Category Archives: Short Fiction

Magazine Review: Fantasy Magazine, December 2015, Queers Destroy Fantasy!

Perhaps it’s because fantasy is my first and forever true love under the SFF umbrella, but I’m convinced that the Fantasy Magazine entries in the DestroySF project are the best. At the very least, they’ve been consistently my favorite magazines in the series. Queers Destroy Fantasy has, hands down, the best fiction in any of the Destroy issues so far.

A new Catherynne M. Valente story is always a treat, and “The Lily and the Horn” is a near-perfect fairy tale where wars are waged by pitting poisoners against unicorn horns. Like much of Valente’s work, it’s a story concerned with interrogating very old fantasy tropes, and it’s full of her characteristically beautiful language and meticulously structured prose.

Kai Ashante Wilson is a newish author who I only discovered this year when I read his Tor.com-published novella, but I quickly fell in love with his work. I was thrilled to see a new story by him in this magazine, and “Kaiju maximus®: ‘So various, So Beautiful, So New’” did not disappoint.

“The Lady’s Maid” is a weird and subversive and deeply unsettling tale by Carlea Holl-Jensen. It deals with a maid who is charged with caring for a strange mistress and the mistress’s many interchangeable heads. I actually enjoy being unsettled by stories, so of course I loved this one.

Richard Bowes’ “The Duchess and the Ghost” takes a turn towards more magical realism than simple fantasy, and it’s a haunting story about identity and the tradeoffs and compromises we make in order to survive in a world that is often hostile and unsafe.

The first of the reprints, Shweta Narayan’s “The Padishah Begum’s Reflections,” somewhat mirrors Valente’s “The Lily and the Horn” in tone. It’s similarly in the fairy tale vein, though “The Padishah Begum’s Reflections” is more like a steampunk Arabian Nights story than anything else, being told from the point of view of a clockwork princess. This is probably my favorite story in this magazine.

“Down the Path of the Sun” by Nicola Griffith is a fantasy with an almost post-apocalyptic feel to it, although the setting is never quite explained. It’s the only story in this issue that I didn’t care for, but that is largely a personal preference as I found the brutal rape described in the story to be highly unpleasant to read and not nearly as effective as the author seemed to think it would be.

Austin Bunn’s “Ledge” starts off slow, even boring, but it rewards the patient reader by delivering a great and very memorable ending.

Finally, “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” by Caitlin R. Kiernan is a nice piece of sword and sorcery with a woman character in the sort of gruff, tough adventurer role that is too often reserved for men. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking story, but it’s fun.

The non-fiction in Queers Destroy Fantasy was somewhat disappointing, with only Ekaterina Sedia’s piece on fashion standing out, but the author profiles are, as always, wonderful and well worth reading.

Reading Queers Destroy Science Fiction is a great way to celebrate the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling

Last year, Lightspeed invited women to destroy SF; this year the LGBTQ+ community gets their turn. It’s glorious, and it kicked off this month with a massive special issue of Lightspeed.

lightspeed_61_june_2015At over 500 pages (according to my epub of it), Queers Destroy Science Fiction! is a weighty piece of work, and it’s clear that it’s been conceived and crafted with deep caring and exquisite attention to its purpose. Most importantly, a real (and successful!) effort was made to be inclusive of the entire QUILTBAG acronym, and the more than two dozen personal essays included in the issue are must-read content for this reason. If you’re not queer, they offer a great variety of different perspectives to learn from; if you are queer, there’s a multitude of stories to identify with. Either way, if you have a soul something here will speak to you.

The fiction included is well chosen, which is characteristic of the publication in general, and there is a good mix of work included. My favorites, in no particular order except the one I read them in:

