Thursday, January 04, 2024

Yoo, Small Gods of Calamity (2024)

Sam Kyung Yoo, Small Gods of Calamity. Interstellar Flight Press, 2024. Pp. 151. ISBN 978-1-953736-28-4. $9.99.

Reviewed by Julie Reeser

Small Gods of Calamity is a debut novella by Sam Kyung Yoo, who has had a short but illustrious career publishing stories in magazines such as Fantasy and Strange Horizons, with work showcasing themes of East Asian folklore and ghosts. This foundation has served them well for this strikingly emotional urban fantasy, set in Seoul, a landlocked city. Kim Han-gil is investigating an apparent suicide when he smells the sea. This is his first clue that his past has once again caught up with him, and that the death at his feet is something much more sinister. Because that smell isn’t actually the sea, it’s a spirit.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Kaleidotrope (Autumn 2023)

Kaleidotrope, ed. Fred Coppersmith. Autumn 2023 issue. Online at kaleidotrope.net or on Kindle.

Reviewed by Storm Blakley

Kaleidotrope’s Autumn 2023 issue offers a wonderful collection of fantasy, sci-fi and a little horror. Each poem and story held, for me, a reflection on very fundamentally human needs and ideals, from a delightful array of differing perspectives.

This issue opens with “A Place We Used to Visit” by Bennett North. It is a time travel story, but not at all in the way I’d expected; it was wonderfully done. If we had the chance to go back, to avert a tragedy, would we? Knowing that that would mean we no longer become the person we are, would we? I think most of us would like to think so, but we can never really know until we’re in that situation. North does a wonderful job expressing the fear and confusion the protagonist feels, and how frightening that decision would truly be.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Seize the Press #8 (2023)

Seize the Press #8, ed. Jonny Pickering and Karlo Yeager Rodríguez. Issue 8 (September 2023). Online at seizethepress.com.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

’Tis autumn, the season of death and endings and remembering things you swore you’d get around to sooner, and that makes three good reasons for me to review the new Seize the Press. You know, the maggot sex one. But is the maggot sex any good, one must ask, or is it merely in there as a selling point for the sort of people for whom such a thing is a selling point (myself, I freely acknowledge, among them)? Let’s find out.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Cahill, Unicorn Death Moon Day Planner (2023)

Zachary Cahill, Unicorn Death Moon Day Planner. Red Ogre Review & Liquid Raven Media, 2023. Pp. 74. ISBN 979-8-8600-3593-5. $14.99.

Reviewed by Julie Reeser

Over the last few years, I’ve established a personal habit of spending time each morning planning my day with a view toward my yearly goals and reading poetry. When I saw the Unicorn Death Moon Day Planner by Zachary Cahill, I anticipated an experience born of this complimentary companionship—a planner interspersed with art and poetry to inspire—it seemed the perfect match. Zachary Cahill has quite a few projects and titles under his writerly belt, including a graphic novel, a debut novel, a directorship, and being editor-in-chief of Portable Gray. Both his art and poetry have been shown in several prestigious settings.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Nightmare #131 (August 2023)

Nightmare Magazine, ed. Wendy N. Wagner. Issue 131 (August 2023). Online at nightmare-magazine.com.

Reviewed by Jason Kahler

Full disclosure: A little ways back, I attended a Clarion West workshop facilitated by Nightmare’s Managing/Senior Editor Wendy N. Wagner. She was knowledgeable, insightful, and enthusiastic about our work and about making us better writers. I finished the workshop full of ideas and appreciation for the work Wagner is doing in the writing world at large. I am pleased to say I would have enjoyed the August 2023 issue of Nightmare if I’d never met her.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

TFF Reviews: some changes coming

The TFF Reviews site, which has run on an open submissions basis for 18 years (15 of them on the current blog platform), is changing focus. 

Our reviewers are now invited to write about online speculative magazines and fiction sites, of which we circulate a monthly list of titles not recently covered. Priority will go to free-to-read venues, but sites that require subscription or purchase will be listed if publishers are able to provide free access or copy. Please feel free to email nonfiction@futurefire.net to suggest a magazine for our regular listing.

Our reviewers will also be welcome to write about any small press genre titles they come across and consider worth reviewing, especially anthologies, collections, exhibitions or performances—with a focus on work from (or that can be talked about from) underrepresented or progressive perspectives. However, TFF Reviews will not be accepting suggestions of new publications to review other than magazines. Please remove our nonfiction address from circulation lists and promotions, as we will *not* list any books, novels, collections and anthologies, or pass along freebies to reviewers.

We currently have a small team, so reviews are likely to be sporadic for the moment.

If you would be interested in reviewing online zines and indie or small press short fiction alongside the TFF Reviews team, please drop us a note at nonfiction@futurefire.net to introduce yourself and any writing or criticism credentials you may have.

