Rich Horton reviews short fiction: The New Yorker and Tales the Devil Told Me

The New Yorker 10/11/21 Tales the Devil Told Me, Jen Fawkes (Press 53) October 2021.

Karen Russell offers a brilliant piece of SF (or fantasy, or, really, a beautiful example of how a purely fantastical insertion can illuminate an essentially SFnal premise) in the October 11th issue of The New Yorker. “The Ghost Birds” is set a few decades in the future, a future ravaged by climate change ...Read More

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Rich Horton reviews short fiction: F&SF, Cossmass Infinities and Fusion Fragment

F&SF 11-12/21 Cossmass Infinities 9/21 Fusion Fragment 9/21

F&SF’s final 2021 issue is at hand. The marquee name is Nalo Hopkinson, the newest SFWA Grand Master, with her first appearance in the magazine. (One result of new editor Sheree Renee Thomas taking the helm has been lots of first appearances.) “Broad Dutty Water: A Sunken Story” is an example of “cli-fi,” but a science fiction writer’s approach ...Read More

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Rich Horton reviews Short Fiction: Asimov’s, Uncanny, and On Spec

Asimov’s 9-10/21 Uncanny 9-10/21 On Spec 6/21, 9/21

Greg Egan’s “Sleep and the Soul” (Asimov’s 9-10/21) is an intriguing piece presented as an alternate history where the Jonbar point is a biological change, not a historical one. Humans in this world do not need to sleep and, at least in the 19th-century US in which the story is set, sleep is regarded with horror because the loss ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: The National Pastime 2021 Edition, Alternate Plains, and The Adventure of the Golden Woman

The National Pastime 2021 Edition

Alternate Plains, Darren Ridgley & Adam Pe­trash, eds. (Great Plains Publications) October 2021.

The Adventure of the Golden Woman, Cynthia Ward (Aqueduct Press) September 2021.

Here’s an unexpected source of some SF: the 2021 issue of The National Pastime, published by the Society for American Baseball Research. This issue is about “the future according to baseball,” and it’s edited by Cecilia M. Tan ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Analog, Interzone, Galaxy’s Edge, and Fusion Fragment

Analog 9-10/21 Interzone #290-291 Galaxy’s Edge 7/21 Fusion Fragment 7/21

Analog’s latest issue features ‘‘The Silence Before I Sleep’’, a novella in Adam-Troy Castro’s AISource future that introduces Rage Larkin, a contract killer by profession, though she emphasizes that she avoids (or voids) contracts that violate her principles and also tries to come up with alternate solutions. Rage’s latest assignment is on an artificial planet created by ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories and Fantastic Americana

Uncanny 7-8/21

The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories, Charles Payseur (Lethe Press) August 2021.

Fantastic Americana, Josh Rountree (Fairwood Press) August 2021.

Uncanny’s general excellence is never surpris­ing. I was really intrigued by Shaoni C. White’s ‘‘Diamond Cuts’’, set in a world whose magic reenacting the way that magic was brought to the world – by an alchemist’s partner stealing a star and sacrificing ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Analog, Asimov and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet

Analog 7-8/21 Asimov’s 7-8/21 Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 6/21

The cover story in the July-August Analog is Marie Vibbert’s novella, ‘‘The Unlikely Heroines of Callisto Station’’. The hero­ines of the title are Lottie, whom we meet as she is reluctantly accepting treatment for bipolar epi­sodes from a nice psychologist named Saravit; and Xiao Fung, a maintenance worker (and Saravit’s girlfriend). Xiao doesn’t like Lottie and Lottie either ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Cossmass Infinities, Conjunctions, and Seasons Between Us

Cossmass Infinities 5-6/21 Conjunctions:76 Seasons Between Us, Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law, eds. (Laksa) August 2021.

