Magazine Monday: Fantasy Magazine, Women Destroy Fantasy

Fantasy Magazine was folded into Lightspeed Magazine in 2012, but it came out of retirement in October 2014 for the Women Destroy Fantasy issue, one of the stretch goals of a Kickstarter for an all-women edition of Lightspeed. I was one of the contributors to the Kickstarter, and, as my review last week revealed, I greatly enjoyed the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare Magazine that was another stretch goal of the same Kickstarter. I’m pleased to report that the fantasy issue is just as “destructive” and enjoyable.

Cat Rambo guest-edited the new fiction for this issue of Fantasy. Her editorial remarks on the difficulty of seeing the shape of a field when you’re smack in the middle of it. You can see fine details, but the overall structure, size and scope tend to escape you. That means that sexism in genre literatu... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, Women Destroy Horror Issue

I wouldn’t normally review a magazine from last month, but the October issue of Nightmare Magazine is something special, and it’s still available. In this issue, Women Destroy Horror! Issue 25 is devoted to horror written by women, the result of a Kickstarter originally intended to help women destroy science fiction (in the June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine) that met its stretch goals. (Full disclosure: I contributed to the Kickstarter.)

The guest fiction editor of this issue is Ellen Datlow, who is the foremost horror editor working today, of any gender. She picked a lot of great stories for this special issue. Her editorial reminds us that women not only once dominated horror, but actually invented it. Ghost stories and gothic tales were written by women for decades before Read More

California Bones: A new kind of heist story

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

Daniel Blackland has been raised to be a magician from at least the time he was six years old and found a kraken spine on Santa Monica Beach. He inherited his propensity to osteomancy — bone magic — from his father, a powerful magician who has made his share of enemies. More than that, he was trained, shaped and molded by his father, who wants to make him strong enough to withstand the schemes of his enemies, regardless of how that hill hurt him, physically and emotionally. But his father never had the time to train Daniel properly. In his adulthood, therefore, Daniel has turned into a petty thief — an accomplished, uncannily talented petty thief, but a thief nonetheless. He has stuck to small crimes out of choice, not because he is incapable of grand heists. Unfortunately, his crime boss Uncle Otis isn’t content to see Daniel allow his magic to go to waste. He has demanded that Daniel carry out a se... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Melanie is ten years old, with skin as white as snow, just like in the fairy tale. But she doesn’t live in a tower; she lives in a cell, and is taken from there through the corridor to the classroom, and the shower room, where she is fed grubs once a week before a chemical spray falls from the ceiling. She knows that the place she lives in is called the block, and that the block is on the base, which is called Hotel Echo. They’re close to London and part of Region 6, which is mostly clear because the burn patrols kill the hungries. Her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, who makes school days interesting and full of fun.

We quickly learn that the hungries are zombies — and at that point, I groaned; not another zombie novel! Haven’t we worn out this meme yet? But M.R. Carey has s... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Black Static, September/October 2014

Issue 42 of Black Static is packed with stories, reviews, essays and an interview.

“Be Light. Be Pure. Be Close to Heaven” by Sara Saab is a tale of a Christian sect that takes Antonietta Meo, the Little Matron, as its guide. Meo lost her leg to disease when she was five years old, and declared it “ballast shed to lighten her ascent to Heaven.” The people in this sect, therefore, submit to voluntary amputation of some sort in order to demonstrate their devotion. Tanta is a young woman whose mother gave up a leg, and whose father gave up his eyes, who is now contemplating her own sacrifice. Though she is extraordinarily devout, in the course of the story she faces substantial temptation, and makes her choice. It’s a creepy story that reminds us of all the oddities that historically occur in every religion. (It’s not part of the story, but: Meo actually existed. She was an Italian girl who died at the age of six from t... Read More

Horrible Monday: Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone

Cold Turkey by Carole Johnstone

I’ve always been grateful that I never started smoking. I’m the kind of person who would be smoking a good three packs per day if I had, and I’d probably already be at death’s door, having been unable to quit. It would be easier to climb Mount Everest.

Carole Johnstone gives us a lesson in just how hard it is to give up the coffin nails in her novella, Cold Turkey. Raym has just done so for the umpteenth time, and it’s turning into the third-worst day of his life, precedence being given only to the days his parents died. Raym doesn’t understand why he continues to smoke, despite the fact that his parents died gruesome deaths because of their own smoking habits; but now he’s giving up cold turkey. No, really. None of the other teachers at his elementary school really believe he’ll do it. And he suffers mightily that evening as he sits in fr... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 157

The sixth anniversary edition of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a double issue, with four excellent stories.

The first is “The Sorrow of Rain” by Richard Parks, one of his Lord Yamada stories. Lord Yamada is a demon hunter in medieval Japan who tells his stories in the first person. On this occasion, he has been asked to stop incessant, late season rains; if the rains do not stop long enough to allow for a harvest within the next three days, the rice will spoil in the fields, leading to famine. Yamada sees a rain spirit almost as soon as he arrives, but she is neither a ghost nor a demon, and doesn’t seem to be the source of the rain. And the headman isn’t telling him everything. Parks tells gentle stories full of an ancient culture, usually involving a mystery, as here. His gentleness usually has a soft sting in the tail, though, a lesson about life that the characters have forgotten and about which Parks reminds us. A Lord... Read More

