Paula Guran Reviews Thin Places by Kay Chronister

Thin Places, Kay Chronister (Undertow 978-1-988964-18-8, $14.99, 140pp, tp) May 2020.

The final, eponymous story in Kay Chronister’s debut collection Thin Places explains what is meant – in this context anyway – by the phrase ”thin places”:

Thin places are parts of the world where the barrier between the clay and the mist is more fragile, where it can be broken…. Things happen in thin places that can’t happen ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Made to Order, Edited by Jonathan Strahan, and Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine

Made to Order, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris) March 2020. Anthropocene Rag, Alex Irvine (Tor.com Publishing) March 2020.

I don’t think there can be any doubt that the best currently working original anthologist of science fiction is Jonathan Strahan. (Ellen Datlow probably retains that title for fantasy and certainly for horror.) Strahan’s new anthology is Made to Order, on the subject of robots and mostly their desire for ...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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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Big Book of Modern Fantasy Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

The Big Book of Modern Fantasy, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage 978-0525563860, $25, 896pp, trade paperback) July 2020

When last we saw our intrepid curatorial editors, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, just a year ago in fact, they were hacking their way resolutely through the jungles of fantastika like Mr. and Mrs. Indiana Jones, emerging with an Ark of the Covenant labeled The Big Book of Classic Fantasy ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein, Not One of Us, and Past Tense, Edited by John Benson

Universal Love, Alexander Weinstein (Henry Holt) January 2020. Not One of Us 4/20 Past Tense, John Benson, ed. (Not One of Us) January 2020.

I loved Alexander Weinstein’s first story collection,  Children  of  the  New  World.  Universal Love, his second, is another proof SF  has  taken  up  permanent  residence  in the mainstream world. Weinstein writes almost exclusively SF but is praised everywhere, and yet the only ...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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Paula Guran Reviews The Heart Is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories by Angela Slatter

The Heart Is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories, Angela Slatter (PS Publishing 978-1-78636-563-7, £25.00, 331pp, hc) April 2020.

British and World Fantasy Award recipient Angela Slatter’s writing is elegant, elo­quent, evocative, and exquisitely disturb­ing; polished to the rich patina found only on the finest quality antique silver, it casts a spell on the reader. Luckily, the Australian author is nearly as prolific as she is talented. The ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Songs for Dark Seasons Lisa L. Hannett

Songs for Dark Seasons: Stories, Lisa L. Hannett (Ticonderoga Publications 978-1-925212-44-0, A$50.00, 280pp, hc) April 2020.

Lisa L. Hannett’s three previous collections, two co-authored with Angela Slatter, earned awards and critical acclaim. Songs for Dark Seasons is just as laudable. Since the Canadian-born author lives in Australia and Ticonderoga is an Australian press, the volume may be a bit hard to come by for some, but it is well ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe

Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe Press 978-1-59021-692-7, $17.99, 222pp, tp) March 2020.

It’s a pity, but not a surprise, that Julian K. Jerboe’s first book hasn’t been released by the kind of large publishing house that can garner big-name blurbs, a splashy publicity campaign, and inclusion on a jillion lists and roundups. Ev­eryone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel is a strange, limber, ...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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Gary K. Wolfe & Rich Horton Review Avatars Inc, Edited by Ann VanderMeer

Avatars Inc, Ann VanderMeer, ed. (XPRIZE, free, eb) March 2020. [Download from <www.avatars.inc>]

All well-made anthologies offer something like a conversation between the stories included, and in some cases (such as Jonathan Strahan’s recent Made to Order: Robots and Revolution) that conversation is more focused than usual, since the stories all revolve around a classic SF theme. With Ann VanderMeer’s Avatars Inc: A Sci-Fi Anthology, now available ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF, Interzone, Galaxy’s Edge, Bourbon Penn, and The New Yorker

F&SF 5-6/20 Interzone 3-4/20 Galaxy’s Edge 3/20 Bourbon Penn 3/20 The New Yorker 3/16/20 Prosper’s Demon, K.J. Parker (Tor.com Publish­ing) January 2020. Truer Love and Other Lies, Edd Vick (Fairwood Press) November 2019.

What matters most? Plot? Character? Prose? Something else? The answer is all of the above, I think, and, more im­portantly, each ideally reinforces the other. These thoughts are prompted by an exceptional novelette in the ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Analog, Asimov’s, Pulp Literature, and Uncanny

Analog 3-4/20 Asimov’s 3-4/20 Pulp Literature Winter ’20 Uncanny 3-4/20

Analog offers several impressive stories in its March-April issue. Andy Dudak can be counted on for wild ideas, and “Midstrathe Exploding” delivers on that account. Ciaran is a pickpocket in Midstrathe City, which seems mainly known for the weirdly time-shifted explosion that engulfed it 200 years before and is still expanding with its victims frozen inside it. He ...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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Paula Guran Reviews Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8, Edited by Michael Kelly, and Out of Water by Sarah Read

Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8, Michael Kelly, ed. (Undertow 978-1-988964-17-1, $27.99, 269pp, hc) March 2020.

Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8 lives up to the high standard previously set by editor Mi­chael Kelly with this series. The anthology’s 18 original stories serve as a good entry drug to the best in modern short fiction as well as reliable reads for those already addicted. Many tend toward the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination by Rick Wilber

Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination, Rick Wilber (WordFire 978-1-68057-068-7, $24.99, 289pp, hc) March 2020.

There are a few things we can reliably expect in a collection of stories from Rick Wilber (whose Alien Morning was a finalist for the Campbell Award a couple of years ago, but whose only previous collection was 1999’s Where Garagiola Waits and Other Baseball Stories). Two of these are pretty common SF preoccupations ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews A Phoenix First Must Burn, Edited by Patrice Caldwell

A Phoenix First Must Burn, Patrice Caldwell, ed. (Viking 978-1-9848-3565-9, $18.99, 306pp, hc) March 2020.

In the new teen anthology A Phoenix First Must Burn, editor Patrice Caldwell has collected a group of 16 stories celebrating “Black girl magic.” The authors include several YA heavy hitters such as L.L. McKinney, Dhonielle Clayton, Justina Ireland, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Rebecca Roan­horse, and the topics range from an interstellar confrontation about ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, Edited by Jonathan Strahan

Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris 978-1781087879, $11.99, 400pp, tp) March 2020.

I suppose it’s both appropriate and inevitable that the coming centennial of Karel Capek’s R.U.R. will have us reconsidering the long and varied history of robots in SF, and an excellent way to start that conversation is by reading Jonathan Strahan’s Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, which brings together 16 original ...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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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF, Uncanny, Galaxy’s Edge, Interzone, and Conjunctions

F&SF 3-4/20 Uncanny 1/20 Galaxy’s Edge 1/20 Interzone 1-2/20 Conjunctions 73

F&SF offers a wide range of impressive stories this issue. Two fine pieces come from an anthology Gardner Dozois was working on prior to his death, The Book of Legends. Matthew Hughes‘s “The Last Legend” is about a young man who had hoped for a respectable career before his uncle spent his inheritance and apprenticed ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews McSweeney’s 58: 2040 A.D., Edited by Claire Boyle

McSweeney’s 58: 2040 A.D., Claire Boyle, ed. (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 978- 1944211707, $26.00, 184p, hc) December 2019. Cover by Wesley Allsbrook.

When I received my subscriber copy of McSweeney’s 58: 2040 A.D., with its eye-catching cover (and interior illustrations) from Wesley Allsbrook, bushfires were raging up and down the Queensland and New South Wales coast. As I read the issue, featuring ten stories that imagine what a climate-affected ...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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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus by Michael Swanwick

The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus, Michael Swanwick (Subterranean 978- 1-59606-936-7, $40.00, 200pp, hc) April 2020.

When Michael Swanwick first introduced us to his redoubtable rogues Darger and Surplus in the Hugo Award winning “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” back in 2001, many readers immediately saw them as descendants of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, a duo whose DNA has shown up in the work of everyone ...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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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, Ken Liu (Saga 978-1-9821-3403-7, $26.00, 432pp, hc) February 2020.

In his introduction to The Hidden Girl and Oth­er Stories, Ken Liu’s much-anticipated second collection, Liu tells us that selecting the stories was easier, since he no longer felt “the pressure to ‘present,”‘ but rather decided to “stick with stories that most pleased myself.” In fact, more than half of the 18 stories ...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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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Asimov’s, Analog, LCRW, and On Spec

Asimov’s 1-2/20 Analog 1-2/20 Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 11/19 On Spec #112

The first 2020 issue of Asimov’s is anchored by two novellas – the latest episode of Allen M. Steele‘s series about a human colony on a planet of Tau Ceti and the colonists’ interaction with the doglike intelligent species that controls the planet, “The Palace of Danc­ing Dogs” – these are enjoyable somewhat old-fashioned adventures ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl

Talk Like a Man, Nisi Shawl (PM Press 978-1-62963-711-2, $14.00, 114pp, tp) November 2019.

It’s been more than a decade since Nisi Shawl’s only previous collection, Filter House, and since much of her short fiction has appeared in small-press publications that often have to be sought out, her new chapbook from PM Press provides an enticing glimpse into the fiction of an author most widely known for the ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Suicide Woods by Benjamin Percy

Suicide Woods, Benjamin Percy (Graywolf 978-1-644-45006-2 $16.99. 216pp. tp) October 2019.

Benjamin Percy’s writing is immaculate. Each word seems so carefully chosen the reader cannot imagine a synonym that would better suit. This slender volume is not a fast read. With such craft, a reader must slowly savor the nine stories and the single novella in Percy’s third collection. All are relentlessly dark, but the darkness springs from a ...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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Ian Mond Reviews …And Other Disasters by Malka Older

…And Other Disasters, Malka Older (Mason Jar Press 978-0996103787, $17.95, 201pp, tp) November 2019.

Although it’s a slim book, the nine stories and three poems that feature in Malka Older’s debut collection …And Other Disasters showcase an eclectic and vivid imagination. This includes a future history detailing the break-up of the United States of America (cleverly split into seven indi­vidual sections across the collection to mimic the dissolution of ...Read More

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