Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Quick Sips - People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

It’s a bittersweet moment to announce that with this special People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories! issue, the publication is closing down. It’s certainly a sad moment to see FSI closing down, but this is one hell of a way to go out. There are four original stories that I will be looking at, but I very much encourage everyone to check out the reprints and the nonfiction, because it’s all amazing and you should do yourself the favor of reading it. The stories themselves seem to focus on the tenuous nature of safety and space. Many of the characters find themselves relatively happy despite being marginalized, despite being at risk of violence and bigotry. They find jobs that they like, and people who accept them, and a place to be, only to find that all of it can be taken from them, and that sometimes the only thing they have left is the power to lose the rest, to gamble it away in the hopes that everything is not completely lost. And I love how the stories work together and flow and I guess I should just get to the reviews!

Art by Victo Ngai

Monday, June 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership Spring 2017 part 2

For this second half of Glittership’s Spring 2017 issue there’s still a lot to read and experience. There’s a bit more reprinted fiction than in the first half of the issue/releases, including “She Shines Like a Moon” by Pear Nuallak, which I’ve already reviewed here back in 2015 when it appeared in Lackington’s Skins issue. As such, I won’t be reviewing the story again, but I will definitely say people should check it out. Of the four remaining works, there’s one original story, one new poem, and two other reprints, and in case anyone was wondering it is all fucking good. I absolutely love that Glittership has added poetry and between the original and reprint fiction it’s definitely the publication to go to for gloriously queer content. I heartily point people toward their Patreon, especially if you want the awesome ebook delivered to you every quarter. Do it, people. Do it. But ahem, yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #97

It’s a trio of stories this month at Apex Magazine, including one story in translation and two entirely new tales. The issues offers a nice range of darker SFF, never quite descending as deep as the publication sometimes goes but still keeping things dark enough to fit with the overall aesthetic of Apex. The stories are about oppression and the battle between the characters and themselves. Between them and their pasts, their presents, and their futures. In each, the character must face their decisions, even when they can’t remember making them, and decide how to move forward, whether to give in to the weight of what has happened or to blaze a new trail and strike out into unexplored territory. The characters all find different answers to question of how to proceed, and in doing so provide stories rich in mood and pathos while still remaining fun and moving. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Irina Kovalova

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #16 [June stuff]

Well it’s another busy month at Uncanny Magazine, with three original stories, two poems, and five nonfiction pieces. I was very tempted to just skip the nonfiction, I will admit, because of time concerns, but once I saw it was about Star Trek, food, resistance, and revolution, I kinda had to look at it more in depth. What’s here this month has a great focus on self-determination and strength and stories. About the ways that we write ourselves out of struggles in order to relieve the burden of having to act and the ways that we need to counter that. The stories focus on people being confronted with narratives that don’t leave room for them, where they are often ignored or marginalized, and how they seek to recenter and decolonize these stories to present a more just and more complete vision of the world. And the pieces all do this by subverting tropes and familiar structures and ideas to present wholly new and revolutionary messages. Time travel is revealed as more crutch than cure. Vampirism takes on wholly new levels when crossed with gender and transition. Narrative structure and voice itself is blurred as character and author and reader meet. It’s a lovely collection of works and an amazing call to arms for SFF readers who want to act and fight back against what perhaps is becoming the darkest timeline. So yeah, review time!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #227

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings a pair of stories about relationships and conflicts, betrayals and healing. In each of the stories women seek to live in a world that is hostile, that doesn’t really let them be in peace. Whether it’s because of a long-standing conflict that they have to try and live through or an unjust government that they have to live under, the settings are drenched in the threat of violence and erasure. And only through coming together, helping each other, and trusting one another, can these women find strength in their love and security in the families they make of and with each other. These are stories of women getting shit done and taking on the systems of oppression in open and interesting ways, having faith in their partners and their own abilities to shape a more just and healthy world. So yeah, it’s review time!

Art by Jeff Brown

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #37 [June stuff]

June has arrived at Shimmer Magazine and it’s a month of relationships and yearning, distance and growth. Both stories focus on a central relationship and the power it has over those in it. For the first piece, it’s a budding relationship that brings meaning and nourishment for the people experiencing it, for the people unable to be together but still drawing nearer and nearer, more and more intimate. For the second piece the distance between the characters means that they can never really know what they might have had. And for all that it pushes the characters forward, inspires them and in some cases protects them, it’s a more haunting kind of relationship, defined by absence and not potential. Both are beautiful to watch unfold, though, and each offer their own flavors of hope, even when its bittersweet. To let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Monday, June 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/05/2017 & 06/12/2017

