Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, #26, November 2010

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Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (LCRW) is a ‘zine that Small Beer Press has published for ages now (in ‘zine time at least, the first issue is dated November 1996), and has a reputation for strange, original fiction that bulges well out of the corset of genre. For a long time it was a quarterly. Now it is, alas, biannual, but for a happy reason. Editors Gavin Grant and Kelly Link now have a baby girl. LCRW is a founding publication in the variously-named zone known as slipstream or interstitial fiction. Both editors are writers as well, Kelly Link being the more widely known, and both are former co-editors of the Datlow fantasy and horror annual Best-Of collections. Readers of the Datlow anthologies might recognize some elements in the ‘zine’s fiction, but LCRW focuses on shorter work and is freer in the style and tone of pieces it publishes. Since LCRW is their own, Gavin and Kelly can publish whatever the hell they want, and they do, and it’s great (usually). The unpredictability is part of what makes LCRW a ‘zine, and not something more commercial. In the larger context of the field, the editors have built a reputation for knowing quality when they see it, and for encouraging new talent. Those who publish in LCRW know they will be read by the Best Of editors, for example. At the same time, as a reader, you can expect to find gems by people you’ve never heard of, because that has been a part of the soul of LCRW since the beginning.
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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Warbler’s Nest by Jason McIntosh

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“The Warbler’s Nest” is Jason McIntosh’s entry to the 2010 Interactive Fiction Competition. The game tied for ninth place in the competition, which surprised me, since I felt it was a better piece than several submitted works (at least, the works that I played) which finished ahead of it. Categorized as ‘horror’ and headlined as ‘a dark fairy tale’, the game is difficult to describe as either. To be certain, there are dark elements to the story, and although this tale revolves around an old mythos, the tale itself is far more about reality than about the paranormal. I’m almost inclined to describe “The Warbler’s Nest” as a piece of historical fiction, for the plot centers on the choice that a woman of long, long ago might have to make without having the knowledge that we do today.

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Apex Magazine Issue #20, January 2011

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January derives its name from the Roman god Janus, the god of doorways and gateways and journeys. The god of beginnings and also the god of endings.   Apex Magazine Issue #20 embraces the Janusian name by presenting three stories and two poems that speak to what some consider the ultimate ending and what others believe is merely the first step of a new journey. This issue is the perfect companion for a cold winter’s night, offering chills to match those which may be right outside your door. Apex promises to deliver stories that are “twisted, strange, and beautiful.” I can attest to the “twisted” and the “strange” and will warn the reader to remember that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

A Brief Introduction to Short-Form Interactive Fiction

Although part of computer culture since the mid-seventies, the genre of Interactive Fiction, commonly abbreviated IF, is often relatively new for avid readers of fiction. This may be because IF originated from a computer game and, quite frankly, many would classify IF as a kind of computer game rather than a kind of literature (I will certainly refer to an IF work as a ‘game’ rather than a ‘story’). Note that I say a ‘computer’ game rather than a ‘video’ game, for the most common form of IF considers the written word, not graphics, its medium. Nevertheless, expanded definitions of IF have included games that are graphical in nature, such as the King’s Quest series, Myst, The Longest Journey, and the more recent Heavy Rain. But herein we will mostly review traditional ‘text adventures’, games composed and played completely with text.
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Dark Spires

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The publisher, Cheryl Morgan, has this to say about Dark Spires:

I’m not going to wax lyrical about its chances in awards, because it is not that sort of book. Dark Spires was not created to compete with the blockbuster anthologies produced by the likes of Ellen Datlow or Jonathan Strahan. … Rather it was created with the specific intent of showcasing writers from a particular part of the UK. If you want an analogy, it is rather like doing a book using only writers from the Sacramento area and the rest of California north of the Bay Area (complete with a rather rural focus).

