Tag Archives: Book Of Apex

Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” The Apocrypha

You may remember a year ago I reviewed the stories contained in The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine. This anthology reprinted the fiction from Apex Magazine issues #30-44, in it’s entirety (or so I thought.) Turns out, there was at least one story from each issue left out of the collection! So far as I can tell, all of these were reprints when they appeared in Apex, but I’m a completist. And so, I give you the omitted stories from Apex #30-44!

  • This Creeping Thing, by Rob Shearman. (***)
    From issue #30, originally appearing in Love Songs For The Shy And Cynical. Susan has trouble loving, but once she gets there….once she gets there, her love can move mountains. I didn’t like this one, and I can’t explain why. It just rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t poorly written, though. You may like it okay, I just didn’t. CONTENT: Sexual content, non-explicit. Mild profanity. A cat gets euthanized after being hit by a car, so I suppose that counts as violence. Occult-wise, we have ghosts….
  • The Yellow Dressing Gown, by Sarah Monette. (*****)
    From issue #31, originally appearing in Weird Tales #63.2. A museum curator obsessively tracks down the yellow dressing gown worn by a famous artist during the last days of his life, alone in his gallery painting away while he slowly went mad from syphilis. This one was delightfully creepy! I highly recommend it if that’s your thing. CONTENT: Brief sexual innuendo. No profanity that I can recall. No overtly-depicted violence, although the aftermath of a murder or suicide is dealt with. The story is also fairly creepy, it should be pointed out. Occult-wise….there are implied to be some supernatural figures that don’t overtly appear in the story but hover around the fringes. I won’t say more because spoilers.
  • The Prowl, by Gregory Frost. (*****)
    From issue #32, originally appearing in Mojo: Conjure Stories. A former slave tells the tale of how he came to America, his troubles once he arrived, and the strange creature that came along with him in disguise. I cannot stress enough the high level of quality in this tale, nor how much I enjoyed it. Go read it–you won’t be sorry you did. CONTENT: Mild profanity. Some frank but non-explicit discussion of sex. Violence, occasionally a bit gory. I don’t think the plateye quite counts as occult content, but he is a semi-spiritual figure, so that may depend on your definition.
  • Useless Things, by Maureen McHugh. (***)
    From issue #33, originally appearing in Eclipse 3: New Science Fiction And Fantasy. A woman battles the New Mexico desert, the economic downturn, and the general ups and downs of life. This tale contains doll-making, burglary, illegal immigrants, cheating spouses, all kinds of stuff. I didn’t connect with it, personally, but I do have to admit that it was well-written. Just not up my alley. Unlike most of the stuff published in Apex Magazine, I don’t think there was anything fantastical or speculative about this story. Very bleak, which I’m not usually a fan of. CONTENT: Mild profanity. No violence. The only sexual content comes when the protagonist breaks down and uses her doll-making skills to craft specially-ordered sex toys in order to make ends meet.
  • Lehr, Rex, by Jay Lake. (****)
    From issue #34, originally appearing (so far as I can tell) in Forbidden PlanetsAn Imperial scout ship is dispatched to the rescue when a twenty-year-old distress signal is finally received from the INS Broken Spear. On arrival, however, the rescuers discover that the now-delusional Captain Lehr has no intention of leaving, and that there may be more to their mission than meets the eye given the planet-buster stored in the hold of their ship. What was on the Broken Spear that the Empire deems so dangerous? This was a very fun story, with a twist that I at least did not see coming until the very end. CONTENT: Very mild sexual innuendo. Some sci-fi violence. No profanity.
  • Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life, by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. (****)
    From issue #35, originally appearing in Interzone Magazine #229.  I can’t describe this story. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was obvious that the author put a lot of effort into shaping exactly how much is revealed and when, and to describe that would be to upset the balance she worked so hard for. Like I said, I wasn’t a huge fan (and that’s a subjective judgement I can’t quantify), but it was a well-written piece nevertheless. Some would call it beautiful. CONTENT: Mild sexual innuendo. Some implied violence. No profanity.
  • The Chaos Magician’s Mega Chemistry Set, by Nnedi Okorafor. (****)
    From issue #36, originally appearing in Space And Time #101.  Ulu wants to be a chemist like her uncle, and spend her days protecting the land from pollution and other threats. Ulu is a very orderly little girl. So, her dad stops at Ugorgi’s store and buys her The Chaos Magician’s Mega Chemistry Set. Ugorgi’s store is a very interesting place, full of things that shouldn’t exist–a six-legged dog, for example. But when a “laboratory accident” disrupts the local space-time continuum, it’s up to Ulu and her chemistry set to make it right…. CONTENT: Brief profanity. Mild violence. No sexual content. Occult content….that depends on the conclusions and definitions of the reader.
  • Blocked, by Geoff Ryman(****)
    From issue #37, originally appearing in The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction. This one was….confusing. I first took it to be a dream, (it does begin with “I dreamed this….”) but now I think that the narrator was speaking figuratively. I didn’t like this story, per se, but I do have to admit that it was well written. It was quite a scathing indictment of humanity’s discontent…. CONTENT: Brief profanity, mild innuendo, and no real violence despite some very adult themes such as suicide.
