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Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction

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by Gillian Daniels

liminal-summer-2015-300wA Windowless Kitchen” by Trevor Shikaze (Published: Spring/Summer 2016) Liminal Stories

Monica rides her bicycle into a dusty, half-abandoned town populated by black cats. She wishes to rent a room from Murphy, a solitary and unfriendly man who runs an inn. He insists he won’t rent it to her because he only rents to men, but she wins him over anyway.

For the rest of the story, Monica attempts to get to know this man better—his habits, his home, and his gory secrets. She, however, has oddities of her own, including bouts of insomnia where she receives unexpected visitors:

“Some nights, sleep comes to me as a tiny owl. This was that sort of night. I scanned around and found her, perched silent on the chair back. […] Now this is odd magic, but here it is: with the owl on my shoulder, no one hears my steps.”

This story unspools like a dream, but not strictly in imagery. It wanders, quiet, through a world where we’re never really sure of the rules. Monica knows them, maybe, but in her first person perspective, you, her confidante, are already meant to be in on it, too.

I would be happy to sort this piece into the horror genre because of its dark implications, but this story is so gentle and the main character so fearless. It won me over with ease, all polished prose and a twisting world.

Shikaze’s weird yarn is more American folk lore than old world fairy tale. Everything about it is magic, but it’s the magic of a mid-century abandoned town and all its possibilities. Monica wants to aid and sort through that magic, and so do we, with all its dust and black cats, owls and secretive innkeepers.

Clarkesworld-June-2016-300wAnd Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices By Margaret Ronald (Published: June 2016) Clarkesworld

This story left me aching.

In this rendition of first contact with alien life, humans can’t talk to the aliens in real time, but receive a signal: detritus information from the Corona Borealis, “all of the drama, news, bulletins, pleas, shopping lists, everything that went out into their infospace.”

Human scientists and scholars excitedly pick through this wealth of entertainment, messages, and space junk to reconstruct a culture they’ve never seen. One such person is our main character, a longtime professor attending a conference regarding their alien brethren.

Predictably, with such a massive event, there are humans who use the broadcasts to form cults. The narrator’s son, Wallace, is a past member. What begins as a family saga, with some hints at tearful, melodramatic confrontations, swerves in a very different direction.

It becomes slowly apparent that the aliens who made the broadcast, who left a trace of themselves behind, may not be there anymore, like stars still visible from Earth that went out a long time ago.

The melancholy and joy of its revelations are stunning. The conclusion is not a funeral dirge but a song of triumph. As I read it, the story transformed into an affirmation of the importance of communication and art, the achievement of immortality and life through one’s own work and leaving something of yourself behind.

mothership-zeta-3-300w“Straight Lines” by Naru Dames Sundar (Published: May/June 2016) Mothership Zeta, Issue 3

Em, or Emergent Behavior, is an artificially intelligent ship who has made a terrible mistake. Xiao Quan-Fei is looking to help them not with physical repair but therapy. This troubles the ship greatly as facing up to their OCD is terribly painful.

This story exists between comedy and drama, something with the flavor of hard sci-fi but the warmth of fantasy. Em, humiliated by their own behavior, initially resists the overtures of Xiao. But Em needs help. The foul-mouthed AI recognizes that their germaphobia doesn’t actually make logical sense, what with it being a metal ship rather than an organism, but the fear is still real. It can also be dangerous.

A sympathetic look at an AI who isn’t always in control and wants to be better. I found this piece personal, funny, and moving.

A Good Home” By Karin Lowachee (Published: June 2016) Lightspeed Magazine

Another narrative about an engineered lifeform in need of psychiatric help, but this one from the point of view of his human caregiver.

Tawn Altamirano is a veteran and wheelchair user who has recently decided to play host to a silent, traumatized fellow veteran, a “Mark” combat robot. The model doesn’t “allow for complete resetting or non-consensual dismantling; he was only five years old, so [falls] under the Autonomy legislation.”

lightspeed-june-2016-300wThat autonomy is thrown into question, however, as Mark is uncommunicative, a quiet mystery to Tawn. The latter is all too willing to give this new roommate space, but is unsure what to make of the AI looking out the window all day or making “a tearless keening noise” when he wants to cry but isn’t programmed to do so. More than a few images seem reminiscent of foster care, though Mark is not exactly a dog.

Only Tawn’s mother has a hint of flatness about her, an emotionally manipulative woman perfectly happy to bully her child regarding a back injury. Her cruelty feels convincing, however, and that’s enough for me.

I love this piece for the warmth it gives its protagonists. Tawn’s understanding of Mark grows slowly and their getting-to-know-you dance is patient and real. Lowachee has constructed a slow burn of a piece, but a wonderfully rewarding one.

Gillian Daniels is a writer of prose, poetry, and criticism. After attending the Clarion Science Writing Workshop in 2011, her poems and fiction have been published in Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Flash Fiction Online, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine among others. Her reviews are available at The New England Theatre Geek blog and other venues. She is a transplant from Northeast Ohio and is highly suspicious of her home in the New World, i.e. Boston.

Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction May–June 2016

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gillian-fsiby Gillian Daniels

The Girl Who Escaped From Hell by Rahul Kankia (Published: April 2016) Nightmare Magazine

A story that crawled under my skin and stayed there. Here, the spec element is present but muted: a careless surfer discovers his six-year old daughter and her mother are touring morning talk shows, describing the girl’s visions from a car accident. As the title implies, she experienced an afterlife that was far from heavenly. He figures that being pushed into talk shows is a less-than-ideal, if not downright abusive, situation and opts to take custody of her. Mysteriously, his wife concedes without a fight. Far from the girl being hellspawn now that she’s had a supernatural experience, she’s a fairly normal child. She adjusts to a Southern California lifestyle quickly. Her father adjusts to being a parent with less ease.

nightmare-300wThis narrative is terribly unique in its build up, simultaneously tense and gently hypnotic. The narrator shows his cards slowly, revealing no large traumas, just an assurance that he can make a better life for his daughter but only a murky idea how. Their relationship is touching, organically real. It’s all wrought in a downright dreamy execution, a style that serves its content well. When the story finally touches on Hell, on the truth of the girl’s vision, I was struck by its imagery.

This is a piece about being pulled under, a lifestyle of inertia and treading water. The prose manages the same trick, taking the reader to dark depths before she knows what’s happening.

Your Orisons May Be Recorded by Laurie Penny (Published: March 3, 2016) Tor.com

Another narrative about afterlife entities, but one where divine creatures are saddled with unsatisfying careers and the need to make quota. It’s bittersweet, funny, thoughtfully written, and so well done.

The main character, an angel, fields mortal prayers that come to her in the shape of phone calls. She answers them to the best of her abilities, but is either forced to listen to petty grievances where callers blame her for their troubles or hear tragedies and pain with which she is unable to intervene. Her relaxed cubicle neighbor, Grem, a blissfully pleased and emotionally-centered demon with a love of metal and pot, manages the daily toil much more happily. The angel is relatable frustrated. She escapes into memories of her great guilty pleasure, relationships with mortal men. Because she’s immortal, and because she has a taste for drama, all of these romances tend to end in death.

torPenny’s work is beautifully crafted and absolutely recommended. The humor is sly but the sadness with which it’s balanced is deeply felt. In this world, prayer is bureaucratic and the fantasy is mundane. The angel we follow isn’t pleased about the drudge of the work, but the fact that these sorts of career frustrations aren’t confined to earthly realms is deeply comforting. Her bad life decisions aren’t healthy, no, but they have a note of hope and connection. Forget the divinely serene; I like the idea of angels learning how to deal with the universal grind. As above, so below, etc.

As You Were, Aggie (Or: A Fortunate Time for Reflection) by Rhiannon Rasmussen (Published: April 2016) Sockdolager

static1.squarespaceThis P.G. Wodehouse pastiche fuses the delight of the original Wooster and Jeeves stories–where an inept, cheerfully idiotic heir between WWI and WWII gets into and out of scrapes with his far more intelligent manservant–to a slightly less human version of our own reality. This society, peopled by eldritch aristocrats with gills and iridescent skin, has a whiff of Lovecraft. It firmly belongs to another fantasy world, though, specifically the gentry life of afternoon polo and droll parties that Wodehouse laughed at and wrote about enthusiastically.

