Friday, March 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/05/2018 & 03/12/2018

Strange is indeed part of the name of Strange Horizons, so it should be no surprise that early March brings a bounty of weird stories and poems to the publication. From people living split lives between night and day, between genders, between husbands and wives, to a collector of moons, to a poem that’s also a game, to the boredom of immortals, the SFF on display in these two issues all take the familiar and give it a healthy twist. And yet in these strange takes on the world as we know it there’s a sort of carnival funhouse glimpse at humanity seen through new and interesting angles. Angles that might give us better insights into what it means to love and to yearn for. What it means to be alive, and be human, and struggle against all the ways we might fail, and dissolve. It’s a lovely collection of pieces that I’m going to get right to reviewing!

Art by Youheum Son

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #66

March is apparently a month for doomed dogs at Nightmare Magazine, where the pair of original stories explore systems of oppression, cycles of violence, and young girls who just want to have fun with their doggos. Which…doesn’t really work out well for them. At least, both stories look at the ways that societies can almost passively abuse young girls. The ways that expectations and obligations (girls always lie, girls must sacrifice, etc.) merely create opportunities for predators to prey on them. These are two uncomfortable reads, that feature a looming and omnipresent threat of violence from beings very willing (gleefully so, in fact) of following through. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Vukkostic / Fotolia

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #106

Three original stories bring a strange and decidedly dark flavor to March’s Apex Magazine. And front and center in many of the stories this month is the idea of observation. Of perspective. Of seeing and being seen. Of how large a role perception has in mapping reality, and how large a role it has in creating reality. The stories feature characters caught between larger forces. Trying to reach for a human connection while being pushed and pulled by very inhuman forces. It makes for a number of unsettling and grim moments, when humans fall victim to the machinations of others, where how people view the world doesn’t match how others want the world to be, and the results are violent and swift. And even when a person seems to hold out, there is an inevitability about the stories, that sometimes (perhaps often) humans just can’t stand up to the forces arrayed to steer the universe. To the reviews!

Art by Benedick Bana

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #138

March brings four short stories and a new novella to Clarkesworld Magazine. Which means for the second month in a row, the publication is bringing an original novella. It certainly continues the trend of including longer works at online (primarily, for there is a print edition) venues. The stories overall are, well, rather dark. To me, they focus a lot on corrupt systems and how sometimes there’s no real fixing them all at once. How what often happens is that people live and die, are crushed and ground to powder, for a long time before a bad system starts to improve. Not that it can’t improve, but that for many vulnerable people it doesn’t improve fast enough. Which makes for a slew of often very difficult stories, but ones that do hold onto a hope that things will get better, even if we don’t all live to see it happen. To the reviews!

Art by Arthur Haas

Monday, March 12, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus March 2018

GigaNotoSaurus offers up a beautiful short story for March that might have been a bit more appropriate for February and Valentine’s Day because it is adorable and wonderful and sweet and just good! I’m a sucker for romance, and so the focus of this story for me is refreshing, especially because it refuses to tread the same tired paths of angst and powerlessness that seem to dominate so many romantic story lines. It’s not without darkness or sadness, but it’s a story to me about the triumph of love and humans over despair, loss, and death. To the review!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online March 2018

A rather unprecedented four original stories mark Flash Fiction Online’s March offerings, ushering in the official spring months (though where I am there’ll still be snow into May) with a heavy issue full of abuse, grief, and fear. Which, hey, these are the times we live in. The stories are beautiful, exploring a rich variety of themes while maintaining a tone and mood that’s a mix of shadows and the singularity of a black hole. Characters reach of escapes from their pains, from their abuse, from their grief and despair. They stand transfixed between hope and destruction, between the thinnest thread leading toward a better place and the vast avenues leading toward ruin. It’s not a particularly happy month of very short fiction, but these are stories that bring a moving power and driving impact. They aren’t messing around, and I guess I shouldn’t either—to the reviews!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark Magazine #34

A pair of weird stories anchor the original fiction from March’s The Dark Magazine. Full of the oppression that places can bring, that cities can nurture and let fester. In both, the main characters find themselves trapped. For one, by a relationship. For the other, by a city. But for me, in both, the focus is on how toxic environments can perpetuate cycles of violence, abuse, captivity, and death. These are not the easiest of stories to read, both because they come with interesting styles and because they are unsettling and (if the name of the magazine hadn’t tipped you off) very dark. These are stories of the ways that hurt leads to hurt, that victims seem to be interchangeable, separated by time but linked by their common plight and common location. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Laura Sava

