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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Paula Guran Reviews Never Have I Ever: Stories by Isabel Yap

Never Have I Ever: Stories, Isabel Yap (Small Beer 978-1-61873-182-1, $17.00, 248pp, tp) March 2021.

Isabel Yap’s debut collection Never Have I Ever offers a wide variety of stories. They range from the definitely horrific “Good Girls” (The Retreat is a place intended to reform bad girls; whether it works on its young inmates is, in general, an open question, but it definitely doesn’t work for the monstrous Kaye) ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews All the Murmuring Bones and Red New Day by An­gela Slatter

All the Murmuring Bones, A.G. Slatter (Titan 978-1-78909-434-3, $15.95, 368pp, tp) March 2021.

All the Murmuring Bones is A.G. Slatter’s (a semi-pseudonym of Australian author Angela Slatter) first novel-length work set in the Irish-flavored world of her acclaimed Sourdough and Other Stories and The Bitter­wood Bible. For fans of Slatter, that’s probably all that needs to be said to compel immediate acquisition. The rest of you, even ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Paula Guran Review Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes

Burning Girls and Other Stories, Veronica Schanoes (Tordotcom 978-1-250781505, $25.99, 336pp, hc) March 2021.

“History is a fairy tale”, a subtitle in Veronica Schanoes’s story “Emma Goldman Takes Tea with the Baba Yaga”, could almost serve as an epigram for the whole of her first collection, Burning Girls and Other Stories. Schanoes, who is a scholar of fairy tales, feminism, and Jewish literature and history, brings all of ...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 Deuces Down, Edited by George R.R. Martin & Melinda Snodgrass

Deuces Down, George R.R. Martin & Melinda Snodgrass, eds. (Tor 978-1-250-22720-1, $28.99, 352pp, hc) January 2021.

Deuces Down is both the 16th and 30th book in the Wild Cards series. The anthology was first published in 2002; this new version is refreshed with added stories by Carrie Vaughn, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Caroline Spector. Although re­ferred to on the title page as a mosaic novel, it remains – despite ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews In That Endlessness, Our End by Gemma Files

In That Endlessness, Our End, Gemma Files (Grimscribe 978-0-578-75976-0, $20, 342pp, tp) January 2021.

Fifteen recent (the earliest appears to have been published in 2017) stories by Canadian writer Gemma Files combine to make a terrifically ter­rifying collection, In That Endlessness, Our End. Files doesn’t exactly expose the horror found in the mundane because, once the thin veneer of normalcy is scratched, very little is mundane about her ...Read More

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The Year in Review: 2020 by Paula Guran

I often shy away from these annual summations. Even in late December, I haven’t seen everything, so it is never truly complete. Plus, I always fear I will forget something important. Nevertheless, I’m giving it a shot this year. After all, despite 2020 being a horrific year in the real world, there was a lot of great horror and other dark fiction.

My favorite debut of the year is most ...Read More

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