There’s very little darkness to be found in Rasmussen’s piece, certainly not in the the warmly stupid Algernon Willems. Much like Bertie Wooster, Willems is a good-for-nothing at the mercy of meddling aunts and fiancees who are more interested in his “improvement” than any sort of love match. The creeping sexism of much of Wodehouse’s short stories, here, is mitigated by making the hyper competent, stubborn manservant a woman. Willems’ employee is the brilliant Keets, a woman with the studiousness and forethought of Jeeves with a helping of mystical knowledge regarding a recent acquisition of a deeply unfashionable Rococo mirror.

It’s a welcome distraction and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The recent Sockdolager issue includes many charming offerings, like a short story about a roving bookstore. I look forward to future issues.

Songbird by Shveta Thakrar (Published: April 2016) Flash Fiction Online

FlashFictionOnlineApril2016Cover-300x510Shailaja’s family try to force her into a specific mold. They want her to have a job of their choosing, a husband that meets their approval, and a life that she doesn’t want foisted on her. They want her to be a plant, something that can be pruned and cared for closely, whose life can be confined to a patch of dirt. But she knows better. She isn’t a vegetable but an animal, specifically a bird trapped in a human body. While she denies the delusion outright, her neighbors see how it persists inside until she can’t hold it in anymore.

Simply put, Thakrar’s language sells this gorgeous flash piece. Her turns of phrase are lyrical, due to having literal song lyrics, and just plain beautiful.

“Today Shailaja stands before her family home, keening. Our town has gathered over the past hour, eager for drama. Her aunt and uncle, her betrothed, all cajole, threaten, and shout, even try to drag her inside, but it is as if Shailaja is beyond their reach.

At last she falls silent, and her aunt sighs with relief.

Then Shailaja’s mouth opens once more, crimsoned lips bright. We wait for her to speak, to sing.”

It’s a fairy tale, or maybe a folk tale, that ends perfectly but not neatly. This is about an ache for more, for freedom to choose one’s own destiny, but not necessarily a road map on how to wrestle it from the hands of stubborn, expectant relatives. Instead, it ends with a hope for finding people who will understand and are hoping for more, too.

Gillian Daniels is a writer of prose, poetry, and criticism. After attending the Clarion Science Writing Workshop in 2011, her poems and fiction have been published in Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Flash Fiction Online, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine among others. Her reviews are available at The New England Theatre Geek blog and other venues. She is a transplant from Northeast Ohio and is highly suspicious of her home in the New World, i.e. Boston.


If you enjoyed this, check out the rest of the May-June 2016 issue of FSI!

Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction March–April 2016

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gillian-fsiby Gillian Daniels

This is Not a Wardrobe Door” By A. Merc Rustad (Published: January 2016) Fireside Fiction

A half-epistolary story that begins with a raw kick, Rustad challenges the idea that childhood is a finite space. This Narnia isn’t tied to an idealistic time that can never be reassembled.

Ellie, despite spending many formative hours in an alternate world, is unable to return to this fantasy land through traditional means. That closet door is very literally broken. Even Ellie’s friend on the other side, Zera, who has the Falcon Queen and the Forgotten Book at her disposal, can’t transcend her magical world to find Ellie again. No, Ellie has to find another way back. “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” is a straightforward story, but it communicates a revelation.

fireside-300wI’m frustrated that portal fantasies about discovering Narnia-like magical lands as a child often end in the child having to abandon that world as she grows up. On a metaphorical level, yes, you can’t return to the naive disposition you once had. You have to leave that era behind. Insert Garden of Eden metaphor here.

But the sense of discovery that portal fantasies represent, I think, don’t have to be sutured to one time of your life. One of appeals of Young Adult literature, for example, is that readers are never really done growing up. There’s always change in our environments and lives, new things to which we can adjust. Just because the run up to adolescence is fraught with identity politics and self-discovery doesn’t mean that exploration is over when you hit your eighteenth birthday. With any luck, adulthood gives us the chance to assemble the pieces of our childhood we valued best into a new home.

grim-future-300w“The Iron Man” by Max Gladstone (Publisher: NESFA Press, February 2016) The Grimm Future, Editor: Erin Underwood

Editor Erin Underwood’s The Grimm Future is a collection that marries near, far, and alternate science fiction to fairy tales. It’s an admirable and enormously charming experiment. I consumed the anthology as soon as I got my hands on it. As a completist, I was also pleased to see that after each story, the Brothers Grimm fairy tale from which it borrows is added. What a fantastic idea.

The original work contains androids and relations resurrected through brain scans. Magic always bleeds through. Sometimes disparate elements are knit together with dream logic, sometimes connected with humor. Genre here is thankfully porous. Of the tales chosen, there are many successes. This includes the Dan Wells’ dark “The Shroud” and Jeffrey Ford’s heartening “The Three Snake-Leaves.” But Gladstone’s take on Iron John has stuck with me.

We follow the unnamed main character, a prince, from sheltered childhood through adolescence. He leaves the utopia kingdom of his parents with a strange android-like warrior, heading into the woods for adventure that reconstructs who he is as the best adventures do. The despair the prince feels at these changes doesn’t have a silver lining but a golden one, in keeping with the original story.

Gladstone’s rendition of “Iron John” thoughtfully creates science that functions like magic. The more resources a given kingdom has, the more plentiful its physical resolution of people and their characteristics, like skin and hair. There are hints this is a sort of hologram setting, one that fluidly blends into the use of fairy tale imagery and tropes.

The source material is rich with metaphor about family. Pain makes monsters of our heroes, sometimes, but once that pain is dealt with, those monsters are somehow more human. The prince’s relationship to the mysterious Iron Man is a father-son connection skewed toward the weird, a compelling knot begging to be untangled, difficult and ultimately rewarding.

strange-horizonsHow the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World” By Arkady Martine (Published: January 18, 2016) Strange Horizons

A visceral portrait of a god forced to re-make herself. So gruesome in detail, so spectacular in its body horror, I had to turn away from the screen every other paragraph. But how could I resist reading on?

Auzh-Aravik is on a mission to find her lost skin. Like the Summerian goddess, Inanna, she must descend to the Underworld to reclaim what was lost. Here, though, what would be the afterlife is actually “the world-outside-the-world.” There are no features to this non-land, no sense beyond nothingness. This fascinating negative space is ruled by her cruel sister, Saam-Firuze, who has a separate agenda.

Each word is beautifully wrought. This universe feels familiar but is suffused with something very alien.  A layer of this story is about Auzh-Aravik’s relationship to her own body, in all its godly splendor and more practical uses. She uses limited resources, specifically teeth and entrails, to move toward her goals in an environment where she has to restart from nothing. She’s the sort of stubborn, masterful, and divine heroine I’m excited to see brought to life.

lightspeed-69-300wCharlotte Incorporated” by Rachael K. Jones (Published: February 2016) Lightspeed Magazine

Speaking of bodies, Jones gives us a weirdly adorable story of a synthetic brain with big dreams.

Charlotte is desperately pushing, recycling, and saving for a body of her very own. Rather than being created with one, she and her kind must earn enough to purchase them. Her day job involves being incorporated into an ill-fitting “company corpus” that doesn’t match her gender expression at all. In her off-hours, Charlotte daydreams online, always designing the perfect body like someone devoting far too much time to character creation in the Sims.

The way Charlotte’s financial straits parallel real world struggles with poverty — where choices are often made between hospital stays and life savings — is brutal. Yet this yarn never quite loses its good humor. Charlotte, body or no, is a plucky heroine who would have a spring in her step if she had a leg with which she could do the stepping.

It also doesn’t hurt that the language is lovely. The details are sublime, from the textures of skin Charlotte lusts to have to the sickly cactus in her fish tank home:

“She sleeps suspended inside the biochamber, brain stem trailing its fine lattice of disconnected nerves, and she dreams corporeal dreams. The blueprint comes to life, the details exactly as she has selected. Perfection. Charlotte’s corpus will be sixty years old, because she loves the way corpi droop at that age. Sort of like weeping willows.”

This is a comic-drama with a great deal of thought put into its set dressing. The slice of this strange world we see is densely built and deeply satisfying.

