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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/04/2017 & 09/11/2014

Hey! Strange Horizons is running their fund drive! It’s almost over! GO SUPPORT THEM!!! You get things like mugs and shirts and pins and just do it, okay. Strange Horizons is hugely important to SFF, in my opinion, and does amazing work. Case in point, I’m looking at three stories and two poems today that are rather stunning. They look at loneliness and loss, at compassion and patience, truth and love. These are stories that feature characters looking for connection, hoping to save someone, even if that someone is themself. The poetry is moving and haunting and everything weaves together to create a feel of warmth and chill, comfort and grief. It is some fantastic work and I for one want Strange Horizons to continue for a long time to come. So check out the fund drive, give what you can, and get ready for some reviews!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Monthly Round - August 2017

The Monthly Round is live right now at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. Do please go give it a read. It features my favorite short SFF reads from August 2017 and pairs them with tasting notes, drink pairings, and reviews. It's quite fun. Anyway, for those wanting a taste of what this month's list features, here's the run down. Cheers!

Tasting Flight - August 2017

"The Library of Lost Things" by Matthew Bright (Tor)
"Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live" by Sacha Lamb (Book Smugglers)
"The Wanderers" by Ian McHugh (GigaNotoSaurus)
"unfurl/ed" by Jes Rausch (Strange Horizons)
"If a Bird Can Be a Ghost" by Allison Mills (Apex)
"Our Secret, In Keys" by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Fireside)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #132

September brings an interesting mix of stories to Clarkesworld, exploring love and coupling, as well as space and time and sentience. The stories range from cerebral and strange to fun and witty to achingly hopeful and human. There are people who are birds, bots who are heroes, planets who are people, people who are machines, and just people being people, with all their flaws but also all the grace and power to save the world. It's never really a surprise to note that the stories are all science fiction, with perhaps a little hint at sci-fantasy but mostly these are stories that imagine a future where life can be different, and some futures where, for all life could be different, it hasn't really changed. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!

Art by Vladimir Manyukhin

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus September 2017

September brings a very timely story to GigaNotoSaurus, a science fiction piece that looks at the cost of water. And that might, by extension, look at the cost of humanity, of decency, and the role of government in providing for the people rather than exploiting them. Water is a complicated topic because of how much humans need it, and how historically it has been a right, to have access to clean water. With the way things have been going, though, any resource, no matter how fundamental, can be twisted to serve profit and power. So yeah, before I get too off on a rant, let’s get to the review!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online September 2017

The September Flash Fiction Online is taking things in a science fiction direction. Just like the special horror issue of earlier in the year, these stories are devoted to exploring worlds that might yet be. Worlds of the future. For some of them, that means dealing with the end of the world, or the end of human life. Or, perhaps, about the end of most human life. They become about loss but also about what can be preserved. The stories are also about violation and voice, though, about who gets to make decisions and who must live with them. These are stories that explore situations bleak and dire. They are not by and large happy stories, even when they lean toward justice, but they are fun in their own ways and heavy with emotional weight, an asteroid of feels careening toward an unsuspecting planet. To the reviews!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #28

The September issue of The Dark Magazine brings with it two original stories that examine what it means to believe in a system that rules the universe. Whether it’s based on logic and science or magic and religion, these systems guide the way people view the world. And they also give shape to the ways that people are hurt by it. For some, it means living with the knowledge that every reality is a sort of cage, every action just a forking in a path that might lead nowhere. And for others it means being a part of a metaphor that strips them of every comfort, that isolates and sacrifices them. In both stories the characters must decide whether to accept these rules, these beliefs, or to try and stand against them and the weight of their implications. To the reviews!

Art by breakermaximus

Friday, September 8, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #88

The September issue of Lightspeed issue is very concerned with the future. And with freedom. The four stories, all short stories this issue, weave around characters walking the line between destiny and free will. Between falling into what’s expected and taking a stand to do something else. And these stories shift between relationships—husband and wife, mother and daughter, soldier and demon, and how those relationships shift with time and with distance, with death and with life. These are stories that carry with them very interesting visions of hope amidst difficulty, and I’m just going to get to reviewing them already!

