Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Constelación, Metaphorosis, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Constelación 1/21 Metaphorosis 1/21, 2/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/1/21, 1/14/21

Welcome to 2021! Sure, it might be March or later as you’re reading this, but really my reading “year” runs from the March issue to the February “Year in Review” issue of the following year. I think we’re all look­ing for a better year to come, and the fiction I’ve been reading so far gives me hope.

A genuine newcomer ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Omenana, Strange Horizons, and Samovar

Omenana 12/20 Strange Horizons 11/16/20, 12/1/20 Samovar 10/20

Speaking of speculative fiction from Africa, Omenana‘s 16th issue dropped in December. This one is full of tales of hauntings and other spooky happenings. A very confused ghost nar­rates “A Magician” by Rešoketšwe Manenzhe. In “Drummer Boy in a World of Wise Men” by Tobi Ogundirun, a young boy abandoned by his drummer father knows something ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Future SF Digest and Africanfuturism

Future Science Fiction Digest 12/20 Africanfuturism: An Anthology, Wole Talabi, ed. (Brittle Paper) October 2020.

It’s at least February for those of you reading this column, but just the very end of 2020 as I’m writing it. As usual, I skid into the end of the year having read only a fraction of what’s available in the universe of “short fiction online” – maybe a third if I’m being ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Lightspeed, BCS, and Strange Horizons

Lightspeed 11/20, 12/20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10/8/20, 10/22/20 Strange Horizons 10/5/20, 10/12/20

Lightspeed’s November issue breaks from the usual format to offer a single science fiction nov­elette instead of the usual pair of shorter pieces. “Schrödinger’s Catastrophe” by Gene Doucette is worth it, as special agent Alice is sent to rescue/recover a research vessel that was exploring a to­tally empty quadrant of space. It went silent after sending ...Read More

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2020 by Karen Burnham

I’m sure I won’t be the only person in these pages remark­ing that 2020 was an unusual year, to say the least. The global pandemic caused mas­sive overnight disruptions but has also lasted long enough to yield something that’s like a new (horrible) “normal.” Given the relatively quick turnaround times for short fiction, it’s not surprising that the crisis that started early in 2020 started showing up in short fiction ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Breathe Fiyah, and Tor.com

Clarkesworld 10/20, 11/20 Breathe Fiyah 10/19/20 Tor.com 10/21, 10/28, 11/11, 11/18/20

While many of Locus‘s reviewers are deeply entrenched in 2021, I’ll be spending this month and the next wrap­ping up everything I can from 2020. The joy of online publication is the ease of getting content quickly, but it means I rarely get to see issues in advance. So please enjoy these last hurrahs of an otherwise insane year, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Creative Surgery by Clelia Farris

Creative Surgery, Clelia Farris (Rosarium Pub­lishing) September 2020.

Creative Surgery is Italian author Clelia Far­ris‘s debut collection (with translations by Rachel Cordasco and Jennifer Delare), and it’s a great start. The first story, “A Day to Remember” is an extended meditation on living in a world that feels much smaller when circumscribed by cli­mate change. We follow an artist in a post-flood Italy as she tours ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Samovar, Tor.com, and Strange Horizons

Samovar 7/20 Tor.com 8/26, 9/16, 9/23, 10/14/20 Strange Horizons 9/20

In July Strange Horizon‘s sister publication dedi­cated to translations, Samovar, published a duet of stories. “The Curtain Falls, The Show Must End” by Julie Nováková (translated from Czech by the author) is a historical drama set at the eve of WWII. Two backstage workers in a theater in Prague conjure up ghosts, which proceed to haunt and torment ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS and Omenana

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 9/24/20 Omenana 8/20

Beneath Ceaseless Skies has so many ex­cuses to celebrate! There are the big round number celebrations, like issue number 300 back in March, as well as September’s cal­endar anniversary. All the more opportunity to appreciate a venue that has steadfastly brought us excellent fiction from a broad range of writers, always expanding the remit of “literary adventure fantasy” in secondary world settings. September brings ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Strange Horizons, BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed

Strange Horizons 8/20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8/27/20 Clarkesworld 9/20 Lightspeed 10/20

At the end of August Strange Horizons celebrated its 20th anniversary. It con­tinues to be a stand-out in the online fiction world, having survived many evolutions over time. Be sure to check out the editor’s choice stories featured on August 31, showcasing 20 years of history with just a few selections. Elsewhere in August it features “My Love, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Future SF, Diabolical Plots, Cosmic Roots, Daily SF, and Bunkerpunk

Future SF Digest 6/20 Diabolical Plots 9/20 Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores 8/20 Daily SF 9/20 Bunkerpunk, Thea Boodhoo, ed. (Sudowrit­ers) July 2020

Future SF Digest continues to provide great fiction from all over the world. “Cousin En­tropy” by Michele Laframboise (translated by N.R.M. Roshak) has a wonderfully Stapledonian scope. There are the Unattached (extremely post-human) and the Attached (still vaguely biological), and stars, galaxies, and black ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Fiyah, Tor.com, and BCS

