the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

toastpeople always ask them from coast to coast, what is it that they like most?

they like toast slush!

they don’t wanna brag, they don’t wanna boast, but these folks, they like toast slush!

(with never ending apologies to Heywood Banks)

As part of Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story (my recent review and learn more and win stuff!),   Becky Allen,  Anika Dane, and Caroline Pruett have stopped by  to tell us more about what they do behind the scenes of Apex, why it’s important, and what they enjoy about it.   In a few days Michael Matheson will stop by with his thoughts.  I always enjoy these behind-the-scenes things, don’t you?

okay ladies, what’s your favorite part of slush reading, and why is having a slush team important to the success of a short fiction magazine such as Apex?

Becky Allen:

What’s my favorite part?  My favorite part has to be the diversity of ideas that people build their stories on. I’ve been reading sci fi and fantasy for most of my life, and sometimes when I pick up books it feels like I’ve read it all before. They’re genres with well-worn tropes. But, to my great delight, the majority of submissions we see are more than that. Often they’re twists on tropes, but still structured around something fresh, wrapping a delicious trope around an original, chewy caramel center. Seeing the different ways people tackle familiar ideas is fascinating and exciting.

I’ll add this, too: I love reading the slush because I’m consistently impressed by people who can fit a whole story into such a short format. I’m incredibly verbose myself and have never been able to write short stories, but find the feat of fitting a beginning, middle, and end, plus world building and a character arch, into 5,000 words, to be remarkable.

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King David Spiders from MarsKing David and the Spiders From Mars, edited by Tim Lieder

published March 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the editor (thanks Tim!)

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I don’t know about you, but I love mythology. I especially love it when authors take liberties with unexplored details. What was the backstory of that minor character? That other person must have had a good reason to do something strange/wonderful/awful/unexpected, right?  When I think “mythology”, I often think Greek, Roman, or Norse mythos.  But there is a mythology that’s even closer to me. One that I grew up with. One that’s rarely referred to as mythology, but that’s what it is. The Bible: history, literature, mythology, and faith, all rolled into one,  mythology in the most revered definition of the word: stories of the days that created a culture.  It’s books like King David and the Spiders From Mars that make me want to open up my big fat Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel book, or go to the library and find some dusty tome that will tell me the ending of the story they only told the beginning of in Sunday school.

King David and the Spiders From Mars is the second anthology in editor Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical Horror stories. I enjoyed the hell out of the first one, She Nailed A Stake Through His Head, (read my review) and I’ve been looking forward to more of the same ever since.  Same as with Nailed a Stake, you don’t need any kind of Biblical or Judeo-Christian education to enjoy these short stories. In fact, you’d be better served by being familiar with Chthulhu mythos.

Starting at the literal beginning, the first story is nicely tragic, but not end-of-the-world destructive. And then everything slowly ramps up, with the last two stories having the potential to really fuck you up.

here are my thoughts on a few of my favorites:

Moving Nameless, by Sonya Taaffe – How many wives did Adam have? According to myth, God made a woman right in front of Adam, built her from organs and bone and muscle and sinew, and Adam was so disgusted (you might be too, seeing a person built from the inside out!) that he never again looked up her.  And she’s been wandering the Earth ever since, looking for an Adam who might be able to love her.  Her name isn’t Eva, but that’s what her current boyfriend, Adam Loukides, calls her.  He’s a book collector, has a fondness for out of print books, can’t wait to show her around his apartment, he never questions the fact that she doesn’t talk about her family.  It doesn’t matter that this latest Adam doesn’t believe in God, or doesn’t believe her story, that doesn’t make her story any less true or the curse any less painful. He will come to be disgusted by her, no matter if he believes in her story or not. Shunned forever, for something that was outside of her control, it makes me wish the nameless woman got another opportunity to interact with the original Adam.

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This post is part of the Book of Apex Vol 4 blog tour!  We’ve got about 20 authors involved, traveling the blogosphere doing interviews and guest posts here and there. Today it’s my pleasure to have Ian Nichols, author of “In The Dark”, visit and answer a few questions.  Ian doesn’t mention it below, but you can read his short story “Mortal Coil” at Daily Science Fiction.

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LRR: In “In The Dark”, Morgan doesn’t recognize the language the gypsy is singing in. What do the words of his song mean? What language is the gypsy boy singing in?

