New Treasures: Shimmer: The Best Of, edited by E. Catherine Tobler

Friday, July 17th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer The Best Of-small Shimmer The Best Of-back-small

Cover by Sandro Castelli

How did I not know there was a Best of Shimmer anthology? Time to get some better inside contacts in the publishing biz, I think.

Shimmer was one of the best of the small press fantasy magazines. It received a Hugo nomination for Best Semiprozine last year, and editor E. Catherine Tobler was honored with a Best Professional Editor, Short Form nomination. The magazine published science fiction, fantasy, and “a dash of literary horror.” The final issue, #46, appeared in November 2018.

Shimmer was constantly interesting, and we covered over half a dozen issues as part of our magazine coverage over the years. Their greatest skill was spotting talent, and they did plenty of that. Shimmer: The Best Of contains stories by many of the brightest stars of modern fantasy, including Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Amal El-Mohtar, Karin Tidbeck, Mary Robinette Kowal, Carmen Maria Machado, Sunny Moraine, Arkady Martine, Fran Wilde, Sonya Taaffe, A. C. Wise, Sarah Gailey, Vajra Chandrasekera, K.M. Szpara, and many, many others, all packed into a massive 489-page volume.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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July 2017 Issue of Shimmer Now on Sale

Saturday, July 15th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer July 2017-smallI think of Shimmer primarily as a magazine of contemporary fantasy. While they also publish science fiction (and “a dash of literary horror,” according to their guidelines), I generally consider them a home for fantasy with a decidedly modern spin.

They’re certainly not my go-to publication for sword & sorcery or adventure fantasy, anyway. So I was surprised and pleased to find them stake out some more familiar terrain with their latest issue. Here’s the description for the July 2017 issue, now on sale.

Sometimes, especially now, you need a dash of the old-fashioned adventure story. You’ll find a couple of those herein, but we’ve also thrown old-fashioned out the window, because we’re Shimmer, and that tends to be what we do.

I first heard about it from Martin Cahill, whose new adventure fantasy tale is in this issue.

My new short story, “Salamander Six-Guns,” is now live at Shimmer Magazine! If you like queer, weird westerns of desperate men fighting anthropomorphic alligator people on the shores of a terrible swamp, then this is the story for you! Special thanks to my Clarion Class of ’14, who critiqued this as the last story of our six weeks together, and without whose help this wouldn’t be the story it is. Werecorgis for life! Please give it a read, and let me know what you think.

Shimmer #38 also contains new fiction by Andrea Corbin, Heather Morris, and Victoria Sandbrook. I looked all over the website but couldn’t find any mention of who did the cover, but I’m pretty sure it’s Sandro Castelli.

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Shimmer 35 Now on Sale

Saturday, January 14th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer Story Tags

Shmmer magazine has one of those Browse Stories by Tag! options at the bottom of their website. Clicking individual tags will take you to all the tales in their inventory with those tags. Some are a little headscratching (What’s the point of the awesome tag? Are some stories not awesome? Or maybe it’s awesome birds?), but overall, I’m enormously pleased to see that the most active tags this month are death ghosts haunted monsters. Shimmer, you’re all right.

Shimmer #35, the latest issue, is cover-dated January 2017, and it comes packed with new fiction by L.M. Davenport, Malon Edwards, Emily Lundgren and Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s been far too long since we’ve covered Shimmer, so let’s get down to it.

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Shimmer 27 Now on Sale

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer 27-smallShimmer #27, cover-dated September 2015, offers four new stories. Two are currently available on the website; the last two will be available later this month.

Dustbaby,” by Alix E. Harrow
There were signs. There are always signs, when the world ends.

A July Story,” by K.L. Owens
Iron red, linseed-cured, and caked in salt, in a place where the mercury never crept much above fifty Fahrenheit, the two-room house chose to keep its back to the sea. A wise choice, given the facing of the windows and the predilections of the wind.

“Black Planet,” by Stephen Case (available October 6)
Em did not dream the world. When the lights went out and the absence of her brother in the room across the hall became palpable, it was simply there, hanging in the space above her bed. She would stare at its invisible form, spinning silent and unseen, until she slept.

“The Law of the Conservation of Hair,” by Rachael K. Jones (available October 20)
That it has long been our joke that our hair lengths are inversely proportional, and cannot exceed the same cumulative mass it possessed on the day we met.

