Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Flash Fiction Online, Nightmare, and Fantasy

Flash Fiction Online 10/21

Nightmare 10/21, 11/21

Fantasy 10/21, 11/21

Flash Fiction Online’s October 2021 issue seeks to “explore that darkness that lurks inside things that initially seem harmless….” Sarah Pauling’s “Litany in the Heart of Exorcism” considers the casting out of a demon – but is something that has kept a young woman from a marriage she does not want demonic? “Better devil-deals than marriage contracts.” ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Weird Horror, The Deadlands, The Dark, and Apex

Weird Horror #2 The Deadlands 10/21 The Dark 9/21, 10/21 Apex #125

I’m still not convinced that its title matches its content, but Weird Horror’s second issue offers a couple of very good stories. Stephen Volk scores high with fantasy “Adventurous”: when Carole’s sexual encounter with Collin is interrupted by her mum’s unexpected return home, the young man hides in the wardrobe. It proves to be much more ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Fantasy, Nightmare, and The Dark

Fantasy 5/21, 6/21 Nightmare 5/21, 6/21 The Dark 5/21, 6/21

Fantasy #67 is the strongest issue yet in its new in­carnation. “Like Birdsong, the Memory of Your Touch” by Izzy Wasserstein packs a great deal into 700 words, including a near-future scenario in which nature triumphs over humankind and a relationship ends. P.H. Low‘s “Disenchant­ment” is bittersweet. A girl is born with a hole in ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny and Apex

Uncanny 5-6/21 Apex #124

Uncanny #40 is full of good fiction. Fran Wilde‘s novelette “Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.” leads off. Gowns made by the legendary Unseelie Brothers atelier have brought everyone in Sera Sebastian’s life together: her Aunt Vanessa and her husband, her father and her mother (who vanished not long after Sera’s birth). The shop, which disappears for periods of time and then appears at varying locations, ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Apex, Nightmare, and Black Static

Apex #123 Nightmare 4/21 Black Static 78-79

Apex #123 presents six original stories. Technol­ogy allows the protagonist of “This Is the Mo­ment, Or One of Them” by Mari Ness to review and “shift,” if she desires, some of her memories of a relationship. That’s a far too simplistic de­scription of a story with both subtle nuance and profound consideration of life choices. Just read it. “Throw Rug ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny and The Dark

Uncanny 3-4/21 The Dark 3/21, 4/21

Uncanny #39 starts off well, and the issue continues in the same admirable vein. It is highly likely that whatever you be might be expecting from Catherynne M. Valente‘s marvelously descriptive “The Sin of America” is not what the story delivers. It is also likely that however dark you are expecting this tale of Ruby-Rose Martineau, who is eating the sins ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Apex, The Dark, Nightmare, Fantasy, and Baffling

Uncanny 1-2/21 Apex #122 The Dark 1/21, 2/21 Nightmare 1/21, 2/21 Fantasy 2/21, 3/21 Baffling 1/21

Uncanny #38 is a strong issue. Sam J. Miller‘s “Tyrannosaurus Hex” posits a future in which alternative realities can be all too real. The story is particularly chilling (and resonates as true) with children as the “early adaptors.” “A House Full of Voices Is Never Empty” by Miyuki Jane ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, and Fantasy

Black Static 11-12/20 The Dark 11/20, 12/20 Nightmare 12/20, 1/21 Fantasy 12/20, 1/21

I can’t really point out the best in Black Static #77. All six stories are the sort that stay with you and deserve at least brief mention (although Steve Rasnic Tem’s may be my favorite.) A vacation in a tropical paradise turns horrific in novelette “The Guardian” by Philip Fracassi. As tired as I ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: LCRW, Uncanny, and Apex

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 9/20 Uncanny 11-12/20 Apex 1/21

I write this as annus horribilis 2020 ends. Al­though I have no intention of continuing the new year in this manner, I simply have too many stories and not enough inches in which to cover them. Apologies to writers whom I may be slighting, but his time out I’ll be concentrating on the more outstanding stories in each featured periodical. (Or ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, and Tor.com

Uncanny 9-10/20 Black Static 9-10/20 The Dark 9/20, 10/20 Nightmare 10/20, 11/20 Tor.com 9/2/20

Uncanny #36 offers five rewarding originals. T. Kingfisher‘s terrific science fictional retelling of Hansel and Gretel, “Metal Like Blood in the Dark“, is a grim but triumphant tale.

The engaging “Anchorage” by Samantha Mills involves a spacefaring crew beset with guilt, a librarian of sorts who also serves as a confessor ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Baffling, Weird Horror, and Fantasy

Baffling 10/20 Weird Horror Fall ’20 Fantasy 11/20

Fall 2020 brought a new online magazine, a new print periodical, and the return of a digital magazine.

