Magazine Monday

On random Mondays, Terry Weyna discusses and reviews short stories and speculative fiction magazines. If you want to send Terry a magazine to review, please email her. She can’t promise to review it (she’s already buried under a stack of ’em), but she will certainly consider it.

Magazine Monday: Hugo-Nominated Short Stories, 2014

The short stories nominated for the Hugo Award this year are a disappointing lot. I read a great many stories in 2014 that were far better than at least four of these tales.

“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa is told in the first person by an artificial intelligence that is a warship in space. It compares the physical humans who inhabit it to “symbiotic bacteria” that do not trust it fully and therefore do not allow it to travel without their company. It takes its orders from “posthumans,” who have uploaded themselves to machines and become the Immortal Uploaded. The story is essentially about the narrator working out whether it is worthwhile to keep humans around. Although the theme has been worked and reworked over the last few decades, there is still a lot to explore.

But Rzasa is too focused on the glory of war to probe the provocative philosophical questions that should be th... Read More

Magazine Monday Special Edition: Nebula-Nominated Novellas, 2014

No, you have not jumped forward in time two days; it’s still Saturday. But the Nebula Awards will be handed out tonight, so this special edition of Magazine Monday discusses the nominated novellas.

The late, lamented Subterranean Magazine first published Rachel Swirsky’s “Grand Jeté.” The story is about Mara, a 12-year-old child who is dying of cancer, her father, who loves her very much, and the android Mara’s father has built that mimics Mara in every way, right down to her thoughts and feelings. It is an amazing technological accomplishment that Mara’s father sees as a gift to his daughter. Mara, however, sees it as a replacement for her, a confirmation of her fear that she is going to die. The story is about the comp... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Novelettes, 2014

Here are the novelettes nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award:

“We Are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller is narrated by Angel Quinones, nicknamed Sauro because he likes dinosaurs — though the other kids in his twelfth group home believe it’s because he’s as big as a dinosaur. Sauro is just about to age out of the system, and that’s even worse than the horror of being in the system. Sauro meets Case when one of the other boys is beating him up outside Sauro’s door. Sauro immediately desires Case, even though desire is dangerous, and he avoids it whenever he can; but this time, he knows he can’t. And Case, the only white boy Sauro has ever seen in a group home, desires Sauro right back. Both boys have cloud ports in their heads, which means that their brains serve as part of a huge data processing grid. C... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Short Stories, 2014

Here are the short stories nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award:

In “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard, the main character, Rechan, is pregnant. She must find her breath-sibling before she gives birth, or the baby will be stillborn. That, and the fact that they are carved by adolescent women from a special stone called lamsinh, are all we know about breath-siblings at first. Most women have their breath-siblings with them once they are created, but Rechan’s has remained in the mountains from which it was carved during a time of war on her planet. “The Breath of War” is a very alien story, setting up a world and a biology that are so different from ours that the wonder of the story comes from discovering the natu... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 171-173

The most recent issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, No. 173, dated May 14, 2015, opens with “Out of the Rose Hills” by Marissa Lingen. It starts promisingly, with a merchant’s daughter and her companion coming through the title hills on an unexplained but apparently urgent mission. The first person she sees when she comes out of the hills and into the city asks her if she is the princess, as prophesied for generations. She denies it, but a voice comes from behind her (where there should have been nothing but rose-covered hills). A shadow woman has followed her, who contradicts everything she says. It’s an interesting set-up, but the story doesn’t move forward much from that point, and seems to be just getting under way when it abruptly ends.

I’m not usually one for humorous science fiction, but I found “The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” by Bill Powell amusing. It’s a mash-up of G... Read More

Magazine Monday: Forever Magazine, Issues 1-3

Forever Magazine is a new venture by Neil Clarke, editor of the esteemed Clarkesworld. He explains in the introduction to the first issue of the magazine that it is a monthly publication focused on previously published works, mostly from this (still new) century. Clarke is the entire staff of the magazine. The Kindle subscription price is currently $1.99 per month.

The first issue opens extremely well, with a novelette by Ken Liu, “The Regular,” about a serial killer who targets high-end prostitutes. Ruth is a freelance detective who is hired by the mothe... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 169-170

Carrie Vaughn opens Issue 169 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with “Sun, Stone, Spear,” a story about as different from her KITTY NORVILLE series as it seems possible to get. Two young women, Elu and the narrator, Mahra, have decided to leave their home village; Mahra seeks adventure, while Elu wishes to be the chief astronomer of any village in which she lands — not a position she is likely to get in her home village, where there are four apprentice astronomers ahead of her. Their travel to a new village is one frought with danger, from bandits, from demons, even from gods. Though they seem reasonably well-prepared and sufficiently cognizant of the dangers about them to fight them, it is a difficult journey. And always the question hovers over them: have they done the right thing by leaving their home village? The story made me think of dozens of stories starring youn... Read More

Magazine Monday: The Dark, Issues 2 through 7

I was excited by the first issue of The Dark, which I reviewed in 2013. The following issues fulfill the promise of the first, containing lovely and mysterious stories of dark fantasy. Reading the sweep of the magazine from Issue 2 to Issue 7 reveals that a particular type of story is likely to catch the editors’ eyes: stories that are often elliptical, gentle, hinting at more than they say, and rich in poetic language.