I.N.: The gypsy is singing Portugese fada, sad songs abut the harshness of life and love. I heard these for the first time when I visited Portugal in 1996, and they are the blues of Portugal. The words mean “I was dancing in my boat besides the Cruel Sea, and the sea was roaring that I was stealing, and I wonder if the sea will have reason to see my heart dancing.” That’s a very loose translation of a sad song.

LRR: What inspired this story?

I.N.: I was born in Wales, but came to Australia when I was three. I didn’t go back to Wales until I was forty-six. Down in those valley towns, it’s not like “How Green Was My Valley,” or even like Dylan Thomas. The mines have always been dark, dangerous places, and when Maggie Thatcher closed them down in the eighties, the mining towns fell to ruin. Unemployment was running at well over 50% in Blainah, where I was born on the kitchen table at No. 12 Part St, alcoholism was rife and so was dependence on social services. There were holes in the hillsides where the old mine working had collapsed for lack of maintenance, and every now and then part of the hill would slide down into the valley from this and bury a house or two. If you were lucky, no-one was killed. The older people still talked about what it was like down the pits, and I took this mood, this feeling, as the basis of my story about how the mines can have a darkness that is theirs alone, a darkness of the soul.

LRR: Where else can we find your fiction? What work of yours are you most proud of?

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I’m a terrible blog tour host. I didn’t even *read* the entire book before the tour started. But there’s a silver lining here! It means as the month goes by I’ll be posting additional reviews of different stories in the book! My terrible reading habits is a win for you! I might even be a completist about the whole thing. Yes, yes I shall. my goal for 2014 is to be a completist.

Today’s reviews include short stories by Ian Nichols, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Dalton, A.C. Wise, Alethea Kontis, Katharine Duckett, Cat Rambo, Tim Susman, Mari Ness, Brit Mandelo, and David J. Schwartz.  Think that’s a great combination of authors? it is, but it barely covers one third of the awesomesauce that is this volume of fiction from Apex Magazine.

interested in reading these stories for yourself? of course you are! Head over to Dab of Darkness and enter to win a copy!

In the Dark, by Ian Nichols – In the mining town, the men sing on their way home from the mines. Songs about the sunlight, about beautiful women, about farming, songs about nothing at all. You don’t ever sing about the darkness of the mines, and you don’t ever sing alone. These are easy rules to live by, rules that keep everyone alive. Until the gypsy boy came. He flashed his dark eyelashes and caught the eyes of the officially unbetrothed. His nimble fingers graze the strings of his guitar and his voice is a caress on the air. But he sings alone, and he sings of the sad and the tragic and the lonesome and the dark. He hasn’t grown up around the dream-stealing darkness of mines, he has no way of knowing the danger he’s in. Morgan should really warn the boy about the dangers of singing about the dark, so near to the Dark. So he takes the gypsy boy over the mines, to show him, to warn him, to get him to shut the hell up already. This is a story that sneaks up on you, like a growing evening shadow that leaves a chill on your shoulders.

Always the Same. Till it is Not, by Cecil Castellucci – I am not a fan of zombie stories. This is a zombie story, and I loved the shit out of it. My enjoyment came from how the story was presented, from the style of the prose. I’m not being told “a story”, but watching a metamorphosis take place. Our nameless narrator is some type of zombie. Words are useless, vocabulary unecessary. Days consist of sleeping, night consists of feeding. The sky is yelled at, flesh is consumed, the horde moves on, often consuming its fallen members. They find themselves in a cemetery, and eat the flesh of the bodies that are presumably in shallow graves. Our narrator seems to realize this is a different place, a special place. When the horde moves on, he hides and stays. As is his lifestyle,he continues to consume the flesh found within the cemetery. And begins changing. As the protagonist’s mentality changes, the prose changes. Sentences that were fragments a few pages ago now have nuance and structure, thoughts that once consisted of “eat. sleep.” now involve complexity and forethought. He comes to understand that eating the flesh of those buried in the cemetery is what allowed him to change. If everyone in the horde ate of that flesh, perhaps this shambling shuffling disease could come to an end. When the horde returns, he knows what he has to do.

ApexMagIssue37

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WDSF kickstarter

Rumored to have been born from a twitter conversation, the special Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed Magazine is coming this spring.  This issue features not only all female authors, but an all female editing staff, all female audio fiction staff, even only ladies get to do the slush reading.  Funded through Kickstarter, WDSF was fully funded in less than 24 hours, and is crashing through stretch goals.  Editor Christie Yant already has guest editors signed up for Women Destroy Horror and Women Destroy Fantasy.