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #94

March brings four new stories to Lightspeed Magazine that all seem to be about age, growth, and endings. In each, the characters are dealing with growing up in some ways, whether that means physically coming of age, or growing out of immortality, or running into the end of the universe. There’s a sense of uncertainty in each, too, about what to do next. What happens when the next leg of the journey is unknown, and frightening, and full of potential annihilation? The stories find different answers to that question, different directions for the characters to move. Some are dark and pitch, while others shine with hope. Whatever the flavor, though, it makes for an interesting exploration of transformation and adventure perfect for the dawn of spring. To the reviews!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com February 2018

February brought something of a return to Tor dot com, which has been going through a rather sporadic publishing schedule since November. Three novelettes and a long short story makes for a lot of words of fiction to get to, and the pieces move from post-disaster SF to horror to SF-Horror to contemporary fantasy. The stories carry with them a lot of darkness, too, from a world where doctors are struggling to stay neutral in the face of a change in everything to a war with an unknown enemy from the sea. All of the stories stay rooted on Earth in these pieces, but that doesn't mean that they lack for weird and imaginative takes on what Earth can look like and contain. So yeah, let's jump right into the reviews!

Art by Jon Foster

Monday, March 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Glittership February 2018

Glittership is back after a short delay with new 2018 content! Woo! First up is an original story, a reprint, and a poem, all of which are gloriously queer. The fiction is set in the "real" world with a heavy emphasis on death and with people generally occupying space bordering both the living and the dead. Especially for queer people who are in a state of constant danger, it's a precarious space, but it can also be a powerful one that allows them to face the larger world and its mysteries more directly. These are rather wrenching pieces, and the the poetry doesn't let up, looking at shapeshifting and portrayal and it's just wonderful work all around that I should get to reviewing!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine February 2018

Things have settled down a bit at Fireside Magazine, and the month finds four new short stories for our reading pleasure (plus some nonfiction that, while I'm not looking at it specifically here, is very much worth your time and attention). The stories have a bit of a dark bend to them this month, contrasting the more traditional romantic feelings of February. Instead, the stories reveal injustices and settings ripe with destruction, pain, and loss. From alternate history to future societies created to be the perfect audience, these worlds contain deep shadows and wounds that cannot heal clean so long as the corruption at their hearts are left untreated. It's an interesting mix of stories, and let's get to them!

Art by Odera Igbokwe

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/19/2018 & 02/26/2018

Closing out the month, Strange Horizons brings a new original story and two new poems. The story features magic and feeding, faith and community, and the poems deal with the monstrous and the terrible. And in many ways, all three piece deal with beings who are dealing with the darkness of others, with the darkness around them. The pieces are about confrontations, about overcoming something terrible and powerful, and they make for some powerful reads. To the reviews!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #246

The science fantasy month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with three more stories (one short story, one novelette, and one novella). Where the last two issues focused (in my opinion) on AI and apocalypses respectively, these stories feel a bit more about corrupt systems and violence to me. Each features a world where things…well, they work, to some extent. Unless they don’t. There is a balance, but it’s not a balance that benefits everyone. It requires some people to forego their freedom, to be subject to violence and perhaps death at the whims of some larger power or purpose. In each, there is a resistance to just letting things go the way they have been. And in each, the result is much different, showing how these systems deal with threats, and how much people are willing to risk to escape them. To the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform SF February 2018

There's a lot to enjoy with Terraform's February lineup, which includes four short stories (including a SFF short in translation). As always, the themes vary quite widely, from climate change to authoritarianism to death to robots in love. And also as always, the stories are short, sharp, and reveal near-futures that offer more in warnings than perhaps they do in optimism. These are stories to provoke thought and discussion, yet, but also action, to get people up and protesting, to resist the urge to let things go, to take the safe path that heads directly for corruption. The stories are about hard truths, and having the strength to face them. So let's get to the reviews!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q35

