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E. Catherine Tobler

E. Catherine Tobler was born on the other side of the International Dateline, which either gives her an extra day in her life or an extraordinary affinity when it comes to inter-dimensional gateways. She is a Sturgeon Award finalist and the senior editor at Shimmer Magazine.

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The Kraken Sea: Lush, dark, and myth-driven

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The Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler

In The Kraken Sea, E. Catherine Tobler tells the story of Jackson, an orphan with no last name, who has finally found a home with one of San Francisco’s elite — Cressida, also known as The Widow, who has an unnamed purpose for her new ward. Jackson has a secret of his own, though; when he becomes angry or uncontrolled, he breaks out in scales and tentacles, exhibiting enormous strength. The only person who knows his secret is his confidant and protector at the orphanage: Sister Jerome Grace, an enigmatic nun with her own hidden abilities. But shortly after his adoption by Cressida, Jackson is asked to take sides against Sister Jerome and Mae Bell, an alluring young woman from one of San Francisco’s rival families. The Bell family runs a circus on the north side of town and, despite Cressida’s warnings, Jackson find... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 83 through 86

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My favorite email every other week is the one containing the new issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Each issue contains two stories of what the online magazine calls “literary adventure fantasy.” The quality of the stories has been high throughout the year or so I’ve been reading the magazine, but it seems to be getting even better with recent issues.

Issue #83, published December 1, 2011, opens with “The Gardens of Landler Abbey” by Megan Arkenberg. The tone and setting of the story remind the reader of Jane Austen or other Regency fiction, and the tale’s emphasis on issues of manners and class reinforces this initial impression. The major difference between this tale and anything Austen conceived of, however, is that a woman is the principal actor here, and more than that, she is a woman who served honorably in the military in her country... Read More

Magazine Monday: Clarkesworld, Issue 80

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“Soulcatcher,” the opening story in the May 2013 issue of Clarkesworld, is one of James Patrick Kelly’s best stories. His protagonist, Klary, is the owner of an art gallery who has lured xeni-Harvel Asher, the ambassador from the Four Worlds, into her establishment. The xeni is “embodied” as a human male, but he retains the charisma that causes some to liken his species to the human legend of faeries; he is nearly irresistible. But Klary has been on a regimen of emotion, and besides, this xeni ruined her life, we learn in the second paragraph. This tale of revenge embodies the alien beautifully. More than that, though, Kelly imagines new forms of art, most especially a rug known as a soulcatcher, with especial vividness.

Andy Dudak’s “Tachy Psyche” is also abo... Read More

Magazine Monday: The Dark, Issues 2 through 7

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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 on... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 171-173

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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 Pow... Read More

The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk: Truly mammoth, with some great stories

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The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk edited by Sean Wallace

The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk lives up to its name, with 21 works of fiction ranging from short stories to novellas. “Dieselpunk” is the term the coined for concepts that grew out of steampunk but have left the Victorian era behind and are now, for the most part, set in the time period between the two world wars. There are exceptions in this anthology; one story takes places during WWII and one during the American Occupation of Japan.

What you get here, mostly, is writers having a lot of fun with pulp-era inventions and adventures. There are airships, of course. There are airplanes, rockets, tanks, Voltron/Pacific Rim-style robotic fighting suits; there are jetpacks and giant subterranean drills. Several stories deal with Prohibition, and several authors start from the fact that the “interwar period” was far ... Read More

Circus Love

E. Catherine Tobler has never run away to join the circus — but she thinks about doing so every day. Among others, her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and on the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award ballot. Her first novel, Rings of Anubis, launched the Folley & Mallory Adventures. Senior editor of Shimmer Magazine, you can find her online at www.ecatherine.com and @ecthetwit.

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