Strange Horizons kicks off their first two weeks of June with a pair of stories and a pair of poems. I have to say, the stories probably couldn't be more tonally different if they tried, but both broach on some heavy themes of loss, hope, and movement. The first, however, does so with a frenetic, almost saccharine cheeriness, and the second with a stark bluntness that drips with grief and pain. Both are beautiful in their own ways, but be prepared for perhaps some fictional whiplash. The poems resonate as well with feelings of having power wrested away, of being subject to another's whims only to perhaps take back some measure of control. Or at least expose the damage done. It's a challenging two weeks of content but, as always from Strange Horizons, very rewarding. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Rachel Khan

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Monthly Round - May 2017

The Monthly Round is up over at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

As always, it features my favorite SFF short fiction paired with booze and tasting notes and topped off with reviews. It's great. For just a list of the stories, here you go:

Tasting Flight - May 2017

“Carnival Nine” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
“They Will Take You From You” by Brandon O’Brien (Strange Horizons)
"The Heart's Cartography" by Susan Jane Bigelow (Lightspeed)
“Read Before Use” by Chinelo Onwualu (Uncanny)
“The Stars that Fall” by Samantha Murray (Flash Fiction Online)
“Bear Language” by Martin Cahill (Fireside Fiction)


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #129

Okay, so it’s a very full month of content from Clarkesworld, with five original stories, all but one of them a novelette. And seeing as how many of the stories have something of a slower pace, this is an issue that might take people a while to get through (it certainly took me some time). he good news is that even if some of the stories are a bit slower and more ponderous, they are still very much worth spending some time with. The focus of the issue for me seems to be the aftermath of great harm and what responsibility the individual has in the face of collective cruelty, corruption, and violence. Each of the stories take a run at this core idea in different ways, from looks at the end of the world to more intimate apocalypses, but they are all emotionally resonant and interesting. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Matt Dixon

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus June 2017

Weighing in at a rather long novelette, the story from this month’s GigaNotoSaurus, is full of old hurts and distant stars. Unfolding in a space where things are lean and mean, it features a cyborg with a lot of emotional baggage and a plot that mixes action with some deep emotional beats. There are thuggish villains, corrupt space cops, smug conmen, and for those looking for a fast and fun adventure, it has exactly what you’re looking for. So let’s get to the review! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #57

June has arrived at Nightmare Magazine and with it a pair of SFF horror stories featuring predators. These stories show just how different predators can be, one of them a woman shunned and isolated and hunting for a way to break out from her loneliness; the other the story of a man driven by his entitlement and desire to abuse. In both stories women are the ones targeted, women who are made into the objects of obsession and torment. The stories take two very different approaches toward a similar theme of manipulation, gaslighting, and abuse, and both are creepy as hell. June might be about the approach of summer with its long days and short nights, but it’s also about lengthening shadows and the rot that can hide in plain sight. To the reviews!

Art by agsandrew / Adobe Stock Art

Monday, June 12, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #25

June’s The Dark Magazine brings two stories of women living with the realities of their own vulnerability. In each, the female protagonist is unsafe. They are different, threatening because they have power or simply because they don’t fit in well enough in their society. And in both this vulnerability opens doors that should perhaps have been left closed, provides them with layers of tragedy and victims, death and skin and magic. The stories are very different in the SFF they reveal but both also show the hunger and the violence that being under constant threat can create. The sharp edge that these women hone within themselves, becoming in their attempts to not be prey a new sort of predator. So yeah, let’s jump right into the reviews!

Art by Lonely

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mapping Smutty SFF - Part 1: Getting Started

A while ago I tweeted a thread that got a bit of attention that was about the distance between “pro” SFF and what I call smutty SFF and how frustrating and disappointing it can be writing in the chasm between those two perceived genres, especially as a queer writer wanting to write queer characters. It was about feeling like I have to make choices when I sit down to write what mask I’m going to wear—what market I’m going to write toward. If I want to write a fun and pulpy queer romp, do I try to make it fit into the mold of “pro” SFF or do I try to get it to fit into the smuttier mold of romance/erotica. These are creative decisions as well as financial ones, and apparently I’m not the only one who struggles with the same worries, insecurities, and rages—the same compromises and capitulations.

So what do I do? Well, I write about it! So welcome to a new blog series of indefinite length and scope that will be looking to examine more the weird intersection of SFF and queerness. A lot of what I’m going to talk about is anecdotal—there will be a lot of me talking about what I’ve done, noticed, observed, experienced, etc. There will be some advice and there will be some warnings and there will be information both general and very, very specific. I’m going to try with most installments to look at markets that accept queer content of various flavors and pay. I’m also going to go through some of my though processes for approaching these markets and stories and what I’ve learned from reading many of them for a number of years now. It’s weird because I feel like a new writer still, inexperienced and madly paddling to try and stay above water and mostly failing. Even so, I want to offer what I can because I know how alone it can feel for someone in this place between forms and genres and expectations.

