Karen Burnham reviews short fiction: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Tor.com and Strange Horizons

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10/7/21 Clarkesworld 10/21 Tor.com 9/8, 9/15, 9/29, 10/13, 10/20/21 Strange Horizons 9/13/21

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a strong, high-quality venue, week in and week out, but on anniversaries and big milestones editor Scott Andrews pulls out the stops. For the 13th Anniversary we get a double issue filled with magic. First up is “The Burning Girl” by Carrie Vaughn, an alternate history in which ...Read More

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Karen Burnham reviews short fiction: Lightspeed, Mithila Review, Common Tongues, and Bards & Sages

Lightspeed 10/21 Mithila Review 3/21 Common Tongue 8/21 Bards & Sages 10/21

October’s Lightspeed has plenty of stories with chewy premises to enjoy. “Stowaways” by Andrew Dana Hudson is a flash piece told in the form of a museum sign explaining an art piece. This dangerous piece of art can “install” itself in viewers’ brains whenever enough “infected” people gather nearby. Its main effect is to generate companion ...Read More

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Karen Burnham reviews Short Fiction: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Hexagon

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 9/9, 9/23/21

Clarkesworld 9/21

Strange Horizons 8/21

Lightspeed 10/21

Hexagon Fall ’21

While Beneath Ceaseless Skies doesn’t typically do theme issues, the fact that each features a pair of stories lets us find synchronous themes pretty often. Issue #338 features two young people facing very different coming-of-age trials. In “The Shape of Wings and Feathers” by Jenny Rae Rappaport, Bryce is a young girl ...Read More

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Karen Burnham reviews Short Fiction: Lightspeed, Futures, Abyss & Apex, Lackington’s, and Speculative City

Lightspeed 10/21 Nature: Futures 9/17/21 Abyss & Apex Summer ’21 Lackington’s Spring ’21 Speculative City Spring ’21

The fantasy side of the October issue of Light­speed brings us a novelette by PH Lee & Rachel Swirsky, continuing their Dusty Boots series of fairytale-style stories. ‘‘The Ash-Girl and the Salmon Prince’’ blends Cinderella tropes with The Fisherman and His Wife and a hint of Blue­beard. The ash-girl is ...Read More

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

Tor.com 8/4/21, 8/18/21, 8/25/21 Fiyah Summer ’21 Clarkesworld 8/21

To start off this month, I’d like to highlight two stories that use abstract mathematics in interesting ways. The August Clarkesworld features “The Serpentine Band” by Congyun ‘Mu Ming’ Gu (translated by Tian Huang) which tips over into novella territory at 18,500 words. It is a beautiful story of a bureaucrat in historical China. We learn about the life ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed, and Strange Horizons

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 7/15/21, 7/29/21, 8/12/21, 8/26/21 Lightspeed 8/21, 9/21 Strange Horizons 7/21

I had fallen behind on Beneath Ceaseless Skies since reading two issues a month is not quite enough to keep up with a once-every-two weeks publishing schedule. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with this particular magazine, since you never know quite where it will take you. Issue #334 has two stories of people displaced from ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed, and Future Science Fiction Digest

Clarkesworld 7/21 Tor.com 7/7, 7/21/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/17, 7/1/21 Lightspeed 7/21 Future Science Fiction Digest 6/21

July’s Clarkesworld has seven stories that range far and wide across the genre spaces. We begin with “Promises We Made Under A Brick-Dark Sky” by Karen Osborne, which uses the permeability of “evaporating genres” (as fellow Locus columnist Gary Wolfe has termed it) to set up and subvert our expectations ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Strange Horizons, The Deadlands, khōréō, and The Economist

Strange Horizons 5/31 The Deadlands 6/21 khōréō 6/21 The Economist 6/25/21

At the end of May Strange Horizons put out a special issue dealing with transgender themes. Along with nine poems and three non-fiction ar­ticles are three original short stories. My favorite is ‘‘Women Want Me, Fish Fear Me’’ by Paris Green. In this future, genemods based on different animals are fairly common, and the narrator’s are ...Read More

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

Lightspeed 6/21 Omenana 4/21 Strange Horizons 6/21/21 Tor.com 6/9/21, 6/16/21, 6/23/21

June’s Lightspeed features some interesting scenar­ios in both the science fiction and fantasy sections. Timothy Mudie‘s “Different People” imagines that an unmarried man is contacted by the woman who was his wife in the parallel universe she had to flee from. She finds him and they start a relationship; when she starts to dive back into ...Read More

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

Clarkesworld 6/21 Anathema 5/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 5/20/21, 6/3/21

