Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Gadz, The Workshop of Filthy Creation (2021)

Richard Gadz, The Workshop of Filthy Creation. Deixis Press, 2021. Pp. 258. ISBN 978-1-8384987-3-3. $15.99.

Reviewed by Jason Kahler

In the days leading up to me finishing reading Richard Gadz’s excellent The Workshop of Filthy Creation, my significant other and I braved the COVID-draped movie theater for a special double-feature of the classic (1931) films Dracula and Frankenstein. I’d seen both of those movies before, of course, but I don’t think I’d ever watched them back-to-back, and certainly never on the big screen.

As much as I love both of those films, and appreciate them as important artifacts of film and cultural history, I don’t think I’d understood just how much I prefer Frankenstein until experiencing them in such direct juxtaposition. For starters, Dracula is just so slow, with so much of its menace focused on Bela Lugosi’s eyes just emoting dread. Frankenstein crackles with intensity, with desperation, and ultimately, with deeper questions about the nature of living and humanity. There’s just more on the shelf. Lugosi’s count may win the trophy for best performance between the two (though Karloff really does a great job of showing the monster’s despair through all that make-up), but Frankenstein is just a better movie.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Berman (ed.), Burly Tales (2021)

Steve Berman (ed.), Burly Tales: Finally Fairy Tales for the Hirsute and Hefty Gay Man. Lethe Press, 2021. Pp. 218. ISBN 978-1-5902-1084-0. $15.00.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

It’s official: The LGBT+ community has become a marketing demographic. Every June, the floodgates open as every publisher, film studio, and content producer tries to get in on the rainbow dollar. Obviously, I’m not angry at a trend that boils down to “being queer has become socially acceptable,” but I know I’m not the only one who has a certain nostalgia for a time when queer content was made by us and not at us.

Happily, we have Lethe Press.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Appel, Assassin’s Orbit (2021)

John Appel, Assassin’s Orbit. Rebellion Publishing, 2021. Pp. 400. ISBN 978-1-78108-915-6. $11.99/£8.99.

Reviewed by M.L. Clark

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, The Expanse series has a lot to be flattered by in John Appel’s Assassin’s Orbit, a work of mid-flung-future space opera involving multiple perspectives brought together by a mysterious case verging on interstellar incident. The book was even promoted as “The Golden Girls meets The Expanse,” a tagline that intrigued this reviewer, but unfortunately yielded disappointment when it turned out that the “Golden Girls” component was simply… having three major POV characters be older women. (I’d like to see someone try to call The Expanse’s Chrisjen Avasarala a “Golden Girl” simply because of her age.) Appel’s characterization of these women as women falls into tired territory at times, but if you put aside the marketing—and indeed, the whole Golden Girls reference entirely—the characters are still solid, sensible actors moving through a confidently-paced political intrigue.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Lowe, The World Is at War Again (2021)

Simon Lowe, The World Is at War, Again. Elsewhen Press, 2021. Pp. 296. ISBN 978-1-911409-83-0. $20.00.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Simon Lowe’s wearily titled The World Is at War, Again is not actually a war novel, in that there are no pitched battles on land, sea, or in the air, no ever-more-powerful bombs or other instruments of mass destruction. In fact, the only mention of the War itself is the frequently repeated statement that Things Aren’t Going Too Well With The War, the capitalized words indicating that this is a frequently repeated trope that all have heard many times before and probably will again. The identity of the two sides is unclear, except those on the side of seemingly all of the characters are called the “Unified Nations”—which I at first misread as the United Nations. The characters are all spies, specifically Agent Assassins, or AAs, that come from two families, the Misorovs and the Fandanellis. Mr. and Mrs. Fandanelli, whose son Peter is deposited at (or near) a special school for children of AAs, are in the Volunteer War Over Seas Aid Squad (VWOSAS), stationed on a Cruise Liner, to meet an unknown contact in an unknown manner to receive their instructions.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

GigaNotoSaurus (spring/summer 2021)

GigaNotoSaurus, ed. LaShawn Wanak. Spring/summer 2021 content. Online at giganotosaurus.org.

Reviewed by Shellie Horst

There’s a certain amount of irony in the comparative name sake of this zine. GigaNotoSaurus, like the theropod of the same name, is a not-quite short story zine with stories that leave a ginormous footprint in your memory. Sure, those who know the industry will recognise familiar names who have and continue to work with the site curating an excellent library of tales that go beyond the usual fare of white, cis, and western influenced stories. I’m not in favour of name dropping to impress, but you are in safe hands with LaShawn Wanak. Wanak had already had work published in plenty of SFF staples inlcuding Uncanny and Lightspeed Magazine before the previous editor Annie Leckie handed her the reins. The combined expertise of the staff is paid forward to upcoming authors.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Arsenika #8 (2021)