For now, I guess we’ll see how response to this goes, but I hope you’ll come with me as I talk a bit about smutty SFF. As a reader and a writer, there’s a lot to learn, and a lot of great stories to create and discover. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online June 2017

The three stories of Flash Fiction Online’s June issue present visions very close to the reality of our world. With women made of water and dragons that feed on guilt, perhaps, but still very wrapped up in the here and now, in the minds and traumas of people just trying to get by, trying to deal with what the world throws at them. These are pieces that show the value of community, of touch, of the possibility of healing. These are stories that center loss and violence but still, by and large, leave room for hope. And before I spoil them all too much, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #85

It’s June at Lightspeed Magazine which I guess means science fiction that shows just how dangerous capitalism and technology can be and fantasy that shows the ups and downs of trying to steer a clear course in dealing with people. These are stories that show people either at the losing end of bad deals or seeing their careful plans fall apart. These are not wholly hopeless stories, though, and many of the pieces show that even though chaos seems inevitable, that preventing harm is in some ways impossible, there is still work to be done, and lessons to be learned, and a hope of healing and maybe, in time, improvement. So yeah, let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Randy Gallegos

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Quick Sips - Lackington's #13

It’s a new issue of Lackington’s and this time the theme is Births. Which can seem like a scary theme (at least for me) but I love what the issue did with it, examining all sorts of births and all sorts of families and really providing some heart-rending and heart-warming stories about people searching for meaning and purpose often in very hostile situations, often in places where it might not seem worth it to try. And I love that these stories seek out a better way, even when they don’t find one. They reach, and in that reaching they are profound and beautiful and I should just get to the reviews!

Art by Random Dreaming

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com May 2017

Well, Tor dot com continues to put a nice amount of SFF short fiction this June, with two novelettes and three short stories. Mercifully for yours truly, the novelettes actually came out first and not on the last day of the month, so I got to do a reviewer happy-dance. And luckily for yours truly, these are some interesting and at times intensely dark stories that show the ways that the darkness swirls around us and takes shape. The way that it whispers to us. The way that it pulls at us and begs to be let in. These are stories of mutants and aliens, ghosts and shadows, and a buried sense of loss and violence. These are stories about the repressed returning, about alternates and news ways of thinking, and they are both beautiful and terrifying. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Robert Hunt

Monday, June 5, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction May 2017

It's another fairly full month from Fireside Fiction, with about 16,000 words of fiction that moves from fantasy to science fiction with a fluid grace. These are stories that largely explore trauma and the looming threat of violence. There is an added focus on children here and the ways that their worlds are arrayed against them and the various ways they seek to protect themselves, not always successfully. The stories show characters moving around great and personal dangers and being unsure how to proceed, being made to make the decision of what to do when it's a very difficult decision to make. Some of the pieces are fun and some are decidedly dark and all of them are worth sitting down with so let's just get to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Sunday, June 4, 2017

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #4: SAY CHEESE AND DIE

[Hi all! Here's a new FREE installment of my ongoing Liver Beware! series of drunk Goosebumps reviews. At first I thought I would do all the odd-numbered reviews, but I think I might just skip around a bit, which means that this isn't review #3 but rather #4. If you enjoy this series or indeed anything that I do at Quick Sip Reviews, become a Patron and you can get access to all the Liver Beware! reviews plus other extras. Anyway, to the review!]

Friday, June 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/15/2017, 05/22/2017, & 05/29/2017

I'm taking things a bit easy with regards to the last three weeks of content from Strange Horizons. Meaning, I'm not looking at either of the reprints that appeared this week or the nonfiction that came out last week. I still very much to recommend you check them out, though. What remains is a single piece of original fiction and three different amazing poems. The works draw the reader into space, into the inky dark, and reveal glimpses of other worlds and possible fates for humanity. They revel in moments of crisis, in the quiet of important choices and the distance of dreams. Not all the works take the action far away from Earth, but there is a great mix of themes and experiences, flavors and styles. These are works to enjoy in the morning with coffee, surrounded by people but still, somehow, alone. So time to review!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform May 2017

I'm still not sure exactly what's going on with Motherboard's Terraform. I technically missed a late excerpt release last month but May has been without another original release, though it does include another interesting excerpt. What's here is stylistic and rather strange, a series of stories within stories and layers within layers. The excerpts tease at interesting projects and provide a vivid and weird feeling that lingers. This is still very much science fiction with a sense of urgency, which is Terraform's goal, mixing planetary mysteries cyborgs and language with violence and the threat of violence. I'm still playing wait-and-see as to if the publishing schedule will even out, but until then I guess the reviews will continue!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #226

It might be summer now but the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies imagines worlds much more in the grips of long winters. In both tales this issue we get to see people who are acting according both to their mission and their nature. People fall, or seem to fall, into very neat categories. Hunters and demons. Knights and maidens. The stories begin with a rather clear idea of who the good guys are and who the bad. But in both that idea is muddied as the characters seek to find out not just what those around them want but what might be locked in their own hearts as well. These are pieces that can get rather dark at times but keep their sights locked on a hope of freedom and a release from damaging cycles. So yeah, time to review!

