THE SEM10TIC STANDARD

Speculative Fiction. Art. The In-between.

Short Story Markets Reviewed: June

Editor's note: 
It's easy to find reviews of larger markets—Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Asimov's, reviews of the big players in the short story field are surplus. We're taking a different approach, however. Instead of reviewing markets you're probably familiar with, Meryl Stenhouse reviews the ones you aren't. 

Luna Station Quarterly

Issue 026, June 2016. Edited by Jennifer Lyn Parsons

     LSQ has been around for 26 issues now, and is solidly placed as an inclusive market for women writers. This issue starts with an editorial on the importance of fan fiction as a force in pop culture, and finding joy in stories. It’s an idea that is gaining popularity and Parsons includes her own relationship with fanfiction. Overall I enjoyed the issue, which is available online and in Kindle and ePub formats.

Luna Station Quarterly

Luna Station Quarterly

Sycamore Heights
by Josie Turner

     The Masons are a strange family, viewed through the eyes of daughter Maisie, possibly the strangest of all. The creepy atmosphere of the island they are holidaying on was beautifully constructed and Maisie’s fears felt real and valid. But the story ended abruptly without any deeper insights and left me feeling unsatisfied.

To Give Birth to a Dancing Star
by K B Sluss

     This science fiction piece opens with a lovely image of music captured in ice. Dr Mai Pham has come to Antarctica to research and escape grief. I really enjoyed the technical aspects of the story and Mai’s personal search for meaning in the universe.

Dream Catcher
by Natasha Burge

     There is always a danger in writing a story from a culture and country not your own, and it showed in this story in the many inauthentic details and, more tellingly, the misspelling of the name of the Australian Aboriginal peoples portrayed in the story (they are the Yolngu, not Yonglu). The story itself was overly heavy with exposition and consequently slow to read. The underlying mystic-savage cliché also left a bad taste in my mouth.

The Save
by Nicole Robb

     An interesting if far-fetched idea, good tight delivery and a punch at the end. Great short read.

Feeding is No Crime
by Patricia Russo

     An ugly act in the ancient world is met with love and kindness in the modern world. A little too sweet for my tastes, but if you’d like a story of relentless hope, this is for you.

The Garden
by Carlea Holl-Jensen
Recommended Read
     
     Evelyn and Albie are the only two in the garden, living day to day to Albie’s schedule, Albie’s whims. The isolation and Evelyn’s fear of Albie’s temper are excellently portrayed. A chilling tale, gripping and well-constructed, with shadows of domestic violence and controlling personalities. 

Sergiane’s Choice
by Melissa Ferguson

     Sergiane makes several choices in this story due to her single-minded desperation. She gets what she wants, but doesn’t question her choices until the very end. A very unlikeable heroine, which is fine, but I felt her obsession overshadowed any personality.

The King is Dead
by Miranda Geer

     This is an engaging horror story, with a wonderfully odd voice and atmosphere.  Unfortunately the ending didn’t work for me. However I enjoyed reading it, especially the author’s ideas on human voices versus animal voices.

 

The Dark

Issue 11, June 2016. Edited by Sean Wallace and Jack Fisher

     The Dark has established itself as a solid market, and the editors’ tastes come through clearly in each issue. Stories are strong on character and strange, unsettling images. Very enjoyable overall, with all stories of a very high quality.

The Hibernating Queen
by Leena Likitalo

     Val is a bear, the daughter of the Queen, and this year is her first hibernation. Her peacock friends warn her that she will be married off, but Val doesn’t believe her mother would do that. The developing tale of Val’s hibernation and realization about her future is chilling and claustrophobic, and the ending strange and confronting. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the initial images of baby bears and talking peacocks with the growing darkness at the heart of Val’s world.

Free Jim’s Mine
by Tananarive Due
Recommended Read

     Lottie is an escaped slave, carrying the child of her Cherokee lover Waya. The three of them are trying to make it to the border, and freedom, with the help of Lottie’s Uncle Jim. Gripping and uncomfortable to read from start to finish. I always like it when an author doesn’t hold back, and there’s no apology in this story. It’s blunt and confronting.

The Bat House
by M. Bennardo

     Patience demands that Bedelia tell her nothing of what is going on in the world. She wants only to look at their little house and garden. This is a tale of single-minded stubbornness and determined ignorance. While I enjoyed the tale, I would have liked to know where they were in time and space. Perhaps this was the author’s attempt to highlight their isolation, but it meant that the impending apocalypse came out of nowhere, instead of being built in.