The first issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has landed and brought with a trio if fantasy novelettes and a trio of poems. The stories are a mix of historical fantasy (with a new Carvajal story and what could be the beginning of a series of Victorian-era investigations) and second-world fun. The poetry is rather narrative, revealing battlefields of various sorts, whether literal or more symbolic. There’s dragons, monsters, demons, and usurpers to deal with, and the pieces as a whole show characters trying to make things right, trying to lead and to follow their own hearts. It’s a nice mix of pieces, and before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Checking in with Short SFF Reviewing - early 2018 edition

I wrote a version of this post late in 2017, when I was not in a great headspace to do it. My own journey into and through short SFF reviewing is...complicated and full of some rather intense feelings, so please excuse me (and also you’re welcome) for not posting that and instead probably having a drink and venting to my partner instead (maybe petting a cat?). I have weird feelings writing something like this, because I dislike reducing things, and I know that no matter how complete I try to be, I’ll miss a lot of people doing amazing work and if those people see this post, it might hurt. I know from experience (a certain post still haunts me because of how it struck me and continues to strike me) that it’s an awful feeling. But I do want to take a moment to check in with short SFF reviewing, because I love it and because I think it’s important, and because I want to cheer a bit at some of the things I’ve been noticing.

Mainly, I want to take a moment to collect here a taste of what’s out there, to list some of the amazing projects where people are reviewing short SFF. Some of these things are very new, but for me it paints a much fuller and more vibrant picture of what’s going on in the reviewing field. So first, a list (fyi, all of these people qualify as Fan Writers if you’re looking for people to maybe nominate for Hugos. I've also included links where I could find them on where you can support these people and their work):

A.C. Wise does amazing work with Words for Thought at Apex Magazine (as well as Women to Read at The Book Smugglers and even more work at her blog). Her reviews are deep, considered, and substantial, and she is a champion of short SFF and short SFF reviewing. (ko-fi)

Brandon O’Brien has begun The Jewelry Box at Strange Horizons, which looks at short fiction and poetry (something I am so excited to see). It’s very new but already has me hooked, and I can’t wait for more. (Patreon, ko-fi)

Bogi Takács is a phenomenal reviewer of long and short SFF, and works prolifically both on eir blog, Bogi Read the World, and on Twitter with #diversestories and #diversepoems (again, I love to see poetry reviews). (Patreon, ko-fi)

Maria Haskins has a monthly recommendation/review column called Salute Your Shorts at Barnes & Nobles SFF site, spinning out of her tireless work on her blog, and it casts a wide net, capturing the essence of a lot of excellent short SFF. (ko-fi)

Vanessa Fogg’s It’s a Jumble blog has been running for a while now, and I always love to see her insights into stories.

Ada Hoffmann runs Autistic Book Party, which looks at SFF works of all lengths, including a lot of short SFF. The reviews look at representation of autism as well as larger themes within works and are in depth and are just all around invaluable. (Patreon)

SFF Reviews is a relatively recent venture from Dr. Sara L. Uckelman and Sarah Grace Liu, among others, and brings a whole team of reviewers together to look at an impressive number of short SFF venues and stories. They’re releasing daily content now, and are very much worth checking out.

Natalie Luhrs’ In Short brings a sharp and critical eye to look at a number of short SFF stories. It’s also always worth it to check out the larger blog, Pretty Terrible, and the links roundups and other coverage of SFF as a field. (ko-fi)

Short & Sweet is a excellent column from forestofglory (who also does recommendations on her blog) at Lady Business, and covers a great range of stories, often focusing on positive SFF stories. (ko-fi)

There’s also Short Business at Lady Business as well, which is run by bookgazing and which provides a great range of reviews.

Jason Sanford has started #JasonReadsShortStories on Twitter and it is a great source for a lot of reviews/recommendations, set around the goal of reading/reviewing a short a day. These are also being collected at his blog in monthly posts. (Patreon)

Inspired in part by the above, A. Merc Rustad is collecting A Few Favorite Fictions at their blog, Robots With Keyboards. Lots of awesome thoughts. (Patreon, ko-fi)

My own work both here at Quick Sip Reviews and at The Book Smugglers with X Marks the Story is a lot of my own contribution to the field. (Patreon, ko-fi)

And there are many, many more talented reviewers and recommenders out there that I am missing but this might be a good place to start. I am aware that many amazing reviewers aren’t as active or have lost their venues, too (K. Tempest Bradford at io9, Gillian Daniels at Fantastic Stories, and Haralambi Markov’s Innumerable Voices at Tor are a few that spring to mind). Which is partly why I am so happy to see more paying venues for short SFF reviews, and more short SFF reviewers able to try and fund themselves through Patreon, ko-fi, and more. Because reviewing/recommending does take a lot of time and energy and skill and it’s sort of important to eat and have a place to live.