  • Formal qualifications or experience are not necessarily required, but a passion for speculative literature and willingness to be open-minded and analytic in your appreciation of it are essential.
  • We are unable to pay for reviews; like all other TFF staff, reviewers work on a voluntary basis.
  • There is no minimum frequency of reviews expected for any member of the reviewing team.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Weinstock, Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition (2020)

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition. Broadview Press, 2020. Pp. 246, ISBN 978-1-5548-1445-9. $15.55.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

I have taught from Weinstock’s Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition for three years now, and have found it to be extremely useful in presenting the basic principles of academic writing for students, including what instructors call the “mechanics” of writing, including punctuation, paragraphing, and transitions; finding and using sources for research papers (helpfully called “Graverobbing” with a nod to Victor Frankenstein); preliminary stages like brainstorming and outlining; “Conducting Experiments” as a way of developing strategies for informing, persuading, and evaluating; and in a stirring chapter, “The Monster Lives!” providing approaches to revising, peer review, and retroactive outlining; and finally, “Placating Ghosts,” or documenting sources “to Avoid Angering the Dead… and the Living.” In other words, a very conventional approach to forming and formulating an argument… but presented in the guise of horror movie tropes.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Raglin (ed.), Shredded (2022)

Eric Raglin (ed.), Shredded: A Sports and Fitness Body Horror Anthology. Cursed Morsels Press, 2022. Pp. 274. ISBN 978-1-73695-327-3. $13.99.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

First off: I am not a sports person. The closest I come to a sports horror story is being stuck on the bleachers in the freezing rain waiting for my sister’s track meet to finish. So I wasn’t initially real drawn to Shredded. However, I have full faith in Eric Raglin as a horror editor. Can he overcome my inherent indifference to athletic events? Let’s find out!

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Nikolits, Everything You Dream Is Real (2022)

Lisa de Nikolits, Everything You Dream Is Real. Inanna Publications, 2022. Pp. 323. ISBN 978-1-7713-3930-8. $22.95 pb/$11.99 e.

Reviewed by Christina De La Rocha

As the plot cartwheels, a motley crew of the old, the young, the lovelorn, the pregnant, the queer, the disabled, and the drug-addled overthrow the authoritarian patriarchy whose secret subterranean sex show funds its military operations. You might think what’s not to love? But, argh, for this reader possibly a few things. Your experience may differ, but I found this book frustrating rather than hilariously absurd. Everything You Dream Is Real is truly unique, has a strong voice, and is told by that cast of characters not traditionally represented in fiction, but the premise of the book changes as you move through it. Major details are lobbed in often and out of nowhere to change the direction of the plot in sort of a deus ex machina every couple of pages. I don’t often read a book and keep thinking, ‘well, geez, obviously I am a square,’ but I found this aspect of the book exhausting. I’m happy to go along for a wild ride with thrills and spills and absurdity, but I need to have some idea of the point of it at some stage well before the neatly wrapped up ending. As I’ve said, your experience may differ; I’ll wager the farm that out there in the great, big, wide world there’s a horde of rabid fans of Everything You Dream Is Real. It is that sort of book—one that either alienates you almost entirely or speaks to you so thunderously, it grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Evans, Babel Apocalypse (2023)

Vyvyan Evans, The Babel Apocalypse: Songs of the Sage, book 1. Nephilim Publishing, 2023. Pp. 388. ISBN 978-1-7399962-2-2. $13.99.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Vyvyan Evans is a professional linguist with an extensive interest in online technology and publishes in academic journals as well as magazines such as Psychology Today and The New Republic, so his credentials in the real-world fields of linguistics and computer tech are impressive. The Babel Apocalypse, however, is not like Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, although it has a somewhat similar sinister plot to gain world domination through manipulating people’s minds via language. For one thing, there is a definitely Western European cast to the characters and setting: Emyr Morgan, the protagonist, is English, though with his home in Wales, and is a James Bond-007-type of secret agent, a commander in Europol, who has relationships with various highly placed women, in which he is not always completely in control. His house is in the Netherlands, in a fishing village called Scheveningen, the name of which was used as a Shibboleth to detect Germans impersonating Dutch nationals at the beginning of World War II. This is not mentioned in the novel, although it might be a very esoteric Easter Egg.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Jones, Of Weeds and Witches (2022)

Shelly Jones, Of Weeds and Witches. Alien Buddha Press, 2022. Pp. 36. ISBN 979-8-357779-18-2. $10.99.

Reviewed by Julie Reeser

Shelly Jones is an educator, author, and researcher nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a Dwarf Star Award, and she has been a finalist for the Best Microfiction 2023. Their chapbook, Of Weeds and Witches, contains twenty-four poems that thrum with mythical magic. Nature lurks and drips from the lines, midwifed by women seeking power, revenge, or escape. The titular poem was published in Issue 58 of The Future Fire, and it’s lovely to see it put in service as an anchor for this collection. While eighteen of the poems have been previously published, six will be new to fans of their work.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Solarpunk Magazine #7 (2023)

Solarpunk Magazine, ed. Justine Norton-Kertson & Brianna Castagnozzi. Issue #7 (Jan/Feb 2023). Online at solarpunkmagazine.com or $6.00.

Reviewed by Storm Blakley

Solarpunk Magazine describes itself as a “bimonthly online publication of radically hopeful and optimistic science fiction and fantasy.” In this issue, I found a recurring theme of family, solidarity, and what we owe one another through tales of helping and supporting one another, across a great variety of worlds and times.