Art by Alan Bao

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Quick Sips - The Sockdolager #9 - Summer 2017

It’s with sadness that I say that this will be the last time I review The Sockdolager, which ends its publication run with this issue. The good news is that wow are there a lot of stories to look at, eleven original stories that are mostly centered, in my opinion, around the theme of resistance. It makes sense for a publication that strived to push for being original and fun, impacting but enjoyable. It’s a difficult line to walk, and a bit of resistance in itself, trying to carve out a unique place within SFF. The stories move, largely looking at societies struggling with corruption and invasion, and people forced to find a way to move forward, to push toward justice even when it’s difficult, even when what they really want is just to rest. But there is no rest for the willing, and the characters prove themselves to be up to the task of moving forward, of resisting, of pushing for revolution and change. Sometimes it doesn’t work out too well, but often it’s still much better than it would have been. These are some fun stories, and a great final bow for a great SFF publication. To the reviews!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #233

This third August issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies delves into two very different worlds that are linked by the way they exploit the vulnerable. The stories explore the ways in which people are used as tools for war and execution, for death and conflict. And they reveal women willing to risk everything in order to work for a better world. In many ways the characters in both stories are working for peace, for justice. But both know that most of the time that's not a goal that can be reached without walking a road paved in its own sort of conflict and violence. That the most direct path is the one that often leaves the most destruction in its wake, but is often the only road that doesn't allow the harm to continue, that strikes at the heart of the problem. These are stories that firmly believe you can't make a peace omelet without breaking a few eggs, and so some eggs get broken. And it's at times disturbing and always tragic, but it's still necessary in the pursuit of a better world. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Jordan Grimmer

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com August 2017

It's a rather big month of releases from Tor dot com this August, not because there's an unusual number of them, but rather because so many of them are...big. There's five stories, four of them novelettes and three of those over 13k, so these are mostly stories that you can really sink you teeth into. Many of them examine what it means to be lost, what it means to be out of place. Whether the reason for that is magical, or because the person has been left behind, or because society itself isn't making room for people to be, the result is that the stories circle around loneliness and hurt, hope and despair. These are characters trying to find how they'll fit into a world that doesn't quite fit them, and finding that things are more complicated than they originally thought. Demonic weapons, stranded aliens, awesome libraries, and missing memories all weave deep narratives that deserve some serious time and attention. So before I take up too much of yours, let's get to the reviews!

Art by Red Nose Studio

Monday, September 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction August 2017

Well September is a busy month at Fireside Fiction. With four flash fiction stories, one short story, and the first three installments of a serial novelette or novella, it manages to pack a lot in there. Given that, it's no surprise that the themes and feels of the stories range quite a bit, from happy in the face of oblivion to heartbroken at the end of a beautiful relationship. The stories look at gods and prophets, loves and robots. These are stories that all explore what it means to be human and what it is that humans create. All the bullshit and abuse but also the beauty and the compassion. It's a difficult batch of stories to fully fit under any thematic umbrella, but the quality is certainly high and the overall feeling rather triumphant. To the reviews!

Art by Daniel Stolle

Friday, September 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/21/2017 & 08/28/2017

Well, we’ve made it to the Strange Horizons annual fund drive! If you haven’t chipped, I strongly encourage you to. Strange Horizons is a non-profit publication and it does some very incredibly work, lifting up voices in SFF while keeping an eye out for awesome poetry and providing a nice assortment of nonfiction. Strange Horizons is one of my very favorite publications, and today I’m looking at a short story and a whole lot of poetry. Because of the nature of the fund drive, bonus content is being released on a rolling basis as they reach funding goals, so I will try to keep up with what’s been released there as well, but please forgive me if I miss a little bit. Anyway, there’s quite a bit of awesome to look at, so I’ll just jump right into those reviews!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 8: "Improbable Cause," "The Die is Cast," "In Purgatory's Shadow," & "By Inferno's Light"

The Year of Garak keeps rolling on! For those just tuning in, the Year of Garak is an exploration of whatever Garak texts I can find. Whether episodes from Deep Space 9, tie-in novels, or fanfiction, I'm casting a wide net trying to find more with my favorite plain, simple Cardassian. If you want to catch up, here's links to the previous posts: January | February | March | April | May | June | July.