  • Wolf Trapping, by Kij Johnson(****)
    From issue #38, originally appearing in The Twilight Zone Magazine. A disturbing tale of obsession and its consequences, how far we will go to achieve the thing we want. Richard is living alone in the woods, observing the wolves and their behavior. One day he stumbles across a lone woman doing the same, but whereas Richard strives to remain detached and not affect their behavior, this woman wants to join the wolves and be a part of their pack….. CONTENT: R-rated language. No sexual content. Some disturbing and gory violence.
  • Undercity, by Nir Yaniv(*****)
    From issue #39, originally appearing in Hebrew in Dreams Of Aspamia #19, in English as a bonus novellete in The Apex Book Of World SF II. There is a city that exists beneath the Tel Aviv that you know. No, that’s not quite right…you couldn’t dig your way to the Undercity. It exists in another plane entirely, a cold, sunless echo of the world that we live in. And tomorrow the two Tel Avivs will switch places….I’m not entirely sure I “got” what the author was trying to tell me here, but I was very much pulled into his world. This was a dark, very atmospheric tale, and whether or not I completely understood it, I have to say that I loved it. CONTENT: No profanity that I recall. Some mild sexual content, fairly non-explicit. Mild violence.
  • Sacrifice, by Jennifer Pelland. (***)
    From issue #40, originally appearing in Dark Faith: Invocations. A woman sits by her father’s bedside as he lays dying of lung cancer. A voice offers to allow her to trader her life for his…. OR A man stands outside his daughter’s funeral, mourning with every fiber of his being the deal he made to save his own life at terrible cost…. Was this well done? Yes. I have to admit that it was. Did I like it? No, I really didn’t. You should have noticed by now that I’m really not a fan of stories that cast God as a sadistic old creep. CONTENT: R-rated language. Mild sexual references. Mild violence and the heavy subject of death and sacrifice.
  • Sonny Liston Takes The Fall, by Elizabeth Bear. (****)
    Also from issue #40, originally appearing in The Del Rey Book Of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Sonny Liston was a boxing legend back in the day, until the day he faced off against a young up-and-comer by the name of Cletus Cassidy. Cassidy? He went on to change his name to Muhammad Ali. Liston lived a hard life, full of controversy, and died the way he lived. Elizabeth Bear spins a poignant tale of this controversial figure, and I’ll admit I had no idea about any of this. Prizefighting legends from fifty years gone aren’t really my specialty, you see. I did enjoy the tale though…. CONTENT: R-rated language. Fighting violence. Mild sexual innuendo, non-explicit.
  • Simon’s Replica, by Dean Francis Alfar. (****)
    From issue #41, originally appearing in the Philippines Free Press. An aging queen, feeling her mortality creeping up on her, commissions a perfectly accurate replica of her lands so that the golden age of her kingdom will be remembered. I have to admit that I did see the ending coming, but it was still a pleasant tale. CONTENT: No language, no sex, and no violence.
  • The Glutton: A Goxhat Accounting Chant, by Eleanor Arnason. (****)
    From issue #42, originally appearing (so far as I can tell) in Tales Of The Unanticipated #22. Here we are treated to an epic poem by an alien race very different from our own. This is my first encounter with the Goxhat, but apparently their culture has been the author’s pet project for quite a while now…. CONTENT: No sex or profanity, some violence.
  • Relic, by Jeffrey Ford. (**)
    From issue #43, originally appearing in The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet Of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories From Top Authors And Artists. Out at the end of the world, there is a church to a maybe-saint by the name of Ifritia. It only holds services four times a year, once for each season, and its main claim to anything resembling fame is the supposed relic of its namesake saint in a shrine behind the church. Father Walter is ordained by no particular higher authority; he simply built the church and recalled that the preachers from his boyhood were called Father. Sister North simply joined the church one day after an infrequent sermon. I feel like this story was supposed to tell me something, but I missed the message. Without whatever it was supposed to tell me, the simple almost-plot left much to be desired. Maybe it’s something you’d enjoy, but I wasn’t particularly impressed. CONTENT: No profanity. Some violence, some non-explicit sexual innuendo.
  • The Patrician, by Tansy Rayner Roberts. (*****)
    From issue #44, originally appearing in Love And Romanpunk. In the Australian outback, there is a town built of Roman stone, in the Roman style, and committed to the Roman way of life….as long as the tourists are looking, of course. But there are monsters that called Rome their home, and they are drawn to things that are Roman….there are also those who hunt them, on a quest to rid the world of its monsters. I absolutely loved this story, and I am very much looking forward to tracking down a copy of the collection it originates in. Roman monsters, monster-hunting, immortality, this tale has it all. Highly recommended. CONTENT: Mild profanity (At least, I don’t recall any that wasn’t mild, but its possible it slipped my attention. I was kind of distracted by the sheer awesomeness of the tale.) Some violence, usually perpetrated against dragons or manticores or lamia or some such, but occasionally extending to their victims as well. Some sexual content, not too explicit.