Horrible Monday: The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard

The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard

Malcolm Mays is very close to the end of his rope. After the collapse of his terrible marriage, after a horrific tragedy, he has spent close to his last dollars on a house in rural Ione, Oregon. His first sight of the house confirms that there’s plenty of work to be done, but also that there’s something good to work with. When he opens the front door to his new home for the first time, he finds a huge pile of mail written to the dead owner of the house from an inmate at the federal prison two hundred miles away in Salem. As he explores the house, he receives a letter from the prison himself, delivered, apparently, without the need for a postal worker or any other human agent. The letter is from Dusha Chuchonnyhoof, who tells him that there will be a plate set out for him in the icebox, and flowers beside the bed. It is too long, Dusha says, since he was in that house; he’s bee... Read More

Horrible Monday: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

South African writer Lauren Beukes had a hit with last year’s The Shining Girls, the story of a serial killer who could travel through time. Readers of both time travel novels and serial killer thrillers loved the way Beukes melded the two genres. Beukes has again given us a genre-bender with Broken Monsters. Both a horror novel and a police procedural, Broken Monsters is even better than The Shining Girls.

Broken Monsters is set in Detroit — today’s Detroit, bankrupt yet defiant, down on its luck but searching luck out wherever it can be found. The arts community seems to be especially thriving in this down-at-the-heels city, and it is a desire to make art that is the foundation of all the problems that are visited upon the victims of an especially perverse serial killer. The first body fo... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2014

To the dismay of all lovers of great speculative short fiction, the Summer issue of Subterranean Magazine is its last. This magazine was notable not just for the quality of its fiction, but for its willingness to publish short fiction at the novelette and novella lengths. The Summer issue ably demonstrates just what we’re going to be missing.

The magazine begins with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Pushing the Sky Away (Death of a Blasphemer).” The first person narrator is in desperate straits, her water and morphine gone, lost in a building of endless hallways, caught in a dispute between the Djinn and the Ghûl. Yet despite the fantasy setting, science has a place in this tale, as Cesium isotopes and radiation poisoning play a role. Kiernan’s language is chosen carefully, turning parts of this story into veritable prose poetry. For ... Read More

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit: A lovingly written ghost story

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce

It’s the end of August, a time when each day seems noticeably shorter than the one before, when kids are getting haircuts and school supplies and heading back to school, when Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be just around the corner. It’s a time for taking stock; for many of us, for those who loved the return to the classroom each fall with new resolutions to get good grades and excel at our extracurricular activities, it is more a time for such reevaluation of one’s life, hopes, goals and habits than is New Year’s Day. Perhaps that is why the coming-of-age novel is almost always set in the summer. Graham Joyce’s tale of a young man working at a summer resort, The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit,belongs on the same shelf as other great stories of haunted summers, like Read More

Horrible Monday: The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant

The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant

Mira Grant created a fascinating world in her NEWSFLESH, is a masterful piece of hard science fiction, combining medical detail with political intrigue with intricate worldbuilding. Her characters were so real that the end of the first book in the trilogy, Feed, reduced me to tears.

Since completing the trilogy, Grant continues to write about the world she created. With the novella The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell, she may finally have returned to the well once too often. It’s a solid story, detailing the day-to-day issues presented to schools when blood becomes a deadly substance. Grant skillfully builds suspense for those less familiar with her world as she tells of the consequences of one 6-year-old child’s tiny lie about skinning his hand at recess. But ultimately, she has so comp... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, August 2014

The August issue of Nightmare Magazine is exceptionally good, and given the generally outstanding nature of this publication, that’s saying something. All four of the stories this month are excellent by any standard.

The magazine opens with “Dear Owner of This 1972 Ford Crew Cab Pickup” by Desirina Boskovich. It’s a letter from a woman with terrible insomnia to a man who wakes her every morning at about 3:00 a.m. by revving — and revving, and revving — the engine of the titular vehicle before heading home from a night at a local tavern, where he tends bar. The woman has written to the man at least three times before, asking for his consideration, explaining that she is exhausted from tending to her hospitalized mother as well as teaching as an adjunc... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 150 and 151

Issue 151 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies opens with “Rappaccini’s Crow,” by Cat Rambo that works with the mythology created by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his marvelous short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” Hawthorne’s classic tale is one of the finest American short stories ever written, so Rambo is setting a high bar for herself by recalling it to her readers’ minds. She clears the bar easily in this fantasy about a world at war over phlogiston, a power source that is, ironically, being depleted by the war for control of the stuff. The story takes place in a long-term care facility for soldiers injured so grievously that they can’t be patched up and shipped back out to the battleground. The narrator is a Native American woman who has served in the war disguised as a man; the disguise is natural to her, as she has always believed herself to be a man born in the wrong body. Rappaccini is the equivalent of the medical director of the fa... Read More

Horrible Monday: Shakespeare in Hell by Amy Sterling Casil

Shakespeare in Hell by Amy Sterling Casil

Shakespeare in Hell is an intriguing title. Think of all it can conjure up - allusions to Milton and Dante, who both had more luck finding stories in the darker realms of the afterlife, and with the villains of their pieces, than with an antiseptic realm of winged creatures playing harps, come to mind; one can imagine Shakespeare choosing Hell as a better stage for his plays and poetry. Or perhaps Shakespeare sinned with his Dark Lady, landing him in eternal flame. Or — well, the possibilities seem endless.

But Amy Sterling Casil has not taken full advantage of the myriad plotlines available to her. We are given no moral structure for this Hell, and no hint of a Deity meting out punishments and rewards. We never do learn precisely why Shakespeare is in Hell, though it does appear to have something to do with the Dark Lady, who is here given the... Read More

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