Gillian Daniels is a writer of prose, poetry, and criticism. After attending the Clarion Science Writing Workshop in 2011, her poems and fiction have been published in Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Flash Fiction Online, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine among others. Her reviews are available at The New England Theatre Geek blog and other venues. She is a transplant from Northeast Ohio and is highly suspicious of her home in the New World, i.e. Boston.


If you enjoyed this, check out the rest of the March-April 2016 issue of FSI!

Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: January-February 2016

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by Gillian Daniels

strange-horizons“Telling the Bees” by T. Kingfisher (Published: December 21, 2015) Strange Horizons

This is an expertly cut jewel, no word out of place. We see a girl who just keeps on dying every day. There’s no real fix for it but distracting herself with beekeeping. It reads like a creepy and alluring diary entry from another world:

“When her heart had shuddered back to life and she had clawed her way back from the lands beneath, she sat up and drew a long sucking breath into the silent caverns of her lungs. Her first breath was always very loud in the little cottage, but there was no one there to hear it. “

~~~

No cure is in sight for our main character, just the promise of the underworld at some point during the night and life in the morning. No one she meets seems able to understand how to help. The best way through her problems are the solace she finds in her bees.

fantasy-300w“Kaiju maximus®: “So Various, So Beautiful, So New”” by Kai Ashante Wilson (Published: December 2015) Fantasy Magazine: Queers Destroy Fantasy!

Here, we examine a twisted nuclear family, their collective desires bent in service to the winged, mutated, hero matriarch who defends their world against kaiju. This is a future Earth largely lost to an apocalyptic age. All we know is ruled by the unpredictable desires of enormous monsters. She’s a hero designed for one rigorous mission after another. This piece, however, is mainly domestic and from the perspective of her husband. He’s loving, perfectly willing to follow her with their children in tow, and surviving in an increasingly hostile environment.

The language is largely visual and visceral. It left me chilled. If you have fears that run the gamut of climate change to nuclear catastrophe, this piece lays out an uncompromisingly bleak future of global catastrophe. Still, there is some sense of hope. At least we see a parent who still loves his children and at least there’s an artificial intelligence we’ve created here to save the day. Let the rest of society be variously devoured and lost because there’s a hero in our midst to stand for what’s left.

motheship-300w

~~~

“Panic Twice, Spin” by Malon Edwards (Published: December 18, 2015) Mothership Zeta

Mahina plays a videogame that looks a lot like Dance Dance Revolution in her rich parents’ play room. Meanwhile, her brother notices it’s punched a hole in reality. What follows are numerous low-key references to Michael Jackson and the blue fairy.

This story is a genre chameleon, effortlessly shifting from near future sci-fi to interdimensional fantasy. Along with fedora-wearing pop stars, there are references to manga and androids. It’s a strange, funny, and really, really cool concoction. It’s also unambiguously joyous about its inspirations.

~~

 

if-online-logo“A Primer on Separation” by Debbie Urbanski (Published: November 2015) Interfictions

A wandering exploration of motherhood, child abandonment, and the idea that being maternal is natural and effortless. The common thread in this eclectically structured story is one of a mother who has been forced to grow distant from her child. Our narrator writes out her advice and sends it to her daughter in an attempt to reconnect. Her list of suggestions, which are variously horrifying, transform into a story of longing. It seems our narrator has also begun to write stories:

“There is a certain intimacy to the act of writing which I love, like someone is sharing a string of secrets with me, like someone is whispering them right into my brain. It has been a long time since someone shared a secret. Every story I write happens to be about the same thing. Motherhood and loss. I wonder why.”

This piece is separated into three parts. It transitions through a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, a military space opera, and a magazine quiz. It’s a darkly good fable that twists several styles together for exquisite results.

Daily Science Fiction“In the Timeline Where the Moscow Metro Opened in 1934” by S.L. Harris (Published: November 10, 2015) Daily Science Fiction

This gently-realized story has a timeline-hopping, reality-slipping narrator. In every variation of reality, every time he jumps, he continues to find his lover. Some changes to the timelines he visits are small. Others are as large as “bronze working never taking off,” stranding them “together in a little lean-to, the night wrapped around like a python the size of the world. […] I sit beside the dying fire and watch you scraping skins, and my heart is filled almost to overflowing.” This story is an ambitious undertaking and Harris makes it work.

I read the main character as somebody coming to terms with one, singular if varied relationship. The perfect image he has of their bliss, the titular Moscow Metro timeline, is temporary. His partner, however, is not.

feminine-future-300w“The Painter of Dead Women” by Edna W. Underwood (Originally published in A Book of Dear Dead Women, 1911, Publisher: Little, Brown; re-published: 2015) The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers, Editor: Mike Ashley, Dover Thrift Editions

This column is usually devoted to fiction that’s been published within the past couple months. In my defense, editor Mike Ashley’s recent anthology, The Feminine Future, did come out in 2015. It just collects fiction published in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I wanted to give it a special shout-out here, however, due to the gaps it bridges. Science fiction, despite such landmark female authors as Mary Shelley, Margaret Atwood, and Ursula LeGuin, has long been seen as a genre by and for men. This is particularly strange as female authors have been here all along.

Take, for example, “The Painter of Dead Women.” Despite being over one hundred years old, this short story is fast-paced and thoroughly suspenseful. Our narrator is an athletic, American woman in Naples who has recently married an Italian gentleman. She finds herself under the sway of an insistent hypnotist. This host has creepy artistic inclinations and has entertained female guests before.

The hypnotist has acquired a drug created centuries ago by Ibn Ezra. He explains, “This poison causes a delicious, pleasureful death, and at the same time arrests physical decay.” As the title implies, his private gallery rivals Bluebeard’s. Her escape from these horrifying circumstances is clever and brave. It’s a charming story in an unexpected collection.

Gillian Daniels is a writer of prose, poetry, and criticism. After attending the Clarion Science Writing Workshop in 2011, her poems and fiction have been published in Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Flash Fiction Online, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine among others. Her reviews are available at The New England Theatre Geek blog and other venues. She is a transplant from Northeast Ohio and is highly suspicious of her home in the New World, i.e. Boston.

November-December 2015 Table of Contents

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FICTION

bright-300Original Short Story:
A Girl Named Bright

by Veronica Viscardi

And you think daylight savings causes problem.

~

exit-300wOriginal Flash Fiction:
Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast

by Stewart C. Baker

Never underestimate the importance of making a good last impression.

~

cola-300wShort Story:
Drink and the Devil

by Kelly McCullough

A dance with death within the pause that refreshes.

~

life-300wShort Story:
In Another Life

by Kelly Sandoval

In all possible worlds, the heart wants what the heart wants.

~

plastic-trees-300Flash Fiction:
Real Plastic Trees

by Erica L. Satifka

Will humanity be welcome in its own future?

~

REVIEWS & COMMENTARY

fan-200Reviews: The Fan:
Serendipity, Lucky Breaks, and Ill-Advised Choices

by Carole McDonnell

Carole McDonnell’s reviews include the CBS/Netflix series Zoo based on the novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, The Surprising Imagination of C S Lewis — An Introduction, by Jerry Root and Mark Neal, the US film The Brass Teapot (2013), written by Ramaa and directed by Ramaa Mosley, and the coloring book, The Time Chamber by Daria Song.
.

~

adam-200Reviews: The Magic Lantern: 
Getting to Know You

by Adam-Troy Castro

Adam-Troy Castro celebrates the characters at the heart of enduring genre franchises. The ones that hold together over time, the ones who get reinvented, and the ones that aren’t really characters at all. Kirk, Holmes and Chewbacca emote under the microscope.

area51-200Reviews: Area 51 1/2
November-December 2015

by Steven Sawicki

Our resident Alien reviews The Exile by C. T. Adams, The Quick by Lauren Owen, Zero World by Jason M. Hough, Lightless by C. A, Higgens, Blood Infernal by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, and the viral video Selfie From Hell, made by Meelah Adams, written and directed by Erdal Ceylan.

gillian-200Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: 
November-December 2015

by Gillian Daniels

Gillian Daniels reviews “Hundred Eye” by Yukimi Ogawa,  “The Closest Thing to Animals” by Sofia Samatar “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong from Nightmare Magazine: Queers Destroy Horror! Special Issue, and “When Two Swordsmen Meet” by Ellen Kushner.

Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction Nov-Dec 2015

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by Gillian Daniels

strange-horizons“Hundred Eye” by Yukimi Ogawa (Published: September 28, 2015), Strange Horizons

I love creepy, body horror fiction, fairy tales, and stories of outcasts finding each other. “Hundred Eye” has all three. The heroine, of course, is a woman with eyes that have, with no apparent physical cause, sprouted all over her arms. This turn of events is never explained deeply. Rather than contemplate her condition, she begins to wander, becoming a master thief with her long, all-seeing limbs. Being ostracized hardens her heart until she meets another who loves her unconditionally. It’s a love story of a kind, but it unfolds in an unexpected way.

Ogawa is a brilliant storyteller. This piece is similar to the others by her that I’ve enjoyed in that it’s rooted in a meandering daydream but unfolds logically and thoughtfully. Much like the main character of “Hundred Eye”, this story doesn’t quite have a home in a specific place. It makes a home for itself.

Along with the unquestioned appearance of eyes, there is a tree with fruit that has human faces. Again, its presence isn’t something we should question. It just is, an image that’s complete and sure of itself. The main character of this story struggles to find the same sure footing, her skills as a thief suddenly a hindrance rather than a blessing when she begins to long for connection. Maybe the tree does have a reason, an encounter that’s as weird and sweet as the tale itself.

fireside-300w“The Closest Thing to Animals” by Sofia Samatar (Published: September 2015), Fireside Fiction

I have developed a terrible affection for Samatar’s style and I know exactly why. Her prose effortlessly changes from light and airy to sharp and painful. Here, the main character is a young woman who emigrated from Somalia as a girl. Now she lives in a quarantined metropolis, though that (and the threat of the deadly lanugo ailment under which they all live) isn’t quite the center of the story. Instead, this is a portrait of the narrator discovering an artist. Hodan Mahmoud, who at first appears to be a homeless woman going through trash, is revealed to be a visual artist with talent and unique vision. The narrator is utterly fascinated by this woman’s distance from others in the world. They have similar backgrounds, but while the main character obsesses over Cindy Vea, a close friend who now refuses to contact her, Hodan seems to lead a drifting life.

The story hits a lot of wonderful, personal notes that I wish would be explored more in short fiction. Throughout, the narrator is forced to contextualize and then re-contextualize her friendships and connections in her community. Like Hodan, she is alone, but not in such a purposeful way. Perhaps due to the nature of the quarantine, or perhaps due to the geography of the place where she’s been trapped, the world she’s in is small. As is usual with forced intimacy, the social milieu is that much more treacherous to navigate when there’s fewer people to encounter. But this is not a comedy of errors where one’s reputation can be soiled forever due to improper actions. No, this is just a young woman growing up, sorting out who she is, what her priorities are, and who are her true friends.

nightmare-300w“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong (Published: October 2015), Nightmare Magazine: Queers Destroy Horror! Special Issue

Here, hungry horror is effortlessly spliced with elegance. Descriptions of twisting, ugly anthropomorphic thoughts aren’t tied to one’s brain. No, they linger in hair, along wrists, and scuttle like beetles during dinner conversation. Jenny, a breed of telepathic vampire, feeds on them. Some thoughts are more delicious and more nourishing than others.

One of the best things about this story is how organic it feels, seamlessly integrating technology, contemporary dating, and fantastic monsters. This feels like a lived-in world. Jenny’s story starts in the right place — a creepy date with a sociopathic, smug Ivy League graduate — and ends in the very best, most tender place. Still, this is a layered piece, one where the history of a creepy society peeks out from the edges. This is a focused exercise, however, concentrating on Jenny’s familial troubles, her use of the notorious dating app Tindr to find her prey, and her crush on her apparently-perfect, unassuming friend, Aiko.

This is a girl with gruesome habits wrapped up inside a myth, but she’s too distracted with the mundane to realize the full splendor of being something more than human. If this were a different story, she would be a crime-fighting anti-hero or a villain enthralled with her own powers, but as it stands, she’s just trying to save herself. Like “The Closest Thing to Animals”, this is another young woman finding her way, but here, she must grapple not with just who she is but what that means.

chip-300w“When Two Swordsmen Meet” by Ellen Kushner (Rosarium Publishing; 2015) Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delaney, edited by Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell

A short piece, with the edge of prose poetry that’s cut into thirds. If you thought I was above sword puns, you have been woefully mislead. This piece won me over with its winking charm, surrounded as it is by stories devoted to one of science fiction’s most enduring figures.

It’s just as it says on the tin. Sword-wielding people encounter each other. Perhaps they’re from Kushner’s Riverside world, explored in her novels Swordspoint, The Fall of Kings, and The Privilege of the Sword. Perhaps not. Here, what matters is the excitement of the fight (perhaps with a sort of erotic charge), clever people outwitting each other, and the discovery of kindred spirits. My usual disappointment with sword fighting in fiction, both in literature and on screen, is that it’s dismissed too quickly or it’s not as clever as it thinks it is. This is not the case here.

The essays and fictional work I’ve read in Stories for Chip so far has been varied and worthy of discussion, but this particular piece hit me in the right mood and the right time. It’s a treat in a collection that isn’t short on sugar.

Gillian Daniels is a writer of prose, poetry, and criticism. After attending the Clarion Science Writing Workshop in 2011, her poems and fiction have been published in Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Flash Fiction Online, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine among others. Her reviews are available at The New England Theatre Geek blog and other venues. She is a transplant from Northeast Ohio and is highly suspicious of her home in the New World, i.e. Boston.

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fsi-234-340wFantastic Stories of the Imagination
May-June 2016 #234

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Fiction:Starf*ckers by Terence Taylor — New technologies enable new temptations… and new crimes.
  • Fiction: When She Was Five by Fraser Ronald — A daughter finds strength in her differences.
  • Fiction: Marcie’s Waffles Are the Best in Town by Sunil Patel — The diner was closed forever… but some things never change.
  • Fiction: The Other Side of Jordon by Allen M. Steele — Even light-years away, she was always on his mind.
  • Fiction: Winter of the Scavengers by David G. Blake — A man came back from the war—but was he still her husband?
  • Reviews: “Read Me! Reviews of Not Necessarily New Books: The Worlds of N. K. Jemisin” by Terence Taylor.
  • Reviews: “The Fan: Microcosm and Macrocosm — Human Woundedness from A(lienated) to Z(ootopia)” by Carole McDonnell
  • Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: The Magic Lantern: The Moments that Eject Us” by Adam-Troy Castro.
  • Reviews: “Area 51 1/2 May–June 2016” by Steven Sawicki.
  • Reviews: “New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction May–June 2016” by Gillian Daniels.

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fsi-ebook-march-april-2016-2500t-medFantastic Stories of the Imagination
March-April 2016 #233

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Non Fiction: A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction by Nisi Shawl — Nisi summarizes over two centuries of influential black science fiction.
  • Fiction:Memory and Iron by Kelly Sandoval — She was a good mother… but not necessarily a good wife.
  • Fiction: Who Ya Living by George Allen Miller — It’s hard to come to grips with your past when you’ve sold it to a stranger.
  • Fiction: The Sweetness of Bitter by Beth Cato — There’s nothing a mother won’t do to save the simulacrum of her child.
  • Fiction: The Universe We Both Dreamed Of by Jay O’Connell — What will you say in your alien interview?
  • Fiction: Under the Bed by Effie Seiberg — A tale of monstrous affection.
  • Reviews: “Read Me! Reviews of Not Necessarily New Books” by Terence Taylor.
  • Reviews: “The Fan: Control Disorientation and The Genre Of Regret” by Carole McDonnell
  • Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: the Questions That Linger” by Adam-Troy Castro.
  • Reviews: “Area 51 1/2 March-April 2016” by Steven Sawicki.
  • Reviews: “New Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction March-April 2016” by Gillian Daniels.