See the complete issue here.

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Shimmer 26 Now on Sale

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer 26 July 2015-smallShimmer #26, cover-dated July 2015, offers four new stories. Two are currently available on the website; the last two will be available in August.

The Star Maiden,” Roshani Chokshi
A star maiden is not an actual star. If you split her open, you will find neither crumbled moons nor milky pearls. A star maiden is a sliver of heaven made flesh. She is an orphaned moonbeam clinging to one possession only: A dress.

The Last Dinosaur,” Lavie Tidhar
As Mina drove, a hush fell over the city, gradually, in tiers, and the white fluffy clouds in the sky above London parted gently to open up a riverful of blue. It was a beautiful day for a ride. She hummed to herself, an old song, and her fingers tapped rhythm on the steering wheel.

“Serein,” Cat Hellisen (available 8/4)
I’ve imagined it endlessly: what Claire must have thought as she packed her bag. How leaving is easy, even if you lie and say oh god it’s hard it’s hard it’s hard. Make a clean break, leave everything, let loose your claim to possession: this is my house, this is my bed, these are my albums not shelved alphabetically because I tried and never could keep the world orderly, this is my little library built out of gifts and second-hand forgotten paperbacks.

“States of Emergency,” Erica L. Satifka (available 8/18)
In a no-tell motel just outside Billings, the psychotic cattle rancher known as Paranoid Jack freezes when he sees the baby-blue eyeball glowering at him from the mouthpiece of the Bakelite phone.

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Shimmer 25 Now on Sale

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer 25 May 2015-smallShimmer #25, cover-dated May 2015, offers four new stories. Three are currently available on the website; the fourth will be available on June 16.

The Proper Motion of Extraordinary Stars,” by Kali Wallace
Smoke rose from the center of Asunder Island, marring a sky so blue and so clear it made Aurelia’s eyes ache. The sailors had been insisting for days she would see the Atrox swooping and turning overhead, if only she watched long enough, but there was no sign of the great birds.

The Mothgate,” by J.R. Troughton
We knelt behind the crumbling wall, rifles balanced over its brow, peeking over the moss-stained stone and into the dense trees that lay beyond. I tried as best I could to stop my teeth from chattering, but the winter night was bitterly cold. Mama Rattakin didn’t seem to notice. She was staring toward the tree line, pointing with her black and withered hand.

Good Girls,” by Isabel Yap
You’ve denied the hunger for so long that when you transform tonight, it hurts more than usual. You twist all the way round, feel your insides slosh and snap as you detach. Your wings pierce your skin as you leave your lower half completely. A sharp pain rips through your guts, compounding the hunger. Drifting toward the open window, you carefully unfurl your wings. It’s an effort not to make a sound.

“In the Rustle of Pages,” by Cassandra Khaw (available 6/16)
Li Jing looks up from the knot of lavender yarn in her hands, knitting needles ceasing their silvery chatter. The old woman smiles, head cocked. There is something subtly cat-like about the motion, a smoothness that belies the lines time has combed into her round face, a light that burns where life has waned.

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Shimmer 24 Now on Sale

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer 24-smallShimmer is a slender little magazine with a big reputation.

Issue #24, covered-dated March 2015, offers four stories about endings. Here’s editor E. Catherine Tobler’s on the issue:

The world is always ending. The world is always being reborn. Small steps, planetary scale. Turning itself inside out, do-over, rewind, fast-forward this part, and pause. Pause here and take a breath and read these four stories that will change your perception of how things end, how they start, how they go ever on.

Shimmer is not generally known for its humorous content, nor happy-go-lucky stories. Shimmer stories tend to have a mood and that mood is often bleak. Beth once told me Shimmer stories were like the line from Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” (or was that line only in the Jeff Buckley version?), it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah. It’s cold and broken, but there is still a sliver of light by which to see. That’s the shimmer.

Shimmer is published bi-monthly, and available in both print and your choice of DRM-free electronic formats (indeed, a wide range of formats, not just PDF and Kindle.) It has shown a talent for rooting out great fiction across a wide range of fantasy and SF, and describes itself as publishing “Speculative fiction for a miscreant world.”

