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A.C. Wise

A.C. Wise’s fiction has appeared in publications such as Uncanny, Shimmer, and Tor.com, among other places. She had two collections published with Lethe Press, and a novella published by Broken Eye Books. Her work has won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, as well as being a two-time Nebula finalist, a two-time Sunburst finalist, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. In addition to her fiction, she contributes the Women to Read, and Non-Binary Authors to Read series to The Book Smugglers.

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Catfish Lullaby: Song of the swamp meets cosmic horror

Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise

Catfish Lullaby (2019), a Nebula Award-nominated novella, might be described as Louisiana swamp monster folklore colliding with eldritch Lovecraftian horror. Author A.C. Wise (who also has a second Nebula nomination this year, for her short story “How the Trick is Done”) visits Caleb, the biracial, queer son of the local sheriff, at three key points in his life. We follow Caleb from childhood to adulthood as he navigates his friendship with Cere Royce, the daughter of a once-prominent and depraved local family, and they try to conquer the black magic that haunts her and has destroyed her family.

When Caleb is about twelve, the Royce home mysteriously burns to the ground, killing Cere’s father and two older brothers. Caleb’s single father takes Cere into their home. Cere manages to freak out the schoolboys who have been bullying Caleb for years (“Sometimes you have to... Read More

Magazine Monday: Apex Magazine, Issues 31 through 33

Apex Magazine is a monthly e-magazine that publishes two short stories, one reprint story, a nonfiction piece and an interview in each issue, together with the occasional poem. In the three issues I read, the reprint fiction tended to outshine the original fiction -- which doesn’t mean the original fiction was bad, just that it couldn’t quite live up to the standard set by the well-chosen older stories. The interviews are thoughtful and generally go well beyond the usual topics, either to discuss the author’s work in considerable detail or to go into areas not normally explored in most interviews. The nonfiction is variable in topic but uniformly strong work. A subscription to Apex Magazine seems to be worth the $19.95 per year asking price, though the most recent issue suggests some caution.

In the December 2011 issue (No. 31), the editor-in-chief, Lynne M. Thomas, explains in her notes (a column... Read More

SHORTS: Sen, Yoachim, Wise, Ramdas, Greenblatt

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. In this week's column, Skye and Tadiana review several of the current crop of 2019 Nebula nominees in the short story and novelette categories.



“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” by Nibedita Sen (2019, free at Nightmare Magazine)

This Nebula Award finalist is precisely what the title promises, as it takes the form of ten excerpts from an annotated bibliography.

I thoroughly enjoyed the form of this story — I would almost describe it as delightful, if it weren’t published in Nightmare Magazine and didn’t centre around cannibalism. From the ten excerpts, you get the gist of two related events in history, and then as they... Read More

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow

Anything Ellen Datlow edits automatically finds a place on my list of books to read. For many years, this included the excellent anthology series The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, which Datlow coedited with Terri Windling. When that series disappeared, much to the dismay of fans of short fiction everywhere, Datlow undertook to publish The Year’s Best Horror, which has been published by the terrific smaller press, Night Shade Books, for the past four years. This year’s volume, the fourth, is chock full of memorable stories certain to keep you up at night.
... Read More

Magic City: Recent Spells: A solid urban fantasy anthology

Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran

Things you should know:
1. This is a reprint anthology. If you read a lot of anthologies in the field, you will probably have read some of these before. I had read three, though two of them were among the best ones, and I enjoyed reading them again.
2. It still has some worthwhile stuff in it, especially if you're a fan of the big names in urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs) and haven't read these stories before.
3. It isn't just "urban fantasy" by the usual definition (our contemporary world plus the supernatural). There's a sword-and-sorcery story from Scott L... Read More

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

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 from free of war, setting ... Read More

The Monstrous: You can’t go wrong with Datlow

The Monstrous edited by Ellen Datlow

Whenever I see Ellen Datlow’s name as editor on the cover of an anthology, I know I’m in good hands. Datlow has a made a thirty-plus year career of choosing good stories and developing collections that take different aims at the theme. The theme of The Monstrous is monsters, and Datlow makes sure to explore all facets of that word with this mostly-reprint anthology from Tachyon Press.

There are twenty stories in the book. One is original to the anthology. The reprints include one classic horror story and a few that read as dated to me. Datlow’s standards of excellent writing and good characterization stand throughout the book.

I’m going to discuss two pieces out of sequence, because they left me puzzling. The Monstrous includes ... Read More

The New Voices of Fantasy: A diverse and worthy collection

The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter Beagle

This collection of nineteen fantasy short works, edited by Peter Beagle, is definitely worthwhile if you like speculative short fiction. Many of them left an impact on me, and a few are true standouts. These stories are by relatively new authors in the speculative fiction genre and are all fantasy; otherwise there's no discernable overarching theme.

These stories have almost all been published previously over the last seven years, and several of them are Hugo or Nebula winners or nominees. While a dedicated reader of online short fiction can find many of these short works in free online magazines, it’s convenient to have them gathered together in one volume with other stories that aren’t as readily available.

A brief summary of the short stories, novelette(s) and novella in Th... Read More