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fsi-232-sidebar-add-227wFantastic Stories of the Imagination
January-February 2016 #232

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Fiction: While I Wait by Layla Al-Bedawi — If you don’t feed the strays, they won’t go away.
  • Fiction:Girl in Blue Dress (1881) by Sunil Patel — He made her pretty as a picture.
  • Fiction: Kvetchula’s Daughter by Darrell Schweitzer — Vampire parents were only part of her problem.
  • Fiction: Heiress of Air by Allen M. Steele — Who really kidnapped the Air magnate’s daughter?
  • Fiction: The Held Daughter by Laurie Tom — A princess, forbidden marriage, finds her own way.
  • Reviews: “The Fan: Encroaching Worlds” by Carole McDonnell —Carole looks at season one of The Man in the High Castle series based on the novel by Phillip K. Dick, streaming on Amazon Prime, the movie Attack on Titan based on the anime series, and the Indian epic film spectacle Bahubali-The Beginning. 
  • Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: Enough with the Endless Yammering About Heroes” by Adam-Troy Castro —Adam-Troy discusses what makes a hero in a free-wheeling rant which takes in Marvel’s Netflixed Jessica Jones, Captain Kirk, Mad Max, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and the Dark Knight himself.
  • Reviews: “Area 51 1/2: January-February 2016” by Steven Sawicki —Our Resident Alien reviews The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, Firstfleet by Stephen Case, The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston, The Human Division by John Scalzi Lash-up byLarry Bond, and the short film Cargo.
  • Reviews: “New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: January-February 2016” by Gillian Daniels —Gillian reviews “Telling the Bees” by T. Kingfisher, “Kaiju maximus®: “So Various, So Beautiful, So New” by Kai Ashante Wilson, “A Primer on Separation” by Debbie Urbanski, “In the Timeline Where the Moscow Metro Opened in 1934” by S.L. Harris, and “The Painter of Dead Women” by Edna W. Underwood.

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Fantastic Stories of the Imagination
November-December 2015 #231

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Fiction: “A Girl Named Bright” by Veronica Viscardi — And you think daylight savings causes problem.
  • Fiction: “Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast” by Stewart C. Baker — Never underestimate the importance of making a good last impression.
  • Fiction: “Drink and the Devil” by Kelly McCullough — A dance with death within the pause that refreshes.
  • Fiction: “In Another Life” by Kelly Sandoval — In all possible worlds, the heart wants what the heart wants.
  • Fiction: “Real Plastic Trees” by Erica L. Satifka — Will humanity be welcome in its own future?
  • Reviews: “The Fan: Serendipity, Lucky Breaks, and Ill-Advised Choices” by Carole McDonnell — In this month’s column, Carole McDonnell’s reviews include the CBS/Netflix series Zoo based on the novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, The Surprising Imagination of C S Lewis — An Introduction, by Jerry Root and Mark Neal, the US film The Brass Teapot (2013), written by Ramaa and directed by Ramaa Mosley, and the coloring book, The Time Chamber by Daria Song.
  • Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: Getting to Know You” by Adam-Troy Castro — Adam-Troy Castro celebrates the characters at the heart of enduring genre franchises. The ones that hold together over time, the ones who get reinvented, and the ones that aren’t really characters at all. Kirk, Holmes and Chewbacca emote under the microscope.
  • Reviews: “Area 51 1/2 November-December 2015” by Steven Sawicki — In this issue our resident Alien reviews The Exile by C. T. Adams, The Quick by Lauren Owen, Zero World by Jason M. Hough, Lightless by C. A, Higgens, Blood Infernal by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, and the viral video Selfie From Hell, made by Meelah Adams, written and directed by Erdal Ceylan.
  • Reviews: “New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: November-December 2015” by Gillian Daniels — Gillian Daniels reviews “Hundred Eye” by Yukimi Ogawa, “The Closest Thing to Animals” by Sofia Samatar “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong from Nightmare Magazine: Queers Destroy Horror! Special Issue, and “When Two Swordsmen Meet” by Ellen Kushner.

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FSi-230-227wFantastic Stories of the Imagination
September–October 2015 #230

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Fiction: “The Attic of Memories” by Sunil Patel — A bucket list with a life of its own.
  • Fiction: “I Miss Flowers” by Alexandra Grunberg — When living forever isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
  • Fiction: “Elvis has Left the Building” by Dario Ciriello — The King was only the opening act.
  • Fiction: “Cartographer’s Ink” by Beth Cato — Conquering a map, literally.
  • Fiction: “Ro-Sham-Bot” by Effie Seiberg — What do you do with an old, obsolete robot’s heart?
  • Reviews: “The Fan: Virgin Ghosts, Virgin Priestesses, and Virgin Vampires” by Carole McDonnell — In this month’s column, Carole McDonnell reviews the American film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the Korean series Oh My Ghostess!, the 2012 film Chanthaly directed by Mattie Do, the first female Laotian horror film maker, and Abengoni, Charles Saunders African-inspired sword and sorcery novel.
  • Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: Erasing the Origins” by Adam-Troy Castro — Adam-Troy Castro uses the Western as a model for what should and shouldn’t be done to cope with the modern comic book movie epidemic. Err. Renaissance! Full disclosure: A-T C writes comics, as well as other things, and his opinions are fascinating.
  • Reviews: “Area 51 1/2 September-October 2015” by Steven Sawicki — In this issue our resident Alien reviews novels by John Scalzi, Adam Christopher, John C. Wright, short fiction by Kelly Link, and the animated short THE OCEANMAKER, written and directed by Lucas Martell.
  • Reviews: “New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: September-October 2015” by Gillian Daniels — Gillian reviews stories by C.S.E. Cooney, Jei D. Marcade, Arie Coleman, Sofia Samatar, and Charlie Jane Anders.

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fsi-229-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
July-August 2015 #229

$2.99—Free with Kindle Unlimited

You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

    • Original Short Story: Message from Beyond by José Pablo Iriarte — Can the dead speak for the living?
    • Original Flash Fiction: The Closed Window by Christina Sng — There are windows that should never be opened.
    • Short Story: A Soaring Pillar of Brightness by Nancy Fulda — In matters of faith, the devil is in the details.The Temple’s
    • Short Story: The Temple’s Posthole by M.K. Hutchins — A quest for forbidden magic is a matter of life and death.
    • Short Story: The Carnival Was Eaten, All Except the Clown by Caroline M. Yoachim — A magical treat struggles with its destiny.
    • Reviews: Boys, Mechanics and Love by Carole McDonnell — Carole reviews A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen, The Man Who Lived in Inner Space by Arnold FederbushJack, and the films Cuckoo Clock Heart 5 and S.I.N. Theory.
    • Reviews: The Remake Chronicles: Two Deeply Unstable Spiral Staircases by Adam-Troy Castro — Adam revisits the Shirley Jackson adaptation The Haunting as seen through the eyes of Robert Wise — and Jan de Bont.
    • Reviews: Area 51 1/2 February, 2015 by Steven Sawicki — Our Alien reviews The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, The Defenders of Shannara, the High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks, Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons by Tom Purdon, Willful Child by Steven Erikson, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, and the film Lucy.
    • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction, February, 2015 by Gillian Daniels — Gillian reviews “Kia and Gio” by Daniel José Older, “Returned” by Kat Howard, “A Universal Elegy” by Tang Fei, and “Soft Currency” by Seth Gordon.

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fsi-228-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
May-June 2015 #228

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Short Story: Little Fox by Amy Griswold — Where oh where has Marissa’s clone sister gone?
  • Original Flash Fiction: This Side of Time by Sarah Grey — For fifteen year-old Emily, the future is serious business.
  • Novelette: The Stone Man by Sarah Totton — A little fear can be a very good thing.
  • Short Story: Herbert Hutchinson in the Underworld by Bruce Coville — Some choices are more important than life and death.
  • Short Story: Icarus Falls by Alex Shvartsman — An explorer pays an unforgettable price for the stars.
  • Reviews: The Fan: Ramifications of Imagination, Casting the World Aside by Carole McDonnell — Carole McDonnell’s reviews Beyond (2014), directed by Joseph Baker, Webjunkie (2013), directed by Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia, After the Dark (2013-14), directed by John Huddles, the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2014), directed by Mami Sunada, and Wolfcop (2014), written and directed by Lowell Dean.
  • Reviews: The Magic Lantern: Of Plan Nine and other things by Adam-Troy Castro — Adam-Troy Castro discusses why Ed Wood’s notorious Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) isn’t really the worst movie ever made, and discusses some other contenders that while vile, probably aren’t either: including Manos, Hands of Fate, and the horror that is the film Horror (2003). Honeymoon (2014), Housebound (2014) and Predestination (2015) are also discussed, in a not the worst kind-of-way.
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2, May, 2015 by Steven Sawicki — Our resident Alien considers A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias, Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright, The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, Impulse by Dave Barra, and The Mercury Men, written and Directed by Chris Preksta,
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction, May, 2015 by Gillian Daniels — Gillian Daniels reviews “Those” by Sofia Samatar, “Thousandfurs, Or The King Who Wanted To Marry His Daughter” by Mallory Ortberg, “To Preserve Humankind” by Christina Nordlander, and “Let Baser Things Devise” by Berrien C. Henderson.