Baffling launched October 1, 2020 with four “unapologetically queer and unashamedly weird” stories of under 1,200 words. (Going forward they will publish one flash story a month on Patreon, compile the offerings quarterly, then publish that for free online.) Baffling #1 offers a welcome ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark, Nightmare, Uncanny, and Shoreline of Infinity

The Dark 7/20, 8/20 Nightmare 8/20, 9/20 Uncanny 7-8/20 Shoreline of Infinity #18

Although I’m writing this in the heat of summer, by the time you read it autumn will be beckoning with fictional chills as well as cooler weather. If you haven’t caught up to these stories by then, they will still be worthy of the season.

The Dark #62 offers two originals. “Agog” by Stephen Volk ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark, Nightmare, Black Static, and Uncanny

The Dark 5/20, 6/20 Nightmare 6/20, 7/20 Black Static 5-6/20 Uncanny 5-6/20

It will be weeks before this sees publication. Who knows what the world will be like by then? All one can do is hope things get better and, meanwhile, find some good short dark fiction to read.

Both of the originals in The Dark #60 deal with men harming women, which – for some – may be somewhat ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Black Static, Nightmare, and The Dark

Uncanny 3-4/20 Black Static 3-4/20 Nightmare 3/20, 4/20, 5/20 The Dark 3/20, 4/20

Let’s start with Uncanny #33. Alix E. Harrow‘s ”The Sycamore and the Sybil” is flat-out marvelous. It has the immutabily of myth, the magic of lore, and the power of modern wonder. The narrator is a sycamore who was once a woman (if you know about Daphne, you’ll have no problem accepting that) who ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Sirenia, Black Static, The Dark, Uncanny, Nightmare, and BCS

Sirenia Digest #164, #165, #166 Black Static 11-12/19 The Dark 11/19, 12/19 Uncanny 11-12/19 Nightmare 12/19 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 12/5/19

I mention Sirenia Digest here from time-to-time in case readers are unaware of it. Author Caitlín R. Kiernan started offering it monthly to subscribers long before Patreon became a way to help support a writer. What does it contain? Here’s a recent sampling. Despite the fact Kier­nan had vowed never ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, Uncanny, and 3LBE

Black Static 9-10/19 The Dark 9/19, 10/19 Nightmare 10/19 Uncanny 9-10/19 Three-lobed Burning Eye 8/19

Black Static #71 is a stellar issue. If you’ve never sampled the UK periodical, this is the place to start. Felix, in Stephen Hargadon‘s novelette “Dixon Parade“, is a lonely, melancholy middle-aged man who never really moved on after his divorce. He purchases an early-’80s painting of a suburban street scene and ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static, Uncanny, Nightmare, The Dark, and Cemetery Dance

Black Static 7-8/19 Uncanny 7-8/19 Nightmare 8/19, 9/19 The Dark 7/19, 8/19 Cemetery Dance 7/19

An outstanding issue of Black Static (#70) leads off with Ralph Robert Moore‘s novelette “I Write Your Name“. Roger was 14 when he met infant Mia. They meet again when Roger turns out to be 30-year-old Mia’s next-door neighbor – not that they recall their initial encounter. They fall in love and ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static and Uncanny

Black Static 5-6/19 Uncanny 5-6/19

The usual five original stories in Black Static #69 begin with “Where It Ends, Where It Begins” by Erinn L. Kemper. Old Mac salvages the sea on the west coast of Vancouver Island. For ten years, along with the usual fare, he’s also salvaged decaying body parts that he keeps in a freezer. Now he has collected an entire body’s worth of ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark, Nightmare, and Apex

The Dark 5/19, 6/19 Nightmare 6/19, 7/19 Apex 5/19

The Dark #48 offers two new stories. In Angela Slatter‘s “The Wilderling“, isolated, bored, childless LP is fascinated with a feral child who visits her yard. One might expect LP to do something other than what she does for or with the savage kid. Mystery grows as LP’s actions defy expectation. Slatter, with perfect pacing and accomplished writing, ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, and Tor.com

Uncanny 3-4/19 Black Static 3-4/19 The Dark 3/19, 4/19 Nightmare 4/19, 5/19 Tor.com 4/17/19

Uncanny is one of my favorite periodicals because, even if the stories are not always 100% top-notch (no magazine’s content can be!), they are all 100% enjoyable to read and each issue always offers variety. That’s rare and welcome.

Whether intentional or not, the March/April issue has an appropriately springtide theme. Five – maybe all six ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Nightmare, The Dark, Uncanny, and Black Static

Nightmare 2/19, 3/19 The Dark 1/19, 2/19 Uncanny 1-2/19 Black Static 1-2/19

Six weeks into 2019 (as I write) and I’m at the fast dwindling point where I foolishly feel I have a handle on most of the new fiction….