As a showcase of Wessex-based authors, how does Dark Spires rate? Continue reading

Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

New Scientist, Flash Fiction Competition 2010

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New Scientist is a for-profit popular science magazine, published since 1956, based in the UK. I find it easier to describe this magazine in negatives: it isn’t a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and it doesn’t specialize in one particular scientific field. The paper edition is accompanied by a comprehensive web site (www.newscientist.com) which offers up-to-date news content. The longer articles are usually partially available online, requiring subscription for full access.

To the best of my knowledge New Scientist has held a flash fiction contest twice. The first one took place in Sept-Oct 2009. It called for 350 word stories describing the world 100 years from now, and was judged by a panel led by Stephen Baxter.
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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Key, 14 January 2011

This week we’re bringing you intriguing history, thoughts about realism, analysis of IF storytelling and techniques, a novel review, and an interrogation of what makes a ‘good’ story. Continue reading

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Strange Horizons, November 15-December 20, 2010

The new editor in chief of Strange Horizons,  Niall Harrison, has announced that some changes since Susan Marie Groppi departed and he took over will manifest themselves in the new year. Continue reading

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Tor.com, December 1, 2010 – January 1, 2011

Tor.com tipped their hat to the holidays this December by giving readers a strange and wondrous Christmas story from respected science fiction authors Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn. (Two additional Christmas stories, which were originally featured in 2009 and re-posted for this holiday season, are not covered here.) The other short fiction appearing in December is just as exciting: a new story from Ellen Kushner, which fills a gap in the history of beloved characters; a piece about a young boy’s friendship with his neighbor that shows how quickly we are willing to turn against anyone and anything different and unknown in order to protect ourselves and the ones we love; and a selection from a new collection of Jewish science fiction that combines Jewish folklore and a love story.

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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Lightspeed #7, December 2010

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I enjoyed reading Lightspeed #6 enough to agree to read and review its next issue #7. I was pretty enthusiastic, because issue #7 featured reprints from Ursula LeGuin and Kristine Kathryn Rusch and, to an extent, the selected stories satisfied my expectations.

What I lacked was a certain sense of movement and pacing. Three of the four selected stories were either aimless or static or introverted. The only exclusion here is David Kosmatka’s “In-Fall,” a tale of suicidal interrogation, which makes the reader ask whether or not the convict would confess or not in time, but, even with a goal in sight, “In-Fall” focuses on the inward definition of compassion in the face of an enemy, rather on the importance of the mission.

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Apexology: Horror

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Apexology: Horror is a digital only anthology of dark fiction from Apex Books.  The anthology’s editor, Jason Sizemore, states in the introduction that the anthology’s goal is to “promote the authors on the Apex roster in a cost efficient manner.”  There is a mixture of reprint and original stories.  As with all anthologies, the stories range in quality.  While there are some strong stories in the anthology, many others fail to add anything new to what are overused premises.
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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sword and Sorceress, XXV

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Sword and Sorceress, XXV, edited by Elisabeth Waters, takes the reader on a waltz through divergent worlds and heroines.  Add a dash of romance and derring-do, not to mention a generous portion of sorcery, and we’re presented with an all-encompassing panorama of awesomeness. Continue reading

Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 68 Comments

The Key, 5 January 2011

. . . and we’re back!

Took last week off for New Year’s. Here are some links we’d like to share about a new magazine, thoughts on literary reviewing on the internet, musings about plot, and a review of a graphical interactive fiction title.
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Beneath Ceaseless Skies, #57 and #58

I’ve only been reading Beneath Ceaseless Skies (BCS) for a very short time. The first issue I ever read was issue #56, and I was pleased enough that I agreed to review issues #57 and #58 as well.
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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Apex Magazine #19, December 2010

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Apex Magazine is a monthly online magazine featuring works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  Issue number 19, the December issue, features two new stories, one reprint, and two works of poetry.  In many parts of the world, the month of December is one in which the days grow increasingly short, the nights long, and even visions of sugarplums dancing do little to dispel the cold melancholy that creeps over the world.  The offerings in this issue of Apex reflect that cold melancholy, offering up delicious chills, stark reflection, and challenges to the imagination.  In the submission guidelines at the end of the magazine, editor Catherynne M. Valente, points out that Apex Magazine seeks to feature stories with “a dark speculative element.”  Issue 19 succeeds in this quest by offering works that are varied in their approach yet stay true to the central premise of printing “stories full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful.”

