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!