  • “Trickier With Each Translation” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – a bit of a time traveling super hero love story
  • “The Tip of the Tongue” by Felicia Davin – a story about reading and government control that has given me a new nightmare
  • “Plant Children” by Jessica Yang – a sensitively written romance about plants and family
  • “Nothing is Pixels Here” by K.M. Szpara – a story about hard choices
  • “Two by Two” by Tim Susman – a story about the end of the world and how we might face it and who we will face it with
  • “Melioration” by E. Saxey – about the power of words
  • “Helping Hand” by Claudine Griggs – an astronaut survival story
  • “Bucket LIst Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks  Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind” by Erica L. Satifka – exactly what the title says, but sad and beautiful (I love the conceit of telling a story through a found piece of ephemera.)
  • “A Brief History of Whaling with Remarks Upon Ancient Practices” by Gabby Reed – exactly what the title says, but also sad and beautiful
  • “In the Dawns Between Hours” by Sarah Pinsker – about why or why not and when to use a time machine if you can
  • “Letter From an Artist to a Thousand Future Versions of Her Wife” by JY Yang – another story that is exactly what the title says, but also sad and beautiful (If you can’t tell, sad and beautiful are two of my favorite attributes in short fiction, and I’m also a sucker for clinically descriptive titles.)
  • “CyberFruit Swamp” by Raven Kaldera – definitely the most graphically sexual story in the collection (and be sure to read the author spotlight on Raven Kaldera)
  • “The Sound of His Wings” by Rand B. Lee
  • and “O Happy Day!” by Geoff Ryman – Both of these stories deal with obvious Nazi metaphors and totalitarian futures, but with vastly different approaches and two very different ways of integrating queerness into the narrative.

In nonfiction, aside from the truly wonderful personal essays, there’s also a nice piece on Robert A. Heinlein’s influence and an excellent interview with David Gerrold. This, however, leads to my only real complaint about the issue, which is that the David Gerrold interview is extremely poorly formatted. I thought it might just be the epub version of the magazine,  but it appears that the online version of the interview is similarly difficult to read because with no quotation marks, italics, or block quoting it’s hard to tell what parts of it are David Gerrold’s statements and what parts are Mark Oshiro’s commentary.

At just $3.99, Queers Destroy Science Fiction! is a great value, and I highly recommend purchasing it. Queers Destroy Horror!, a special issue of Nightmare will be out in October, followed by a Queers Destroy Fantasy! issue of Fantasy Magazine in December. And in 2016, Lightspeed will be doing POC Destroy Science Fiction! with guest editor Nalo Hopkinson.

Book Review: Falling in Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

falling in love with hominidsI read Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine a couple of years ago after enjoying some of her short work in the anthologies After (ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling) and Unnatural Creatures (ed. by Neil Gaiman), but I’ve just never quite managed to get around to reading more of her novels. When I saw that she had a new collection of short fiction coming out this year, though, I was ecstatic.

Falling in Love With Hominids doesn’t disappoint. It opens with “The Easthound,” which was originally published in After and is the first story I ever read by Nalo Hopkinson, and even though I was anxious to move along to some stuff I hadn’t read it was nice to reread something I liked so well the first time I read it. Besides this first story, though, everything else in the collection was new to me.

As with any story collection, especially this type of story collection, where the stories are simply a selection of the author’s work in recent years rather than written on purpose with a theme in mind, not every story speaks to everyone, which is the case for me here. However, there are several standouts that I look forward to rereading in the future:

  • “Message in a  Bottle” – a charming and surprising time travel story
  • “Left Foot, Right” – twins and shoes and a fairy tale sensibility
  • “Old Habits” – a ghost story
  • “Delicious Monster” – orchids and Garuda
  • “Blushing” – a retold fairy tale that I won’t spoil for you

While I didn’t love the longer piece, “Ours is the Prettiest,” I do think it’s inspired me to check out the Bordertown books. I’m not always into that sort of modern faerie stuff, but I feel like I would have loved this story if I was more familiar with the shared world it was written in.

Overall, Falling in Love With Hominids is, I think, a great introduction to Nalo Hopkinson. There’s a nice variety of stories here both in subject matter and length, and I actually found some of the shorter stories to be the strongest pieces in the lot. Hopkinson’s introduction is nice, and I like the little paragraphs at the start of each piece. It’s a common thing in story collections, but I always feel like these bits of extra info give better context for the stories and let me get to know the author a little. Here, it helps that Nalo Hopkinson seems to be someone eminently worth knowing.

This review is based on an ARC received through NetGalley.

Falling in Love With Hominids will be published on August 11, 2015 and can be pre-ordered from Tachyon Publications.