Monday, November 30, 2020

The Dark #65 (2020)

The Dark, ed. Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Sean Wallace. Issue 65 (Oct 2020). Online at thedarkmagazine.com.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

The Dark is a monthly horror and dark fantasy ’zine with one heck of a pedigree. Its editors include multiple veterans from Clarkesworld Magazine, World Fantasy Award and Hugo winners, bestselling authors, and all of the above. It has gained a reputation for being one of the premier modern horror publications, offering fiction from such giants in the field as Alison Littlewood, Steven Rasnic Tem, Angela Slatter, and Gemma Files, but also leaving plenty of room for submissions by newcomers and relative unknowns. In addition, the stories are free to read, and, for the visually impared, many of the tales are available in audio form.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Pflug, Seeds and Other Stories (2020)

Ursula Pflug, Seeds and Other Stories. Inanna Publications, 2020. Pp. 320. ISBN 978-1-77133-745-8. $22.95.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

In Seeds and Other Stories, Canadian author Ursula Pflug brings us 26 speculative tales, the vast majority of which have been previously published in venues including Dead North Anthology, Transversions: An Anthology of New Fantastic Literature, Tesseracts 21: Nevertheless, The Peterborough Review, and Prairie Fire. With over 70 published short stories to her credit, as well as two other short story collections and three novels, Pflug is an accomplished writer, and that shows in the polished prose offered in Seeds and Other Stories. This particular collection, as is the case with Pflug’s novel Motion Sickness and her novella Mountain, was published by Canada’s Inanna Publications, which describes itself as “one of only a very few independent feminist presses in Canada committed to publishing fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction by and about women.”

Monday, November 09, 2020

Cossmass Infinities 3 (Sept 2020)

Cossmass Infinities, ed. Paul Campbell. Issue 3 (Sept 2020). For sale in e-book, or online at cossmass.com. $2.99.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Cossmass Infinities, a newcomer on the semipro scene, is the brainchild of Paul Campbell, and he’s clearly brought a great deal of polish and professionalism to his one-man operation. The third issue is out now, and it’s full of intriguing, well-written stories. Whether you personally enjoy them, though, may depend on how you’re holding up in quarantine. The stories are a somber lot as a whole. Several explore death and loss in crumbling post-apocalyptic settings.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Turnbull, We Come in Peace (2020)

Mark Turnbull, We Come in Peace. Self-published, 2020. Pp. 330. ISBN 979-8-63268-086-8. $8.71.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Kristine Kathryn Rusch blogged on August 5, 2020 that courage was essential when starting to write as a serious endeavor. Not commendations and blurbs from established authors, or traditional publishing holding your hand and walking you through the steps to your first book’s appearance on the market, but courage to do what you feel impelled to do: writing and putting your book into print and out there, even without the mark of an impressive publisher embossed on the jacket.

That is what Mark Turnbull has done with We Come in Peace, which he describes on the cover as “A Sci Fi Thriller.” One can feel that drive to write down all those ideas in one’s head and put them out on  page after page—327 of them up to the final sentence of the novel. There is a complex interweaving of plots on several levels, including a protagonist who works for a major tech company involved in various inventions involving space exploration, defense contracts, government officials on the highest levels, alien abduction and the threat of alien invasion—see the title, pregnant with foreboding—and much more domestic dramas, including the protagonist’s rocky relationship with his wife, complicated by rocky relationships with his older brother, a lightly touched upon attraction, apparently mutual, between himself and a co-worker, and barely remembered incidents from his own abduction by aliens.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Translunar Travelers Lounge #3 (2020)

Translunar Travelers Lounge, ed. Aimee Ogden & Bennett North. Issue 3 (Aug 2020). Online at translunartravelerslounge.com.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Translunar Travelers Lounge, edited by Aimee Ogden and Bennett North, is a new arrival on the semipro magazine scene, launching in August 2019 with a focus on fun sci-fi and fantasy. Today I’m reviewing Issue 3, released this August. It certainly lives up to that goal.

The first section, Metis Blend (Yerba-Maté), contains three amusing short takes on SFF elements in a corporate setting. “Acquisition: Earth” by Steven Berger follows an alien employee of a corporation attempting, not so successfully, to incorporate Earth into its assets. “Blue” by Kathleen Brigid involves a universal translator mishap (the author is clearly having some fun with her linguistics background). “The Swarm of Giant Gnats I Sent After Kent, My Assistant Manager” by Marissa Lingen is exactly what it says on the tin, wherein a woman does what we all wish we could to a workplace harasser; needless to say, it doesn’t go exactly as planned. They’re all entertaining and they provide three very different angles on workplace culture. The fourth story of the set, “Quicker to Love a Goat than a Boy” by James Mimmack, stands in contrast to the others; it’s slow and contemplative, following the inhabitants of a pastoral moon as they try to decide whether to leave on a spaceship.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Mund, We Are God (2019)

Jordan Mund, We Are God. All Things that Matter Press, 2019. Pp. 296. ISBN 978-1-7334-4484-2. $16.99.

