Thursday, April 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #107

The April stories from Apex Magazine are all about the toxicity of place and the inability to make good decisions in a broken system. Especially when you are vulnerable. Especially when you’re not meant to be a person with power. The stories look at how people in these situations strive to gain the freedom to make their own decisions, to control their own lives, only to find again and again any attempt to resist the system from the inside is co-opted and corrupted. And any attempt to get away from the system is prevented or resisted. Because these systems want victims, what those who can’t fight back. People still do, though, and the issue has a great assortment of stories that look at how difficult it is to reach for change when every avenue for reform seems to lead back to the same old hurts. To the reviews!

Art by Chase Hensen

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

X Marks the Story - April 2018

It's that time again. My latest X Marks the Story is up at The Book Smugglers. Go check it out here.

For those just wanting the sweet, sweet stories, here's a list of the 6 I featured this month (note, there's plenty more I included in the further x-plorations). Cheers!

“A Priest of Vast and Distant Places”, Cassandra Khaw (published in Apex Magazine #106, March 2018)
“The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes”, Siobhan Carrol (published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #247, March 2018 )
“Don’t Pack Hope”, Emma Osborne (published in Nightmare #67, April 2018)
“Being an Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club”, Nin Harris (published in The Dark #35, April 2018)
“Pistol Grip”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (published in Uncanny #21, March/April 2018)
"The Sower”, Takim Williams (published in Fiyah #6, April 2018)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #67

Horror comes with a second person perspective in the April offerings from Nightmare Magazine. And, like a lot of great SFF horror, these stories are largely about fear. In one, how a being that strikes fear into almost everyone that they come across is made to feel a bit of themself. In the other, how a person who has felt fear for most of their life finds themself in a position where all that training is paying off in the face of something huge and terrifying. It’s a nice one-two punch when it comes to stories, the first a bit more meandering and slow, the second immediate and intense. And both do a nice job of examining fear and how we experience it. To the reviews!

Art by Sean Gladwell / Fotolia

Monday, April 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #139

It’s a phenomenal April of fiction at Clarkesworld Magazine, with four short stories and a translated novelette to bite into. And these are evocative, emotional stories that look at connections and cooperation. That look at people helping people in many different ways. To comfort one another. To protect one another. But also to push one another to do better. To reach a fuller potential. To push toward a better future where we aren’t defined by hate and loss and sorrow. The stories are at times tinged by grief and tragedy, but they shine with a lovely strength, and a flowing sweep of language and ideas. It’s just a fantastically strong issue, and I’ll get to those reviews!

Art by Arthur Haas

Friday, April 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Julia Griffin

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #21 [April stuff]

It’s a full March at Uncanny Magazine, with three original stories and four poems to kick off what in most places is the start of spring. And in many ways these are stories about cold and warmth. About numb moments and numbed hurts and the awakening that spring can bring. Not an erasing or easing of pain but a revealing of it. A thawing, and through that thaw a return of sensation. Not always free of pain (in fact, often full of pain), but also full of the hope that spring can bring. That healing is possible, that live can continue, even after the hurt and desolation of winter. It’s just a powerful issue and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Nilah Magruder

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus April 2018

It’s a second world fantasy novelette that graces the pages of GigaNotoSaurus this month (err...graces the...screen?). And though I hesitate to compare stories to other stories, I think I will make an exception here because the story reminds me very much of the work of Guy Gavriel Kay. Building up a lush quasi-historical situation and populating that situation with people. Not heroes, necessarily, though history might remember them as such. Just people trying to live, trying to find ways to be happy amid a chaotic and turbulent world. The story explores cycles of violence and prejudice, and provides a touching and quiet take on a large and dramatic incident. To the review!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online April 2018