Art by Ashley Dotson

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Regular Sip - HostBods by Tendai Huchu

Today I'm looking at a special project from Future Fiction featuring two stories by Tendai Huchu. One is a reprint and one is new for the ebook, HostBods. These are stories that both look at the boundaries of the artificial and the human, the virtual and the real. Both stories feature characters who are dealing with family and obligation while also trying to do right by those they care about. In both pieces, though, the environment is full of decay and corruption. The threat of violence and subjugation are real and present and provide the characters with a motivation to try and survive, to try and find a way to endure and, perhaps, reach a better place. These are two stories that take very interesting SFF looks at technology and the end of the world and I'll get right to the reviews!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership Spring 2017, part 1

People, Glittership now has POETRY!!! Rejoice! Queer speculative poetry is like the best so I am ALL ABOUT this decision, and especially with poetry being discontinued at Apex I love that a venue has re-upped on the form. Plus, you know, awesome SFF short fiction. Today I'm looking at half of the most recent issue, some of which is available online for free right now and some that will be available soon. I do recommend that if you like the publication you go and either buy the issue or become a Patron, which will also get you access to the back issues of the ebook as well. The stories are largely about challenge and about the strength it takes to keep going in the face of pain and loss and adversity. These are stories of people overcoming the tragedies in their lives and finding people who make going on easier. And along with the poetry the issue is one about hope in darkness, and the coming of light. It's an amazing issue that I will review presently!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 5: "Face Value" & "The Lotus Flower" by Una McCormack, "The Calling" by Andrew J. Robinson

Hello and welcome back to the May installment of the Year of Garak. For those playing along at home, please feel free to check out the festivities so far with January | February | March | April. Today I'm flying solo and looking at a trio of stories surrounding everyone's favorite plain, simple Cardassian. Two of the stories are from the Deep Space Nine anthology, Prophecy and Change, while the other is half of the first Worlds of Star Trek DS9 book. The names should be familiar, as they're the two biggest influences on Garak in Star Trek canon. Andrew J. Robinson is the man behind the mask, the actor himself and author of A Stitch in Time, while Una McCormack has been prolific in bringing the story of Garak forward in time.

Chronologically, "Face Value" is the earliest of the stories, taking place during the last few episodes of the series while Garak, Damar, and Kira were trapped on Cardassia. "The Lotus Flower" is set after the events of A Stitch in Time but definitely before "The Calling." There will be spoilers for events in the show and novels, so for those not wanting that, #sorrynotsorry. I think the biggest take-away here is the abrupt change in tone from the end of "The Lotus Flower" to the beginning of "The Calling," and how "The Calling" leaves Garak as a character, person, and Cardassian. All of these stories help to flesh out Garak, though, and show how he deals with being back on a Cardassia that is much different than the one he'd hoped would be waiting at the end of his exile. So without further hesitation, to the reviews!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Quick Sips - The Archipelago Prologues

With the march of time and technology, the methods and mediums for telling stories can change rapidly. Though books and more traditional publications still dominate the market, there is growing room for alternative funding for stories, and one of the most popular recent additions to the landscape is Patreon. Already many authors use the site in order to bring stories directly to those willing to pay a small monthly cost. And now there’s a new project innovating Patreon storytelling—a joint venture featuring three writers sharing a setting but with audience participation and a unique feel. Archipelago reveals a speculative past where portals to another world have opened, and with them come brand new opportunities of exploration, exploitation, and disaster. The three authors all have very different takes on the style and tone of the project, but all of them work with each other, creating a gestalt that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s an ambitious undertaking, and a brilliant start, and I’m going to be looking at the prologue stories, all of which are free to read, so that you might whet your appetite for this interested new venture. There’s currently a Kickstarter as well as the ongoing Patreon, and I certainly encourage you to check out both. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #32

It’s a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and it’s a rather full one with two short stories, two novelettes, and two poems. And everything has a lot to do with violence and cycles. Again and again we see settings that have been torn apart by war and strife, by carnage and murder, trying to find some way forward. Sometimes that means descending down into the muck and mire of killing, but sometimes that means being able to rise up and do something new and different. Sometimes that means finding hope in unexpected places and finally bringing destructive cycles to an end. Whatever the case, it makes for some great reading and I’m going to get to the reviews!

