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?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Katz, Vampire Gideon’s Suicide Hotline (2018)

Andrew Katz, The Vampire Gideon’s Suicide Hotline & Halfway House for Orphaned Girls. Lanternfish Press, 2018. Pp. 235. ISBN 978-1-941360-20-0. $16.00.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Sometimes you have to travel far to find some treasure near home. This was the case with this book, published by a small press in my home city of Philadelphia, PA; I picked up The Vampire Gideon’s Suicide Hotline at the Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, FL two years ago. Because I do not ordinarily read horror or vampire fiction, I shelved it until recently when, unable to go out to libraries or bookstores because of the pandemic, I read it, and found I could not put it down. The title summarizes the basic situation of the story: Gideon—being the vampire’s name, rather than a reference to the Gideon Bible—operates an informal suicide hotline. Several of his regular callers show him at work, de-escalating their emotional states until they have gone beyond the likelihood that they will take their lives. Or, alternatively, until they do. One of his regulars tells him he should not be operating this telephone hotline, as he has no training. Gideon’s final argument against his callers’ killing themselves is that he knows death is not a solution for their despair, because they have not died. He has.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Rio, Who's There? (2019)

Dimas Rio, Who’s There? Self-published, 2019. Pp. 182. ISBN 978-1-67617-410-3. £5.98.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

I have to get this out of the way. When I received my copy of Who’s There? it arrived nicely gift wrapped and with a personalized note thanking me for reviewing it. And while I am not about to let that influence my cherished objectivity as a reviewer, it was a really nice touch that gave me a smile when I opened the package. So, thank you for that, Dimas.

I love a good ghost story. Who doesn’t? It’s nice, especially these days, to find something to be scared of aside from… well, reality. And I personally love exploring horror from different cultures. I had my glut of American horror through my adolescence; seeing how fears varied throughout the world remains one of my chief delights. So when I was offered this slender little volume of ghost stories from Indonesia I pretty much jumped at the chance. And honestly, I’m glad that I did. Who’s There? is a short but effective little collection of horror stories, all dripping with atmosphere and the rich culture of the Indonesian Archipelago. The text also includes quotes from Indonesian poetry and helpful footnotes translating bits of local slang or terms that your average English speaker might not be familiar with.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Zooscape 6 (2020)

Zooscape: an e-zine of fantastic furry fiction, ed. Mary E. Lowd. Issue 6 (March 2020). Online at zooscape-zine.com.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

A pair of hedgehogs. A bear who is also a “bone poet.” A dragon who raises a human child. These are some of the characters found in the March 2020 issue of online magazine Zooscape. This e-zine features “furry” stories: tales with anthropomorphic characters. Some of the stories have a magical or fantasy flair, while others incorporate science or science fiction elements.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Berry, Million Eyes (2020)

C.R. Berry, Million Eyes (Million Eyes series book 1). Elsewhen Press, 2020. Pp. 336. ISBN 978-1-9114-0948-9. £9.99 pb / £2.99 e.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

We begin with William II of England (William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror) with a book in his possession. A book called The History of Computer-Aided Timetabling for Railway Systems which is, says William, “an omen foretelling a future that God is compelling me to avert.” Shortly afterward, William is killed by a stranger who talks into a flat rectangular object, swallows a red object like a small pebble, and disappears. The book, however, is passed down through generations of Royalty (at one point ending up with the Princes in the Tower and Princess Di), though hunted after by mysterious and murderous agents. Eventually, the story of these events comes to the attention of former history-teacher and obsessive researcher Gregory Ferro and Jennifer Larson, a history graduate with a fondness for Dr Who, a terrible record for keeping jobs, and a reluctance to getting into mad conspiracy time-travel theories about books published in 1995 referenced in a history book of 1977 and mentioned in a 14th century letter. For part of the book, they become a kind of Mulder-and-Scully duo, but the said mysterious and murderous agents become extremely murderous if a bit less mysterious, being employees of a tech firm called Million Eyes which at one point is referred to as recently having bought up Apple. At their heart is the dangerous, sinister, and glamorous Miss Morgan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ulibarri ed., Solarpunk Winters (2020)

Sarena Ulibarri (ed.), Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters. World Weaver Press, 2020. Pp 316. ISBN 978-1-7322546-8-8. $15.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters is a follow-up to editor Sarena Ulibarri’s previous edited collection, Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers (2018). Solarpunk as a genre is meant to be an optimistic alternative to the frequent use of dystopia to describe the various possible futures of climate change; it posits viable scientific solutions to catastrophe, as well as a belief that human nature has at least as much if not more capacity for goodness and hope than for despair. These days, that’s a valuable quality all on its own. Solarpunk Winters consists of seventeen stories that revolve around cold environments, either natural or manmade. Indeed, global cooling is indeed a very real possibility in the wake of climate change, either due to the disruptions of the global jetstream (for evidence, see the recent polar vortexes that have afflicted countries in the northern hemisphere over the past several years) or as a by-product of geo-engineering. The stories all share some similarities: many refer to the events of the next few years as the turning-point, always denoted with a capital, as the Breakdown, the Reckoning, or the Change; most feature women protagonists as agents of change.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Surradia (2019-20)