The Slipway Grey
by Helen Marshall

     A grandfather at the end of his life tells his granddaughter a story about the slipway grey (a shark) he swears he saw as a child. The voice in this story is captivating and compelling, and while it wanders across other stories, it all comes together beautifully at the end. I really enjoyed the tale-telling style; I’m reading Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo at the moment, which is written in the same style. There’s something very engaging in the author speaking directly to the reader like this.
 

Metaphorosis 

May 2016. Edited by Morris Allen

     Metaphorosis launched its first issue in January 2016, and is on its sixth issue already. Free to read online, the magazine is mainly funded through Patreon, a model that I’m seeing more and more in spec-fic magazines. The stories are unashamedly plot-based, though with an emphasis on prose and language that makes for beautiful reading. I enjoyed most of the stories in this month’s issue and also the short author interviews which accompany each story.

Metaphorosis

Metaphorosis

Tides of Reflection
by Mark Rookyard

     Silven has lost her son to the sea on an alien planet, and it seems most of the colony has either gone into the waves or left. She fears that once everyone has gone, no one will remember her lost son. A tale of loss and longing on an alien world. Desperately tragic but beautifully drawn.

A Song Without a Voice
by Brad Presslar

     Dahlia was a brilliant performer before cancer stole her face and her voice. She wants only one thing: Jonah to come back to her, and has constructed an elaborate earworm just for him, to make him need her as much as she needs him. An upbeat story with no surprises, but still enjoyable.

Solomon and the Dragon’s Tongue
by Molly Etta
Recommended Read

     Sensible, earthy Yutke marries a scholar with his head in dreams. When Shlomo flees to the new world, she learns about a New York of ‘gold and ink’ from his letters. When he disappears, she goes to the new world herself with their son Moshe. A lovely story about practicality and strength versus fantasy.

Mr. McAvennie’s Freedom
by Dan Micklethwaite

     Rob dreams of the freedom he had in his youth, before work and marriage and kids conspire to destroy his dreams. He goes to someone he knows in Germany to experience an escape in the form of an elaborately constructed magical world. I found it difficult to get past the core of this story, which was middle-class white man is dissatisfied with his life.
 

Capricious

Issue Three. Edited by Andi Buchanan

     Capricious is shiny new, and still settling into a rhythm. The editorial lists achievements of previous contributors to the magazine in the recent Sir Julius Vogel awards, NZ’s premier speculative fiction award. The four stories in this issue were equally engaging though very different, but tied together by having protagonists who are girls or young women. The issue also includes interviews with two of the authors, which were interesting to read and shed light on the origin of the stories. The contributions in this issue were noticeably stronger than issue one, which was still very good. It will be interesting to watch Capricious settle into its groove.

                             Capricious

                             Capricious

The Rupture
by Malka Older
Recommended Read

     Exelle, a member of an extraterrestrial group with human ancestry, returns to a dying Earth to spend time at university, studying the people left on Earth. She’s convinced she has the better life, but does she? An engaging story about self and place. The rupture party is exactly as you would expect in this era of FOMO and YOLO and the desperate pursuit of experiences.

Glittering: Guttering
by Crystal Lynn Hilbert

     Rikka is a chef, and I love that right from the start, and also does roller-derby, which I understand is some sort of North American cult sport. There are not enough roller-derby chef heroines in fiction. This story is a rollicking good adventure tale with a heroine you can’t help but admire. I especially liked that the heroine was well aware of the customs and myths of fae, and used her head (as well as her boots).

Marie
by Lee Murray

     Nell and Marie are searching for the perfect person to adopt Marie but Nell isn’t sure she wants to let her go. The longing and loathing between the two was well-drawn, but the ending was baffling. Initially I thought the story was another version of Let The Right One In, but thank goodness for no vampires. However I didn’t understand the core magic of the story, so while it was compelling, it left me feeling unsatisfied.

mejaime
by RJ Edwards

     There’s a quiet pathos to this story. Jamie wants to be a musician but can’t even find the courage to tell her friends. Her creepy stalker-hater is far too realistic, and the reaction of her doctor is also frighteningly real and abusive. I’m torn between loving the story for its honest ending, and wishing it was longer so that Jamie could get a resolution. It was definitely realistic and honest.