And, of course, there are still venues around like Tangent and Rocket Stack Rank that I don’t often mention or like to highlight because of my own deep ideological differences and grievances with both places.

I could go on and on about short SFF reviewing and my particular approach to it. I’m not going to right now. It’s messy, and it leads me to the occasional Twitter rant, but for now I want to just leave this list here and say that I’m humbled to be able to read so many excellent thoughts by such a diverse and wonderful group of reviewers. I think the field can be even larger, and I’m so excited to see the ways that it might grow further in the coming months and years. If you ever want to start your own reviews, I welcome you and hey, I even have a post about that. If you just want to check out what’s being written about current short SFF around the internet, that’s fine too. Thanks for checking in.



Friday, February 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #105

The two original stories from February’s Apex Magazine mix hope and fear, rules and confinement. They show two very different takes on isolation and regulation. In one, characters push against a system that stifles and oppresses, that denies and demands sacrifice when none might be necessary. It shows the drive for freedom and the joy and hope that can produce. In the others, characters push against a system that might be the only thing standing between them and an unknown devastation, that demands sacrifice when none might be necessary but when it might indeed be necessary as well. It shows the drive for freedom and the terror and tragedy that can produce. These are two very different stories that take two very different looks at the unknown, and it makes for a fascinating one-two punch of short SFF. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Justin Adams

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #245

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

Art by Florent Llamas

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #20 [February stuff]

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

Art by Tran Nguyen

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

X Marks the Story - February 2018

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

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

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

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


Monday, February 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #41 [February stuff]

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

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, February 16, 2018

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

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

Art by Dan Rempel

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #65

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

Art by Kevron2001 / Fotolia

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus February 2018

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #137

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

Art by Artur Sadlos

Monday, February 12, 2018

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

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

Friday, February 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online February 2018

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

Art by Dario Bijelac

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #244

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

Art by Florent Llamas

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #33

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

Art by Vincent Chong

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #93

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

Art by Sam Schechter

Monday, February 5, 2018

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

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

Cover Art by gawki, Design by Jeremy Zerfoss

Friday, February 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com January 2018

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

Art by Dadu Shin

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine January 2018

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

Art by Tesslyn B

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/29/2018

A fifth Monday in a month typically means something special from Strange Horizons, and January definitely brings something special in this week’s issue focusing on Trans / Nonbinary SFF. Two original stories and three poems anchor an issue that is very aware of perception, identity, and defiance. In many of the pieces, the authors explore the ways that the world, that society, seeks to force people into neat lines, into binaries and labels. How systems evolve to coerce people into erasing themselves or others for the sake of the comfort and profit of the dominant. These are sharp stories that reveal characters struggling under the weight of those seeking to punish them for existing. And yet not giving up. And yet finding that they’re not alone, and don’t have to be alone. And yet carving out something for themselves. It’s a fantastic special issue and without further delay, the reviews!

Art by Alex Dingley

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform SF January 2018

The new year kicks off at Terraform with three excellent stories exploring futures that seems almost inevitable, that seems in many ways here already. The stories look at three very different things—immigration, employment, and nuclear destruction—but they all manage to tell emotionally resonating stories that share the feeling that most people are already accepting these futures as reality. Indeed, what the three stories seem to reveal, or diagnose, is the collective apathy of people, the resistance to taking steps to change. The stories examine the ways that people are used and exploited, and how without active resistance and change now, things will only get worse. And they highlight a sad fact that, for many, accepting these realities as inevitable is more comforting than actually trying to avoid the nightmares involved. It's a complex and beautiful bunch of stories, so let's get to the reviews!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Quick Sips - Lackington's #16 (Trades)

The last Lackington’s issue of 2017 (though for me the first one of 2018), centers on the theme of Trades. And trades of all sorts. The editorial makes mention of the idea of trade as in profession, with people pursuing their trades in the face of the inequalities and injustices of the systems they work within. The whims of cruel kings, the corruption of governments, the power of supernatural beings. But it’s also an issue that looks closely at the idea of trade as in exchange. The bargains we make with ourselves and with others. The ways that we buy and sell things, people, and justice. Or try to. The stories have some very interesting takes on these ideas, trying to look at what makes a fair trade. It’s a fascinating collection of stories, mostly fantasy and with a great sense of magic and danger. To the reviews!