Continuing the newer tradition of coming out with fairly thematically linked issues, Flash Fiction Online presents an April full of fools. Or maybe fooling. Also aliens. Yup, all three stories feature alien beings, and in most of them there’s also a vein of something...well, of someone pulling one over on someone else. Maybe it’s an actress tricking an alien monster to spare Earth, or a group of alien agents trying to set up first contact on the sly, or even the own paranoid post-drunken-weekend-in-Vegas thoughts of a man who might have just married an extraterrestrial. In any case, the stories are largely bright and fun, even when they brush against planet eating and possible invasion. So without further delay, to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, April 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Fiyah #6 [Big Mama Earth]

Entering into the meaty part of their second year of publication, Fiyah Magazine focuses on the theme of “Big Mama Nature,” exploring the natural world through the lens of black speculative fiction and poetry. There are four stories and one poem in the issue, and the genres range from eco-horror to science fiction to contemporary fantasy. They look at nature in many of its forms, as victim and as perpetrator of violence—as source of great power and home of great cruelty. In some of the pieces, the world is a living thing with a definite will, and in others it is a cold witness to the troubling events taking place on its skin. These are stories that reveal deep hurts—in people and in the planet—and don’t always offer pathways to healing. Through it all, though, I feel like hope hangs on, battered and bruised at times, but refusing to back down, and finding strength in community, family, and resilience. To the reviews!

Art by Jessica McCottrell

Friday, April 6, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #35

It’s March at The Dark Magazine and with spring comes two stories about women in isolation, surrounded by hunger and by darkness, and what they do to escape, to fall victim to it. Both stories find characters who are struggling with being on their own, either because their husband isn’t always around or because they don’t have one. The distance between them and other people becomes a place where dark things brew and ferment and begin to leak into their world, into their space. The characters must take action in an attempt to avoid the grasping hands of the dark, and yet not all actions will keep them safe. The stories explore the difference between waiting for the dark to come in and trying to get away from it. It makes for a tense, nail-biting issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Caro von Chaos

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #95

Two short stories and two novelettes mean a pretty full April for Lightspeed Magazine. And this month is certainly a strange one, looking at relationships and hurt and the prospect of finding happiness in a deeply imperfect world. The stories feature characters who are often witness and victims of corrupt systems—governments or extinctions or quasi-religious-magical-soul-mate timers. They find themselves struggling against the weight of the Way Things Are, whether that means the order of everyone knowing when they’ll meet their soul mate or the chaos of a world where elephants can incinerate themselves in grief. The stories point to a truth that even seemingly-ordered systems often hide a lot of chance, pain, and guesswork, and sometimes it’s important not to reach for what’s being offered and instead reaching for justice. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Elizabeth Leggett

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Glittership March 2018 [er...part 2]

Okay so I jumped the gun a bit on the March Glittership offerings. Instead of one original story and three reprints, there were an additional two original stories (one very very short) and an original poem as well. Which means that there’s enough for me to do a second review just for the ones I missed. And it’s a wonderful collection of Queer SFF, with a breath of weird and a sense of quiet longing. In many of the pieces, at least, we find characters who find value in a quest that might never really be over. Who realize that the quality of a journey is much more often about who you’re with and what you’re doing than it is about where you’re going. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #248

March’s last issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies finds a pair of stories that are very much about intimate exchanges and the way that desire is used by corrupt systems to compromise and ensnare people. The stories feature characters who are trying to reach for something they want—freedom from something, mostly—and instead find that by trying to use the system to get what they want, they end up being corrupted by the system and end up unhappy and ground under its wheels. At least, until they decide to try and break free by embracing the cycles of the system, by using its own cruelties against it. These are not overly pleasant reads, but it’s a strong issue all the same. To the reviews!

Art by Stefan Meisl

Monday, April 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform March 2018

Terraform is firing on all cylinders for March, bringing four original stories that reveal futures that…well, that we don’t really want to experience. That show the cost of injustice and conflict and prejudice and war. The stories feature characters who are trying to find ways to cope the various levels of corruption their worlds are riddled with. Some are more successful than others, but the message that becomes clear as the month’s works synergize is that there can be no good outcome from a terrible system. There can be no happy ending when the world is a nightmare. And that’s something to take to heart, that none are spared when the system is corrupt. Even when you’re sure you’ll be the exception. To the reviews!