Issue 2 is as wonderful as was Issue 1.  “Our Lady of Ruins” by Sarah Singleton opens prosaically, when the protagonist’s car breaks down two hours away from the city, in the middle of a forest. He can’t get a cell signal, and there’s no passing traffic, so he’s feeling at a loss when he sees a girl wearing a red coat in the forest. He follows her because she seems like the only source of help available to him. Events ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 167-168

K.J. Kabza opens Issue 168 with “Steady on Her Feet,” in which two men who purport to be physicians advertise that they are able to provide a surgical augmentation of one’s character. Holliday, a poor child, is induced to enter their shop by a shop boy who promises a free consultation, though Dr. Mortleaus isn’t too keen on helping a mudlarker — one of those who makes a living pulling valuable materials the river leaves behind when the tide goes out. But his partner, Dr. Svartlebarrt, persuades him to examine Holliday, and what they find surprises them: she is of excellent character, despite her humble circumstances. They induce her to become a shop employee, but it is evident immediately that they have ulterior motives. The story is a trifle inconsistent in that Mortleaus and Svartlebarrt have the aura of snake oil salesmen, and Kabza clearly means them to be do what they purport to be able to do. Still, it’s merely a mix-up about what sort of evil they’... Read More

Magazine Monday: Clarkesworld, February 2015

The February 2015 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine opens with “The Last Surviving Gondola Widow” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The first person narrator of the story is a woman living in Chicago who works as a Pinkerton (that is, a detective employed by the Pinkerton Agency, established in 1850 as one of the first such agencies) who was on Michigan Avenue the day the Gondolas came in from the South to rain hell down on the city. Now it appears that the widow of one of the Gondolas — for that’s how the engineers who piloted them were named, as the Gondolas would respond to the voice and touch of their own engineer like living beings — is not only still living in Illinois, but holds a position of prominence. The story is a steampunk adventure that includes a sort of engineering magic combined with a feminist sensibility. I found the story diff... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Nightmare, February 2015

Karen Munro opens the February issue of Nightmare Magazine with “The Garden,” a Weird story of Darlene, an Australian immigrant to South Korea, and Sook Joo, her Korean lover. Darlene is supposed to be teaching English, but she spends most of her time with Sook-Joo, watching her get high or bargain with her drug dealer. Sook-Joo loves drugs, just about anything she can get. One night Sook-Joo offers Darlene a handful of mushrooms, but Darlene refuses to indulge much, taking only one small brown chip; Sook-Joo swallows down the rest in one gulp. Even the small amount Darlene takes makes her gruesomely sick to her stomach, but not before she sees tiny golden filaments falling to the earth all around her. Sook-Joo disappears under the Wonhyo Bridge while Darlene retches, and they don’t meet up again until the next day. It’s immediately apparent that Sook-Joo’s experience with the ‘shrooms has been much different from Darlene’s. Thos... Read More

Magazine Monday: Grimdark Magazine, Issue Two

The opening story of Issue 2 of Grimdark Magazine, “The Line” by T.R. Napper, presents a picture in nobility. You might not think that at first, as the tale concerns George, a wrestler who makes a practice of breaking his opponents’ bones; but, you soon learn, that’s the least harm he can do to end a match. George is so good at his game that his wins come to seem too easy, and that’s where danger seeps in. The thoroughly corrupt regime that runs the “free zones” — places that seem anything but free to the majority of those who live and work there — has plans for George. What will George do in the face of the implacable foe ironically called Hope Corporation? The story is predictable and manipulative, but nonetheless somehow exhilarating and, at the same time, depressing to read. I’m curious to see what Napper will do as his writing experience and skills grow.

Aaron Fox-Lerner’s “Drone Str... Read More

Magazine Monday: Uncanny Magazine, Issues One and Two

Uncanny Magazine is a new bimonthly internet publication edited by Lynn M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. The editors have explained their mission this way:
We chose the name Uncanny because we wanted a publication that has the feel of a contemporary magazine with a history — one that evolved from a fantastic pulp. Uncanny will bring the excitement and possibilities of the past, and the sensibilities and experimentation that the best of the present offers. . . . It’s our goal that Uncanny’s pages will be filled with gorgeous prose, exciting ideas, provocative essays, and contributors from every possible background.
Issue One opens with “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” by Maria Dahvana Headley, in which the animal stars of movies and television have personalities, hopes, wi... Read More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magazine Monday: Jamais Vu, Issue Two

Issue Two of Jamais Vu does not fulfill the promise of Issue One (reviewed here).

“Valedictorian” by Steven Wolf is a post-apocalypse story, though there is no hint exactly what happened; we only know that few have survived, none of them adults, and the world is littered with dead bodies.  Wolf’s first-person narrator is a high-school-aged boy who, with his friend Gretchen, shows up at the local high school every school day. Gretchen is the one who insists on this, and she engages in serious self-study. The narrator just sleeps, although he changes classrooms on schedule and eats during the “assigned” lunch period. The two of them regularly interact with a group of younger children, around nine or ten years of age, who soon make it apparent that this story is a variant of William Golding’s Read More

Magazine Monday: Jamais Vu, Issue One

New magazines fascinate me. These days they seem to be popping up on the internet like mushrooms after a summer rain. Jamais Vu: The Journal of Strange Among the Familiar is the latest of these ventures to cross my desk. The first issue, dated Winter 2014, opens with a message from the Editor-in-Chief, Paul Anderson (the one who makes the content decisions, as opposed to the Executive Editor, Eric S. Beebe, who bills himself as a figurehead who pays the bills). Anderson explains that Jamais Vu is an experiment arising from Post Mortem’s start as a publisher of anthologies. Rather than continuing with anthologies, which don’t sell particularly well, or resorting to the $.99 digital “short” that’s all the rage on Amazon these days, Post Mortem decided to try a magazine. If the quality of the magazine consistently matches that of the first issue, this venture ought to be a success.

The first story, “Photo Captions” by Gary A. Bra... Read More