Thursday, September 29, 2016

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/19/2016 & 09/26/2016

The Strange Horizons Fund Drive continues with two more weeks of excellent content, featuring two stories, two poems, and a nonfiction piece. There are also nice previews of some of the initiatives that Strange Horizons will be running or hopes to be running that are worth checking out but that I won't get into here. The pieces from these weeks, though, seems to deal heavily with both history and heroes. Looking at the myths we tell, about the way in which history and narratives mix and mingle. There is a strong Greek mythology vein that is explored in a number of the works, and larger than that they all explore old wounds and newer efforts to heal and make right the injustices of the past. And the pieces are touching and interesting, complex and heavy. It's a great collection of works that I'm going to get to reviewing! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Quick Sips - Terraform September 2016

This month marks another one of experiments for Terraform's short SFF. Not only is there a story told as a series of documents making up a packet of information that still manages to tell a compelling story, but there's also a continuation of the running graphic story and two rather formally daring pieces of fiction. There's a lot weird in this month's offerings, but also a lot of good. Most of the risks taken pay off, are exceptional for their innovation as well as their hitting content. And it mixes a jaded look at the future with a spot of hope as well, that even in the worst of futures there's something worth fighting for. To the reviews! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #208

The stories in this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies carry with them a heavy dose of darkness. From madness on an isolated island to being hunted through the heart of a swamp, they're about pursuit, about pursuing and being pursued. They're also about stories, about narratives, and the power of knowledge and ignorance. Often, those who hold the narratives are those with power, and when the stories become lost, the dangers they were illuminating become active and aloof once more. It's an interesting issue and it's time to review! 

Art by Marek Hlavaty

Monday, September 26, 2016

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers September 2016

The Year of the Superhero officially comes to an end at The Book Smugglers with this story. At least as far as original short fiction is concerned. It's a good thing, then, that it's a longer piece, and that it's a bit of a departure from the other superhero offerings the publication has put out so far. Instead of capes and cowls, this story looks at the idea of being a chosen hero, of having some role to fill in a larger story. And what happens when, for most, the story ends. What happens to the primary character? It's a fascinating and poignant work and it's time to review it! 

Art by Jenna Whyte

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Essential

So recently at Nerds of a Feather we've been running posts that feature "essential SFF." Followers of Quick Thoughts know that I have some opinions about canon and about anything that seeks to create objective divisions between genres, books, and writers. And so when tasked with thinking about essential SFF, my first reaction was to balk. To want to step back and let other people more comfortable with the concept make their lists and leave it at that. But then… Well, it's not that I necessarily object to other people making essential SFF lists. It's that…it's that when I was thinking about what to include on an essential SFF list I looked at what other people put on their lists. At what was out there in terms of recommendations.

The answer, predominately, was novels. Pretty much every list out there about essential SFF was about novels. And yet the lists weren't necessarily labeled as essential novel lists. More often they were labeled as essential SFF books. And there was really no YA on these lists. Or romance. Or graphic novels. Or collections. Or poetry. These things got their own lists. Separate lists. And…and to me those are just as much books as any novel. I feel that often people think of amazing books and they think only of novels. Because how can you consider poetry next to short fiction next to graphic novels next to novels? They're apples and oranges and lemons and grapefruit. Mustn't we strive for specificity? Mustn't we first determine what is a great novel and then, elsewhere, determine what is a great graphic novel? Mustn't we first determine what is a great SFF novel, and then, elsewhere, determine what is a great SFF romance? Or SFF poem? Surely we can all agree that these things cannot share a space.

There is a reason that it is harmful to have a list of American Authors and a separate list of Female American Authors and have it mean being included on the second means you are not included on the first. I understand people who like to look at genre and want narrow definitions of what makes something SFF. I just don't agree with them. At all. I find such narrowing of genres and considerations to be harmful. For the health of the genre, for the writers trying to push the boundaries of form and meaning, and for readers looking to connect with books they love. It is a way only to catch people in an endless loop of the same boring, comfortable crap. And that does no good for anyone. So when I approached putting together a list of essential SFF, I wanted to do it in a way that reflected my thoughts on the matter but also…well, I wanted to try and define "essential" in a way that doesn't mean "should be part of a canon." I do not really find value in a canon. But I find value in book recommendations. I do find value in knowing what works spoke to people.

Basically, what I've enjoyed when many places have done lists of recommended stories and books has been the passion of those recommendations. The sense that here were books that shaped a person, that inspired them. That pushed them to try new things. That affirmed them. That saw them. And so when I thought about what is essential SFF I ended up looking at what has been essential to me. What has shaped me. So yes, I wrote it and it will out on Tuesday and everyone can check it then. It was, ultimately, a fun experience, because it made me think about the person I am and the person I want to be and how my reading has steered that internal conversation. How I've changed because of the books I've read. How I am changing still. It's a list that, for me, ranges all over the place, so SFF purists might want to avoid (though what SFF purists are doing on this blog I'm not sure).

Anyway, it would also be cool to know what other people's essential SFF lists would be. I love getting recommendations and if anyone has a list they've published on a blog or on goodreads or who wants to, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Quick Sips - Fantastic Stories of the Imagination #236

The two fiction works in this issue of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination are solidly urban fantasy, exploring how the creatures of myth and legend live among "normal" humans. These are, to me, stories about abuse and about struggling to overcome abuse, to stop it where it is or at least try to stop being a part of it. The worlds presented are mirrors to our own, where the magical elements are hidden but for those who know to see, and it mirrors the way that abuse in our world is often invisible, lurking. Both stories do an amazing job of creating compelling plots and characters and complicating the traditional folklore. It's an excellent issue that I should just shut up and review! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Quick Sips - Apex #88

It's another fairly large issue of Apex Magazine with three fiction pieces and four poems, exploring a number of interesting different worlds that all seem to reflect back on our own. With the fiction, the stories are all rather more fantasy than science fiction this issue, though perhaps science fantasy might fit some of them better, with mixtures of magic and mortality. The poetry takes things in a bit more science fictiony direction, though, with glimpses of post-apocalyptic Earth as well as other worlds that might be experiencing catastrophes of their own. It's an issue that brings the dark but doesn't forget to pack some extra hope just in case. So yeah, to the reviews! 

Art by Mélanie Delon