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.