Arsenika, ed. S. Qiouyi Lu. Issue 8 (Spring 2021). Online at arsenika.ink.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Arsenika is a small, very personal, even idiosyncratic zine that ran for eight issues over five years, edited by S. Qiouyi Lu, who started the zine in 2016 “to find work that called out to” aer, and by all accounts did so very successfully (and found work that called out to many other readers besides). As well as a personal aesthetic, the zine came to showcase flash fiction and poems with “queer elements … steeped in non-White cultures … that experiments with form and narrative.” This final issue of Arsenika is no exception, and makes no apologies—if you have enjoyed the work that has appeared here over the years, you will love this one. The issue contains two pieces of flash fiction and three poems (one of which is very long), and a hot tonne of creativity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Addison, The Witness for the Dead (2021)

Katherine Addison, The Witness for the Dead. Rebellion Publishing, 2021. Pp. 315. ISBN 978-1-78108-951-4. £8.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the Dead is a sequel of sorts to The Goblin Emperor (2014). The latter was one of my favorite fantasy novels from the last decade; a low fantasy with steampunk elements, it does incredibly interesting things with racing elves and goblins, while also telling a solid story of a young man’s coming-to-power and of age. The Witness for the Dead picks up shortly afterwards and stars a minor character from the previous book, Thara Celehar, as he tracks down a murderer. I’m not much of a mystery reader, but this is an effective genre mash-up that left me pleased with how smoothly all the story elements came together and wanting more books just like it. It’s also a standalone novel that will easily make sense to someone who hasn’t read Goblin.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Jones, Mirrormaze (2021)

Cliff Jones Jr. (ed.), Mirrormaze: A Dreampunk Anthology. Fractured Mirror Publishing, 2021. Pp. 384. ISBN 978-1-7352171-3-0. $16.99 pb/$8.99 e.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Fractured Mirror, a newcomer in the publishing scene, has turned out one of the most intriguing and unusual anthologies of the year with Mirrormaze: A Dreampunk Anthology. Dreampunk, coined for this anthology, is an intentionally slippery term to define, but it centers on the sense of unreality created by dreams. It has the deliberately exaggerated aesthetic associated with other punk subgenres, but instead of being defined by a particular era or type of technology, the commonality is the delirious imagery and the underlying feel of not-quite-rightness. It is surreal not just in the colloquial sense of “weird stuff,” but in the original sense of a Jungian journey into the subconscious. Bringing together 20-odd different authors around a concept this nebulous is an ambitious achievement, and I was impressed by how coherent the resultant anthology turned out to be. While I’d never heard the term “dreampunk” before picking up Mirrormaze, within the first couple of stories I immediately had a sense of what it entailed.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Aftermath #2 (2020)

Aftermath, ed. Jan Bee Landman. Issue 2 (2020). Online at aftermathmag.org.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

In addition to articles, essays and opinion on the subjects of climate change and environmental degradation, Aftermath publishes the results of an annual short story contest titled “The End of Our World.” The second installment contains the three winners of the 2020 contest (who shared $1400 in prize money), plus seven honorable mentions. The overarching theme of these stories, as one might expect from what is effectively an activism site, is pessimistic environmental fiction—ranging from desperate realism to post-apocalyptic terror. You’ll find no solarpunk or eco-topia stories in this volume. Additionally the stories tend toward the literary rather than genre aesthetic, meaning there is a lot of grim introspection, unreliable or unsympathetic narration, hopelessness is much more likely than derring-do action, and happy endings would be considered downright gauche (which is not to say that many of the endings of this type of story are not powerful and even satisfying). One recalls the argument that “Climate Fiction” is not science fiction, and—much as I like to disagree with almost any statement in the form “X is not SF”—from the point of view of genre aesthetic, this collection indicates there is some truth to it.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Fusion Fragment #6 (May 2021)

Fusion Fragment, ed. Cavan Terrill. Issue #6 (May 2021). Online at fusionfragment.com.

Reviewed by Julie Reeser

Fusion Fragment was re-launched in March 2020 as a semi-pro SF market. The cost of the current issue is pay-what-you-can for digital, and back issues are free to read on the website; backing the FF Patreon also serves as a (print or digital) subscription. My copy came as white lettering on a black background with single-spaced lines, which at times was difficult to read even with the zoom function. Each story is followed by an interesting Q&A with the author. At the very end of the issue, each author lists two books they recommend to readers, as well as links with where to find more of their work.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Email subscriptions to TFF Reviews

Just a note to mention that if you subscribe to TFF Reviews emails using Feedburner, that service will be disabled in the next couple weeks. There are other RSS-by-email services available, if you want to migrate your subscription. As a start we have added a new “Subscribe by email” form on the sidebar to the right, using the Blogtrottr service. We hope you'll continue to follow TFF Reviews, one way or the other.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Bain et al (edd.), ProleSCARYet (2021)

Ian A. Bain, Anthony Engebretson, J.R. Handfield, Eric Raglin & Marcus Woodman (edd.), ProleSCARYet: Tales of Horror and Class Warfare. Rad Flesh Press, 2021. Pp. 234. ISBN 978-1-7369-5321-1. $12.02 pb/$5.99 e.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Few anthologies have managed to be the right idea at the right time as well as Prolescaryet. Percolating through COVID and BLM, it lands in our hands just as the powers that be demand a return to normalcy from a population for whom not much has changed. I, for one, am ready for a hot, steaming cup of “Fuck you” aimed at the corporate overlords. And that’s exactly what we get.