Monday, January 18, 2021

Three-Lobed Burning Eye #32 (2020)

Three-Lobed Burning Eye, ed. Andrew S. Fuller. issue #32 (November 2020). Online at 3lobedmag.com.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

I was first attracted to the newest issue of Three-Lobed Burning Eye because of the story “A Consensus Told in Chromatophores” by Andi C. Buchanan, a story about a democratic civilization of cuttlefish, and if you’re surprised I’m interested in a democratic cuttlefish story, you don’t know me very well. It’s not only a fantastically creative story, it’s also a beautifully moving meditation on the meaning of democracy. For me, that’s a perfect combination.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Hexagon #3 (Winter 2020)

Hexagon, ed. J.W. Stebner. Issue 3 (winter 2020). Online at hexagonmagazine.ca.

Reviewed by Jason Kahler

In his opening letter for Hexagon issue #3, editor J.W. Stebner claims that his magazine is un-themed, but the five stories he’s collected for this installment each tell a tale of love and heartbreak. Stebner says his selections tend to coincide with the rhythm of the season. Maybe, as the difficult year 2020 winds down, we just all find some comfort in thinking that someone, somewhere, might have more emotional pain than us. The stories contained in the issue are sometimes clever, sometimes haunting, always pointing to the powerful perseverance of the human heart.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Kewin, Eye Collectors (2020)

Simon Kewin, The Eye Collectors (a story of her Majesty’s Office of the Witchfinder General, protecting the public from the unnatural since 1645). Elsewhen Press, 2020. Pp. 288. ISBN 978-1-91140-964-9. £10.00 pb/£2.99 e.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

The “Magic Police” is a firmly-established sub-genre by now, but Danesh Shazan of Her Majesty’s Office of the Witchfinder General is an interesting addition to their ranks. Most people think that the “office” is a historical anomaly, “a ridiculous piece of quasi-mediaeval pagentry, like so much of the British governmental and judicial systems,” but in fact it exists to protect the public from unutterable and eldritch powers from Beyond. Danesh, a recently-recruited Acolyte in the Welsh branch of the office, headed by the terrifying Campbell Hardknott-Lewis, works with mundane cops on cases which have a flavour of the supernatural about them. And when he’s called in by D.I. Nikola Zubrasky to investigate a murder in Cardiff, this “flavour” is worth at least three Michelin Stars.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Bestwick, Roth-Steyr (2020)

Simon Bestwick, Roth-Steyr. Black Shuck Books, 2020. Pp. 167. ISBN 978-1-913038-57-1. £7.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

In his blurb for this novella, Bestwick writes: “You never know which ideas will stick in your head, let alone where they’ll go.” I can sympathise. Sometimes you idly researching knitting techniques and end up joining a course on the care and husbandry of wool goats, sometimes you’re looking up antique pistols and end up writing a 200 page novella on immortal World War I artistocrats and their quest to save the monarchy. It happens. In Bestwick’s case, an idle writing exercise in which he decided to use the name of an antique pistol as the title of a story resulted in Roth-Steyr, and we are all the richer for it.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Rosenberg & Khmelevska, Arrival Mind (2020)

Louis B. Rosenberg, art by Anastasia Khmelevska, Arrival Mind. Outland Publishing, 2020. Pp. 35. ISBN 978-1-7356685-0. $9.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

As a child in the 1980s, I had a heavily illustrated book called How Things Work that explained the physical mechanics of everyday items as well as some architecture. One such spread included an extensive underground shelter through which a family would safely (it claimed) survive for several years following a nuclear blast. The cognitive dissonance of those playful drawings and their morbid reality which I experienced then recently returned upon reading Arrival Mind, a tract-in-verse on the dangers inherent in artificial intelligence. Designed as a storybook for adults, the volume’s format risks, however, undercutting the very message it wants to send.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Constelación #0.5 (2020)

Constelación Magazine, ed. Coral Alejandra Moore & Eliana González Ugarte. Sample issue 0.5 (2020). Online at constelacionmagazine.com.

Reviewed by Sonia Sulaiman

Constelación Magazine is a new, bilingual, magazine of speculative fiction publishing in Spanish and English. They have yet to launch their first issue, but there is a ‘sample issue’ available and what a sample! The sample issue contains two fiction pieces: “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones, and “I, Crocodile” by Jacinta Escudos (translated by Eliana González Ugarte), as well as “Giving Back” a piece of non-fiction, and art by Gutti Barrios. For the purpose of this review, we’re only be looking at the two fiction pieces. Each includes its own trigger warnings.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Apparition Lit #12 (2020)

Apparition Lit, ed. Rebecca Bennett, Tacoma Tomilson, Clarke Doty & Amy Henry Robinson. Issue 12 (October 2020). Online at apparitionlit.com.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

The quarterly Apparition Lit has been arriving like clockwork for a couple of years now and it’s always a welcome sight. The issues are short—four stories and a couple of poems—but it’s enough to make a satisfying one—or two-sitting read, and it’s a reasonable length for the $2.99 price point. The magazine’s distinguishing feature is its themed issues. Smartly, the themes are abstract concepts such as “ambition” or “euphoria” rather than concrete objects like “dragons,” which prevents the stories within an issue from feeling repetitive. October’s theme was “satisfaction.” But how satisfying was it? Let’s have a look.

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.