This is just one of a series of posts I did on this anthology. You can find the others here:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
-Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

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Guest Post: Jason Sizemore on “Why I Operate An Online Zine”

This was supposed to go up yesterday, and I’m sorry for the delay. All I can say is that work was crazy, and by the time I got home it had completely slipped my mind.

Giveaway results! Given the scarcity of entries (there were only two) I eschewed the random number generator in favor of a more traditional means of selection that was perfectly tailored to my dilemma: I flipped a coin. And the  winner is….Maddee Schrader! I’ll get your information to the people sending out the book, and I hope you enjoy it. Chris, better luck next time.

And now without further ado, Jason Sizemore, the founder and original editor of Apex Magazine!

Why I Operate an Online Zine

Jason Sizemore

A common question I receive from fans at conventions is “Why do you operate an online zine?”

My response: “Because I’m a glutton for punishment!”

That retort always receives a knowing and appreciative laugh. Everybody knows that trying to run a successful online zine is a fool’s errand! Hundreds, if not thousands of zines have come and gone since the rise of the internet.

Because of the low cost of entry into the business of running an online zine, an incredible amount of people have jumped in. With less risk comes larger entrepreneurial interest, so you get an inordinate amount of non-business minded individuals taking a go. This creates a high failure rate and the perception that running an online zine is inordinately difficult.

The truth is, running an online zine is like running any other business. You control your costs, you advertise, you present a quality product, and there is a good chance you’ll succeed. By these measures, Apex Magazine is succeeding. My publisher/editor peers at Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Clarkesworld seem to be succeeding.

Running a successful business provides a great sense of accomplishment. Knowing that Apex Magazine is helping entertain thousands of readers is a wonderful feeling.

Having fans appreciate your hard work makes you work even harder for them.

Even though you can be successful running a zine, publishing short fiction isn’t a lucrative business. Not losing money is nice, of course. But the reality is that we do this for our readers.

Believe it or not, we also do it for the writers and artists. Short fiction zines provide an additional income and promotional source for writers and artists. Knowing we contribute to the overall health of the genre publishing business is nice. Getting to work with writers you’ve read and admired is often quite fun. Engaging with eager newly published authors makes you feel like you’ve helped someone check off a box on their bucket list.

I’m certain I come across as selfish. All these reasons why I operate an online zine basically come down to “It makes me happy.” And you know what? I’m fine with that.

I do it because it makes me happy.

Why else would I take on such punishment!

I encourage you to see the fruits of my monthly labor at http://www.apex-magazine.com. Apex also collects all its original fiction in its Book of Apex series. The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine is the latest to be published.

On a closing note, I would be remiss without thanking Jordan Binkerd for the opportunity to be a guest blogger on his site. And a huge thank you to the amazing Andrea Johnson for putting together a great blog tour for The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine!

JS

BIO: Jason Sizemore is twice Hugo Award-nominated owner/operator of Apex Publications. A software developer by day and publisher by night, he dips his toes in many waters—running an online zine being one of his favorites. For more information visit http://www.apexbookcompany.com.

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 4

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-#44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at some more of those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

Also, the giveaway is still running at the first post in this review series! Check that out here!