Art by Paula Arwen Owen

Sunday, January 28, 2018

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The "Where We're Going We Won't Need Categories" Sippy for Excellent I Don't Know What in Short SFF

Welcome back to the fifth and final category of the Third Annual Sippy Awards! It’s doesn’t have the history or prestige of the Hugos or Nebulas or...well, any other award, but I like to think the Sippys represent a much needed niche in the award season. For me, at least, it’s a chance to celebrate the stories I loved from 2017 and remind myself that not everything is about the Big Awards. Sometimes it’s rewarding to just love what you love, and make no excuses for it. In that vein, the Sippys were born, and I definitely encourage everyone: don’t be shy about celebrating the stories you loved. Make awards for them, write reviews about them—have fun and add a bit of joy into the universe.

But I digress. I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, hidden under the covers from the scariest horror, wept until the world was awash in my tears at biggest heartbreaks, and drove fast and took chances with the most pulse-pounding action! Which leaves just one category to go, and it’s...

The “Where We’re Going We Won’t Need Categories” 
Sippy Awards for Excellent I Don’t Know What in Short SFF

What does it mean? Well, part of the point of this category is...I’m not sure. These are stories that defy conventional definitions and categorization. These are the ones that slip between genres and expectations. They’re...well, a lot of them are weird, but beautiful. Haunting, but fun. Deep and complex and brilliant in the ways they innovate and inspire. So without further delay...

Friday, January 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/15/2018 & 01/22/2018

The new year keeps rolling on with two more weeks from Strange Horizons, featuring a story and two poems. There’s a very nice global feel to the pieces overall, a sense of violence and flight, a yearning reach toward freedom and the difficulties and fragility of that reach. Featuring characters pushed to make choices that they hope will lead to something better, to something freer. But that don’t always. Not when the world is not organized to allow and encourage justice. Not when it acts as a giant mill wheel grinding people into money and power for those in charge. It’s a great two weeks of content that I’m going to get to!

Art by Sam Guay

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #243

Normally with Beneath Ceaseless Skies, it’s pretty easy to tell the binding theme or element that holds the two two together. It’s one of the reasons I always look forward to sitting down with a new issue, because of this resonance that allows the stories to act in synergy, and if D&D has taught me anything, it’s that synergy bonuses are the best. Now, this second issue of 2018 might seem oddly paired at first glance. Certainly the mood of the stories is very different, one wrenching and one fun. But I think the element that binds and complicates these stories, and this issue as a whole, is the idea of banishment. In each, a character finds themself cast out of what they thought of as their home, looking for a way back to the way things were. In each, it’s not really through any fault of these people that they’ve lost a place, and there’s a part of them that feels it’s unfair that they should be cast out. Only, in both, getting back seems an impossible thing, though for very different reasons. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #20 [January stuff]

Kicking off the new year with three original short stories and three original poems, Uncanny Magazine structures a lot of its pieces this month around hurt and love and obsession. From a knight who falls in love with a dragon only to be burned to a woman who wants more than anything to add one crowning piece to a collection that gets her into a dangerous situation, the focus is often on how people are drawn to situations and people who aren’t necessarily safe. And how, deeper than that, safety isn’t an option, because of the world they live in, because they themselves don’t fit, aren’t welcome. The mood of the pieces is fitting for winter—the desire for warmth, the dangers of finding yourself locked out in the cold, losing feeling. It’s a difficult bunch of short SFF, but also a beautiful and rewarding bunch. To the reviews!

Art by Tran Nguyen

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #41 [January stuff]

The first issue of 2018 is a strange one for Shimmer Magazine, with two stories that seem to dwell on moments of understanding between humans and…other entities. Whether a rabbit or something a bit more monstrous, the stories examine how the characters react from having a moment of contact with some being on a different plane with them. The stories revolve around wounds, around hurts, and around the question of what comes next. How do people move on, and how do they hope to heal? And, perhaps more so, how do they deal with having their vision of the world so fundamentally altered by the introduction to a completely different perspective? The stories are immediate and visceral and dark, so let’s shine a light on them with some reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Monday, January 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #136