Art by Mark Molchan

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #225

May is off to a great start at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with a pair of stunning stories that center on the ideas of work and care, love and loss. The worlds that the stories introduce are full of brokenness, full of inequity, full of people dealing with bad situations and the whims of a universe that doesn’t really seem fair. For some, this means using the realities of the world to define what they should and should not expect. For others, it’s about standing in the face of the expectations and declaring that there are some things that cannot be sacrificed, even as some other things need to be. These are very difficult and wrenching stories that focus on hope and healing even as they reach for a place where the trauma might have been prevented entirely. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Ashley Dotson

Monday, May 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #16 [May stuff]

This is another full issue of Uncanny Magazine, with May containing three original stories, two poems, and four different nonfiction pieces that I’ll be looking at. There’s a reprint and another nonfiction piece that I won’t be looking at because I’m not familiar with the text it’s discussing, but otherwise this is a very nicely balanced issues that focuses on resistance and fighting back but knows that there’s no hiding from the despair of oppression and the harm being done. And while many of the stories are quite hopeful, and while much of the nonfiction is about how to resist and how to maintain hope even in a very bad situation, there are also stories that know very well that there is also exhaustion, there is also hurt. And while none of the pieces stop there, some of them do carve out a space to feel that pain and recognize it. To show that it’s okay to hurt and to focus on that, while still leaving a path forward for when healing is possible and the fight can be resumed. It’s a powerful issue and I’ll get to those reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Friday, May 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #96

The May issue of Apex Magazine features two original stories and one reprint that explore trauma and distance, time and space and hope. It’s an issue that’s about the telling of stories and the reaching back for some semblance of comfort and closure. It features characters who are living on borrowed time, who are fighting against the weight of the forces that have doomed them. For most of them, it’s not a doom that is avoided, either, but that comes with the power and relentlessness of a train, of a storm, of a sun exploding. These pieces explore darkness in different ways, revealing it as both a source of comfort and fear. So yeah, join me as I jump into the reviews!

Art by Marcela Bolívar

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #37 [May stuff]

Well, May at Shimmer Magazine is a special one for me this year. Why? Well, because maybe a story of mine is appearing there! Yes, after nearly 30 rejections I have finally landed at one of my favorite publications! As such, I’ve also saved myself a bit of work, as I won’t be looking at my own story. I will definitely be looking at the other May release, though, which is the cover story. It features youth and a rural environment where nothing really grows right. It circles around abuse and toxic masculinity and trying to find a nurturing environment when everything seems poisonous. It’s not exactly a cheery tale, but not without its hope, the implication that maybe, somehow, there can be something beautiful and right to grow out of a fallow field. So yeah, to the review!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Monthly Round is up!!!

Head over to Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together to find my favorite SFF short fiction from April 2017 paired with thematically appropriate booze and reviewed! I call it my Taster's Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, and it's a lot of fun.

For those just wanting to know what I picked, the list is below. Cheers!

Tasting Flight - April 2017

"Underworld 101" by Mame Bougouma Diene (Omenana)
"Champollion's Foot" by Haris A Durrani (Mithila Review)
“And in That Sheltered Sea, a Colossus” by Michael Matheson (Shimmer)
"Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus" by Bogi Takács (Clarkesworld)
"It Happened To Me: I Was Brought Back to Avenge My Death, But Chose Justice Instead" by Nino Cipri (Fireside Fiction)
"And Then There Were (N-One)" by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus May 2017

It’s May at GigaNotoSaurus and apparently that means dipping back into the realm of fairy tales. Or, at least, fairy stories, as this month’s almost-a-novelette piece features an interesting take on the story of Tam Lin, who has gotten in a bit deep with a certain fairy queen and has made a few hasty bargains in order to try and get free of the messy situation he found himself in. Add to that a neatly rendered world of construction and underwater reconnaissance, and it’s a winning recipe for romantic mishaps. Like with all fairy tale retellings, it lives and dies by how it updates the themes of the original while adding new visuals, new voices, and a new style. And before I give away too much, let’s get to the review!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/01/2017 & 05/08/2017

May opens with a pair of stories and a pair of poems from Strange Horizons, all of them interested in the lines between achievement and destruction, success and oblivion. The stories look at two strikingly different situations stitched together with a thread of oppression and the looming threat of violence. These pieces are about struggle, whether through art or through organized action, and show characters moving according to their inner drives and needs. The poetry is interesting because both pieces take on an almost archaic feel in order reveal very modern concerns and warnings. There's a lot to see and experience with all this content, so I'll just jump right into the reviews!