  • Coyote Gets His Own Back, by Sarah Monette. (***)
    This one is really too short to describe without rendering it moot. I wasn’t really a fan of this one, just didn’t connect with it. Doesn’t mean you won’t. CONTENT: Violence, some gruesome content. No sex or language.
  • Waiting For Beauty, by Marie Brennan. (***)
    An incredibly disturbing take on Beauty And The Beast. I wasn’t a fan, but maybe you will be. CONTENT: No explicit sex, violence, or language, but it is pretty disturbing nonetheless. I can’t tell you why, because spoilers.
  • Murdered Sleep, by Kat Howard. (****)
    This almost made my best-of post. As with most of the other times I’ve said that, I’m not sure why it fell short. Perhaps partially because I’m not at all certain I understood it. I think I got it, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, this was an excellent tale of a young woman who receives an invitation to an endless party in the land of dreams…and the costs inherent in accepting such an offer. CONTENT: Some violence. Mild sexual innuendo. No language.
  • Armless Maidens Of The American West, by Genevieve Valentine. (****)
    In the woods surrounding town, there’s an armless maiden, still covered in blood from where her father went mad and chopped off her arms. She lives out there, pitied and feared, with no human contact until one day a grad student comes to town looking for data for her project entitled Armless Maidens Of The American West. It would seem that this is not an isolated phenomenon…. Faintly disturbing, but I really loved the writing style here. CONTENT: Some implied violence. No profanity, and no overt sexual innuendo. There are a few speculations about why her father did what he did, and you could take that train of thought in a sexual direction if you wanted to, but the author will give you no help there.
  • During The Pause, by Adam-Troy Castro. (****)
    Our world is about to end. There is nothing we can do to stop it. Our world will end, and we will suffer endless torment as a result. Not even death will offer an escape, except for one brief moment moments/eons into our torment…and in that moment, we will have a choice to make. I won’t say I enjoyed this story all that much, but I definitely admire Mr. Castro’s imagination and craftsmanship. The entire story is crafted as a message from another world in the path of the wave of destruction, warning us of what is to come. It was actually fairly chilling…. CONTENT: No explicit sexual content, language, or violence, although the descriptions of what is to come can be a bit disturbing.
  • Always The Same. Till It Is Not, by Cecil Castellucci. (****)
    Here we have a challenging tale about what happens after the zombie apocalypse, told in first-person POV by an ex-zombie. I really enjoyed it, and I have to say it was really well done. I can’t say too much about it without giving things away though, so I’m gonna shut up. CONTENT:  No profanity. I don’t think the characters even know any. There is, however, a fair amount of evocatively-rendered violence, as well as some moderately explicit sexual content.

This is the fourth post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
-Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 2

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my last post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

