Paula Guran Reviews PseudoPod, Nightmare, The Dark, and The Deadlands

PseudoPod 7/27/22 Nightmare 8/22, 9/22 The Dark 7/22, 8/22 The Deadlands 7/22, 8/22

There are numerous worthy re-published stories and a single recent original at its supposedly darker sister PseudoPod. In PseudoPod #821’s “Celestial Shores” by Sarah Day & Tim Pratt, a troubled couple visit a vacation rental and wind up somewhere quite terrifyingly unexpected.

Nightmare #119 has two original short stories and a flash piece. Climate change ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Tor.com, and PodCastle

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 7/22 Tor.com 8/10/2022 PodCastle 6/7/22, 6/14/22, 6/21/22, 6/28/22

If you enjoy truly original fiction, you’ll ap­preciate Lady Churchill’sa Rosebud Wristlet #45. Anna O’Connor’s “The Rattling Seed” features a young man who meets a stranger and accompanies him to a strange ritual in the woods. The protagonist of “This World Will Be True” by Ellen Rhudy is struggling to hold onto the ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Uncanny, Apex, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye

Uncanny 7-8/22 Apex #132 Three-Lobed Burning Eye #36

Uncanny #47 is not themed, but each specu­lative story ultimately deals with common human problems. Marie Brennan’s “Fate, Hope, Friendship, Foe” mixes Greek mythology into a great little story set in a decayed American Midwest of the near-future. Even godlings must make choices. It’s only negative is that it is far too short. “Family Cooking” by AnaMaria ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Where You Linger by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Where You Linger, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Ver­nacular 978-1-952-28322-2, $18.99, 284pp, tp) July 11, 2022. Cover by Ellie Alonzo.

Compiling any author’s stories into a col­lection usually adds a new dimension to readers’ understanding and appreciation of their work, but Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s debut col­lection Where You Linger reveals connections, emphasis, and meaning one could not otherwise have gained. The themes of these dozen stories are memory, relationship, and survival. ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Hooked by A.C. Wise

Hooked, A.C. Wise. (Titan 978-1-78909-683-5, $15.95 336pp, tp) July 2022.

With Hooked, A.C. Wise returns to the exploration of a very dark version of J. M. Barrie’s Neverland that she began in her debut novel, Wendy, Darling (Titan, 2021). Eight years have passed since a grown-up Wendy rescued her daughter Jane from Peter Pan and brought real death to Neverland. It is 1939 and Jane is in London ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies by John Langan

Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies, John Langan (Word Horde 978-1-956252-01-9, $21.99, 304pp, tp) May 2022. Cover by Mat­thew Jaffe.

John Langan explores – as Sarah Langan phrases it in her introduction – “families in peril” in this aptly titled short story collection. In the strong opening story, “Kore”, a family’s Halloween tradition turns far eerier than expected as a door to a dark cosmos is opened. That entryway into the weird ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller

Boys, Beasts & Men, Sam J. Miller (Tachyon 978-1-61696-3729, $17.95, 330pp. tp) June 2022. Cover by Jennifer O’Toole.

Occasional encounters with Sam J. Miller’s novels (The Art of Starving, Blackfish City) and short stories certainly impress, but only an assemblage like this can truly display his talent, versatility, imagination, and flat-out uniqueness. Warning: all story descriptions herein are lacking because they cannot come close to conveying ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Path of Thorns by A. G. Slatter

The Path of Thorns, A.G. Slatter (Titan 978-1-78909-4374, $15.99, 384pp, tp) June 2022.

With The Path of Thorns A.G. (Angela) Slatter returns to the Sourdough world of her smashingly good novel All the Murmuring Bones, and this latest novel may be even better than than the previous one. The book begins with our heroine Asher Todd arriving at Morwood Grange to assume duties as a governess, and Slatter ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark and Nightmare

The Dark 3/22, 4/22 Nightmare 3/22, 4/22, 5/22

There’s quite a variety in the four originals of The Dark #83. In “Knotlings” by Aliya Whiteley, the narrator accepts her pain as a good thing. She rejoices when her son experiences the same affliction and, like her, vomits up “knotlings.” The mother teaches her son how to cope, but as he matures, he develops his own way of ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Tor.com, Uncanny, and The Deadlands

Tor.com 3/9/22, 3/16/22, 3/23/22, 4/13/22, 4/20/22, 4/27/22, 5/4/22, 5/11/22, 5/18/22 Uncanny 3-4/22 The Deadlands 3/22, 4/22

Near novella-length “Hearts of Stone” by Emma Newman (Tor.com 5/18/22) is a Wild Cards story about 18-year-old Kerry – who can turn living creatures into stone with a touch – joining up with Great Britain’s Sil­ver Helix as Stonemaiden. It’s great for those into George R.R. Martin’s shared universe, especially if they’ve kept up ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Apex #130, PodCastle, and PseudoPod

Apex #130 PodCastle 2/23/22 PseudoPod 3/11/22

Nine Theories of Time” by Spencer Nitkey leads off the six original stories of Apex #130. It is not so much a story as an eloquent meditation on time, life, death, and grief.