Surradia: A Retrospective. Musée National d’Art Moderne, 2019–20. Admission €14.00.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Portrait of Three Women with an Owl

PARIS, France: Some artistic movements are not fully appreciated until after the artists’ time. Some enjoy immediate fame, only to fade from the spotlight as the years pass. And then there are the movements that, through no fault of the artists, never quite have their moment in the sun. Into this third category falls the subject of the Musée National d’Art Moderne (MNAM)’s excellent new exhibition, Surradia: A Retrospective.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Kaleidotrope Winter 2020

Kaleidotrope, ed. Fred Coppersmith. Winter 2020 issue. Online at kaleidotrope.net or in e-book.

Reviewed by N. A. Jackson


This issue of science fiction and fantasy zine Kaleidotrope is headed with a quote from the editors of Weight of the World: “Every little piece of your life will mean something to someone.” It’s the kind of statement that defies argument without really conveying anything. Certainly the fragments of fiction and poetry here are going to be more or less meaningful to each reader.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Abeda & Zorne, Velocity of Inertia (2019)

Adel Abeda (and Rika Zorne), The Velocity of Inertia. London: Bloomsbury, 2019. Pp. 237. ISBN 978-1-4742-9927-5. $20.99.

Reviewed by J. Moufawad-Paul

There are times when a novel’s mythology precedes its publication. Adel Abeda’s The Velocity of Inertia is precisely this kind of novel and, as such, it is difficult to review. Edited and rewritten by Abeda’s wife, the critically acclaimed photographer and poet Rika Zorne, the literary presentation of Velocity is beyond reproach; you cannot read this book without being impressed by its style. But Zorne’s participation in the publication contributes to its mythology since the awareness that every sentence of Abeda’s draft was rewritten by Zorne immediately makes the reader suspicious of the quality of the original manuscript. Moreover, it reminds the reader of Abeda’s absence and the fact that the authorial void might be more interesting than the novel.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Marrs, Passengers (2019)

John Marrs, The Passengers. Berkley, 2019. Pp. 340. ISBN 978-1-984-80697-0. $26.00.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

The Passengers, former freelance journalist John Marrs’ sixth book, provides a chillingly believeable glimpse of how the future might unfold if self-driving vehicles become commonplace. Though the story line revolves around autonomous cars, Marrs also probes issues like societal prejudice, mob mentality, and the vagaries of social media. Marrs’ previous books have received acclaim, with The One, his third book, selected as the Book of the Month for the British Broadcasting Corporation. The One is being filmed as a made-for-TV movie series for Netflix, scheduled for release early in 2020. Marrs’ fourth book, The Good Samaritan, was a top hit worldwide. With Marrs’ background and previous success, it’s not surprising that The Passengers succeeds in delivering suspense against a backdrop of authenticity, supported by the research that went into the book.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Michael Winter, Periphery (2019)

Michael Winter, Periphery. Self-published, 2019. Pp. 369. ISBN 978-1-7333664-0-3. $13.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

Upon receiving my copy of Periphery, I immediately turned it over to read the blurb on the back cover. There I learned about John Tate, and how “one summer afternoon he returned home covered in blood, ranting about bizarre creatures hiding in plain sight and declaring his intention to move out in order to protect his wife and son from the horrors now stocking him.” (sic) (my emphasis)

It was not an auspicious beginning.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Finch, Lake Wildwood (2020)

Robert Finch, Lake Wildwood. Labuda Books, 2020. Pp. 101. ISBN 2-402-68110-7. $12.00.

Reviewed by Djibril Ayad

This slim novel, published posthumously from the notes of long-retired and recently deceased author Robert Finch, is billed as “a natural mystery,” and indeed bears many of the hallmarks of a crime or noir story (although as I’ll argue, I don’t think it succeeds as either). With a cast of characters straight out of Thoreau, a narrative that can’t decide if it’s bleak realist or supernatural horror, and choppy prose that veers wildly from rich, velvet poetry, via overwritten identity crisis, to Tolkeinesque naivety, this book ultimately disappoints, and does no service to Finch’s reputation.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Blue (ed.), Dragon Bike (2020)

Elly Blue (ed.), Dragon Bike: Fantastical Stories of Bicycling, Feminism, and Dragons. Microcosm Publishing, 2020. Pp. 160. ISBN 978-1-62106-047-5. $11.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Elly Blue’s Dragon Bike: Fantastical Stories of Bicycling, Feminism, and Dragons is part of a new crop of anthologies crowdfunded through online platforms such as Kickstarter, enabling small presses to more easily print diverse new content and pay their contributors. It is also the sixth annual volume of genre stories edited by Blue focused on bicycling and feminism. This is a slight book of fifteen short stories, all sharing the same prompt of bicycles and dragons. Each author, however, takes it on in their own direction, with some stories playful, some dramatic, and some in-between.