  • The Leavings Of The Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear. (***)
    Dagmar is an animal researcher with a problem. Multiple problems, really, although they are all connected. The root of her issues is her recent divorce (or, depending on who you ask, her recently-ended marriage). Through the course of the messy divorce, she gained enough weight that she can no longer get her wedding ring off of her finger without destroying it, which she is unwilling to do. So, in a quest to lose her excess weight and free herself from the wedding band, she runs. One day she finds herself in a part of the woods that is completely new to her, and there connects with her ancient heritage…. This was a good story, but it didn’t really work for me for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t have much in common with the main character? Ms. Bear did a good job of developing her, but as a young newlywed-and-happily-married male I didn’t really identify all that strongly with Dagmar the thirty-something divorcee, and the implication that marriage is sometimes the equivalent of sticking your hand in the mouth of a wolf rubbed me the wrong way.* I liked the Norse mythology, but not enough to salvage my opinion of this particular tale. CONTENT: Mild language. A little bit gruesome in one particular part, but not too disturbing.
  • The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak. (****)
    Remember the story The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? Brad Pitt film, Oscar buzz, all that? This story is kind of like that. Except that it isn’t. A haunting story about family, loss, and inevitability. There’s no suspense here, you know how it will end almost from the beginning, but this isn’t a story where that matters. This isn’t about fooling readers with a twist ending. This is about the inevitability of death, and how sometimes the scales of fate don’t balance properly. I didn’t enjoy it, but I don’t think Mr. Barzak intended me to. CONTENT: No language, violence, or sexual content. Still not really intended for kids, or at least not for ones who wouldn’t understand.
  • Faithful City, by Michael Pevzner. (****)
    This one almost made my previous post. A young man is given a vision calling him to a far-distant utopian city away from the wasteland the rest of the Earth has become. Upon arrival, he is asked to come to the temple and join the city, shedding his flesh and joining his spirit with the rest of the city’s inhabitants. Is all as it seems, or is the city a far more sinister predator than is being let on? I really liked this one, and I can’t pinpoint why I chose to omit it from my list of favorites. The premise is mildly disturbing, but I read disturbing things all the time. If I had an aversion to being disturbed, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this anthology. CONTENT: Some violence.
  • Sweetheart Showdown, by Sarah Dalton. (****)
    My initial reaction was to compare this to the Hunger Games, but that’s a bad comparison. The Sweetheart Showdown competition isn’t a large-scale ordeal serving to suppress revolution, but is instead far more disturbing. It’s basically a Miss America pageant that ends in gladiatorial combat, for no discernible reason than the entertainment of the masses. Again, I really liked this one and it almost made the cut for my previous post. Can’t say for sure why it didn’t…. CONTENT: Slightly gory violence. Some sexual innuendo. Brief language.
  • Bear In Contradicting Landscape, by David J. Schwartz. (***)
    This is the tale of a writer who meets the character from one of his unpublished short stories on the train one day, and they strike up a friendship. I love the idea, have even played about with some of the ideas involved in my own work, but the ending just didn’t work for me. I hate to admit this, but I just didn’t “get it.” Maybe you’ll fare better. CONTENT: Sexual content, not too explicit. Brief language.
  • My Body, Her Canvas, by A.C. Wise. (****)
    In a studio converted from a slaughterhouse, our narrator allows a troubled tattoo artist to transcribe her nightmares into his flesh. Very beautifully written, with incredibly evocative prose, but it was very bleak. It’s a little unclear as to whether there’s actually something strange going on here or if our narrator is just unstable, but in either case the relationship is hardly healthy. I’m sure some people will like this, but it wasn’t for me. CONTENT: Sexual language and innuendo. Strong language. Possibly some occult content, depending on the narrator’s sanity.

This is the second in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
-Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

*Yes, I know not all marriages are a good idea. I wasn’t born yesterday. I just didn’t particularly want to read a story built around that idea.

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 1

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In this post, I will be examining my personal favorite stories from the anthology. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

