPOILERS apply. Feel free to jump into the comments (they are moderated so it might take a little while for them to show up but I will try my best to check in regularly). Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the discussion!

Oh, and in case you don't remember from last time...

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!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/19/2017 & Samovar 06/26/2017

It’s another strong pair of weeks from Strange Horizons, including a brand new issue of Samovar, the SFF in translation project. All told, there’s one brand new story, two translated stories, one new poem, and five translated haikus. Together, these stories examine the role of technology and the shifting moods and beliefs of generations growing up with new experiences and new opportunities. The stories carry with them a heaviness that weigh down the characters, that make it difficult for them to connect and find meaning in their lives. They are isolated and desperate to make genuine relationships, to find intimacy, and yet again and again find themselves thwarted in the face of the changing world. These are some amazing and imaginative stories and poems that I’m going to get right to reviewing!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #228

It’s another expertly paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with two pieces that look at the power of ideas and the immortality of stories. They do so in very different ways, in very different settings, and with very different themes, but at their cores they share a belief that there are ideas and stories that can live on as long as a trace of them remains, and they can be dangerous when unleashed. The first story looks at translation and song and imagination set against a backdrop of war and uncertainty, where stories are identity and identity is threatened by the destructive nature of violence. In the second, the setting is more oppressive and systematically corrupt, and ideas and stories become weapons in a battle for justice. In both, the main characters struggle with their role in stories, either in their preservation and recovery or in their erasure and destruction. And in both the stories are the things that linger long after the death and loss and grief have faded. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jeff Brown

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Quick Sips - People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

It’s a bittersweet moment to announce that with this special People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories! issue, the publication is closing down. It’s certainly a sad moment to see FSI closing down, but this is one hell of a way to go out. There are four original stories that I will be looking at, but I very much encourage everyone to check out the reprints and the nonfiction, because it’s all amazing and you should do yourself the favor of reading it. The stories themselves seem to focus on the tenuous nature of safety and space. Many of the characters find themselves relatively happy despite being marginalized, despite being at risk of violence and bigotry. They find jobs that they like, and people who accept them, and a place to be, only to find that all of it can be taken from them, and that sometimes the only thing they have left is the power to lose the rest, to gamble it away in the hopes that everything is not completely lost. And I love how the stories work together and flow and I guess I should just get to the reviews!

Art by Victo Ngai

Monday, June 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership Spring 2017 part 2

For this second half of Glittership’s Spring 2017 issue there’s still a lot to read and experience. There’s a bit more reprinted fiction than in the first half of the issue/releases, including “She Shines Like a Moon” by Pear Nuallak, which I’ve already reviewed here back in 2015 when it appeared in Lackington’s Skins issue. As such, I won’t be reviewing the story again, but I will definitely say people should check it out. Of the four remaining works, there’s one original story, one new poem, and two other reprints, and in case anyone was wondering it is all fucking good. I absolutely love that Glittership has added poetry and between the original and reprint fiction it’s definitely the publication to go to for gloriously queer content. I heartily point people toward their Patreon, especially if you want the awesome ebook delivered to you every quarter. Do it, people. Do it. But ahem, yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #97

It’s a trio of stories this month at Apex Magazine, including one story in translation and two entirely new tales. The issues offers a nice range of darker SFF, never quite descending as deep as the publication sometimes goes but still keeping things dark enough to fit with the overall aesthetic of Apex. The stories are about oppression and the battle between the characters and themselves. Between them and their pasts, their presents, and their futures. In each, the character must face their decisions, even when they can’t remember making them, and decide how to move forward, whether to give in to the weight of what has happened or to blaze a new trail and strike out into unexplored territory. The characters all find different answers to question of how to proceed, and in doing so provide stories rich in mood and pathos while still remaining fun and moving. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Irina Kovalova

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #16 [June stuff]

Well it’s another busy month at Uncanny Magazine, with three original stories, two poems, and five nonfiction pieces. I was very tempted to just skip the nonfiction, I will admit, because of time concerns, but once I saw it was about Star Trek, food, resistance, and revolution, I kinda had to look at it more in depth. What’s here this month has a great focus on self-determination and strength and stories. About the ways that we write ourselves out of struggles in order to relieve the burden of having to act and the ways that we need to counter that. The stories focus on people being confronted with narratives that don’t leave room for them, where they are often ignored or marginalized, and how they seek to recenter and decolonize these stories to present a more just and more complete vision of the world. And the pieces all do this by subverting tropes and familiar structures and ideas to present wholly new and revolutionary messages. Time travel is revealed as more crutch than cure. Vampirism takes on wholly new levels when crossed with gender and transition. Narrative structure and voice itself is blurred as character and author and reader meet. It’s a lovely collection of works and an amazing call to arms for SFF readers who want to act and fight back against what perhaps is becoming the darkest timeline. So yeah, review time!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #227

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings a pair of stories about relationships and conflicts, betrayals and healing. In each of the stories women seek to live in a world that is hostile, that doesn’t really let them be in peace. Whether it’s because of a long-standing conflict that they have to try and live through or an unjust government that they have to live under, the settings are drenched in the threat of violence and erasure. And only through coming together, helping each other, and trusting one another, can these women find strength in their love and security in the families they make of and with each other. These are stories of women getting shit done and taking on the systems of oppression in open and interesting ways, having faith in their partners and their own abilities to shape a more just and healthy world. So yeah, it’s review time!

Art by Jeff Brown