Nightmare #77 offers two original stories: “Quiet the Dead” by Micah Dean Hicks and “58 Rules to Ensure Your Husband Loves You Forever” by Rafeeat Aliyu ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Shimmer, Nightmare, Apex, and The Dark

Uncanny 11-12/18 Shimmer 11/18 Nightmare 1/19 Apex 11/18, 12/18 The Dark 12/18

Not all of the stories in Uncanny #25 are dark, but – oh well. The standout story for #25 is Naomi Kritzer‘s novelette “The Thing About Ghost Stories“. Leah’s doctoral dissertation is on the meaning of ghost stories. She gains an academic position just as her mother is descending into dementia. After the mother’s death, ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Nightmare, Black Static, Shimmer, The Dark, and Uncanny

Nightmare 8/18, 9/18 Black Static 7-8/18 Shimmer 7/18 The Dark 8/18, 9/18 Uncanny 7-8/18

Nightmare #71 (August) has two strong original stories. In “Dead Air” by Nino Cipri, Nita is recording interviews with the people she sleeps with: ethnography, socio­logically-influenced art. No, it’s not a good idea, especially when she meets Maddie, who is more than just another lover passing in the night. Mad­die has secrets. She ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Nightmare, The Dark, and Dark Discoveries

Nightmare 7/18 The Dark 6/18 Dark Discoveries Spring ’18

Nightmare, issue 70, published, as usual, two originals. In “Kylie Land” by Caspian Gray, Ky­lie Eland lives by “Rules” that help him deal with life, but he doesn’t fit into high school any better than he does anywhere else. He makes friends with Michael Ramage, a shunned new student with a bad reputation, in hopes he can help ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Shimmer, Uncanny, and Black Static

Shimmer 5/18 Uncanny 5-6/18 Black Static 5-6/18

The regular venues this column covers had quite a bit to offer as spring turned to sum­mer. Shimmer went spooky with all four stories in their 43rd issue. Katherine Kendig‘s “What the Skeleton Detective Tells You (while you picnic)” is dark “lite”: a cute reworking of a private eye yarn with a living skeleton detec­tive. “You, In Flux...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Anathema, Kaleidotrope, The Dark, and Mythic Delirium

Uncanny 1-2/18 Anathema: Spec from the Margins 12/17 Kaleidotrope Winter ’18 The Dark 1/18 Mythic Delirium 1-3/18

Although more concerned with character than plot, Elizabeth Bear‘s “She Still Loves the Dragon” (Uncanny) still tells the love story of a knight-errant and a dragon. (“She still loves the dragon that set her on fire.”) Since love stories often turn dark and end bit­tersweet, I feel justified in praising ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction

Lightspeed 11/17, 12/17 Nightmare 12/17 Tor.com 10/24/17 Clarkesworld 11/17 Uncanny 11-12/17 Shimmer #40 Kaleidotrope Autumn ’17 The Dark 11/17 Black Static 11-12/17

It is already a new year as you read this, but it is not even Thanksgiving as I write. It is also the time of the year when those of my ilk are already considering what fiction was the “best” of the year: a rewarding endeavor, but also ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction

Apex 9/17, 8/17 Black Static 9-10/17 Uncanny 9-10/17 The Dark 8/17 Nightmare 10/17 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8/17

As of September 2017, Apex Magazine has survived for eight years and four months and made it to its hundredth issue – a more remarkable achievement than the average reader might expect. The issue’s three more-or-less originals are all entertaining and dark enough for me to write about.

Kameron Hurley‘s “Tumbledown ...Read More

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Paula Guran reviews Short Fiction: May 2017

Fiyah Winter 2017 Gamut 2/17, 3/17 Apex Magazine 2/17 The Dark 4/17 Tor.com 3/8/17, 3/9/17 Uncanny 3-4/17

 

Fiyah is a new literary magazine dedicated to Black speculative fiction, a spiritual successor to the experimental FIRE!!, an African-American magazine of the Harlem Renaissance that managed only one issue in 1926. (The magazine’s offices burned to the ground shortly after it was published.) The theme of the first issue is, appropriately

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Paula Guran reviews Short Fiction, October 2016

Uncanny Magazine 7-8/16 Nightmare 7/16, 8/16 Black Static 7-8/16 Shimmer 7/16 The Dark 8/16 Apex Magazine 8/16

This month we discover some dark delights, but also encounter fiction bogged down in the end-of-summer doldrums. Of the five original stories in the July/August 2016 issue of recent Hugo-winner Uncanny Magazine, two can be said to be truly dark. The only element of the fantastic in ‘‘El Cantar of Rising Sun’’ by

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