The Kickstarter runs through Feb 15th, and submissions are open until Feb 14th. Click here for the submissions page, but the quick answer is Lightspeed is accepting fiction up to 7500 words, and flash fiction up to 1500 words for WDSF.

You can imagine I jumped at the chance to have Flash Fiction editor Robyn Lupo write a guest post on science fiction, destroying it, and her flash fiction agenda!

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Destroying Science Fiction, by Robyn Lupo

robyn lupoRobyn Lupo has been known to frequent southwestern Ontario with her graduate student husband and elderly dog. She writes, reads, and plays video games. She is personal assistant to three cats.

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I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but science fiction isn’t going to be the same after this.

We’ve been using the word ‘Destroy’ a lot (along with ‘flense’ and ‘defenestrate’) but I’d like to shift over a little bit, and look at the generative force that destruction brings. After this, the science fiction world must look at women writers as peers, contenders, and Grand Maestras of the genre.

We’ve got Mur Lafferty, for Crom’s sake.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]This post is part of the Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine blog tour, and it’s my pleasure to welcome Michael Pevzner, author of the short story Faithful City, to the blog.  Michael was kind enough to answer my questions about his Apex story, role playing games, and more!  so let’s get to the interview, shall we?

LRR: What inspired The Faithful City?

M.P.: It was originally written (in Hebrew, back then) for a contest whose theme was “city of the future”, and that was what I came up with. The image of the city speaking to the protagonist was vaguely inspired by the image of SHODAN from the computer game System Shock.

SHODAN from System Shock

SHODAN from System Shock

LRR: The Faithful City was your first published short story. Where else can we find your work?

M.P.: Sadly, nowhere. I manage to find very little time to write, and so Faithful City remains my only published story to date.

I did dabble in translation from Russian to English. Here you can find a few short stories by the Russian authors Dmitry Gromov and Oleg Ladyzhensky, which I translated together with my mother. Specifically, “The End Justifies the Means” and “The Eighth Circle of Subway”.

LRR: What types of fiction do you most enjoy writing?

M.P.: It’s mostly dark science fiction and fantasy, sometimes bordering on surrealism.

LRR: Who are some of your favorite authors? Do you they inspire you to write your own fiction?

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Scattered throughout the month, I’ll be posting reviews of selected stories of The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.  If something you read here or on any of the other blogs participating in the blog tour gets your attention, I encourage you seek the story out on the Apex website. And if you like what you see? Consider purchasing a subscription to the magazine, or one of their anthologies.  Consider leaving a comment on their website, or on twitter, or on the blog post. You’ve got an opinion and thoughts? I’d like to hear ‘em.

What I love about the fiction published by Apex is that it’s not straight up scifi, or straight up fantasy, or straight up anything, really. It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It’s true fantastika. Stories that can’t possibly happen in real life, but as you are reading, you so very much *want* it to be happening.  The ultimate in suspension of disbelief. Many of your favorite authors have been published in Apex magazine, along with new authors who are soon to become favorites.  And that’s what Apex does – they take the cream of the crop of the strangest of the strange, scratching that itch you hadn’t known you had until it was relieved.

This is the stuff you can’t get anywhere else, it’s that flavor that’s part bloody sunset, part crystal constellation, part fever dream. It’s like walking into that weird little bar on the corner (you know, the one with no windows? that one.), and playing it cool. You ask the bartender what they recommend, and they bring you a pint of something dark.  You think you know what it is, but that first sip tells you this is something very different. It starts out gentle, even a little sweet, but then ends with an unexpected bite, so sharp you wonder if you’ve bit your lip because you swear you taste blood in your mouth. This is that unlabeled, brewed in the back, only available for people who ask for it by name type of drink.

The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak – The first thing you need to know about this story is that you’re not going to get through it without crying. Lewis is excited to finally be an older brother. After the complications of Lewis’s birth, no one expected his mother to be able to carry another child to term. But a miracle happened, and little Joe was born.  but Joe didn’t stay little for long. He cut his first tooth shortly after being born. Within the hour they were chasing him around the hospital.  He’d nearly grown out of his baby clothes by the time his father caught him for the taxi ride home. Within 12 hours he was fully grown, and leaving his 15 year old older brother behind when he went out drinking.  You can see where this is going, can’t you? Joe’s mother knew, the first time she saw him, that she was going to lose him.  There’s something especially tragic about stories where you know from the opening paragraph that it’s going to end badly.  Like I said, you’re not going to get through this one without crying.