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fsi-227-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
April 2015 #227

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Short Story: All That We Carry, All That We Hold by Damien Angelica Walters — Some vows must be broken, while others must be kept.
  • Original Flash Fiction: Molten Heart by Alexis A. Hunter — They made him less than human for a reason.
  • Short Story: The Last Wild Place by Alison Wilgus — The link between them was stronger than death.
  • Short Story: Beautiful by Jay Caselberg — That which does not kill us…
  • Flash Fiction: Rowling in the Year 3000 by KJ Kabza — Some stories never go out of style.
  • Reviews: The Fan: Substance — Bringing Family Back by Carole McDonnell — Carole McDonnell’s reviews include The Scavengers by Michael Perry, Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun, the 2013 film How I Live Now, based on Meg Rosoff’s book, and The Returned/Les Revenants; a French series based on the film They Came Back, created by Fabrice Gobret.
  • Reviews: The Remake Chronicles: Two Tin Soldiers by Adam-Troy Castro — Adam-Troy Castro expects some appalled blowback from his decision to rate the original Robocop (1987), directed by Paul Verhoevenand, and the remake (2014), directed by Jose Padilhaas, as about equivalent in terms of quality, and neither with particular enthusiasm. To which he can only reply, “Ah, well.”
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2, April 2015 by Steven Sawicki — Our resident Alien expounds upon the uniqueness of snowflakes and then reviews The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, V-S Day by Allen Steele, Corsair by James L. Cambias, Unbreakable by W. C. Bauers, and the web serial Haphead, by Postopian Pictures, directed by Tate Young.
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction, April 2015 by Gillian Daniels — Gillian Daniels reviews “Sheila” by Rebecca Adams Wright from the anthology The Thing About Great White Sharks and Other Stories, “The Salt Mosquito’s Bite and The Goddess’ Sting” by J. Mehentee from Strange Horizons, “Sweetness” by Toni Morrison from the February 2015 New Yorker, and “The Fox Bride by Mari Ness” from Daily Science Fiction.

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fsi-226-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
March 2015 #226

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Flash Fiction: Red String by Cassandra Khaw — Will Mrs. Ong continue to rebuff her persistent mortician admirer?
  • Original Flash Fiction: One For Every Year by Dawn Vogel —Sometimes, a picture is worth much more than a thousand words.
  • Flash Fiction: Investments by Simon Kewin — Civilization depends on the ethics of shrewd businesspeople. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Flash Fiction: Extraction by Rebecca Roland — The difficult decisions with memories too painful to keep, but too precious to lose.
  • Flash Fiction: The Filigreed Cage by Krystal Claxton — A future where free will is regulated by alien Overseers.
  • Reviews: The Fan: Then, Now, and Female Rescuers by Carole McDonnell — Carole looks at stories which juxtapose the past and the future, the then and the now…and female rescuers, including Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander, Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague, and Avalon (2001) directed by Mamoru Oshii.
  • Reviews: The Magic Lantern: Fixing The 27th Day by Adam-Troy Castro — Adam explores and reimagines the not-quite-classic SF film The 27th Day and in so doing, talks about what science fiction film often do best, if sometimes clumsily, asking and answering big questions about the human condition.
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2 March 2015 by Steven Sawicki — Our Alien reviews Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge, Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher, Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory, On Her Majesty’s Behalf by Joseph Massise, Old Venus edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, and Still by the Chronicle Factory, a Web based series produced by Jonathan Holbrook.
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: March 2015 by Gillian Daniels — Gillian reviews “The Half Dark Promise” by Malon Edwards, “And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander, “Military Secrets” by Kit Reed, “Medu” by Lisa Bolekaja, and “Black Dog” by Neil Gaiman.

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fsi-225-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
February 2015 #225

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Flash Fiction: Weight of the World by José Pablo Iriarte — A sick child’s dangerous trip to a strange new world — Destination: Earth.
  • Original Flash Fiction: She Opened Her Arms by Amanda C. Davis — A young woman faces an agonizing choice when her wish comes true.
  • Flash Fiction: A Kite for Sarah by David G. Blake — His love for his daughter was real — even if he was not.
  • Short Story: Nature Witch by Rebecca Lyons — A wise woman knows there’s a perfect place for everyone — and how to get them there.
  • Flash Fiction: Nine-Lived Wonders by Rachael K. Jones — An elusive blue-furred cat proves that you’re never too old for bedtime stories.
  • Reviews: The Fan: Boys, Mechanics and Love by Carole McDonnell — Carole reviews A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen, The Man Who Lived in Inner Space by Arnold Federbush, and the films Cuckoo Clock Heart 5 and S.I.N. Theory.
  • Reviews: The Remake Chronicles: Two Deeply Unstable Spiral Staircases by Adam-Troy Castro — Adam revisits the Shirley Jackson adaptation The Haunting as seen through the eyes of Robert Wise — and Jan de Bont.
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2 February 2015 by Steven Sawicki — Our Alien reviews The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, The Defenders of Shannara, the High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks, Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons by Tom Purdon, Willful Child by Steven Erikson, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, and the film Lucy.
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction, February 2015 by Gillian Daniels — Gillian reviews “Kia and Gio” by Daniel José Older, “Returned” by Kat Howard, “A Universal Elegy” by Tang Fei, and “Soft Currency” by Seth Gordon.

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fsi-224-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
January 2015 #224

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Heartless by Krystal Claxton — A woman of power ministers to a broken heart, risking her own in the process.
  • Underworld by Katherine Mankiller — A teen grapples with dark forces to save the only family he’s ever known.
  • Backlash by Nancy Fulda — Eugene Gutierrez has flashbacks from the war, but the real danger is what he doesn’t remember.
  • Corner Sofa by Sarena Ulibarri — Sometimes it takes stepping into someone else’s story to more clearly see your own.
  • The Miracle on Tau Prime by Alex Shvartsman — Can an alien be touched by God?
  • Reviews: The Fan: Empathy, Mutual Wavelengths, Wounded Boys, & Points of View by Carole McDonnell— Carole reviews The Babadook directed by Jennifer Kent, Dark Skies written and directed by Scott Stewart, In Your Eyes written by Joss Whedon, directed by Brin Hill; Frequencies written and directed by Darren Paul Fisher, and Tokyo Girl directed by Kazuyo Konaka.
  • Reviews: The Magic Lantern: Exodus (2014), Birdman (2014) by Adam-Troy Castro —Adam considers the controversies around Exodus directed by Ridley Scott and Birdman directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2 January 2015 by Steven Sawicki — Our Alien reviews Thorn Jack, by Katherine Harbour, Pacific Fire, by Greg van Eekhout, Metrophage, by Richard Kadrey, The Witch With No Name, by Kim Harrison, The Wurms of Blearmouth, by Steven Erikson, and Tusk directed by Kevin Smith.
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: January 2015 by Gillian Daniels —Gillian reviews “Never Eat Crow” by Goldie Goldbloom, “No Vera There” by Dominica Phetteplace, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” by Greer Gilman, “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” by Sam Miller, and “I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link.

