Friday, August 18, 2017

The Monthly Round - July 2017

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

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

Tasting Flight - July 2017

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

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

“Cracks” by Xen (Fiyah)

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

“Elsewhere” by Meera Jhala (Flash Fiction Online)

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



Thursday, August 17, 2017

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

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

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #38 [August stuff]

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

Art by Sandro Castelli

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #131

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

Art by Pascal Blanche

Monday, August 14, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #99

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

Art by Dana Tiger

Friday, August 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies # 231

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

Art by Jordan Grimmer

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus August 2017

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #87

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

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2017

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #27

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

Art by Tomislav Tikulin

Friday, August 4, 2017

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

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

Art by Sebastian Gomez

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2017

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

Art by Victo Ngai

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction July 2017

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

Art by Galen Dara

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers July 2017

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

Art by Jennifter Johnson