In the May issue of Cossmass Infinities – another promising new magazine – I liked dave ring‘s “Top Ten Demons to Kill Before the World Ends“, which is both a list story and a footnotes story. It’s pretty funny, about a demon slayer who is trying to kill ten ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF and Fusion Fragment

F&SF 7-8/21 Fusion Fragment 5/21

A new story by Yukimi Ogawa is some­thing I look forward to, and I was very happy with her latest, “Her Garden, the Size of Her Palm“, from the July-August F&SF. A young woman learns that the money her late mother saved for her college education has been squandered by her father, so she gets a job. She is sent via wormhole to ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Whether Change by Scott Gable & C. Dombrowski, eds.

Whether Change, Scott Gable & C. Dombrowski, eds. (Broken Eye Books 978-1-940372-62-4, $19.99, 180pp, tp) August 2021.

Whether Change is a new anthology subtitled ‘‘The Revolution will be Weird’’ – hence, stories about (leftist) radical change; but with a weird component. I thought the best pieces had the weirder ideas – in particular stories from Nick Mamatas and S.B. Divya. Mamatas’s ‘‘The Nth International’’ shows a billionaire (rather obviously

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Asimov’s, Analog, Uncanny, Galaxy’s Edge, and Reckoning

Asimov’s 5-6/21 Analog 5-6/21 Uncanny 5/21 Galaxy’s Edge 5-6/21 Reckoning 5

I was particularly excited to see a new story from David Moles – the first I’ve seen in nearly a decade – in the new Asimov’s, and “The Metric” does not disappoint. It’s a far-future story, excitingly inhabiting that subgenre. A billion-year-old ship comes to a planet called Earth, and a city called Septentrion. “It was said ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Not One of Us, Bourbon Penn, and Speculative Los Angeles

Not One of Us 1/21, 4/21 Bourbon Penn 3/21 Speculative Los Angeles, Denise Hamilton, ed. (Akashic) February 2021.

The always intriguing Not One of Us has gone to slimmer issues. I have two at hand. January opens, appropriately enough, with “January House“, an absolutely lovely story by Alexandra Seidel. Isla Glas returns to her childhood home perforce, as her mother has died and she’s now the ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF and Speculate

F&SF 5-6/21 Speculate, Dominique Hecq & Eugen Bacon (Meerkat) January 2021.

Sheree Renée Thomas’s second issue of F&SF is a strong one, and the longest sto­ries are particularly good.” In “Babylon SystemMaurice Broaddus tells of Lij Tafari, newly and unjustly sent to prison in an alternate America that is part of the Albion Empire. In some ways it’s a classic prison narrative, with the protagonist remaining ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Pulp Literature, Fusion Fragment, Galaxy’s Edge, and The New Yorker

Pulp Literature Winter ’21 Fusion Fragment 3/21 Galaxy’s Edge 3/21 The New Yorker 3/8/21

Pulp Literature remains a favorite small magazine for me. I don’t often mention their two ongoing “serials”: “Allaigna’s Song“, by JM Landels; and “The Extra” by Mel Anastasiou – both are enjoy­able. The first is secondary-world fantasy, the second is crime fiction set in Hollywood in the ’30s, so not SF. ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny and Weird Tales

Uncanny 3-4/21 Weird Tales #364

The March-April issue of Uncanny is pretty remarkable. All of the stories are strong. Catherynne M. Valente opens with “The Sin of America“, which expands on the “sin eater” concept in purposefully American fashion, with a bit of the vibe of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to boot. American fashion here is repre­sented by a clichéd upper Midwest diner and way too much food ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Curiosities, Cossmass Infinities, On Spec, Analog, and Asimov’s

Curiosities Winter ’20 Cossmass Infinities 9/20 On Spec #115 Analog 3-4/21 Asimov’s 3-4/21

It is always a surprise – unfairly so – to find a small new magazine and realize that it’s re­ally quite good! I had that experience with the previous issue of Curiosities, and now I see the Winter issue, and it does not disappoint.

