Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Getting Your Fix #1 - Online Magazines

From time to time it is said that short fiction is a dying form and that publishers just aren’t publishing it any more. To that I say: bollocks! Short fiction has never been healthier and more available than it is now. There are more anthologies than you can shake a stick at, e-book shorts are sold for the device of your choice via assorted retailers, authors post free online fiction on their websites and then there’s the crown jewel of the short fiction world – online magazines.

To the surprise of no-one who knows me, I love online magazines. (Check out the Shiny Stuff section for links to my favourite stories!) And really, what’s not to love. So long as you have an internet connection and some kind of tech to read on, you have easy access to a vast quantity of free fiction. If you don’t like reading on a computer screen, then you can throw a few quid the magazine’s way and subscribe to get the e-book versions delivered to your preferred reading device, and many magazines do podcast versions of their stories and dead-tree versions as either individual issues or end of year anthologies.

But me, I read on screens. (Laptops, unlimited broadband and wifi – the three best inventions in the universe, I tell you true. Kindles and iPads come a close second.) I slush for Lightspeed, so would, of course, highly recommend anyone taking a shuftie at it. They publish some awesome fantasy and science fiction, along with author interviews (and they’re reopening for subs on 20th June, if you’re that way inclined!) Lightspeed also has a sister magazine – Nightmare - for the horror aficionados, though I’ll confess to not having read much of that as yet. (Bad Jen, no cookie.)

Strange Horizons is another firm favourite and has my highest stories-I-like hit rate of all the magazines I read, and always gives fascinating non-fiction. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is another top one, and is great for thoughtful secondary world fiction, as well as some gorgeous cover artwork. Clarkesworld completes the top tier online magazine roster, and another one with gorgeous cover artwork, however I find them a little bit highbrow at times so can be something of an acquired taste. Always worth a read though.

Crossed Genres can always be counted on for fiction that pushes at the traditional boundaries and has a specific interest for stories about under-represented people. (They also do some cracking anthologies, but anthologies are for another post!) Expanded Horizons is another great magazine pushing for more diversity in the field and publishes some truly breathtaking stuff.

In the department of ‘does what it says on the tin’, there’s Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and Alt Hist, which, no surprise, do heroic fantasy and historical/alternate historical stories, so if that’s your thing, that’s where you want to go. If you like longer short fiction, then may I point you at GigaNotoSaurus for all your novella pleasures. If you prefer much shorter short fiction, than Daily Science Fiction does flash fiction five days a week (and free subscription if you want the stories delivered via email.)

Other fab free online mags include Abyss & Apex, Indian SF, Subterranean Magazine, Apex Magazine, Philippine Genre Stories and Ideomancer, and if you get a taste for any of them, don’t forget to donate a couple of quid to show your appreciation and generally keep them going.

Lastly we have the hybrid online magazines – those that exist in both dead-tree and electronic formats and include, but are not limited to, things like: Albedo One, who sell PDF versions of their magazines, Something Wicked has moved to an annual anthology but back issues are still free on their site, Shimmer has some of their content free online while selling the full issues in print and multiple digital formats, and fans of the TTA Press range of mags can easily buy DRM-free digital copies of Crimewave, Interzone and Black Static from Smashwords.

So, yeah, no-one’s publishing short fiction at all. ;-)

(Crossposted from jennybarber.co.uk)

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Crimson Kestrel

The Crimson Kestrel by Leslianne Wilder
Reviewed by Jenny Barber
Found in Issue #114 of the ever-fabulous Beneath Ceaseless Skies, The Crimson Kestrel is a fun swashbuckling tale that's part Scarlet Pimpernel and part Three Musketeers with daring acrobatics and adventure, hidden identitites and just the slightest touch of romance. 
By day, Mademoiselle Ivette du Brielle is just one more pampered socialite fluttering around the imperial court of L’Echelle; night, however, is another thing altogether as she launches herself from the balconies and into the streets below to serve a little justice to the local thugs while taking full enjoyment in the thrill of the hunt.  And it's this joie de vivre that elevates her as a character as her own enthusiasm for her adventures is infectious and hooks the reader quite firmly. (Though one does wonder how she can fit quite so many gadgets and weapons under her fashionably generous skirts and still manage to walk without clinking... :-P )
There's intrigue and amusement to be had from the mysterious stranger who she rescues and combined with a wonderful depth to the world behind the story, creates an appeal that makes the reader want more adventures both in the setting and with the characters.  Great stuff!

Read The Crimson Kestrel here.  More about author Leslianne Wilder can be found on her website here.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Indian SF

New on the online magazine scene is the juicy looking Indian SF which we hope to be reviewing soon... in the meantime, you can get your free copy from here.  Available to read online or download in a variety of formats!