Art by Matthew Filipkowski

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Queer Smut Reviews - Show Yourself To Me by Xan West

Welcome to the first ever Queer Smut Reviews! Way back in April of 2016 I sort of joked about moving the site to cover solely queer smut. I say sort of joked because this isn't something where I'm like "Queer smut, isn't that ridiculous, haha!" I write queer smut. I read queer smut. I think that it is both important and artful, no less so than the stories that we would call "just" SFF. Which is another reason that I've wanted to look at it, because I do believe that the divide we put up between SFF smut and SFF is largely artificial and harmful.

I'm not going to stand here, though, and defend queer smut's many problems, or be an asshole to ace/aro people for whom the emphasis on relationships and sex is not at all what they want to read. I will say simply that SFF smut has no more or less issues than the rest of SFF but receives a disproportionate amount of derision from all quarters. These complaints are not all without merit, as queer smut is dominated not by concerns about presenting queer relationships accurately or to be affirming for queer readers but rather to cater to the tastes of the readership, which is largely (but certainly not exclusively) white straight ciswomen. Still, there are stories that are being told in SFF smut that are being told no where else, and for people looking for representation not just of sexualities but of sex, smut is one of the very few places to find that.

For me, writing and reading about queer sex has helped me come to terms and make sense of my own identity. First through fanfiction, but more and more through published original works. Again, this is not to knock fanfiction, as it provides a largely anonymous place for people to write all kinds of stories, but I do think that writers should be paid for their work, and I think that part of that means telling and paying for original stories, and seeking out where these stories are being told and sold. Which, in turn, has pushed me to want to start this project, where I will be looking at published SFF romance and erotic romance and erotica short fiction.

My first entry into this feature is looking at three stories from the (oh glod incredibly hot) short fiction collection Show Yourself To Me by Xan West. (and I must say that Corey Alexander aka Xan West, who is a tremendous resource and advocate for writers and queer people in general, is currently in danger of becoming homeless and I hope you will consider helping out here and/or going out and buying this collection). I actually came across the collection from a recommendation from Bogi Takács (and/or Rose Lemberg) and thought it looked interesting. And, of course, I started reading it in an airport. Now, I'm pretty used to reading sexy-times so doing so in public isn't usually an issue, but wow, let me just say that this collection is steamy! I mean, very much so, and yet the stories also show an awareness and emphasis on consent and care. Let us just say that I had to take numerous breaks to cool down because I CANNOT OVERSTATE THE STEAM!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #56

It’s a bit of a treat this month at Nightmare Magazine. Why? Well, because they’re publishing one of my stories! Which means, on top of having the honor of my story appearing in a pretty awesome publication, means I’m off the hook for reviewing it! Which means that while I encourage you all to go and check it out, I’m really just looking at one story today. It’s certainly a weird one, filled with a pervasive darkness and the shadows of the surreal reaching through some veil of stories and into reality. It’s tense and creepy and it might make me even more nervous about weird people coming up to talk to me at bars. Which is a difficult thing to make me more nervous about. So yeah, let’s get to the review!

Art by Natalia Maroz

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #128

The stories in this May issue of Clarkesworld all seem to circle around nature and art and technology, drawing the lines of where humanity’s place in the natural world is. And it shows the ways that humans seek to reach beyond the known and comfortable, how people are constantly striving to do more and be more. For some that might mean rewriting their genetic code, and for others it might just mean chilling in a giant floating whale. Whatever floats your boat. But these are stories that mix moments of intense action and terror with softer moments of study, introspection, and thought. They’re rather contemplative stories, and as such deserve some time and consideration. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online May 2017

It’s May and so it’s rather fitting that this month’s stories from Flash Fiction Online focus on growth and transformation and budding love, all blooming in the shadow of loss and destruction and doom. The stories all feature characters caught in a moment of change. For some it might be a sudden shift to their world, a loss of the people who kept them safe and secure. For others it might be dealing with the prospect of change, with the advancing doom that seems like it might devour everything, that might take everything the characters have left. These are stories of spring, though, and hope, and pushing forward despite the hardship and despite whatever doom might come. The stories feature these characters choosing to grow and adapt and move forward, and they are beautiful to behold. So yeah, let’s get to those reviews!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #84

The May issue of Lightspeed Magazine brings its share of strange journeys, showing characters transported from their familiar surroundings to...someplace else. People find themselves in the past, or in a painting, or in a different body, or in Heaven. These stories also very much deal with violence and consent. Most of them directly tackle themes that ooze violation, that show characters either taking people against their will or characters taken against their will and put somewhere they don't really want to be (though they might start off okay with that). The issue as a whole is a dark one, without an awful lot of hope (save for one story). By and large they map injustice, expose it some, but do not try to tear it down (again, save for the one story). It's a somewhat conflicting month of stories for me, too, so let's get to the reviews.