I'm joined again today by SFF poet, writer, and all around awesome person Nicasio Andres Reed. Today we're looking at four pivotal episodes from Deep Space 9, or really two sets of 2-part episodes. We get to see Garak at his cleverest and most cruel, but also at his lowest and most vulnerable. So let's get down to it, shall we!

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!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform August 2017

Terraform makes its return to original fiction this month, with its first story since March. Yes, there was the Highwayman project, and there have been a number of excerpts, but here is an original story that celebrates forty years of the Voyager missions. I must admit, it’s a romantic idea, humans flinging something out into the vastness of space, hoping maybe, against odd, to hit something. A cosmic game of darts. The story is paired with a nonfiction piece going over Voyager and some more recent projects, and also an interview with William Gibson. I certainly recommend checking those out, but for how I’m keeping my review just to the original fiction. And, without further delay, here we go!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Lackington's #14 - Musics

The latest issue of Lackington’s to be released for free is themed around Music. And what results are six original stories that show just what music can and does mean—the rhythm of it, the magic of it, and the power of it to push change. And these stories explore not just the way that music can be enjoyed, but the ways that it can be used both to inspire and to lure, to remember and to heal. The stories are by and large rather dark, showing an appreciation for characters experiencing loss, for people needing direction. Songs can be maps, and these stories show characters following songs off into the unknown. Finding paths by no means safe, and at times very dangerous indeed, but also often paths that they need to take. That offer some way forward after everything has been wiped away. These are some great stories, and I’ll jump right in to the reviews!

Art by Stacy Nguyen

Monday, August 28, 2017

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers August 2017

I’m very sad that the Gods & Monsters short story season is over at The Book Smugglers with these two short stories. It has been an excellent run and the pieces have consistently been among my favorite every month they’ve been out. But even good things must come to an end. At least for this year. To close things out there are two new stories exploring youth and education, love and responsibility. The stories aren’t that similar on the surface, but digging deeper finds narratives that are very concerned with consent and with fostering an environment where young people can explore who they are and how they want to live. They mix humor and magic, emotion and stress and frustration. But they also imagine characters taking control of their situations, negotiating their ways past the forces trying to crush them. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Ira Gladkova

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Mapping Smutty SFF - Part 2: Market Forces

Goldilocks: Not Just a Character in My Gender-swapped Slashfic

 So starting out as a new writer and wanting to write SFF and basically finding that my brand of SFF isn’t considered Real SFF(TM)...wasn’t really an easy thing. Fuck, it still isn’t an easy thing, and it’s still something I struggle with all the time. As I talked about last time, the distance between what I call “Pro” SFF and what I call Smutty SFF is...rather large. This is maybe changing, fairly slowly, but market realities are something that crop up a lot when thinking about what to write and how to focus as a writer hoping to make money. Because thus enters the impossible task of balancing not self-rejecting and aiming your stories for venues you think you can sell to. It’s a task complicated by the lingering dread that, as a writer, you’ll always be wrong.

It’s a Goldilocks situation, but one in reverse and one that’s constantly shifting. If your story is too queer and happy or focuses too heavily on romance, it’s unlikely to fit in at SFWA-qualifying markets. If it doesn’t feature a Happily Ever After or Happily For Now ending, or if the brand of queer isn’t popular enough, it’s a harder sell to the larger romance presses. Instead of shooting for a happy medium between the two as being the perfect fit, market forces push writers to choose and embrace a binary system where SFF with queer romantic plots and SFF w/o queer romantic plots must be kept separate.