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fsi-223-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
December 2014 #223

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Short Story: Chocolateland by Shariann Lewitt —When they wanted to eat, to really enjoy a good pig out, they could go to Chocolateland
  • Original Short Story: Sleepers by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam —Where did they come from? Where do we go from here?
  • Short Story: Monitor Bot and the King of Pop by Jess Barber —When life gives you lemons… dance like Michael Jackson.
  • Short Story: Floaters By Robert Lowell Russell — Darkness and light collide in an unlikely redemption.
  • Reviews: The Fan: The beautiful, the sweet, the inspirational, the meaningful, the melancholy
    Carole reviews The Feral Child, by Che Golden, Pieces of Me, by Amber Kizer, The Diamond Thief, by Sharon Gosling, A Werewolf Boy, 2012, Written and Directed by Jo Sung Hee
  • Reviews: The Remake Chronicles: By Adam-Troy Castro — A-T C reviews The Rover (2014) Directed by David Michod
    Reviews: Area 51 1/2 December 2014 by Steven Sawicki — Our resident alien reviews The Getaway God, Richard Kadrey, Soda Pop Soldier, Nick Cole, Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising, Sarah Cawkwell, Thrones and Bones #1: Frostborn, Lou Anders, Assail, Ian C. Esslemont, Rogues, George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014, Walt Disney Studios
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: December 2014 by Gillian Daniels — Join us as Gillian explores what’s new in short Fantasy & Science Fiction. This month she reviews “Candy Girl” by Chikodili Emelumadu, “Mothers” by Carmen Maria Machado, “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” By Maria Dahvana Headley, “A Kiss with Teeth” by Max Gladstone

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fsi-222-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
November 2014 #222

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Flash Fiction: Night of Apophis by Brenda Kalt — Eat Drink and be Merry, for tomorrow we die.
  • Original Short Story: Compassion by Alexandra Grunberg — Sometimes we all need compassion, or do we?
  • Short Story: On the Last Night of the Festival of the Dead by Darrell Schweitzer — It was a festival like no other.
  • Flash Fiction: Sapience and Maternal Instincts by Krystal Claxton — There’s nothing like the love of a mother.
  • Reviews: The Fan: Oliver and the Sea Wigs and Journey to the West by Carole McDonnell — The fan wrestles with Mermaids and Demon-hunters.
  • Reviews: The Remake Chronicles: Three pods and a mouthful of projectile vomit: the four versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Adam-Troy Castro — Which is the real adaptation of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers? A-TC discusses four curiously distinct contenders.
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2 by Steven Sawicki — Grunt Life by Weston Ochse, Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Vol 6, Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold, The Hunt for Pierre Jnr by David M. Henley and Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon Ho.
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: November 2014 by Gillian Daniels — Join us as Gillian explores what’s new and short in Fantasy & Science Fiction.

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fsi-221-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
October 2014 #221

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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Short Story: Rope Burns by Kelly McCullough — He had a secret to keep, but then don’t we all?
  • Original Short Story: Locomotive Joe and the Wreck of Space Train No. 4 by Allen M. Steele — What price would you pay for a dream come true?
  • Flash Fiction: Sibyl by Deborah Walker — The future can’t be changed, can it?
  • Short Story: Kvetchula by Darrell Schweitzer — A nagging wife can be a curse, but at least you’ll sleep when you’re dead… right?
  • Reviews: The Fan: Beginnings and Endings — Carole McDonnell investigates the alpha and the omega: reviewing Snowpiercer (movie) 2013, Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, The End, My Friend: Prelude to the Apocalypse by Kirby Wright and The Midnight After (movie) 2014.
  • Reviews: The Magic Lantern: Personal Apocalypses — For Adam-Troy Castro this is the way the world ends… Reviewing Henjel gwa Geuretel (Korean movie, 2007, Hansel and Gretel) Haunter (Canadian, 2013; directed by Vincenzo Natali), The Wall (Austrian, 2013; written and directed by Julian Polsner, from the novel Die Wand by Marlen Houshofer), The Last Days (Spanish, 2013; written and directed by David Pastor and Alex Pastor),  Jug Face (USA, 2013; written and directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle)
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2 by Steven Sawicki — Our resident alien reports on various future histories: Queen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill, The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison, The Hydra Protocol, David Wellington, William Morrow, Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J. G. Ballard, and Transformers: Age of Extinction (Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack) Paramount, (2014).
  • Reviews: New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction, October 2014 — Gillian Daniels explores what’s new and excellent in Fantasy & Science Fiction, including “Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye” By Claire Humphrey in Strange Horizons, “Patterns of a Murmuration,” “in Billions of Data Points” By Jy Yang
    Clarkesworld Magazine, “Quick Hill” By M.T. Anderson in Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, and “When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami” By Kendare Blake at Tor.com.

~~~

fsi-220-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination
September 2014 #220

$2.99—Free with Kindle Unlimited

You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Original Novella: Invisible Friends Too (Or, I have no bananas and Ice must cream) by Steven Sawiki — Monkeys, aliens, and Elvis . . . oh my.
  • Original Novellette: Planting Walnuts by Linda Tiernan Kepner
    They were broke, outnumbered, and outgunned… but they were just getting started.
  • Short Story: The Big Guy by Mike Resnick — Is there anything that compares to the thrill of victory . . . ?
  • Short Story: Time Slip by Hannah Kollef — What if your past, present, and future could commingle?
  • Reviews: The Fan: Backtracking, Dislocations, Learning Curves, and Getting One’s Bearings — in which Carole McDonnell interogates a series of puzzling novels.
  • Reviews: The Magic Lantern: To Start With — in which Adam-Troy Castro reveals and reviews off-the beatean path films; finding some hidden gems amongst those justly obscure.
  • Commentary: Roots of Spec Fic: The Greater Evil of H.P. Lovecraft — in which by Jay O’Connell dissects HPL’s enduring—and troubling—appeal.

~~~

 

fsi-219-sidebarFantastic Stories of the Imagination,
August 2014 #219

$2.99—Free with Kindle Unlimited

Original Novella: New Beaches by Daniel Hatch — Power, corruption, and danger rise with the tides.

  • Short Story: Man or Mech by Rebecca McFarland Kyle — Underneath the shiny, indestructible surface is the soul of a man.
  • Novella: Invisible Friends by Steven Sawicki — He’s just an all American boy with a dog that loves to drive his car, some talking monkeys, and a few damned aliens.
  • Short Story: Canceled by Edward J. McFadden III — The damnedest things can happen when a man comes face to face with the reality of his past.
  • Reviews: Area 51 1/2 by Steven Sawicki — A damn alien shares his opinion of Earth’s so-called culture.
  • Reviews: The Fan — Carole McDonnell reviews five dystopian YA novels with teen saviors.
  • Reviews: The Remake Chronicles: In which Leito Leaps Twice by Adam-Troy Castro — Multiple Hugo and Nebula nominee Adam-Troy Castro examines the stories that movies keep returning to. This column will alternate with A-TC’s regular video recommendations.

September-October Table of Contents

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FICTION

attic-300Original Flash Fiction:
The Attic of Memories

by Sunil Patel

A bucket list with a life of its own.

~

flowers-300Original Flash Fiction:
I Miss Flowers

by Alexandra Grunberg

When living forever isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

~

elvis-300Short Story:
Elvis has Left the Building

by Dario Ciriello

The King was only the opening act.

~

ink-300wShort Story:
Cartographer’s Ink

by Beth Cato

Conquering a map, literally.

~

ro-sham-bot-300Flash Fiction:
Ro-Sham-Bot

by Effie Seiberg

What do you do with an old, obsolete robot’s heart?

~

REVIEWS & COMMENTARY

fan-200Reviews: 
Reviews: The Fan: Virgin Ghosts, Virgin Priestesses, and Virgin Vampires

by Carole McDonnell

In this month’s column, Carole McDonnell reviews 
the American film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the Korean series Oh My Ghostess!, the 2012 film Chanthaly directed by Mattie Do, the first female Laotian horror film maker, and Abengoni, Charles Saunders African-inspired sword and sorcery novel.

adam-200Reviews:
The Magic Lantern: 
Erasing the Origins

by Adam-Troy Castro

Adam-Troy Castro uses the Western as a model for what should and shouldn’t be done to cope with the modern comic book movie epidemic. Err. Renaissance! Full disclosure: A-T C writes comics, as well as other things, and his opinions are fascinating. 

area51-200Reviews:
Area 51 1/2
September-October 2015

by Steven Sawicki

In this issue our resident Alien reviews novels by John Scalzi, Adam Christopher, John C. Wright, short fiction by Kelly Link, and the animated short THE OCEANMAKER, written and directed by Lucas Martell.
.

gillian-200Reviews:
New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: 
September-October 2015

by Gillian Daniels

Gillian  reviews stories by C.S.E. Cooney, Jei D. Marcade, Arie Coleman, Sofia Samatar, and Charlie Jane Anders.