Art by Sam Schechter

Monday, May 8, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #24

The two original stories from May’s The Dark Magazine are rather slow explorations of death and termination. Of something rotten that seems to be spreading. Of a realization that things aren’t quite so normal and good as they seem. These stories both focus in many ways on people moving around an elephant in the room (though not actual elephants), where the main characters don’t see or don’t want to see what’s happening around them. They want to just continue on as if everything was fine. But it’s not. And they don’t long get to put off their confrontation with reality and darkness. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Vincent Chong

Friday, May 5, 2017

Regular Sip - Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth by Cassandra Khaw

I'm dipping back into the Rupert Wong pool today with a look at this new novella from Abaddon Books. Like with the previous installment, things get messy quickly, which is all in a day's work for a cannibal chef. As followers of my reviews might know, I'm a sucker for SFF stories that bring in interesting takes on food and this is definitely a unique example. It's certainly not for the faint of heart, though, and it does require wading through an impressive amount of bloody carnage. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the review!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #224

The last April issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies provides looks into worlds alive with shadows. With talking animals and talking vegetables. Both stories feature characters seeking to overcome things. For one, it’s an injury he suffered that requires him to change how he operates. For the other, it’s a pair of deaths that leave her completely alone. Where the first is able to make bargains with magical beings in order to help his situation, though, the second faces entirely different prospects. The stories are about protection and judgement, about trades that don’t necessarily go as expected. They are rich in fantasy and deep in characters, and I should really just get to the reviews!

Art by Ashley Dotson

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2017

It's another fairly full month from Tor dot com, but still nowhere near as busy as last month. There are five stories to explore, one novelette and four shorts, and the pieces all center science and study. These are pieces that look at the role that humans can play in researching other species as well as humanity itself. They look at how medical science can be used to ease burdens and to create them, how studying and interacting with other species can teach us more about ourselves and more about the universe. These are stories about pain and disease and exploration, and people coming to terms with a universe that is vast and sometimes very cruel. And they are at turns beautiful and ugly, affirming and devastating. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Micah Epstein

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction April 2017

It's another rather full month from Fireside Fiction with four original short stories. Most of them weigh in as flash fiction, but that doesn't mean that they aren't dense and complex. What strikes me most about the stories, though, is their sense of fun (well, for most of the pieces). With one exception, the stories hold a flare for the mischievous, for the sly, for the sarcastic. The characters are wise in their own ways and certainly wiseasses, by and large, but also endearing and sincere in their ways. And the stories feature a range of setting and situations, from corporate time travel to magic schools and resurrections. There's a touch of tragedy to many of the stories as well, but a breath of hope and resilience in the face of destruction. To the reviews!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Omenana #9

It’s a new issue of Omenana! The first of 2017, it boasts six original stories that show stunning and often horrifying visions of SFF. These are pieces that largely lean toward speculative horror, toward the way that people can hurt each other and deceive each other and prey upon each other. The ways that humans can be made into vessels for their own destruction. The way that people seem to circle abuse and injustice like courting a mate. It’s not an entirely bleak issue, though many of the pieces are quite grim. There’s also a sense of hope to some of the pieces, that maybe we can find a better way, that maybe we can fly instead of impacting on the rocks of destruction. And before I give any more away here, let’s just dive into the reviews!

Art by Sunny Efemena

Sunday, April 30, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 4: DS9 episodes "Past Prologue," "Distant Voices," "Our Man Bashir," "Things Past," and "Empok Nor"

Hello and welcome back to another exciting installment of the Year of Garak, where we're looking at ALL THINGS GARAK. For those just joining, the discussion has been intense so far and if you want to catch up I recommend going back and checking out the content from January, February, and March. It's the last day of April and that means more Garak fun!

I'm joined again today by SFF poet, writer, and all around awesome person Nicasio Andres Reed. We're looking at a whole slew of episodes from DS9 so SPOILERS apply. Feel free to jump into the comments (they are moderated so it might take a little while for them to show up but I will try my best to check in regularly). Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the discussion!

Oh, and in case you don't remember from last time...

Nicasio Andres Reed is a Filipino-American writer and poet whose work has appeared in Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Shimmer, Liminality, Inkscrawl, and Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi and Fantasy Comics Anthology. Nico currently lives in Madison, WI. Find him on Twitter @NicasioSilang.

And now, to the discussion!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Quick Thoughts - Notes from Why Speculate?