Konstantine Paradias offers “And the Faces Screamed in the Galleries” – ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Driftwood by Marie Brennan

Driftwood, Marie Brennan (Tachyon 978-1616963460, $15.95, 224pp, tp) August 2020.

Way back in 2008 and 2009 I saw a couple of stories by a writer fairly new to me, Marie Bren­nan, set in an extremely original setting called Driftwood. I liked those stories (“A Heretic by Degrees” and “Drift­wood”) quite a bit. Over time, Brennan added three more stories in this setting, and by-the-by established a reputation as a ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Galaxy’s Edge, Fusion Fragment, and The OK End of Funny Town

Galaxy’s Edge 1/21 Fusion Fragment 1/21 The OK End of Funny Town, Mark Polanzak (BOA Editions) May 2020.

Galaxy’s Edge for January has a nice story from Elise Stephens, “Drowned Prison“. A lumanar named Hallis comes to Kardag Prison, where the dangerous “Banner Lords” are held. These are experts in a sort of painting called lumastration, in which the painter magically infuses their art with emotions, ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF and Analog

F&SF 3-4/21 Analog 1-2/21

The March-April issue of F&SF is a sig­nificant one, the first put together by new editor Sheree Renée Thomas. Based on the evidence in front of me, she’s got off to an outstanding start, though we need to wait a few issues before we begin to understand Thomas’s editorial vision.

The issue features a strong Madeleine Robins story, “Mannikin“, about a boy who is ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF, Uncanny, and The Book of Dragons

F&SF 1-2/21 Uncanny 1-2/21 The Book of Dragons, Jonathan Strahan ed. (Harper Voyager) July 2020.

F&SF opens the year with a remarkable no­vella from John Kessel. “The Dark Side” concerns Leon Czolgosz, the murderer of President McKinley. The story runs on two tracks, one detailing Czolgosz’s actions leading up to his crime, plus some backstory, and also the aftermath as he is tried and executed. The ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction from Asimov’s

Asimov’s 1-2/21

The January-February Asimov’s includes the longest story Ray Nayler has yet published, “A Rocket for Dimitrios“. This is another Sylvia Aldstatt story, set in an alternate history where the course of WWII was radically changed by the US discovery of an alien spacecraft and their adoption of its technology. One of the strangest pieces of alien tech allows Sylvia to experience the memories of a recently ...Read More

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SF in a Plague Year by Rich Horton

As I write, distribution of two separate COVID-19 vaccines is in progress in the United States. A new Presi­dent has been elected and will soon be inaugurated. And on a personal note, I have welcomed my first grandchild into the world. A time of optimism, right?

At the same time, COVID cases are at or near their highest rate of incidence in the US (and indeed, in many countries). The ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Bourbon Penn, and Conjunctions

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 11/20 Bourbon Penn 11/20 Conjunctions Spring ’20

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet has been one of my favorite magazines for a long time, always publishing work unlike anything you’ll read else­where. The November issue is largely given over to a novella from Sarah Langan, “You Have the Prettiest Mask“. It’s either a timely story or a weirdly untimely story! It’s told by Cathy Lerner, ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Asimov’s, Analog, and Interzone

Asimov’s 11-12/20 Analog 11-12/20 Interzone 11-12/20

I’ll start with a story from the November-December Asimov’s that doesn’t really qualify as SF or fantasy, but that will appeal to many of our readers. This is Connie Willis‘s latest Christmas story, “Take a Look at the Five and Ten“. Ori is telling about her Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with her ex-stepfather, who has a habit of inviting almost everyone ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: London Centric, Uncanny, On Spec, Pulp Literature, and The New Yorker

London Centric, Ian Whates, ed. (NewCon Press) March 2020. Uncanny 11-12/20 On Spec #114 Pulp Literature Summer ’20 The New Yorker 11/9/20

Here’s an intriguing new anthology from Eng­land’s NewCon Press, London Centric: Tales of Future London, edited by Ian Whates. The anthology is mostly exactly what it says, a collec­tion of looks at a future London, but one of the very best stories is mostly set in ...Read More

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Maya C. James and Rich Horton Review Entanglements, Edited by Sheila Williams

Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Fami­lies, and Friends, Sheila Williams, ed. (MIT Press 978-0-26253-925-8, 240pp, $19.95, tp) September 2020.