In the near future of “To Live and Die in Dix­ieland” by Russell Nichols, brothers Walter and Royce Mitchell develop a virtual reality platform, Dixieland, in ...Read More

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

The Dark 1/22, 2/22 Apex #129 Nightmare 2/22 Deadlands 1/22, 2/22 The Dark #80’s four original stories include ‘‘Thermophile’’ by Jack Klausner and ‘‘Intru­sions’’ by Margot McGovern. In the former, Lisa’s roomie Stu starts taking really long hot showers. And baths. And acting strange. His only excuse is that he likes the warmth. This is an idea that doesn’t quite turn into a story. In ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Tor.com, PodCastle and Uncanny

Tor.com 2/26/22, 2/9/22, 1/26/22, 1/12/22 PodCastle 1/18/22, 2/8/22 Uncanny 1-2/22

If you’ve read the three previous Judge Dee stories by Lavie Tidhar, you are sure to enjoy the new one, “Seven Vampires: A Judge Dee Mystery” (Tor.com 2/26/22). You can enjoy it even if you haven’t chanced upon the series previously, but since the three earlier tales are easily found online, you have no excuse not catch ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie

All the Horses of Iceland, Sarah Tolmie (Tor­dotcom 978-1-250-80793-9, $15.99, 112pp, tp) March 2022. Cover by Erin Vest.

The protagonist of Sarah Tolmie’s historical fantasy All the Horses of Iceland, Eyvind of Eyri, is not particularly heroic. The Ice­lander is hardheaded and practical, but since he’s impotent and deaf in one ear, he’s considered to be an old man at 25 years of age. His adventure is geographically ...Read More

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

Fantasy 12/21, 1/22 The Deadlands 12/21 Nightmare 12/21, 1/22

Fantasy #75 starts 2022 off with two of the better stories they’ve published in their latest incarnation. There are also two flash fiction stories, but they don’t measure up to the shorts. There are many legends and myths of the banyan tree, but as far as I know, Shalini Srinivasan creates a brand new one with “Markets: A Beginners Guide ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and The Dark

Black Static #80-81 Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 12/21 The Dark 11/21, 12/21

As I write, the end of 2021 is rapidly draw­ing nigh. Not surprisingly, since these are all Northern Hemisphere publications, we find a couple of pieces of fiction featuring the cold. There is even a tale specifically crafted to fit the season.

Black Static #80-81 is their final issue of the year. It’s another “double” and contains two ...Read More

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The Year in Review 2021 by Paula Guran

First, I must confess that a major change in my personal life – working full time in a business not connected to publishing – cut into my reading (and reviewing and editing) in 2021. Luckily, most of what I did get to read was outstanding.

Like most folks, I loved Arkady Martine’s first Teixcalaanli novel, A Memory Called Empire (Tor), an imaginative blend of space opera, murder mystery, and interstellar ...Read More

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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 My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

My Heart Is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones (Saga 978-1-982137-63-2, $26.99. 416pp, hc) August 31, 2021.

I am not a fan of slasher films, but I know enough – as just about anyone with any pop cultural awareness does – to soundly appreci­ate Stephen Graham Jones’s use of the subgenre he so brilliantly employs in My Heart Is a Chain­saw. Not being a slasher aficionado means there’s at ...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 Big, Dark Hole by Jeffrey Ford

Big, Dark Hole, Jeffrey Ford (Small Beer Press 978-1-618-73184-5, $17, 320pp, tp) July 2021.

No matter how bizarre a situation is or may rapidly become in a Jeffrey Ford story, the reader feels instantly at home, open and accepting of everything that one should never be open and accepting of. In “The Match”, from new collection Big, Dark Hole, an adjunct professor gets a letter in the mail ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro

The Queen of the Cicadas, V. Castro (Flame Tree Press 978-1-787-58603-1, $24.95, 224pp, hc) June 2021.

Fortyish Belinda Montoya, protagonist of The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro, has overcome a great deal in her life. Despite racism and a dis­advantaged Texas childhood, she became an at­torney in Philadelphia, but things aren’t going all that well now. After two divorces and in the midst of a strained relationship ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Moon Lake by Joe R. Lansdale

Moon Lake, Joe R. Lansdale (Mulholland Books 978-0-316-54064-3, $28 352pp, hc) June 2021.

Joe R. Lansdale is a masterful storyteller with a distinct, often drawling voice. His novels are vivid yarns that connect with the reader faster than greased lightning. Set in the fictional town of New Long Lincoln, East Texas, Moon Lake begins in 1968 – just past the “time when cars were big and the American dream ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise

Wendy, Darling, A.C. Wise (Titan 978-1-78909-681-1 $15.95 336pp, tp) June 2021.

At the end of J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter and Wendy (also known as Peter Pan), Wendy, her brothers and the Lost Boys adopted by their parents have all grown up. Wendy is married and has a daughter, Jane, whom she’s filled with tales of their adventures in Neverland. When Peter Pan shows up at the nursery window, ...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 Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland, Rivers Solomon (MCD 978-0-374-26677-6, $27.00 268pp, hc) May 2021.

Fifteen-year-old Vern Fields – abused, Black, pregnant, albino, nearly blind – escapes cult compound the Blessed Acres of Cain and its leader, her husband, fleeing into a forest. There she gives birth to twin boys she names Howling and Feral. She is prepared to survive in the wild by her upbringing in Cain­land: founded by Black nationalists in the ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Bridge by J.S. Breukelaar

The Bridge, J.S. Breukelaar (Meerkat Press 978-1-946154-44-6 $15.95 227pp, tp) June 2021.

J.S. Breukelaar’s The Bridge may be a challeng­ing read for some, but it is certainly a rewarding one. Breukelaar immediately immerses the reader in a complex world with a complicated protagonist. Information is integrated seamlessly into the plot and everything becomes clearer only as one continues to read. Meera is a “Made” – created by the “Father” ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales by Angela Slat­ter

The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, Angela Slat­ter (Tarturus 978-1-912586-24-0, £40.00, 452pp, hc) March 2021. Cover by Kathleen Jennings.

We are barely into 2021 and Angela Slatter is already having quite a year. A novel (All the Murmuring Bones as A.G. Slatter) and a collection of microfiction (Red New Day and Other Microfictions) were both reviewed here last month. Add The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales to the ...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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