Obviously, there are some exceptions to the rule. Beneath Ceaseless Skies and The Book Smugglers have both put out a number of stories that feature strong and joyous queer relationships that split the distance between “just” SFF and SFF romance. Lethe Press puts out a lot that’s queer and SFF without necessarily focusing on romance, and even Dreamspinner has an imprint that is about explicitly queer characters but not romance. It’s out there, but it’s not all that talked about and when it is, it’s often from a lens of either a romance reader or a “just” SFF reader.

Market Spotlight: Beneath Ceaseless Skies

There’s aren’t too many SFWA-qualifying short fiction markets that seem especially keen to publish Smutty SFF, but BCS might be a great place to start if your style runs into fantasy. It’s not someplace that you’re going to be able to tune into every issue and find works that celebrate queer characters and relationships, but there are quite a few stories in its extensive backlist that fit the bill, and many that are presented in audio format as well. I am very impressed with the work that BCS does issue after issue to put out nicely paired stories, and quite often there is queer content, and occasionally there is queer romance as well, though as with many more “pro” venues, tragedy has a tendency to win out over HEA/HFN (but hey, I’m guilty of it, too…). It is fantasy-specific, but it’s also published some of my absolute favorite Smutty SFF stories full stop, including an amazing novella from Rose Lemberg recently, “A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power.” People, go read it! BCS is also a non-profit, so give some support if you can!

And it’s a self-feeding problem. Because readers looking for or wanting SFF that falls into the area between SFF romance and SFF w/o romance can’t exactly trust either side to provide for them what they want. I know from experience that if you can’t find what you really want, you either make do or leave. Those who make due are essentially used to justify not diversifying content and those who leave are given up on. It’s what capitalism does, and it’s helped by a number of factors. The result is that it can often feel, as a writer, that there is no right decision. Even trying to write what I hope will sell instead of what I most want to write doesn’t mean that I will succeed, but it does mean that the writing itself is less rewarding.

Anecdote Time!

Here’s a real-life example. I decided not too long ego to start writing a novel, a SFF mystery with psychics that is not a romance but that has some queer sex and a lot of weird. And writing it terrifies me. Why? A few reasons, really. First, I have no idea what I’ll do with it when/if I finish it. Do I try to get an agent? Do I send it to a smaller queer press that does open submissions? What do I do? To be clear, I know many writers who have written novels that I would want desperately to read that either haven’t found representation or who did find representation but didn’t sell their works to publishers, or who are finding it very difficult to. Obviously, I want to tell these people “Keep writing!” “I believe in your work!” “I really fucking want to read your novel!” But I’m not a book buyer. I’m not an editor. In the face of a vast and, if not outright hostile, sharply apathetic market, what can you say to someone writing stories that might not fit.

This is all complicated, of course, by the fact that writing often works in reverse of most traditional professions. We do the work first and then try to get paid. How do I justify spending hour and hours, days and weeks and months, on a project that might earn me nothing? Or slightly north of nothing. I’ll let you in on a secret—I don’t make a lot of money. I spend my 40+ hours a week at a union print shop and I make enough to live, but not much more. There’s medical debt and the need for a newer car and trying to not let my home fall apart. I make a little extra doing writing and reviewing, but it’s only “extra” in that it’s not regular. At this point I basically need to be earning something on the side to help ease the financial strain/have any hope of surviving something going wrong. I doubt I’m the only Smutty SFF writer in such a situation, or for whom being able to earn actual substantive money off of writing would be transforming. Perhaps I should just shut up and get a part time job and give up on writing, on reviewing, or anything but making sure I’m financially secure. But writing and reading are some of the few things that I really like in life, and being told to give them up because my passion is not popular or marketable enough is...well, difficult.

Further, and as I said before, even if a book does see the light of day, it has to contend with the gatekeepers of the field, with award committees that don’t think it fits, with reviewers who want a book to conform to what they can recognize as either romance or “just” SFF. Having been reviewed widely for both SFF romance and “pro” SFF, I can tell you that the landscape is pretty fucking bleak. Those who review the most are often the most conservative when it comes to works that straddle genre lines, and often those who are the best suited to reviewing are more likely to be overwhelmed with the need out there for quality reviewing. I’ve seen reviews of my works that take issue with the fact that it’s either not romantic enough or too romantic, depending on where the story appeared at. And while negative reviews might not prevent me from selling future stories, they do impact readers, and by extension sales. It’s simply hard to build buzz for a project that most people have trouble placing, because the distance between SFF romance and “pro” SFF is so large. There are very few places that review both romance and non-romance SFF. There are fewer still that do so with an eye and appreciation for queer content. There are a few, but again, neither SFF romance nor “pro” SFF are super welcoming for a newer writer who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere.