    • The Bread We Eat In Dreams, by Catherynne M. Valente. (*****)
      The first story in the collection is a surprisingly haunting tale of a demon banished from Hell. Gemegishkirihallat, or Agnes, as she’s called these days, begins our story as an exile not only from Heaven but from the diabolical realms as well. In Hell she was the master baker, baking the bread for the nobles of the Underworld, bread that would be used to torment the famished souls of the damned with the sweet delicacies they would never be allowed to taste, the bread we eat in our dreams. In Hell she had camaraderie, friends, or as near to friends as a demon is capable, even lovers from time to time. In Hell, she wasn’t alone. Here on Earth, this is not the case. She is a demon alone, without the companionship she craves, and when people eventually come to this abandoned piece of land that will one day become New England she will be unable to resist their companionship. But when a demon lives among Puritans, the end result is nearly inevitable…. Agnes’ tale draws most of its impact from the way Ms. Valente spins her prose. She sucks you in from the first paragraph, painting an incredibly vivid and evocative picture that dares you to even try and look away. The conclusion is built slowly and gently, piece by piece from the beginning of the story, so gently that you don’t even consciously register until the end that this is the central question of the whole tale: what in the seven rings of Hell could a demon do to deserve banishment from that unholy place? This is certainly a different take on demons, and I’m not sure what to think of it theologically, but I am definitely intrigued. I urge you to give this story a try. CONTENT: Sexual content, non-explicit. Mild violence, not too disturbing. The main character is a demon, so there’s a bit of an occult flavor.
    • So Glad We Had This Time Together, by Cat Rambo. (*****)
      Another very strong story, this time told as the protagonist writes to tender her resignation from the TV network she works for. As she composes, we’re treated to her recollections of the past year or so. She has been one of the leads on a new show, Unreality Television, which is basically Big Brother with a vampire, a werewolf, a medium, a guy who’s demon possessed, and a couple normal humans to pull in audiences. Everyone knows they exist, somewhere in the shadows, but nobody has ever pulled them into the light….until Unreality Television, that is. The result? Ah, now that would be telling. I really liked this one–especially for the ending, true, but I was hooked long before that. I’m going to chalk it up to the writing, Ms. Rambo’s voice and the tiny hints she drops that everything is not as it seems. I’m not sure what else to attribute it to, since the story is most certainly a lot better than how I’ve described it…. CONTENT: References to violence and sexual content, but nothing explicit. Mild language.
    • The Second Card Of The Major Arcana, by Thoraiya Dyer. (*****)
      The Sphinx walks the streets of Beirut, searching for the one who awoke her from her millenia of slumber and asking riddles of all she interacts with. The penalty for failing to answer is a swift and sure death. To what purpose was she awoken? Read on and find out… Pointing out that this is a story about the Sphinx may be a minor spoiler, unless you either know your tarot deck and catch the reference in the title or you pick it up from the continued riddling, but I can’t really describe it otherwise and it’s a minor spoiler at worst. So why does this one make the list where others did not? I honestly can’t say, except that I really enjoyed it. CONTENT: Mild violence, in that people die when they fail to answer her riddles. No language or sexual content. Does the sphinx count as an occult figure?
    • Decomposition, by Rachel Swirsky. (*****)
      What can I say about this story without giving things away? It was incredibly disturbing, for one thing. The tale of a man driven by vengeance, and what form that vengeance takes…. Very well written, very disturbing. Be forewarned, there are even hints of necrophilia in this particular tale. Not for those with a weak stomach. CONTENT: Brief language. Mild violence. No overt sexual content, though there are some innuendos and a hint of necrophilia. Strong occult content.
    • The Silk Merchant, by Ken Liu. (*****)
      A young man sets out to redeem his father’s name and prove that the legendary Shimmersilk actually exists. Yet another disturbing tale that has made it into my favorites list…I must be a secretly twisted individual or something. I called the ending, but that doesn’t have to serve as a black mark. CONTENT: No language. No sexual content. Little overt violence, but several very disturbing ideas and revelations.
    • Ironheart, by Alec Austin. (*****)
      In a dark future, a dark past, or a dark parallel world humanity is at war with the Fae. This war has raged for years, fueling and fueled by dark magic and necromancy. With no more adults to feed to the war, children have been pressed into service. Fallen soldiers are revived with necromancy and sent back to the front to fight and die again. Usable parts are “Frankensteined” together and sent back out. The way the war was described, terms used and the dynamics of how the stalemate had cemented, I can’t imagine that the first World War was not an inspiration here. CONTENT: Strong violence, sometimes disturbing. Harsh language. Sexual innuendos, non-explicit.
    • Sexagesimal, by Katharine E.K. Duckett. (*****)
      In the afterlife, all you are is memory. It is your currency, your very existence, until you’ve used up all your memories and simply cease to exist. For Teskia and Julio, this is very dangerous because all of their memories are shared. And Julio has inexplicably fallen ill…. This story was…haunting, is I think the best word. I didn’t particularly like the ending, I prefer things to be more hopeful than that as a rule (don’t worry, no spoilers) but the story had grabbed me so tightly that it made my favorites list anyway. I’m not sure what the time stamps signify, I wasn’t able to puzzle them out. This could be the fact that I was reading a challenging story after a truly crazy day at work, but oh well. If you figured it out, please enlighten me! CONTENT: No profanity. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing explicit. No real violence, but one scene is fairly disturbing for reasons I’ll leave unexplained because spoilers.

  • Weaving Dreams, by Mary Robinette Kowal. (*****)
    Eva is a witch. A witch with a doctorate, in fact, and her current project is assisting a local historian in attempting to learn all he can about the area’s past from the local population of Hidden People. She’s being careful, following all the rules…or so she thinks. As it turns out, she and Giancarlo have inadvertently upset some major players in the faerie realm, and they’ll have to think fast unless they want to pay the price…. I enjoyed this one. I usually do enjoy stories featuring different takes on the fae, especially after the wonderful things the Dresden Files has done. I found out in searching out the link that this is actually a revised version of the story–the first version had some serious accidental racism and reinforcement of negative tropes, which was exactly what the author did not want to do. If you’re interested, check out the link. It’ll get you to the author’s blog where she talks about the revision and the reasons behind it. CONTENT: No profanity. Mild sexual innuendos and flirting, nothing too explicit. No overt violence, as such, but some discussion of it.
  • Sprig, by Alex Bledsoe. (*****)
    At a renaissance faire in Bristol, a young boy misplaces his parents and begins talking to one of the fairies. The ending is perhaps a bit predictable, but I loved the story anyway. It was very cute. CONTENT: Mild sexual innuendo–very mild. No profanity or violence.

This is the first post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
-Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

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