The June Clarkesworld leads off with “Little Animals” by Nancy Kress. Elena is our point-of-view character, a woman who is “borderline depressive.” She’s part of a research team that is using quantum effects to be able to “receive” the mental impressions of people who lived in the past. This is as much an art as a science, and ...Read More

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

Clarkesworld 5/21 Lightspeed 5/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 4/22/21, 5/6/21

In May Clarkesworld starts off with a new David D. Levine story, always a treat. “Best Laid Plans” is a charming story about a mod­est space station run by a small university. Dr. Chelle Yan is studying how genetically modified mice (not allowed on Earth) transmit knowledge, but all that’s interrupted when the station starts leaking air, no one ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Future SF, Fiyah, Diabolical Plots, and Arsenika

Tor.com 5/5/21 Strange Horizons 5/21 Future SF Digest #10 Fiyah Spring ’21 Diabolical Plots 3/1/21, 3/15/21, 4/16/21 Arsenika Spring ’21

Of the stories I spotted in Tor.com this month, “The Lay of Lilyfinger” by G.V. Anderson was by far my favorite. It draws out a complex world with many different factions and races. Saaba-niszak is a long-lived being from far away; she has taken in Pom as an ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Tor.com, The Future Fire, Lightspeed, and Escape Artists

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/25/21, 4/8/21 Tor.com 4/20/21 The Future Fire 1/21 Lightspeed 4/21 Escape Artists 3/2/21, 3/5/21

Beneath Ceaseless Skies continues going strong this spring with stories such as Cat Rambo‘s “Every Breath a Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer“, set in her Tabat universe. Lady Callynahdra is a centaur who rejected her default fate as a noble and instead earned the rank of sergeant in the military. ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld

Strange Horizons 3/29/21, 4/21 Clarkesworld 4/21

At the end of March Strange Horizons published a special issue featuring Pales­tinian speculative fiction. It includes art, poetry, four stories, and an introductory essay, and features creators from across the Palestinian diaspora. “Wills” by Wadih Haddad is very short and very Weird, starting with a man in a sort of consumer hypnotic state coming awake with the statement “I want,” then ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Giganotosaurus, Departure Mirror, and Flash Fiction Online

Tor.com 3/3/21, 3/24/21 Strange Horizons 3/1/21, 3/15/21 Giganotosaurus 2/21, 3/21 Departure Mirror Quarterly Winter ’21 Flash Fiction Online 3/21

Tor.com had two stories in March. A new Usman T. Malik story is always a treat. “#Spring Love, #Pichal Pairi” is his latest take on the pandemic, where the narrator is a reporter in Lahore who in­terviews a particularly woke, feminist pichal pairi. The pichal pairi of folklore is ...Read More

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

Clarkesworld 3/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/25/21, 3/11/21 Lightspeed 3/21

My two favorite stories in Clarkesworld in March are “Homecoming is Just An­other Word for the Sublimation of the Self” by Isabel J. Kim and “The Orbiting Guan Erye” by Wang Zhenzhen (translated by Carmen Yiling Yan). Kim’s story features an amazingly appropriate use of second-person perspective as “you” are a first-generation Korean immigrant to the US ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Tor.com, BCS, Strange Horizons, Aurealis, and Fantasy

Tor.com 1/27/21, 2/3/21, 2/10/21, 2/24/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/28/21, 2/11/21 Strange Horizons 2/8/21, 2/15/21 Aurealis #137 Fantasy Magazine 2/21

The stories in Tor.com I read this month leaned heavily toward horror, with three edited by El­len Datlow and the fourth a vampire story edited by Jonathan Strahan. “Shards” by Ian Rogers is a cabin-in-the-woods story in which four friends violently murder the fifth friend, due to a demonic ...Read More

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

Clarkesworld 2/21 Lightspeed 2/21 Fiyah Winter ’21

February’s Clarkesworld leads with a great cloning story, “The Failed Dianas” by Monique Laban. A young woman return­ing from a space-based financial internship goes to a high-end restaurant and meets a different version of herself, quite a bit older. It turns out that this is the original Diana who disappointed her parents deeply by refusing to go into finance; by ...Read More

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

Clarkesworld 1/21 Lightspeed 1/21 Strange Horizons 1/21 Tor.com 1/6/21, 1/19/21 Mysterion 1-2/21

January’s Clarkesworld kicks off with “Inten­tionalities” by Aimee Ogden, where in the near future Sorrel gets trapped in an all-too-plausible system of debt peonage and ends up “confer­ring” a child to Braxos Corp. She bears the child, Abigail, and is able to raise her to the age of five with resources from the corporation, then ...Read More

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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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