Clarkesworld 8/20 Fiyah Spring ’20 Tor.com 7/29/20, 8/12/20, 8/19/20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 7/30/20, 8/13/20

My favorite story in August’s Clarkes­world is “The Immolation of Kev Magee” by L.X. Beckett. Set in a near future of eco-collapse, it centers on Breeze, a very attractive but somehow naive refugee from Detroit. Breeze is trying to get ahead via the equivalent of vlogging in a commune set up near the ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Strange Horizons, Future Tense, Apparition, Kasma, and Luna Station Quarterly

Strange Horizons 7/13/20 Slate Future Tense 7/20 Apparition 7/20 Kasma 8/20 Luna Station Quarterly 6/20

I appreciated “The LEAP Test” by Alex Jennings in July’s Strange Horizons. A young boy comes into a school counselor’s office, apparently because he has behavioral issues and needs to take a standardized assessment. It quickly becomes clear that he has lived an entirely different life in a fantasy realm, á la Narnia, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Night Roll by Michael J. DeLuca

Night Roll, Michael J. DeLuca (Stelliform Press) November 2020.

Michael J. DeLuca is known for his work with Small Beer Press and as the editor of Reckoning, an outlet for creative writing on environmental justice. He is also a consistent writer of short fiction and now has a stand-alone novella com­ing out. Night Roll is the most Detroit story I have read since Alexander Irvine’s The Nar­rows (2005), which ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and BCS

Clarkesworld 7/20 Lightspeed 8/20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 7/2/20, 7/16/20

July’s Clarkesworld starts with a straightfor­wardly science fictional Michael Swanwick story. In “Artificial People” Raphael is an android turned on and off repeatedly as an entrepreneurial roboticist struggles to come up with a commercially successful product. Raphael loves, loses, goes to war, gets rich, and has to make some interesting decisions with the power that his later days have ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, and Deep Magic

Tor.com 6/24, 7/1, 7/8, 7/15, 7/22/20 Strange Horizons 6/29/20 Abyss & Apex 2nd Quarter ’20 Deep Magic Spring ’20

As usual, Tor.com‘s stories range far and wide, across and over and through genres as it suits them and their team of editors. “The Night Soil Sal­vagers” by Gregory Norman Bossert describes the creatures who help maintain a city by hauling away its waste; we get a taste of ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Strange Horizons, Samovar, and Mithila Review

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/18/20 Strange Horizons 6/2/20, 6/8/20 Samovar 4/20 Mithila Review #14

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #306 opens with ”Kill the Witchman” by William Broom. A man is drugged and brainwashed with a mission to kill the witchman and his son. As he hunts them he lives in an almost eternal present with no idea of the past and little conception of the future. When he finds ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Tor.com

Clarkesworld 6/20 Lightspeed 7/20 Tor.com 6/10/20, 6/17/20

June’s Clarkesworld leads off with ”The Iridescent Lake” from regular D.A. Xiaolin Spires. Yunhe, who is dealing with the death of her son, works as a security guard at an ice skating rink where the ice has truly fantastic properties. Scientists have been studying it, but there are many active smuggling attempts that she must guard against… and ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Strange Horizons, BCS, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Tor.com

Strange Horizons 4/6/20, 4/13/20, 5/11/20, 5/19/20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 4/23/20, 5/7/20, 5/21/20, 6/4/20 Lightspeed 5/20, 6/20 Clarkesworld 5/20 Tor.com 4/29/20, 5/13/20, 5/20/20

Strange Horizons leads off in April with a fascinating tale centered on abstract philosophy and its intersection with life. ”The Pride of Salinkari” by Elizabeth Crowe imagines a world where philosophy is central ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Clarkesworld, and Tor.com

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/26/20 Clarkesworld 4/20 Tor.com 4/8/20, 4/22/20, 4/28/20

Beneath Ceaseless Skies has had a heck of spring. After a pair of double issues for their biennial science fantasy run, they wrapped up March with a major milestone, issue #300. This is another oversized collection, including two bonus novelettes and a bonus novella. My favorite story of the issue was the first, ”The Hummingbird Temple” by C.C. ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Lightspeed, Terraform, and Avatars Inc

Strange Horizons 3/2/20, 3/16/20, 3/30/20 Lightspeed 4/20 Terraform 3/6/20 Avatars Inc, Ann VanderMeer, ed. (XPRIZE) January 2020.

Strange  Horizon‘s  first  March  story  ”Rat  and Finch Are  Friends” by  Innocent  Chizaram Ilo is an homage to the classic Frog and Toad children’s  books  by Arnold  Lobel.  Finch  is  a young man in trouble on two fronts: because he is a shapeshifter who can turn into a finch ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Lightspeed, Kaleidotrope, and Giganotosaurus

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/27/20, 3/12/20 Clarkesworld 3/20 Tor.com 2/26/20 Lightspeed 3/20 Kaleidotrope Winter 2020 Giganotosaurus 3/20

Beneath Ceaseless Skies‘s “Science Fan­tasy Month” – now in its fifth iteration – is one of my favorite biennial events in speculative fiction. Issues #298 and 299, both doubles, are given over to stories that blend science fiction and fantasy in whatever propor­tions the authors care to offer, and the results are universally intriguing. ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Fiyah, BCS, Strange Horizons, and That We May Live

Fiyah Winter ’20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/30/20, 2/13/20 Strange Horizons 2/3/20, 2/10/20 That We May Live: Speculative Chinese Fic­tion, Sarah Coolidge, ed. (Two Lines) March 2020.

