Thursday, September 26, 2019

Parrish, Grim Grit and Gasoline (2019)

Rhonda Parrish (ed.), Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline. World Weaver Press, 2019. Pp. 293. ISBN 978-1-7322546-6-4. £14.95.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

I’m going to be completely honest: before picking up this book I had never heard of “dieselpunk” or “decopunk.” I was born in the 80s, folks. When I was a kid my spec fic hauled its broadsword and steel bikinis and dwarves twenty miles barefoot through the snow. We hardly knew what to make of steampunk when it came ’round with its clockwork and corsets and coalsmoke. So for those old greybeards like myself who have no idea what the kids are doing these days, dieselpunk and decopunk are to World War I and II what steampunk is to the Victorian era. And why not? The Victorian era doesn’t have some monopoly on story potential. Why not weave some spec fic into two of the most tumultuous and historically interesting periods of the 20th century? And why not retell and reimagine well-loved fairy tales so that they take place in those periods? It’s the kind of creativity that reminds me why I love speculative fiction.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Omenana #13 (2019)

Omenana: Speculative Fiction Magazine, ed. Mazi Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu. Issue #13: Urban Legend (May 2019). Online at

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

This issue of Omenana: Speculative Fiction Magazine is, as the editorial tells us, both the last to be co-edited by founder Chinelo Onwualu, who is retiring to focus on her own work, and the first issue to be on a tight theme. The editorial also welcomes guest editor Iquo Dianabasi, and introduces the theme of Urban Legend—hard, and thankless, to define, but including a mix of modern mythology, almost-believable monsters and cryptids, stories told to scare one another at night… The one nonfiction essay in this issue, “Urban Legends as an Outlet for the Modern African Writer of the Speculative” by Nigerian comics author and editor Hannu Afere, serves almost as a secondary editorial commentary. Afere muses on some of the ways in which the belief in or symbolic functions of urban legend or contemporary supernatural stories are particular to the African continent and peoples, whether cautionary tales, explanations for tragedy, or consolation. The stories in this issue approach this theme in very different ways, and with varying success, but in combination do a very effective job of illustrating the concept the editors have chosen.

Friday, September 13, 2019

AE 2.0 (2019)

AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, ed. Helen Michaud et al. Vol 2.0 (Summer 2019). Online at

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

In her editorial, Helen Michaud details the tortuous process of relaunching the Review, which promises “stories and analysis about worlds that might be.” It appears that, after its inception in 2010, AE has been ‘dark’ for the last three years. Clearly, blood has been sweated to produce this collection of fiction and non-fiction. The writing is of a high quality throughout, the illustrations and graphics are beautiful and there’s a good mix of stories essays and reviews. The focus is squarely on Canadian and North American voices. The authors are distinguished sounding, amongst them a philosophy professor, a journalist and a biochemist, all with impressive publishing credits. The majority of the stories featured on the site are dominated by technology and the stories are very much plot-driven. In terms of plot, there’s nothing outstandingly original. What we get is a fresh take on old ideas: alien invasion and time-travel, so the onus is on the writers to take a distinctive approach.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Johnston, The War Beneath (2018)

Timothy S. Johnston, The War Beneath: The Rise of Oceania. ChiZine Publications, 2018. Pp. 300. ISBN 978-1-77148-471-8. CAN$21.99; US$17.99.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Award-winning author Timothy S. Johnston, who penned futuristic murder mystery/thrillers The Furnace, The Freezer, and The Void, is back with a new book. Johnston’s latest novel The War Beneath, released in December 2018 by Peterborough, Ontario’s ChiZine Publications, takes us below the ocean’s surface as Johnston envisions what life might be like in underwater cities. Johnston’s latest creation is the first in a planned three-book series dubbed The Rise of Oceania. The War Beneath has already garnered accolades. Winner of the 2018 Global Thriller Award in the Action/Adventure category, it was also a finalist for the 2019 Silver Falchion Award, and long-listed for the 2019 Cygnus Awards. Awards are all fine and well, but the real proof in the salt-water pudding is whether the book delivers in terms of interest level and innovation.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Dark Magazine 50 (2019)

The Dark Magazine, ed. Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Michael Kelly, & Sean Wallace. Issue #50 (July 2019). Prime Books. $1.99 or online at

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

The Dark is a monthly e-magazine currently edited by Sean Wallace, Silvia Moreno Garcia and Michael Kelly. According to their guidelines, they specialise in horror and dark fantasy, but I believe that the title reflects a certain preference for those stories that are more disquieting and unsettling than gory. Each month The Dark publishes four stories that can be read for free online or bought as an e-book to be read offline. Although four stories make The Dark a relatively slim publication, this editorial choice also seems to guarantee consistently high standards, allowing the editors to be particularly selective, and leaving the reader (at least this reader!) always wanting for more.