Artificial intelligence, genome tampering (eugenics), sex bots, and other forms of technology descend upon the middle class in Entanglements, an anthology from Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s. Originally launched in 2011 by MIT Technology Review, Twelve Tomorrows is an annual anthology se­ries that explores the role of technology in near and ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews The House of Styx by Derek Künsken

The House of Styx, Derek Künsken (Solaris 978-1786183200, $8.99, eb,) August 2020. (Solaris 978-1781088050, 608pp, $27.99, hc) April 2021.

One of the most notable aspects of Derek Künsken’s short work to date has been a fascination with rigorous worldbuilding, of­ten featuring the extreme, and the politics that often result from adaptation to said environments. These aspects are central to his new novel, The House of Styx, first in ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny and F&SF

Uncanny 9-10/20 F&SF 11-12/20

The final issue of Uncanny’s sixth year is a particularly strong and SF-oriented one. In Samantha Mills‘s “Anchorage” a medical spaceship stops at an “anchorage” – an isolated pod where a woman lives a hermit-like existence. The story is told by Geneva, the AI running the medical ship, which allows us to slowly learn the backstory of the crewmembers, of dead Earth, and ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Interzone, Galaxy’s Edge, Cynthia Ward, Emily C. Skaftun, and James Van Pelt

Interzone 9-10/20 Galaxy’s Edge 9/20 The Adventure of the Naked Guide, Cynthia Ward (Aqueduct Press) March 2020. Living Forever & Other Terrible Ideas, Emily C. Skaftun (Fairwood Press) November 2020. The Best of James Van Pelt, James Van Pelt (Fairwood Press) November 2020.

I was very excited to see Alexander Glass‘s return to Interzone in the September-October is­sue. He appeared there (and in Interzone‘s sister magazine ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Asimov’s, Analog, Uncanny, Curiosities, and Flyaway

Asimov’s 9-10/20 Analog 9-10/20 Uncanny 7-8/20 Curiosities #7 Flyaway, Kathleen Jennings (Tor.com Publish­ing) July 2020.

Asimov’s September-October issue is, as usual, “slightly spooky.” Among the “spooky” stories I particularly liked were Michael Libling‘s “Robyn in Her Shiny Blue Coffin” and Gregory Frost‘s “Traveling On“. In both cases the protagonists are missing some­one important to them and hoping for a message from “beyond.” In ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF, Asimov’s, Analog, LCRW, and Galaxy’s Edge

F&SF 9-10/20 Asimov’s 7-8/20 Analog 7-8/20 Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 6/20 Galaxy’s Edge 7/20

Leah Cypess returns with another strong fairy tale-derived story in the latest F&SF. Like her previous F&SF story, “Stepsister”, “Of Them All” is sharply focused on the moral effects of fairy magic – or, rather, on human choices that may or may not be at­tributable to fairy gifts. The protagonist’s gift is that she ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Pulp Literature, Interzone, Galaxy’s Edge, and Reckoning

Pulp Literature Spring ’20 Interzone 5-6/20 Galaxy’s Edge 5/20 Reckoning 4

The latest issue of the increasingly interesting Canadian ‘zine Pulp Literature features an engaging story from Matthew Hughes, ”The Bicolour Spiral”, one of his stories about Erm Kaslo, an ”op” (private detective) in Hughes’ Jack Vance-derived science fantasy far-future setting. Kaslo is engaged by a woman to investigate her uncle’s murder because she is going to ...Read More

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