Hi all! So there's a local writing organization where I live and part of what they do is host talks on writing/writerly-related topics. I was fortunate enough to speak to some of the people involved in the organization and set up a craft talk about speculative fiction and that went down this last week. It was...nervous for me, because it's hard to feel legit as someone who drunkenly reviews Goosebumps online but at the same time I know that part of the point of the talk is to reach new writers who might not know much about the field. Having had to figure out a lot of it on my own/with similarly new people, I know how suck that can be. So I talked about rejections and payments and contracts and all that good meat-and-potatoes things that college didn't talk about but for a ten minute hand wave at the end of one class once (that was optional to attend). That part of the talk was largely me just talking, but I started off the talk with an examination of what I feel makes Speculative Fiction distinct and meaningful. I want to share that part of the talk.

The whole thing was recorded and at some point I will try to find where it's been posted so that people can see the whole awkward mess, but for now I hope that maybe you'll find some of this interesting. Okay, full text after the bump:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform April 2017

I can honestly say that I'm not sure what's going on with the posting schedule for Terraform. I'm paranoid at the moment that I've missed something vital but it's possible that there is only the one release this month, a new chapter in the Highwayman graphic story. If that's the case, then okay then, though I will admit I've missed something done by Terraform in the past because I wasn't looking in the right place. What's here under the Terraform banner, however, is a rather revealing chapter of the ongoing story in a series that I can read a lot into. It's a fascinating read and while I'm not always sure how to feel about it, the time for reviewing has come!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/17/2017 & 04/24/2017

There's another two weeks of content from Strange Horizons and it's...actually rather manageable. One new story (and a flash fiction at that) and two new poems make for a fairly quick read, but the content is still in keeping with the high quality expected from the publication. The fiction is heavy with the weight of tragedy and hope and scarcity and hunger, and the poetry is reaching toward different worlds, toward things that seem and perhaps are out of reach. These are pieces about the distance between pain and numbness, between hope and despair, and the pieces all explore how people can keep going despite bitter circumstances. So let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #8

As always, there’s a lot to see in the latest issue of Mithila Review, which seeks to look a bit at visual arts. For original fiction, there’s one flash, one short story, and one novelette, and there are nine different poems, not to mention a reprint and a load of nonfiction that I will leave you to discover on your own. What’s here, though, and what I’m looking at in my review, does an amazing job of showing people coming into contact with the unknown. Shows people who assume based on the narratives they have been told about the nature of the world. And who find that they can’t accept those narratives. That only by challenging the stories that other people tell about the world can its nature truly be revealed. The poems expand on this as well and everything works together wonderfully to create an issue that is cohesive and sharp. But I guess I should just get to the reviews!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #36 [April stuff]

The two stories from Shimmer’s April offerings are heavy with grief and the weight of the past. The weight of expectations. The weight of the family business. These are stories of people finding themselves swept away by the tides of other people’s lives and deeds. Subject to them and wounded by them, unsure if they can set those old hurts aside, unsure how to escape the hooks of the past and the obligations heaped on them by the generations that came before. For both main characters a time has come to both face the past and the future, and these stories do a wonderful job of capturing that moment with hope and despair, magic and possibilities. To the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Monday, April 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #15 [April stuff]

It’s another full month of SFF from Uncanny, and another month full of pieces that look rather specifically at resistance. At least, the three nonfiction pieces all revolve around the idea of resistance and how SFF can be an invaluable tool to bridge between cultures, people, and experiences. There’s a bit of a surprise novella in among the fiction, paired with a flash work, and both look at the profound impact that loss can have, that disaster can have, on a person and their life. How it can make an ambivalent person dedicated. How it can make a peaceful person a killer. And the people it equally beautiful, exploring the boundaries between religion and consent, history and human folly. It’s a well rounded issue, and I’m going to get right to the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Friday, April 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #95

It’s a special guest-edited issue of Apex Magazine this month, with Maurice Broaddus in the driver’s seat. And people, poetry is back for this special occasion! It’s a full issue with four stories (three shorts and a novelette) and two poems. And the pieces all seem to center on narrative and voice. These are stories that look at how we pass along roles and expectations. How we prepare people to accept being abused and tortured, and how people still manage to find ways to stand up and take back their names and their voices and their skins. These are stories that center acts of violence and pain and fear, and seek for ways to bring justice and healing and hope back to people who have little reason to feel them. It’s a wonderful and challenging issue of dark fiction and poetry, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Angelique Shelley

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #55

The April stories in Nightmare Magazine do a great job of capturing a sense of darkness and magic in settings that don’t seem too different from our own. Where, for all the violence and all the strangeness and all the eerie beauty, there are links too to the mundane and the common, to the chore of visiting a sick relative and the insecurity of being in a new relationship. The stories reveal characters being confronted by strangers and making decisions they might have reason to regret. But these are also stories where, for all their violence and betrayal and weirdness, also hold on to a lifting hope. And before I spoil anything more, to the reviews!

Art by Dusan Kostic / Adobe Stock