But okay, so what? I really don’t want to just make this series about me and my woes. So what do I suggest? For what you can. I hope you can write the stories you truly want to write, and I hope that they sell. If they don’t, and you need money, then I’m so sorry. You will ultimately have to decide how much to try and make your writing fit better so that you can tell as close to the stories you want most to tell as possible while still selling. It still might not work. There are no guarantees. Fuck. I’d say don’t discount the small presses, especially those who seem to be trying to put out what you’re writing. Often it means less money than you’d like, but often it does mean some money, and you’re splitting it with people who believe in your book and want to publish your stories.

If you’re a reader...consider becoming a reviewer as well. And, wherever possible, search out small-press books that sound good. Buy them if you have the money. Or get your library to order them. Advocate for the books you want, signal boost the projects you’re excited about. Be loud. Try not to be an asshole.

Market Spotlight: The Book Smugglers

So this is both a venue for stories and reviews. Starting life as a review blog, The Book Smugglers have since branched out into publishing as well and they are amazing. Their stories often defy genre expectations and get into delightfully smutty territory. “Superior” by Jessica Lack was one of my favorite stories last year, and Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap is OMGlob the best thing ever! If you are not reading the amazing stories they put out, you should be. And The Book Smugglers is also one of the best SFF review sites around, reading widely and not shying away from books that are marketed more as romance. They are a vital and affirming link connecting the more “pro” SFF venues and the SFF romance venues. From short stories to novellas to novels, they put out a lot of amazing stuff and a vast majority of it is joyously queer. Definitely go out and buy the hell out of their books and just pay attention. They are doing amazing work, and I hope they continue for a long, long time.

The market is a strange and often opaque thing. It serves financial interests first, which is to say it’s not often very concerned with justice. Its favorite phrase is “vote with your wallet,” perhaps the single least democratic phrase I have ever heard. But it is the reality of the situation, and it doesn’t mean that everyone making decisions based off of market realities is a terrible person. It does make it very difficult for those writing outside the more traditional lanes of SFF or romance, though. And it makes the question of whether to attempt to conform or to attempt to blaze a new trail all the more difficult and dangerous. For those having to make those decisions, fucking good luck. I hope you find joy and success.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership Summer 2017 part 1

The Summer 2017 issue of Glittership is out, and it is full of gloriously queer stories and poetry! And wouldn’t you know it, a certain intrepid reviewer might have a poem in this issue as well! I won’t, of course, be reviewing “becoming, ca. 2000,” but I wouldn’t mind if you all checked it out anyway. What remains I’m breaking up into two reviews, today looking at the first half of the issue’s content. Which would mean two original stories, two reprint stories, and a poem...except that my poem is first up, so I’m skipping that. And the first of the reprints, by Bogi Takács, I have already reviewed when it appeared in the inaugural issue of Capricious SF. What remains is a trio of stories that are dense and moody, that revolve around hurt and grief and fear. They are not, as a rule, happy stories, and some of them might have reduced me to a small collection of salty tears, but they are all deep and heavy and incredibly crafted. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #232

It’s another masterfully paired issue of stories at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two pieces that weaves power and poison, duty and servitude. Both stories find characters who have had no choice about where they are, who are essentially slaves, though that they are treated somewhat well is supposed to make them loyal to their captors, to their owners. And in both stories the characters have to face what they’re doing and their desires—for freedom perhaps, or for worth. In both, the characters seem to know their trajectory, their fate, and it is violent and quick. And though they seem at peace with that, there is a tendril of doubt that works through them, making them question if there might be another way. To live. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jordan Grimmer

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