Magazine Monday: Grimdark Magazine, Issue 1

Grimdark Magazine seeks to fill a gap in the niche market for those who enjoy “grim stories told in a dark world by morally ambiguous protagonists,” according to the editorial in the first quarterly issue. The first issue is promising, if somewhat opaque to one who is not already immersed in this relatively new subgenre.

The first story is “Shadow Hunter: A Shadows of the Apt Story” by Adrian Tchaikovsky, set in his universe in which humanoids take on the characteristics of insects. The Wasp-kinden, for example, are described as savage and angry, and have the ability to deliver a sting that emanates from the palms of their hands. One leader successfully corralled the Wasps into a mighty army and became emperor, but what happens to a Wasp who no longer interested in being a foot soldier? Gaved undertakes a mission to find a Moth in a thick and... Read More

Horrible Monday: A Shrill Keening by Ronald Malfi

A Shrill Keening by Ronald Malfi

A Shrill Keening opens with a first person narrator telling us about the books in his hospital room, and expanding from there to tell us about the hospital’s library and librarian.  It is only when he notes that the list of requested books he hands to the librarian is written in crayon that the reader realizes the nature of the hospital:  it is a mental institution.  But the reader must also wonder:  why is a mental institution catering to a patient’s request for books by and about H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe?

The nature of the narrator’s malady becomes evident when he states that he does not know which part of his life is real and which part he is dreaming. His therapist attempts — poorly — to convince him that his particular form of solipsism, in which he imagines that the therapist blinks out of existence as soon as they part; but the narrator conti... Read More

Magazine Monday: Crossed Genres, Issues 24 and 25

The theme for Issue 25 of Crossed Genres Magazine is “Indoctrinate,” but the theme is only loosely applicable to the first story, “Cabaret Obscura” by Julian Mortimer Smith. The first-person narrator, Truddla, once catered to the kinky sexuality (or, at least, sexual curiosity) of humans at the Rialto. Most of her audience left “titillated but embarrassed,” she tells us, but some send her marriage proposals, and the dangerous ones lie in wait for her after shows. She’s a hobgoblin. Whether that means she’s a creature from the fairy tale world or an alien to whom a handy word has been applied isn’t made clear — that’s the “crossing” of genres in this story, apparently, a melding of fantasy and science fiction so that we can’t really tell which is which. There isn’t much of a plot, but the story is full of atmosphere and weirdness that suggest Smith has a vibrant imagination. I’m looking forward to watching him us... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Broken Road by T. Frohock

The Broken Road by T. Frohock

T. Frohock” is Teresa Frohock, the author of the well-regarded fantasy debut Miserere: An Autumn Tale. The Broken Road is a novella that belongs to the “grimdark” genre: it is dark and gritty and there is no happily ever after. Frohock herself calls it “gothic horror,” and that description works, too. It’s good.

Travys du Valois is the younger of Queen Heloise’s twin sons. He is mute, and therefore unable to work the magic inherent in the nobles of his land except by using the voice of another or the sounds surrounding him. His... Read More

WWWebsday: December 31, 2014

These are your last links of the year, so drink up! And watch out for those bubbles; keep safe and come back to enjoy more of Fantasy Literature in 2015. Happy New Year!

Writing, Editing, and Publishing:

The World Fantasy Award has long been one of my favorite awards; I find more works I want to read from the list of nominees for this award than any other. The 2015 judges have been announced, and it looks like a very fine, multinational panel.

The winners of the Rhysling Awards for science fiction poetry have been announced.

I've been accumulating Iain M. Banks's Culture novels, and one of these days I'm going to sit down and read the... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 162-163

The last issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies for 2014 begins with “Alloy Point” by Sam J. Miller. It is a steampunk story of Ashley, who has a talent with Lustrous Metallics like gold and silver, and her forbidden affair with Gabriel, whose strength resides with Base Metallics. They are discovered by the City Fathers, who send a metalman to kill them both. As the story opens, Ashley is in flight from the metalman, who is pursuing her with single-minded determination. Ashley makes some uncomfortable and frightening discoveries as the chase goes on. It’s an old story in new clothes, told well. The use of metals and their importance to the lives of the characters caught my interest so much that I would ejnoy reading a novel in this world, and I’m not even a fan of steampunk.

The other story in issue 163 is “Until the Moss Has Reached Our Lips” by Matt Jones. This story is almost hallucinatory in its strang... Read More

Horrible Monday: Dark Screams, Volume One, by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume One edited by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume One is the first of at least four volumes of short horror anthologies that are projected for publication through August 2015. The books are being published as ebooks only through Random House’s digital-only genre imprint, Hydra, for a bargain price of $2.99.

Volume One starts out with one of the most popular horror writers ever: Stephen King. “Weeds” was originally published in Cavalier, a “men’s magazine,” in 1976, and has never been reprinted until now — though it did become a part of the movie “Creepshow,” with King himself playing the role of Jordy Verrill.  Jordy is the protagonist of “Weeds,” a not particularly intelligent man who farms a spread situated ... Read More

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

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