Fiction this issue is by Maria Dahvana Headley, K.L. Pereira, Michael Ian Bell and Sunny Moraine. A new story is released on the magazine’s website every other Tuesday; or you can buy the complete issue in a variety of formats. The digital version also includes some nonfiction content (interviews and an editorial). Here’s the fiction TOC for March.

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Shimmer 23 Now on Sale

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer 23-smallI’m someone who believes that the core of the fantasy genre is still its short fiction magazines.

This used to be a lot more true, of course. When fantasy and science fiction were still fresh and new as distinct literary genres in the early 20th Century, the only place they regularly appeared was pulp magazines. For fantasy, that meant Weird Tales, the shot-lived Unknown, and later Famous Fantastic Mysteries and the like. Mass market paperback fantasy didn’t take shape until the 1950s, and didn’t really become popular until The Lord of the Rings appeared in paperback in the 60s. Nowadays when people think of fantasy, they tend to think of paperback bestsellers like George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, and Brandon Sanderson.

Where did all three of those writers get their start? In magazines, of course.

Magazines are where the next generation of breakout fantasy writers are already at work today. And if you’re interested in trying a magazine that has a fabulous rep for discovering and promoting stellar writers long before they’re well know — authors like Amal El-Mohtar, Genevieve Valentine, Lou Anders, Chris Roberson, Aliette de Bodard, and many others — then I highly recommend Shimmer.

Shimmer is published bi-monthly, and edited by E. Catherine Tobler. It’s available in both print and your choice of DRM-free electronic formats (indeed, a wide range of formats, not just PDF and Kindle.) It has shown a talent for rooting out great fiction across a wide range of fantasy and SF, and takes pride in publishing “Speculative fiction for a miscreant world.”

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Vintage Treasures: Talking Man by Terry Bisson

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Talking Man-small Talking Man-back-small

Talking Man (Avon, 1987). Cover by Jill Bauman

Terry Bisson is a brilliant short story writer. He’s published five collections, including Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories (1993), which contains one of my all-time favorite SF tales, “They’re Made out of Meat.” You can read the whole thing online here. Go ahead, it’s short. I’ll wait. Wasn’t that amazing? That killer last line!

Bisson has also written over a dozen SF novels. A fair number, but not so many that you can, you know, lose track of them. Presumably. So imagine my surprise last month when I’m minding my own business, surfing paperback collections on eBay (as one does), when I glimpse the slender spine of something that looks like “Talking Man” by Terry Bisson.

What the heck was Talking Man? I’d never heard of it. To add insult to injury, a simple internet search revealed that this was a highly regarded novel — and a major oversight for a self-described Bisson fan such as myself. It was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and Publishers Weekly gave it a warm review back in 1986, saying  (in part):

Having dreamt this world into being, the wizard called “Talking Man” falls in love with what he has made and retires there. He lives in a house trailer on a Kentucky hillside close by his junkyard, and he only uses magic on the rare occasions he can’t fix a car the other way. He’d be there still if his jealous codreamer Dgene hadn’t decided to undo his creation and return this world to nothingness. Talking Man lights out to stop her… The geography shimmers and melts, catfish big as boats are pulled from the Mississippi, the moon crumbles into luminous rings and refugees from burning cities choke the highways… fantastic and gothic… very entertaining.

Even Jo Walton raved about this book, at some length, over at Damn it, does the whole world know about this novel but me? Apparently.

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An Ode to Robert E. Howard, from a Rogue Blades author

Friday, January 24th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Howard changed my lifeThis excerpt from author Cecelia Holland is taken from her essay for the upcoming book, Robert E. Howard Changed My Life, from publisher Rogue Blades Foundation.

You have to understand, being a girl in the 1950s was a complete dead end. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t play Little League or football; I couldn’t even play full court basketball. I couldn’t take shop instead of home ec. I couldn’t ride in the rumble seat of my uncle’s new car because I was too young, although my male cousin who was a week older than I got to ride in it a lot. When I asked for an erector set for Christmas, they laughed and gave me a doll.

I was gently dissuaded from thinking about having a real life when I grew up, since I would of course find some nice man to marry me and take care of me and I would spend my life raising children and washing dishes (and probably drinking like a fish, as all my aunts did, drowning their personal ambitions), so why should I even bother with college?

I did have one aunt (I had many aunts) who did have a career, for which she was broadly pitied.

I escaped. Robert E. Howard helped me escape.

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