Reviewed by Jason Kahler

There is a story in We Are God, about the strengths and weaknesses of relationships that are revealed when people’s lives go in vastly different directions. There’s a story about how politics on a global scale affect the lives of individuals wrapped in their tendrils. There’s a story about living life to the fullest for what you believe, and what happens to your belief when life has no meaning. We Are God is trying to tackle with big ideas, but the execution of those ideas results in a cold, distant book that fails to connect as it could due to the cynical narrative voice it employs.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Gunnells, 324 Abercorn (2020)

Mark Allen Gunnells, 324 Abercorn. Crystal Lake Publishing, 2020. Pp. 198. ISBN 978-1-6466-9308-5. $11.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

I think I’ve mentioned before that I love a good haunted house story. I’m a horror fan through and through, and tales involving hauntings, ghosts, and phantoms are my absolute favourites. 324 Abercorn, by Mark Allen Gunnells, promises a very classic story that owes a great deal to Stephen King and Poppy Z. Brite, with a haunted mansion, a sympathetic protagonist, and a sultry southern gothic setting. But does it hold up to its lofty ambitions?

Friday, September 11, 2020

Kern, Depart, Depart! (2020)

Sim Kern, Depart, Depart! Stelliform Press, 2020. Pp. 88. ISBN 978-1-7770-9170-5. $14.99.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

In their debut novella Depart, Depart! Texas-based speculative fiction writer Sim Kern uses the backdrop of a catastrophic flood in Houston, Texas to explore a variety of issues including gender identity, Jewish culture, and notions of redemption. Kern’s short stories have appeared in Wizards in Space Magazine, Metaphorosis, and The Colored Lens. They are also working on a YA novel, Sand and Swarm. Depart, Depart! is published by Hamilton, Ontario’s Stelliform Press, which focusses on science fiction, fantasy, and horror revolving around environmental and climate change issues. Stelliform puts its money where its convictions lie. In addition to producing environmentally-conscious works, the small press also takes measures to reduce their own environmental impact where possible, through use of organic inks and other measures.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #309 (2020)

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, ed. Scott H. Andrews. Issue #309 (July 2020). Online at beneath-ceaseless-skies.com.

Reviewed by Sonia Sulaiman

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a fantasy adventure magazine published online by Firkin Press. They publish, as they put it “fantasy set in secondary-world or historical settings, written with a literary focus on the characters.” This tighter, more literary lens is what makes Beneath Ceaseless Skies distinct in the fantasy fiction market place. One of the pieces in this issue, ‘Nneamaka’s Ghost,’ is a reprint from an earlier edition of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. All three tales in issue #309 are fantastic both in theme and in execution. Running through them all is a thread of the otherworldly, be it in the form of helpful, loving ghasts, selfish ghosts, or spirit children.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Cotton Xenomorph (Summer 2020)

Cotton Xenomorph: No Creeps, ed. Chloe N. Clark, Teo Mungaray & Hannah Cohen. Spring/Summer 2020. Online at cottonxenomorph.com.

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

This indie online magazine looks smart, and features fiction, poetry and interviews with a literary slant. Practically all the authors are graduates of one or another of the creative writing programmes in the US; the whole zine has a strong North American bias. The quality is high and it has a professional feel. The only slightly off-putting thing is the floating banner which appears at the top of every page and is there, inescapably, as you read, which says ‘Cotton Xenomorph—No Creeps.’ What does this mean? Does it mean ‘we don’t feature creeps’, ‘we don’t like creeps’, ‘we don’t want them reading our zine’? And what is a ‘creep’? Am I a creep? Gosh, I hope not.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Russell, Fragment (2016)

Craig Russell, Fragment. Thistledown Press, 2016. Pp. 214. ISBN 978-1-7718-7111-2. $19.95.

Reviewed by Nina Munteanu

Fragment is an eco-thriller by Canadian lawyer and award-winning science fiction author Craig Russell. Published in 2016 by Thistledown Press, an independent book publisher in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the book explores the climate-induced Antarctic ice sheet avalanche that changes the world. The premise of Russell’s book, which places it firmly as climate fiction or cli-fi, intrigued me. As an ecologist, I’m always curious how literature portrays the science and the socio/political effects of climate change. I first read Fragment in 2019.

Monday, July 20, 2020

DeLuca, Night Roll (2020)

Michael J. DeLuca, Night Roll. Stelliform Press, 2020. Pp. 100. ISBN 978-1-77709-172-9. $14.99.

Reviewed by Sonia Sulaiman

The premise of Night Roll is simple enough: there is a troop of riders who bike together following “the Elf,” an impossibly fast biker with a mythical status in the city of Detroit. A neighbor borrows a bike belonging to the main character, Aileen, so he can follow them and see where they are going. Where the narrative takes you is into the heart of many things: what it means to be a mother, to be part of a community, to be a city—to be Detroit. All of this is enveloped by a struggle of sorts between ancient forces represented by the Elf and Billy Beaureins, a centuries-old capitalist with designs of his own. As a piece of urban fantasy, a cli-fi fairy tale, does Night Roll work and would it be satisfying for fans of the genre?