January brings five original stories to Clarkesworld Magazine (3 short stories, 2 novelettes), and for me the issue seems to draw heavily on mysteries. At least, many of the stories involve characters dealing with either having been lied to, or finding that their understanding of the world is fundamentally flawed. Or, really, a combination. For most of the stories, the main characters are driven by a desire to figure out what exactly is going on around them—how they’re being manipulated, how they’re being used. For many, knowledge is kept away from them, and for many of them it’s kept away indefinitely. The few that manage to cut through the barriers between them and an understanding of what’s happening to them do seem to find a measure of healing in that, seem able to move on and forward. Those that can’t, who are kept from knowing the truth, fare less well, locked in someone else’s agenda, stripped of their ability to consent to their own lives. There’s a lot to explore, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Artur Sadlos

Sunday, January 21, 2018

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The "Time to Run Some Red Lights" Sippy for Excellent Action!!! in SFF

Welcome back to the Third Annual Sippy Awards! Some part of you might be wondering, “why?” The answer: to celebrate short SFF across different styles that make excellent use of various elements to shine as examples of why I love this field. There’s no panel of judges or voting population, just me and my inflated ego and love of short SFF. Given how most short SFF awards focus on length, I wanted to look instead at how stories use different elements to stand out and be powerful. This year I’ve already shipped some excellent relationship, cowered before some excellent horror, and bawled from the some emotionally devastating reads. Which means today it’s time to put the pedal to the metal with...

The “Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy Awards 
for Excellent Action! in Short SFF

The name comes courtesy of the outrage that followed the original release of The Fast and The Furious. No joke, I remember a bunch of articles about how, upon leaving the movie, people were basically much more likely to speed and engage in...not good decisions. Likewise, I’ve seen studies about how listening to music effects how we drive. So I wanted to find the stories that left me feeling amped up. That made me to go fast and take chances. In a weird sort of surprise, most of them are from the very beginning of 2017. Not sure what that means, but there you are. In any event, please make sure your seat belts are securely buckled and that your tray tables are in their full and upright position. In 3...2...1...GO!!!!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus January 2018

Weaving together nostalgia, storytelling, and the magic of the Big Top, the January short story from GigaNotoSaurus offers a walk down a memory lane that is in danger of crumbling to nothing. It follows a man who defines himself by what he used to be, who has lost a bit of himself as he has lost the role that gave him meaning. Without it, he is fading in some ways. Until someone finds him in order to give him what he gave others—a shot at immortality. It’s a story that blends styles while evoking a very specific voice in speculative fiction. Before I give it all away, though, to the review!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #242

Beneath Ceaseless Skies opens up its 2018 fiction with a duo of musical and magical pieces. Focusing on harmony and discord, inspiration and creativity, the two pieces find characters whose professional ambitions are somewhat at odds with how their society treats them. They are good at what they do, driven by the art and the joy of music and yet finding that at every turn they need the patronage of powerful men in order to be taken seriously. In order to be safe. And both stories explore what happens when being safe stops being motivation enough for staying silent, and what happens when the right song bursts forth into the world. To the reviews!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

X Marks the Story - January 2018

X Marks the Story is now live at The Book Smugglers. This is the spiritual successor to The Monthly Round and covers five recent short SFF stories that I loved from late 2017/early 2018.

So thrilled to have my column go live. Please go check it out at The Book Smugglers! Links to just the stories are below:

“When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act Play” by Nin Harris (published in The Dark Magazine #31, December 2017)
“The Weight of Sentience” by Naru Dames Sundar (published in Shimmer Magazine #40, November/December 2017)
“The House at the End of the Lane is Dreaming” by A. Merc Rustad (published in Lightspeed Magazine #91, December 2017)
“The Heaven-Moving Way” by Chi Hui, translated by Andy Dudak (published in Apex Magazine #104, January 2018)
“The Epic of Sakina” by Shari Paul (published in Fiyah Literary Magazine #5, January 2018)


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/01/2018 & 01/08/2018

After a brief break for the holidays, Strange Horizons returns with its first two issues of 2018, each with a new story and new poem to enjoy. The pieces are wonderfully paired, story and poem working together to provide interesting and complex one-two punches. It’s something I very much appreciate as a reader, the issues holding together and complicating the individual pieces, allowing for a deeper reading than would otherwise have been possible. The first issue seems more about magic and growth, of children learning the dangers of the world and trying to overcome them. The second issue is more about refugees, from either wars or climate, people displaced and vulnerable, preyed upon and in need of kindness and rest. It’s a strong start for the year, so without further delay, the reviews!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #104