Flash Fiction: 
X Marks the Spot by Kat Otis

Short Stories: 
Staying Behind by Ken Liu
The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Ram V
Goddess by Lavanya Karthik

Plus there's artwork from Stephan Hurlmann, reviews and interview to chew on.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Strange Horizons Fund Drive

If you love Strange Horizons (and we very much do) then now is the time to show your support by donating a little to their fund drive.  Over on their blog they've got a lovely list of reasons why you should support them, including a few nifty prizes for donators... Books!  Art!  Tarot Readings!  Tax relief!  (er, what?)

All of which are very good reasons, however the best and foremost one should be this: Strange Horizons is one of the best magazines out there.  Not just for the fiction - which, it has to be said, is almost uniformly excellent.  We've reviewed  Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas by Alberto Yáñez (Jan 2012) and Tornado's Siren by Brooke Bolander (Feb 2012), and further recommend Feed Me the Bones of our Saints (part 1) (part 2) by Alex Dally MacFarlane (July 2012), Tiger Stripes by Nghi Vo (May 2012), Pataki (Part 1)&(Part 2) by Nisi Shawl (2011), 起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion—The Lion Bows) by Zen Cho (2011),  The Yew’s Embrace by Francesca Forrest (2011), & Last Of The Monsters by Emil Skaftun (2010).

But! Also! Their non-fiction is also brilliant.  Always fascinating articles and some extremely juicy in-depth reviews that should not be missed. 

Share the love and keep them going strong by donating here!

And if you're curious, here's how the fund drive is going so far:

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Bitesize Recs of the Week

While the Shiny Shorts team get their heads around longer reviews again, here's some bitesize recommendations...

Blood Oranges by K.C. Shaw - Daily SF.  A fun flash tale about a vampire wanting to share his hobby with his beloved.

Fire Exit by Mhari Simpson - Tales of the Nun & Dragon (from Fox Spirit) Another fun tale, this one about an inn beset by dragons and the girl who wants to escape it.

Cursed Motives by Marissa Lingen - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #105 A young imperial princess with a knack for casting a curse stops an invasion and rescues her ship with a couple of well placed curses. An enchanting and highly readable story.

What the Sea Wants by P. Djeli Clark - Daily SF.  A haunting story of the perils of going away with merfolk and then leaving them to return to land.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Barricade

The Barricade by Nina Allan
Reviewed by Jenny Barber

Found in the Dark Currents anthology, The Barricade is a peculiar tale, running slow as it carefully builds up to the faltering of a marriage due to apathy and the discoveries of escaping wife Christine during a visit to the coastal town of her birth.

The catalyst for eveything is the painting Christine finds in a gallery while holidaying with her stolid husband.  Her growing fascination with it, and the memories triggered by locals who keep claiming to know her lead her to certain realisations about the state of her marriage while also reawakening things about herself she'd thought she'd forgotten.

The soon-to-be ex-husband is a thoroughly unlikeable chap, and one wonders why Christine took so long to ditch him, or at the very least, let him get away with so much without argument, and it's in such in-depth characterisation that Allan excels. Each carefully constructed layer builds until you're left with a fully encompassing story that wraps you up in the mundane details and makes the dénouement satisfying with the hints of things to come.  The elements of the fantastic are subtle to the point of barely noticeable, and can be seen from a mile off but Allan has crafted a beautiful tale that, while not a new twist on selkie mythology, is a solid addition to the genre.

More about Nina Allan can be found here, and more on Dark Currents (edited by Ian Whates) can be found on the Newcon website here.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Frightfully Cosy and Mild Stories for Nervous Types

Frightfully Cosy and Mild Stories for Nervous Types by Johnny Mains
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

In addition to his unrelenting  activity as an editor and promoter  of horror fiction, Johnny Mains  also writes dark stories, a first cluster of which has  been  collected  in “ With Deepest Sympathy”, published in 2010 by Obverse Books.

The present volume assembles a further  dozen of  tales, none of which can be defined as outstanding, none as a misfire. Mains provides consistently good material, enjoyable and entertaining, which won’t spellbind  nor disappoint horror readers. This is probably what Mains means to say when he calls himself “a minor writer”, that he’s the king of  fictional aurea mediocritas ( but aurea,after all, means golden, not a minor achievement).

The topics addressed by the stories featured  in the volume are rather diverse.

In The Cure a cancer patient follows un unusual, unorthodox treatment, while in Head a horror fan finally meets in person, but only fleetingly,  his favourite writer.

Dead Forest Air is a well conceived story taking place in Dachau, in which the horrors of the past blend with those of the present time.

The Jacket revolves around a bomber jacket endowed with peculiar properties , while Aldeburgh featuring the great MR James, discloses the source of inspiration for one of the author’s most famous tales.

Prim Suspect is a delightful noir where two murders (one fictional, one occurring in real life) nicely intertwine.

My favourite  story is The Were-Dwarf, an original piece with a good characterization, hilarious and horrific at the same time, a fine example of Mains’ potential as an author. Hopefully he will provide many more stories like that in the near future.

Published by Shadow Publishing - more information and ordering details can be found on their website here.