Short Story: Cartographer’s Ink

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by Beth Cato

ink-300wBeth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She’s the author of The Clockwork Dagger (a 2015 finalist for Locus Award First Novel) and The Clockwork Crown from Harper Voyager. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

 

Not even the soothing heat of a full cup of tea could ease the agony in Sir Oren’s hands. Each finger joint throbbed as if it contained a burning coal. He cursed, trying to cradle the cup between his palms, but the brew sloshed and speckled his velvet housecoat. Oren exhaled in frustration and set the cup aside.

If he couldn’t drink tea, how in the ten hells was he supposed to manage pen and ink? The secret of his pained hands had been kept this long because the king had no immediate need of him, and his other commissions had far-off deadlines. Oren claimed headaches, avoided the map room entirely, and tried every available concoction to heal his hands. Nothing worked.

If King Atsu didn’t see an update on his linked palace map soon, there’d be another messenger. His Majesty would already be marshalling his soldiers to march on Jal and reinforce the Grey Watchtower, so recently cut off by the meandering river. He must draw the new map lines to assert their claim against those Jalian ingrates.

Oren heaved upright and hobbled towards the atelier. He dare not take the pen in his unsteady hand, and yet he must. King Atsu flogged his horse for being skittish on a windy day. Old men were far more expendable than a blooded stallion.

Pride was Oren’s downfall. He should have retired years ago, ignoring the pressure to celebrate forty years in his prestigious position. Or, had he possessed any brain, he would have never become Royal Cartographer at all. Never to dabble with red inks that took ten years for priests to steep and bless, never to cope with courtiers whose moods shifted like a summer midafternoon sky. Just maps — his beloved sheets with lines of black and purple, the chance to study the curves and stones of the land, the joy of testing the enchanted spikes in the thousand places they stabbed the soil of Qen. A life of near poverty, perhaps, but wealth of a different sort. Maybe his wife would not have died five half-years past, leaving sweet Tavi motherless far too soon.

His fingers quaked, reminding him of the dire circumstances of the day. Fool. Dreaming old fool. Reality remained harsh and hopeless, with not even an apprentice to aid him. That damned fool boy died in a drunken horserace two months ago, just as Oren’s hands began to ail. With a half-year of mourning to complete, Oren couldn’t take a new heir to his craft. One curse atop another. If he were religious, he might surmise this was penance for his sins.

He stopped in the hallway. The door to the map room was cracked open. His steps slowed as he leaned to peer inside.

Tavi stood at the master map, pen in hand. Her lips moved in breathy hisses as arcane words dripped into the paper along with the red ink of Qen. Oren clutched at the door frame, barely breathing. For Tavi to even touch the priceless inks was treason, but to say the incantations? If the truth were known, punishment would be neither swift nor kind.

He dared not startle her, lest she freckle the countryside like a pox. Oren mouthed the words, and as though unfurling a scroll, the kingdom of Qen revealed itself in his mind.

The enchanted spikes hummed and sparkled like stars in midnight heavens, each bolt of metal aligned to an intersection on the grid-lined paper map. Over mountains and dipping through valleys, all across the living continent, black ink separated farm from town, sheep lots from cattle. Tavi’s casting carried Oren’s inner sight across the countryside to stop at the burbling and swollen River Nev.

Red and blue inks floated atop the water like a thick sheen of oil. They oozed with the river’s flow. The fresh blue ink stood bold and dominant, but Tavi’s addition was fresher yet. Oren traced the red as his daughter’s pen met the spirited map and appeared in physical form.

A distant roar met Oren’s ears. The soldiers in the Grey Watchtower saw the crimson line. The truest show of a Royal Cartographer’s power — ink blessed by God, reassuring them of the rightness of their cause.

How many soldiers would die against Jal in the coming days? These were mere boys, barely growing beards. He shoved the thought aside. They chose the sword.

Want to read more? Pay-what-you-want for the issue now!


FSi-230-227wFantastic Stories of the Imagination
September–October 2015 #230

BUY NOW $2.99 or Pay-What-You-Want

You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Fiction: “The Attic of Memories” by Sunil Patel — A bucket list with a life of its own.
  • Fiction: “I Miss Flowers” by Alexandra Grunberg— When living forever isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
  • Fiction: “Elvis has Left the Building” by Dario Ciriello— The King was only the opening act.
  • Fiction: “Cartographer’s Ink” by Beth Cato — Conquering a map, literally.
  • Fiction: “Ro-Sham-Bot” by Effie Seiberg — What do you do with an old, obsolete robot’s heart?
  • Reviews: “The Fan: Virgin Ghosts, Virgin Priestesses, and Virgin Vampires” by Carole McDonnell — In this month’s column, Carole McDonnell reviews the American film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the Korean series Oh My Ghostess!, the 2012 film Chanthaly directed by Mattie Do, the first female Laotian horror film maker, and Abengoni, Charles Saunders African-inspired sword and sorcery novel.
  • Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: Erasing the Origins” by Adam-Troy Castro— Adam-Troy Castro uses the Western as a model for what should and shouldn’t be done to cope with the modern comic book movie epidemic. Err. Renaissance! Full disclosure: A-T C writes comics, as well as other things, and his opinions are fascinating.
  • Reviews: “Area 51 1/2 September-October 2015” by Steven Sawicki — In this issue our resident Alien reviews novels by John Scalzi, Adam Christopher, John C. Wright, short fiction by Kelly Link, and the animated short THE OCEANMAKER, written and directed by Lucas Martell.
  • Reviews: “New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: September-October 2015” by Gillian Daniels— Gillian reviews stories by C.S.E. Cooney, Jei D. Marcade, Arie Coleman, Sofia Samatar, and Charlie Jane Anders.

Flash Fiction: Ro-Sham-Bot

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by Effie Seiberg

ro-sham-bot-300Effie Seiberg is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in San Francisco, where she works as a tech consultant and makes cakes shaped like spaceships and facehuggers. Her short fiction can be found in Lightspeed‘s “Women Destroy Science Fiction” special issue, Galaxy’s Edge, and PodCastle, among others. Follow her on twitter at @effies, or check out her other stories at effieseiberg.com.

 

I found a robot’s heart today. I didn’t think they still made robots with hearts, but there it was, at the corner of Leary and Sycamore.

It even looked like a heart: size of a fist, valves pulsing with pale ching ching noises each time they opened and shut. The metal was old and worn. At the bottom I could just make out the words “If found, please return to the Akirobo Corp” with most of the address worn away.

I took it home and plugged it into my computer. It had a few jumbled videos—the way older robots used to store memories. My computer was old enough to be able to play them.

I sorted by number and began to watch.

Want to read more? Pay-what-you-want for the issue now!


FSi-230-227wFantastic Stories of the Imagination
September–October 2015 #230

BUY NOW $2.99 or Pay-What-You-Want

You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.

  • Fiction: “The Attic of Memories” by Sunil Patel — A bucket list with a life of its own.
  • Fiction: “I Miss Flowers” by Alexandra Grunberg— When living forever isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
  • Fiction: “Elvis has Left the Building” by Dario Ciriello— The King was only the opening act.
  • Fiction: “Cartographer’s Ink” by Beth Cato — Conquering a map, literally.
  • Fiction: “Ro-Sham-Bot” by Effie Seiberg — What do you do with an old, obsolete robot’s heart?
  • Reviews: “The Fan: Virgin Ghosts, Virgin Priestesses, and Virgin Vampires” by Carole McDonnell — In this month’s column, Carole McDonnell reviews the American film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the Korean series Oh My Ghostess!, the 2012 film Chanthaly directed by Mattie Do, the first female Laotian horror film maker, and Abengoni, Charles Saunders African-inspired sword and sorcery novel.
  • Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: Erasing the Origins” by Adam-Troy Castro— Adam-Troy Castro uses the Western as a model for what should and shouldn’t be done to cope with the modern comic book movie epidemic. Err. Renaissance! Full disclosure: A-T C writes comics, as well as other things, and his opinions are fascinating.
  • Reviews: “Area 51 1/2 September-October 2015” by Steven Sawicki — In this issue our resident Alien reviews novels by John Scalzi, Adam Christopher, John C. Wright, short fiction by Kelly Link, and the animated short THE OCEANMAKER, written and directed by Lucas Martell.
  • Reviews: “New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: September-October 2015” by Gillian Daniels— Gillian reviews stories by C.S.E. Cooney, Jei D. Marcade, Arie Coleman, Sofia Samatar, and Charlie Jane Anders.