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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Apex Magazine #18, November 2010

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When presented with explosive controversy, you can dive right in or look for ways to turn the publicity to more constructive ends. After a recent controversy within the SFF community over anti-Islamic statements, Apex Magazine’s fiction editor Catherynne M. Valente chose the latter course.

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The Rough Guide to Modern Malaysian Science Fiction and Fantasy

The question of what exactly constitutes modern Malaysian science fiction and fantasy cannot be answered without first addressing the integral question; “Does science fiction and fantasy writing exist in Malaysia?” This post is not aimed at being a definitive guide to particular literary forms but it will endeavour to sketch out a map to show that the writing exists in unexpected guises and places.
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Posted in January 2011 | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Crossed Genres Year Two

Crossed Genres Year 2 cover

Submitting to Crossed Genres is an interesting exercise in interpretation and limiting one’s creativity – every month, there is a theme, and submissions should fit the theme of any given month. The themes are interpreted in a variety of ways, so it’s pretty exciting to see what comes out of any given theme. A small semi-pro magazine, Crossed Genres has accrued a reputation for good speculative fiction, and this second year is celebrated with the release of an anthology.
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Editors’ Note, January 2011

Welcome, readers. Continue reading

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The Utopiales convention: an interview of Lionel Davoust

Davoust
photo credit: Mott

Just like Sylvie Lainé, Lionel Davoust answered a few questions for the Portal during the convention Utopiales in Nantes. Lionel Davoust is well-known in the French milieu for the quality of his translations, but also for his remarkable work as a writer. His short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies for a few years now, and this year Critic published his first novel, La Volonté du Dragon (which was immediately nominated for several French awards). His short story L’Île Close, out in 2008, received the Prix Imaginales 2009 and has been translated in English for the anthology Interfictions 2.
Thanks to him for his kindness and for taking the time to answer our questions; very often updated, his website contains all useful informations about him and his work.
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Posted in December 2010 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Fantasy Magazine, November 2010

The November issue of Fantasy is moody, melancholy and perfectly suited for a crisp fall afternoon. The stories touch on life and death and what comes after, focusing on what haunts the living left behind when the dead can’t quite let go. The stories also explore familial obligation, the idea of transformation, and the accompanying endings and new beginnings. This is heady stuff, and the authors in question mine these themes for all they are worth. Each story is imbued with strong emotions that make fine work out of love, loss and necessary co-dependencies. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every offering. I only wish that there was a bit more hope and less resignation and grim determination involved.

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The Key, 25 December 2010

The week before New Years’, we devote most of this linkfest to musings on prognostication.
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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #56

BCS #56

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is an online magazine dedicated to literary adventure fantasy (in their words, “adventure fantasy plots in vivid secondary worlds, but written with a literary flair.”)  Every two weeks, they publish an issue containing two new stories; they also release selected stories in audio format on a slightly delayed schedule.  The audio fiction was not reviewed, but is easily available from the magazine website.  Past issues are easily accessible on the website, all the way back to Issue #1.  (110 more delectable stories! My cup runneth over.)  BCS also publishes an anthology featuring fourteen of the previous year’s stories.  The first edition of their anthology is available now in a plethora of formats that should put any e-bookseller to shame.
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Lightspeed #6, November 2010

