Paula Guran Reviews The Best of Michael Marshall Smith by Michael Marshall Smith

The Best of Michael Marshall Smith, Michael Marshall Smith (Subterranean Press 978-1-596-06950-3, $45.00, 568pp, hc) December 2020.

Michael Marshall Smith is that rare author whose first published story “The Man Who Drew Cats” won a respected award – the British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction – and put him immediately on the genre map. He followed it with a second win the following year with “The Dark Land” and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

To Hold Up the Sky, Cixin Liu (Tor 978-1250306081, 336pp, $27.99, hardcover) October 2020.

Cixin Liu’s first story collection in English continues to provide the same pleasures found in his award-winning novels: the simultaneous honoring and detournement of classic SF tropes, as filtered through a distinctly non-Western worldview and a quirky set of personal sensibilities. He is at once a radical and a conservative, an optimist and a pessimist, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020 by M. John Harrison

Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020, M. John Harrison (Comma Press 978-1912697281, £9.99, 288pp, tp) August 2020.

Harrison’s acute and sometimes merciless fasci­nation with couples who don’t quite know what they’re doing also shows up in two of the most memorable stories in Settling the World: Selected Stories 1969-2019, his first real retrospective collection since Things That Never Happen back in 2003. “The Gift” describes the parallel stories ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews My Favorites by Ben Bova

My Favorites, Ben Bova (Blackstone 978-1094000923, 352pp, $24.99, hardcover) October 2020

Ben Bova turns 88 in November of 2020. He also just published a new novel, Uranus, a few months ago. Two statements of this general import are not usually compatible. Writers who continue to maintain their productivity—and personal standards of quality—so late in life form a small elite. In our field, we note such towering figures as ...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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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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Paula Guran Reviews Final Cuts, Edited by Ellen Datlow

Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Blum­house Books/Anchor Books 978-0-525565-75-8, $16.95, 480pp, tp) June 2020.

Ellen Datlow anthologized cinema-related horror in 2014 tapping reprints in The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen. This time she compiles original stories written for Final Cuts. Up-to-date stories allow for the use of new media, and a few of the authors do ...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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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Edited By, Edited by Ellen Datlow

Edited By, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Subterranean 978-1596069671, 632pp, $45, hardcover) September 2020.

When does one properly offer a career retrospective for a creative person? Certainly it’s safe to issue one when the creator is dead. Then the career is etched in stone, with no further additions possible, and also with no dissents or quibbles from the creator! And if enough time goes by between the creator’s passing and the ...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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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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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Dark Harvest by Cat Sparks

Dark Harvest, Cat Sparks (NewCon 978-1-912950676, $15.99, 244pp, tp) July 2020.

You only need to read a handful of Cat Sparks’s stories before you start feeling the need for some shade and a nice margarita. The bleak, sunbaked landscapes of her novel Lotus Blue are again invoked in her collection Dark Harvest, not only in stories set more or less in that same far-future Australia (“Hot Rods”, “Dragon ...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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Rich Horton Reviews A Sinister Quartet and Aftermath of an Industrial Accident

A Sinister Quartet, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Amanda J. McGee & Jessica P. Wick, eds. (Mythic Delirium Books) July 2020. Aftermath of an Industrial Accident, Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books) July 2020.

Mike Allen’s Mythic Delirium is one of the smaller presses which sustains our field by publishing original anthologies and story collections. He has put out A Sinister Quartet, an anthology of four novellas (well, three ...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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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Dance on Saturday: Stories by Elwin Cotman

Dance on Saturday: Stories, Elwin Cotman (Small Beer Press 978-1618731722, 304pp, trade paperback) September 2020.

I have been unfortunate enough to miss Elwin Cotman’s two previous collections, The Jack Daniels Sessions EP and Hard Times Blues. But now that I’ve latched onto his third, Dance On Saturday, and enjoyed the ever-lovin’ pants off it, I can solace myself by contemplating the untapped reservoir of heartfelt gonzo Cotmanesque ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF, Analog, Asimov’s, Uncanny, and Anthems Outside Time by Kenneth Schneyer

F&SF 7-8/20 Analog 5-6/20 Asimov’s 5-6/20 Uncanny 5-6/20 Anthems Outside Time and Other Strange Voices, Kenneth Schneyer (Fairwood Press) July 2020.

The new F&SF features a delightful piece by Madeleine Robins, ”‘Omunculus”, a retelling of My Fair Lady set in a steam-punkish alternate history with the role of Eliza taken by a robot. It’s very funny as it reimagines Eliza and Higgins in this permutation and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Book of Dragons, Edited by Jonathan Strahan

The Book of Dragons, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-287716-1, $35.00, 576pp, hc) July 2020. Cover by Rovina Cai.

I have to confess that I never quite shared the childhood love of dragons that Jonathan Strahan describes in his introduction to The Book of Dragons. It always seemed to me that dragons were too cool to be really scary, and yet too scary to be adorable, no matter ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Big Girl by Meg Elison

Big Girl, Meg Elison (PM Press 978-1-62963-783-9, $14.00, 128pp, tp) June 2020.

Meg Elison seemed to come out of nowhere when her 2014 novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife earned the Philip K. Dick Award, and her short fiction output has remained relatively sparse (although the novel did see two well-received sequels), so Big Girl, her contribution to the long-running ”Outspoken Authors” series from PM Press – ...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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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, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (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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