The 13th issue of Fiyah is unthemed, letting the stories come unfettered and showcasing several very new authors. The lead is “All That the Storm Took” by Yah Yah Scholfield, a harrowing tale of surviving hurricane Katrina. The structure is ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Big Echo, and Tor.com

Clarkesworld 2/20 Lightspeed 2/20 Big Echo 1/20 Tor.com 1/29, 2/5, 2/11, 2/19/20

February’s Clarkesworld starts off strongly with “Outer” by Hollis John Henry. It’s a chilling story of mutants in the Caribbean, the result of some kind of scientific mishap. It hearkens back to Van Vogt’s Slans as we follow one particular mutant who can both feel emotions of those nearby and also snuff out their lifeforces, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Tor.com, and Diabolical Plots

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/16/20 Strange Horizons 1/6/20, 1/20/20 Lightspeed 1/20 Tor.com 1/8/20, 1/15/20 Diabolical Plots 1/20

Beneath Ceaseless Skies # 295 brings us a new Marissa Lingen story, always a treat. “Every Tiny Tooth and Claw (or: Letters from the First Month of the New Directorate)” is an epistolary story told through missives between a separated couple. They’re both academics with different fields of study; one stayed in ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Mad Scientist Journal and Clarkesworld

Mad Scientist Journal Winter ’20 Clarkesworld 1/20

I am finally emerging into the dawning light of 2020 short fiction. Unfortunately, this winter brings the end of something fun and unique: with its 32nd issue and after eight years, the Mad Scientist Journal, a quirky quarterly, has closed its doors. Its conceit had always been stories specifically by and for mad scientists, and they cast the widest net possible within that ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Tor.com, and Mithila Review

Clarkesworld 12/19 Tor.com 11/6/19, 11/13/19, 12/4/19, 12/11/19 Mithila Review 12/19

In this month’s column I finally bid adieu to 2019 for good. As always, I wish I could have read more, but there were plenty of strong stories to leave me feeling good about the year and optimistic for the one ahead.

My favorite story in December’s Clarkesworld was “Annotated Setlist of the Mikaela Cole Jazz Quintet” by ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Strange Horizons, and Mysterion

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10/24/19, 11/21/19 Strange Horizons 10/19, 11/19 Mysterion 11-12/19

Beneath Ceaseless Skies opens issue #289 with Norse fiction from Rich Larson in “The Star Plague“. Larson ratchets up the tension master­fully as we learn of Bragi, a Viking rescued from some traumatic event by British monks. Bragi is entirely disaffected, which isn’t helped by a lan­guage barrier, as some force starts stealing corpses and he is ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Fiyah, and Omenana

Clarkesworld 11/19 Fiyah Autumn ’19 Omenana 10/19

Welcome to the winter of 2020, in which I’ll spend January and February trying desperately to review all the things that I don’t want to miss from 2019 before finally letting go and allowing myself to embrace 2020 wholeheartedly. Months from now I’ll still be kicking myself for missing so much great stuff, but for now 2019 continues to deliver short fic­tional gems ...Read More

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SF Across the Spectrums by Karen Burnham

In 2019 I really learned about drinking from the firehose that is the amount of speculative short fiction available in electronic/online venues. As far as I can tell I read about 530 stories from at least 35 different outlets, and I know that there’s an immense amount of excellent work that I missed. The variety that’s available is fantastic, and I’m also very pleased by the overall quality that I’ve ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Capricious SF, Strange Horizons, and Current Futures

Capricious SF 7/19 Strange Horizons 9/30/19 Current Futures: A Sci-Fi Ocean Anthology, Ann VanderMeer, ed. (XPRIZE) June 2019.

I wanted to make sure to catch up with Capri­cious as, according to editor A.C. Buchanan, the magazine will be taking a hiatus through at least the summer of 2020. I feel that Capricious has been putting out some wonderfully innovative short fiction recently, and I’m happy to say that issue ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Lightspeed, New Myths, Factor Four, and Transcendent 4

Lightspeed 11/19 New Myths 9/19 Factor Four 7/19 Transcendent 4, Bogi Takács, ed. (Lethe Press) October 2019.

Dominica Phetteplace returns to Robot Coun­try, an area near the US/Mexico border that robots have claimed and essentially shut off to outsiders and surveillance, in “Her Appetite, His Heart” in November’s Lightspeed. Javi is on a romantic quest to find his ex-girlfriend Isla, whom we met in the previous story ...Read More

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