Lightspeed #6

Lightspeed is a rather new publication with a run of six issues, but, if I am to trust my first impressions, then it will grow a sizable following. It is marketed as an online magazine. The reader has the option to sample every single article of the issue for free on the website and then buy it as either Kindle or E-Pub format. Lightspeed shows incredible versatility by offering their fiction as podcasts as well. Published by World Fantasy Award-winner Sean Wallace and with John Joseph Adams as editor, Lightspeed is a professional market, interested in original fiction as well as reprints.
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Imaginários 3

Imaginarios 3

After a few years of apparent stagnation, the speculative fiction market has been gaining strength in Brazil, with top publishers bringing foreign authors, and independent publishers opening the door for local ones. There are exceptions, but that’s how most publishers operate. Imaginários 3, from Draco Pub. Co, is a fantasy, science fiction and horror collection from different generations. In its third volume it brings stories from Eduardo Spohr, Marcelo Ferlin Assami, Rober Pinheiro, Douglas MCT, Lidia Zuin, Marcelo Galvão, Cirilo S. lemos, Fernando Santos de Oliveira, Ana Cristina Rodrigues & Fábio Fernandes. Below is my take on some of them.

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Bulgarian Science Fiction and Fantasy: Boutique Publishing in SFF Fan Clubs. Review of the commemorative book “With the Name of Ivan Efremov”

With the Name of Ivan Efremov

1. Boutique Publishing

A unique language spoken in a single small country is a blessing and a curse, because it is a core element of the national identity, but it also puts writers and fans in isolation and in a seemingly hopeless uphill battle with the tide of translated fiction. Unfortunately, a small country also implies a limited market, which often makes it impossible to sustain a writing career, especially in genre fiction. This has been the case with most Bulgarian speculative fiction writers, both before and after the political change that occurred in 1989.
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Posted in December 2010 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Rigor Amortis

Rigor Amortis

For those who like their romances literally mushy, Rigor Amortis, edited by Jaym Gates and Erika Holt, collects an anthology of flash fiction pieces, interspersed with the occasional poem, all centered on zombies and erotica/romance. Actually, it would be fairer to say that the stories concern relationships and zombies because not all content within the covers is sentimental, divided into sections: Romance, Revenge, Risk, and Raunch.
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Posted in December 2010, November 2010 | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Subterranean Magazine, Fall 2010

Subterranean Fall 2010

The lead story for this issue of Subterranean Online is “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a novella by Ted Chiang. A startup company is creating virtual life forms called digients. Actually, digients already exist but Blue Gamma is creating a particularly advanced type based on an engine called Neuroblast. (From here on out when I talk about digients, these are the ones I mean, though there are other kinds in the story.) They are meant to be sold to customers who spend time in virtual worlds, which it appears most people do in this future. Blue Gamma’s digients have to be raised and trained before they are ready to be companions to humans. They are based on animal models, at least at first, so the startup hires Ana Alvarado, a former zookeeper who got IT training to change careers, to help. As they evolve the digients develop primitive speech and become more humanlike. Ana’s friend Derek is an animator who creates avatars for the digients. Continue reading

Posted in December 2010, November 2010 | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Key, 16 December, 2010

This week we’re linking to reviews, overviews, reminiscences, thoughts about world-building and craft in general, biography, suggestions for amateur publicists, and discussion of science fiction as a genre.

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Posted in December 2010 | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Utopiales convention: an interview of Sylvie Lainé

Sylvie Lainé
photo credit: Pierre Le Gallo

During the Utopiales, Sylvie Lainé nicely agreed to answer our questions for the Portal. Science fiction author, she writes short stories and received several prestigious awards for her work : she got the Prix Rosny l’Aîné several times, and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire in 2007. Actusf published three collections of her short stories so far : Le miroir aux Eperluettes (2007), Espaces insécables (2008) and Marouflages (2009). We’d like to thank her here for the warm interest she showed for the Portal: all useful informations are available on her website.
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Posted in December 2010 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Crossed Genres #24: Characters of Color