The Leavings of the Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear – Dagmar runs to get away from her divorce. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.  She runs to lose weight.  If she loses enough weight, she’ll be able to pry that wedding band off her finger, that gleaming golden reminder of everything that went horribly wrong in her life.  And interspersed with her running is a floating story line, a dialog between her and an ex. But the thing is, this extra story line? You don’t know when exactly it’s happening. Was it years ago? a few weeks ago? yesterday?   The weight of these few extra lines here and there are like the mark a wedding band leaves on your finger after years of wear: you don’t know anymore who you are without the mark.  Anyways,  on her morning run, Dagmar often sees the same murder of crows, it’s that group she’s been studying, anklebanding, and researching for the University. The crows know her, she knows the them, and she even makes the occasional Thought and Memory joke.  One day she meets someone who might be a God, it’s not a joke anymore. And he tells her why she’s still running.  We’re all running from something, and sometimes it’s only the fear of losing a mark that tells us who we thought we were supposed to be.  I’ve run hot and cold with Bear’s fiction in the past, and this one hit me hard.  In a good way.

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Hi Everyone,

Seems like January flew by in the blink of an eye, and February is upon us. That said, welcome to The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine Blog Tour! We’ll be journeying through The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine, which includes all the original fiction published in Apex Magazine during it’s fourth year.  All throughout the month of February, authors will be showcased, short stories will be reviewed, parties will be had, minds will be blown, giveaways will be won.  Maybe coldmageddon will even end and your kids will have an entire week of school without a snow day.

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Never read anything from Apex Books? The fiction they publish defies categorization and pushes the boundaries. These stories are edgy, dark, and surreal, sneaking up on you, and demanding to be chewed on for a while. If you’re looking for something a little strange, a little odd, tilted from mainstream and sure to keep you reading, you’re in the right place: you’re in the Book of Apex Blog tour.

Here’s the tentative schedule, and as you can see, there is a ton of bloggers and authors (and an artist and a publisher!!) involved:

Feb 2 Review at Little Red Reviewer, My Bookish Ways interviews Jason Sizemore

Feb 3 Little Red Reviewer interviews cover artist Julie Dillon

Feb 4 Review at Dab of Darkness, Cecil Castilucci guest posts at Just Book Reading

Feb 5 Review at Rinn Reads, Little Red Reviewer interviews Michael Pevzner, A.C. Wise guest posts over at My Bookish Ways

Feb 6 Review at Lynn’s Book Blog, Rinn Reads interviews Rahul Kanakia

Feb 7 Review at Over The Effing Rainbow

Feb 8 Review at Tethyan Books, Dab of Darkness interviews Kat Howard

Feb 9 Books Without Any Pictures interviews Thoraiya Dyer, Katharine Duckett guest posts at Two Dudes in An Attic

Feb 10 Review at Many A True Nerd, Ian Nichols guest posts at Susan Hated Literature

Feb 11 Review at Two Dudes in an Attic, Rinn Reads interviews Adam Troy-Castro

Feb 12 Review at Books Without Any Pictures, My Bookish Ways interviews A.C. Wise

Feb 13 Little Red Reviewer interviews Ian Nichols, Adam-Troy Castro guest posts at Rinn Reads

Feb 14 Review at The Bastard Title, Alex Bledsoe guest posts at Lynn’s Book Blog

Feb 15 Review at Just Book Reading, Alec Austin guest posts at Many A True Nerd

Feb 16 Books Without Any Pictures interviews Marie Brennan, David Schwartz guest posts at The Bastard Title

Feb 17 Review at This is How She Fight Start, Lettie Prell guest posts at Worlds in Ink

Feb 18 The Bastard Title interviews David Schwartz, Sarah Dalton guest posts at Dab of Darkness

Feb 19 Review at Worlds in Ink, Little Red Reviewer interviews Alethea Kontis, Rahul Kanakia guest posts at My Bookish Ways

Feb 20 Review at Nashville Bookworm, Marie Brennan guest posts at Books Without Any Pictures

Feb 21 Review at My Shelf Confessions, Little Red Reviewer interviews Cecil Castellucci

Feb 22 Many a True Nerd interviews Alec Austin, Thoraiya Dyer guest posts at Tethyan Books

Feb 23 Review at Confessions of a Bibliomaniac, Little Red Reviewer interviews Tim Susman, Alethea Kontis guest posts at Over the Effing Rainbow

Feb 24 Review at Worlds in Ink, Michael Pezvner guest posts at My Shelf Confessions

Feb 25 Review at Susan Hated Literature, Lynn’s Book Blog interviews Alex Bledsoe

Feb 26 Dab of Darkness interviews Sarah Dalton, Tim Susman guest posts at Nashville Bookworm

Feb 27 Review at Fantasy Review Barn, Two Dudes in an Attic interviews Katharine Duckett

Feb 28 Worlds in Ink interviews Lettie Prell and Jason Sizemore guest posts at Confessions of a Bibliomaniac

Wow! Makes me wish there were more days in the month!

What Joseph didn’t mention in his bio is that the last name isn’t coincidence: he’s related to Roman Starzl.  If that’s not bragging points, I don’t know what is!

On Roman Starzl and In The Orbit of Saturn, a guest post by Joseph Starzl

Joseph Starzl is a science fiction and fantasy aficionado in his early twenties, currently living at a children’s home in Santa Barbara, Honduras. When not roaming the halls of the bilingual elementary school he works at, “Mr. José” can usually be spotted playing soccer with a gaggle of kids, huddled over a computer screen typing away, or lounging on a hammock with a good book. If you’d like to follow Joseph and his random ruminations, you can read his on-line journal: http://xzlonlinejournal.wordpress.com/

Considered by some to be one of the critical pioneers of science fiction, Roman Frederick Starzl wrote some twenty stories between 1928-1934; he was notably featured numerous times in Amazing Stories. The owner of a newspaper in LeMars, Iowa, Starzl began writing for financial reasons related to his newspaper business, and retired from writing science fiction once his monetary issues were resolved— his pragmatic motives, however, did nothing to dilute the quality of his writing. Roman Starzl is most appreciated for his story “Out of the Sub-Universe,” in which he explores the already established concept of a microscopic world-within-a-world, but adds the critical element of relative time; the blink of an eye in one world lasts millions of years in the other, a discovery with tragic consequences for those who seek to travel between the two.

Despite his contributions to the genre, Roman Starzl has mostly faded into obscurity, though if you look in the right places his writing can still be found. Fortunately, some of his stories can even be downloaded for free from the Project Gutenberg website. I recently read one such story, “In the Orbit of Saturn”.

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Vampires Don’t Sparkle!  edited by Michael West

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Vampire fiction has been mostly a turn-off for me lately. I don’t want to read about vegetarian vampires, vampires who don’t want to hurt humans, vampires who are lonely and just waiting for the right mortal who could make this all worth it. I don’t want my vampires to be family friendly. Sexy vampires are always fun, and well, sexy, but I’d rather have the read thing. Give me some violent amoral bloodsuckers any day, give me some Jasper Kent, some Kim Newman, some gold old traditional Bram Stoker any day!  Good thing Vampires Don’t Sparkle! came along. Fifteen authors who agree with me. Fifteen stories where the vampire is the bad guy, the dangerous one, the thing to run away from. As editor Michael West says in his introduction, pop culture (and one particular author who changed the face of vampire fiction) stole vampires from us, and made them into something they’re not. It’s time for us to take them back! These stories aren’t all horror, not in the slightest. Some of them are laugh out loud funny, some of them cover the lonely and dangerous reality of what hunting humans entails,   there is a truly disturbing one about how one man learns how to destroy a vampire. They are all a throwback to what so many of us have been missing. Sick of sparkly vampires? This anthology is for you.

If you’re on the fence about if you want your vampires gentle and sparkly or violent and uncaring, be aware that there is straight up making fun of Twilight. No bones about it, some of these authors are pretty pissed at what Vampire fiction has become.

Each story opens with a short bio of the author, and who (or what) the author’s favorite type of vampires are, with shout-outs going to I am Legend, Salem’s Lot, The Historian, Kim Newman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even Sesame Street’s The Count among many others. I appreciated that editor West solicited stories from authors who have loved this type of fiction their entire life.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.