Apex Magazine kicks off the new year with a continuing tradition—treating readers to an extra big issue as thanks for the success of last year’s subscription drive. Which means six original stories (including a fantastic translation) and the return of poetry (for this issue only)! The prose runs the gamut of what Apex puts out, giving people an excellent sampler platter of dark SFF that leans a bit sci fi but still has an eye for the strange and magical. The stories range from hopeful to abyssally bleak, but even when the stories lack hope, they tend to reveal something compelling and devastating. Gladly most of the works _are_ hopeful, pulling progress and healing from the jaws of predation. There’s a whole lot to experience in this issue, from monsters in the Wild West to twins in the farthest reaches of space. So without further delay, to the reviews!

Art by Daniele Serra

Sunday, January 14, 2018

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The "There's Something in My Eye" Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

The 3rd Annual Sippy Awards keep right on moving! That’s right, the SFF awards that no one asked for and few pay attention to is back! I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, and I’ve cowered in fear before my favorite horror stories. Which means that it’s week it’s time to reduce myself to a small puddle of tears somewhat resembling a functioning human being. yes, it’s time for...

The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award 
for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Monthly Round - December 2017

This is the last one, as I'm starting a new monthly recommendation/review column at Book Smugglers called X Marks the Story (the first of which will be out next Wednesday). But please join me for the final Monthly Round over at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

As, for those who just want links...

Tasting Flight - December 2017

“When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act Play” by Nin Harris (The Dark)
“The Weight of Sentience” by Naru Dames Sundar (Shimmer)
“The Birding: A Fairy Tale” by Natalia Theodoridou (Strange Horizons)
“The House at the End of the Lane is Dreaming” by A. Merc Rustad (Lightspeed)
“An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried” by Debbie Urbanski (Terraform)
“The First Stop Is Always the Last” by John Wiswell (Flash Fiction Online)



Thursday, January 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online January 2018

January is off to a hot start at Flash Fiction Online, with three stories that explore identity, erasure, and embracing the present. In each of the stories, a character finds themself poised at a frightening moment where the rules they are used to living under are taken away. For one, the rules are protective, while for the others the rules are stifling and harmful. The stories all explore how these people meet this moment and find a way to embrace the world without these rules they were so used to. The stories range from science fiction to fantasy to just slice of life, but they all are interesting and compelling and I should just get to the reviews already. Let’s go!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Quick Sips - Fiyah #5 (Ahistorical Blackness)

The first 2018 issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine is themed around "Ahistorical Blackness." In this case, the theme seems to aim the issue toward historical fantasy and more contemporary looks back at history and tradition. Given the history of blackness in America and beyond, it's probably no surprise that the stories all have an edge of violence to them. Whether the actual blood of revolution and rebellion or the legacy of violence in the form of inheritance and family history, the stories don't erase the pain or torture that have been the foundation for a great many nations and powers in the West. Instead, they reveal where this violence has led and where it might have led, challenging the dominant narratives about freedom, democracy, and civilization. These aren't easy reads, by and large, but they provide some excellent visions into what was and what might have been. To the reviews!

Art by Trevor Fraley

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #32

2018 brings a fresh pair of stories to the Dark Magazine, focusing on family and the gravity of loss and grief. Both stories feature characters who find themselves in a bad situation, in a place where pain and sorrow seem to be a given. Where, try as they might, there seem to be no good options. And the stories follow what these people, what these women, choose to do. What they try to do. And for both, how their choices cannot bring them completely free of the dangers and hungers stalking them. But that there are still choices to make, and perhaps still a life to live. To the reviews!

Art by grandfailure

Monday, January 8, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #64

It’s a pair of fairly strange horror stories from Nightmare Magazine to kick off 2018, but both are full of horror and the lingering feeling of dread. In one, a woman is reduced to a head in a box, only to find that the sense of reduction might be misplaced. In the other, a man finds a home maintenance problem might reach much deeper than he originally suspects. Both explore the way that people approach sudden change, how there’s this attempt to make sense of it, and how sometimes the answer asserts itself, and sometimes it does not. They’re rather different, as far as stories go, but they make an interesting one-two punch. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Gromovataya / Fotolia