Crossed Genres 24

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about having a child is his sense of fun and fantasy in everything that he does.  Imagine my delight when I am asked to review Crossed Genres, which twists science fiction and fantasy with themes from other genres.  The theme of this particular issue was “Characters of Color.”
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Posted in November 2010 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Residential Aliens #4, July/August 2010

Res Aliens # 4

This issue of Residential Aliens is guest-edited by John Ottinger III. Billing itself as “speculative fiction from the Seven Stars,” ResAliens strives for science fiction with a spiritual bent. Continue reading

Posted in December 2010, November 2010 | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Italy: a leftist anthology of short stories to help build a better country

Ambiguous Utopias

In a very harrowing historical and political period for Italy, well known Italian SF authors, along with beginners, offer their literary contribution to a legitimate longing for the freedom that seems to be missing in everyday life in this country.
Ambigue utopie: 19 racconti di fantaresistenza (loosely translated Ambiguous Utopia: 19
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The Key, 1 December, 2010

We’re a day late this week, but bearing an embarassment of riches.

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Brazil and its Literary Tradition (science fiction notwithstanding)

The problem, I think, is the niche.
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Posted in December 2010, November 2010 | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Strange Horizons, October 25-November 8, 2010

This review covers three stories whose authors utilize less traditional styles. The issue published on November 15 contains part one of two, so I elected to review the entire piece next month.  Continue reading

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Weird Tales, #356, Summer 2010

Weird Tales cover

In the dark fantasy genre, the magazine Weird Tales holds a preeminent place. Founded in 1923, and supportive of talents as diverse as H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, and Gene Wolfe, this magazine both encourages and reflects the modern suspicion that the universe is pretty weird.
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Expanded Horizons, #24, November 2010

Expanded Horizons, November, 2010. The Key Keeper

Expanded Horizons (“speculative fiction for the rest of us”) is a webzine that aims to represent and foster greater diversity in the sf field. The six stories in its November issue certainly achieve that, as well as showcasing a range of approaches and styles. Malon Edwards brings a touch of magic to his short tale of a college football star. Zen Cho tells of a “smell magician” who takes a stray cat home—even though she doesn’t like cats. Eliza Victoria contributes a poignant and very human take on the notion of parallel universes. Silvia Moreno-Garcia shows how humans can be just as mysterious as we might expect aliens to be. Omar Zakaria’s tale of fantasy adventure takes a serious turn and ends up interrogating itself. And perhaps best of all is Csilla Kleinheincz’s tale of two lovers driven apart by magic that may or may not be real. Rounding out the issue is “The Key Keeper,” an excellent piece of artwork by James Ng. Continue reading

Posted in November 2010 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Utopiales convention, November 10th to 14th, 2010 – science fiction in Nantes

In our last article about imaginary literature in France, we mentioned the Utopiales convention which takes place every year in November, in the town of Nantes. The city itself is particularly rich as far as the genre is concerned: birthplace of Jules Verne, it houses the bookstore L’Atalante – which is also since the eighties one of the main publishers of the genre in France (among others, it publishes the works of Terry Pratchett).
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Posted in December 2010, November 2010 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Short genre fiction in Swedish—an overview of the ’00s

The Swedish-language market for short SF and fantasy fiction is by no means nonexistent. It is just very small, often without an opportunity to pay authors, and dependent on magazines that would have either folded long ago or never been launched, had they been published as moneymaking ventures instead of because their publishers thought that they were needed on the market. Short SF and fantasy fiction is of course published also in non-genre magazines, but short fiction as an art form does not have many arenas anywhere on the Swedish-language market. With its approximately ten million speakers, Swedish is a relatively large language from a global perspective, but not large enough to give short fiction much attention on a very novel-centric market. The few collections of short fiction on a fantastical theme that are published are seldom marketed as genre literature; that is a privilege mostly reserved for translated fantasy novels and some horror books (for a number of reasons, science fiction is virtually not translated at all any longer). Continue reading

Posted in December 2010, November 2010 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments