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.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Goodwater, The Liar of Red Valley (2021)

Walter Goodwater, The Liar of Red Valley. Solaris, 2021. Pp. 367. ISBN 978-1-78108-911-8. $14.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

DO NOT TRUST THE LIAR.
DO NOT GO IN THE RIVER.
DO NOT CROSS THE KING.

These were the words that greeted me upon opening my parcel from Solaris Publishing, stark white across a russet-red cover. To say I was intrigued was putting it mildly.

The Liar of Red Valley introduces us to the titular town of Red Valley, a small American settlement in which these three rules are sacrosanct. In this place, magic (and the King) reigns; shadows walk the streets, demons possess and destroy the bodies and minds of the naïve and disenfranchised, an immortal and indestructable oak tree grows in the middle of the town diner, and ghosts linger in the shadows. And in the world of Red Valley, the Liar is both revered and loathed. A woman with the power to make a lie, any lie, be it as petty “I am not going bald” or as huge as “My child never died,” seem the truth… but only within the town’s limits, and only if you are willing to pay her price. And her price is a dreadful one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Café Irreal #78 (2021)

The Café Irreal, International Imagination, ed. G.S. Evans and Alice Whittenburg. Issue 78 (May 2021). Online at cafeirreal.com.

Reviewed by Julie Reeser

The Café Irreal
has been publishing irrrealist fiction as a quarterly webzine for over twenty years. The editor team of G.S. Evans and Alice Whittenburg have a long history of cultivating unusual voices, and rightfully take pride in authors returning to them for publication. Irrealism is a philosophical perspective wherein there is no accepted reality, but rather a search for meaning inside the Sartrean fantastic. I visualize it as if a Magritte painting could be navigated, and indeed, the magazine has a superb collection of ekphrastic images on their Pinterest site if one is seeking inspiration and understanding, and there’s more on the site on how the editors define irrealism.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Kearns, The Night Has Seen Your Mind (2021)

Simon Kearns, The Night Has Seen Your Mind. Elsewhen Press, 2021. Pp. 326. ISBN 978-1-911409-65-6. $20.00 pb/$3.99 e.

Reviewed by Jason Kahler

How would House on Haunted Hill have been different if instead of Vincent Price, it was Elon Musk who offered folks a bunch of money to hang out somewhere, and instead of a haunted house, that somewhere were a high-tech outpost in the Arctic Circle? The answer to that question, after a fashion, is The Night Has Seen Your Mind, a novel that replaces the supernatural chills with technological imposition, but still relies on the psychological impact of new places, strange thoughts, and the nearness of strangers to drive its plot and enforce its mood. The book, by Simon Kearns, offers some thought-provoking questions and interesting moments, but its ultimate success will depend upon how well you connect with the characters as they come to terms with their situation.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Ombak issue #3 (October 2020)

Ombak: Southeast Asia's Weird Fiction Journal, ed. Aden Ng. Issue #3 (October 2020). Online at ombak.org.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Ombak is at first glance a funny little journal, seeming to appear about once a year, slender in pages, and with the front cover missing from the downloadable PDF and e-book formats; there is no editorial or attribution of the editor·s, and no table of contents given (masthead and stories are only printed on the front cover), just the (four, in this issue) stories, one after the other. Although it is billed as a Southeast Asian journal, this issue of Ombak covers international themes: stories are set in Africa, Japan, a non-specific Anglophone setting, and Singapore respectively. The blurb on the website promises themes of life, death and rebirth, and certainly there is a recurring trope of cheating (or trying to cheat) death throughout the pieces in this issue.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Piper, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy (2021)

Hailey Piper, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy. The Seventh Terrace, 2021. Pp. 253. ISBN 978-1-9900-8201-6. $14.99 pb/$4.99 e.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Am I the only one who’s gotten really into horror during the pandemic? Maybe going through our own gnarly experience has made me empathize with fictional gnarly experiences more; maybe watching someone get chainsawed apart just puts my life into perspective. Whatever the reason, I’m absolutely inhaling horror right now. But more than any other genre, horror absolutely must have resonant themes for me to enjoy it. A fantasy story that’s kinda parochial and regressive? I can deal. (I, too, read Lord of the Rings.) But if it’s a horror story? I’m out.

Enter Hailey Piper and her new collection Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy. Smart, feminist, and chock-full of queer themes (especially trans themes), it’s just the thing if the past year has pushed you into “screw it” territory.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Addison, The Angel of the Crows (2020)

Katherine Addison, The Angel of the Crows. Tor Books, 2020. Pp. 448. ISBN 978-0-7653-8739-4. $24.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

The Angel of the Crows is the sort of high concept story which should be ridiculous and yet totally works: Sherlock Holmes meets “war in Heaven,” or rather, its aftermath. Nineteenth century Afghanistan remains Afghanistan, but now with fallen angels and hellhounds. (The BBC Sherlock, another recent albeit problematic retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s eponymous detective stories, similarly played with a background conflict in Afghanistan that was specifically twenty-first century.) Addison’s novel isn’t a straightforward retelling of Sherlock or Doyle, but nonetheless riffs cleverly on familiar plot beats to tell a story at a slant. Sherlock is an angel called Crow and Watson is called Doyle; neither of them are the characters that we already know so well, except for how they are.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Künsken, The House of Styx (2021)

Derek Künsken, The House of Styx (Venus Ascendant book #1). Rebellion Publishing, 2021. Pp. 608. ISBN 978-1-78108-805-0. $27.99.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Set in 2255 C.E., The House of Styx provides an intriguing view of what a human colony on—or rather, above—Venus might look like a couple of centuries into the future. The novel, slated to be the first in the Venus Ascendant series, is set 250 years before Künsken’s The Quantum Magician. The House of Styx revolves around the D’Aquillon family. George-Étienne D’Aquillon, his sons Jean-Eudes and Pascal, and his grandson Alexis live on the Causapscal des Profondeurs, a habitat fashioned, as are many of the living places in Venus’s clouds, within one of the Venusian cloud-dwelling plants called trawlers.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Little Blue Marble (Jan–Apr 2021)

Little Blue Marble, ed. Katrina Archer. Fiction from 2021 (Jan–Apr). Online at littlebluemarble.ca.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Little Blue Marble is both a free, online magazine of news, opinion, fiction and poetry related to climate change and other environmental issues, and an annual print anthology of climate fiction. Published and self-funded by Canadian editor Katrina Archer, the web version is glossy and professionally designed, and apart from a small glitch in the responsive template that causes story illustration to suddenly pop up and hide text when scrolling down the page, it is pleasant and easy to navigate. Fiction is published sporadically throughout the year, and it’s not clear to me whether the end-of-year anthology will contain all or just a selection of the fiction, so this review will address just the fiction and poetry published between January and April of 2021. There is a nice mix in here, some (as might be expected in a venue that prioritizes activism, not literature) a little heavy-handed, but most enjoyable and some very high quality indeed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Parrish ed., Clockwork, Curses, and Coal (2021)

Rhonda Parrish (ed.), Clockwork, Curses, and Coal: Steampunk and Gaslamp Fairy Tales. World Weaver Press, 2021. Pp. 200. ISBN 978-1-7340-5451-4. $15.95 pb/$4.99 e.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Rhonda Parrish, the patron saint of short spec fic, is back with Clockwork, Curses, and Coal, the second in her Punked-Up Fairy Tales anthology series. Parrish is a prolific editor, and her new anthologies are eagerly anticipated by readers and writers alike. The first installment in this series, Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline, even netted a star from Publishers Weekly—a rare distinction for a small-press anthology.