Moving on to the Semiprozines, where I’m again going to stick to fairly short reviews, because I don’t read a lot of zines and am probably no eh best judge.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies provided four stories in their Hugo packet. Of the four, I really enjoyed the first, didn’t mind the second, felt like I missed the point of the third, and tried several times to read the fourth but it couldn’t hold my attention. Not the best hit rate. Having said that, I really did like On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts, by Richard Parks – it was a very sweet sort of story, part quest, part ghost story, with a snake demon who is trying very hard to figure out how to be a human. I liked all the characters very much and the ending was satisfying.
The Book Smugglers contains two short stories, a couple of essays and several reviews. The first story was Nini, by Yukimi Ogawa, which is about an AI robot on a planet which is more or less an aged care facility. This didn’t quite work for me – the individual sections and characters were good, but they didn’t seem to quite fit together. I don’t think the author has figured out how to do transitions, and it was a bit jarring. The second story was called Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live, and was by Sacha Lamb. This one, I really did like. Avi receives a note saying ‘Avi Cantor has Six Months to Live’, which is concerning both for its content and for the fact that as far as everyone else knows, Avi is April. He hasn’t told anyone his real name yet, not even his mum. It’s a very sweet story, about coming of age, and acceptance, and overcoming all the unpleasantries of being a teenager, and falling in love, and making bargains with demons, and all that sort of thing. It felt weirdly fanfic-ish, but this might be because there aren’t a lot of conventionally-published school stories about trans kids out there.
There were reviews of Death’s End, Strange the Dreamer, The Stone Sky and Skinful of Shadows. And there was a longish article called One Girl in the Justice League, by Tansy Rayner Roberts, following the history of women in the justice league and getting frustrated about recent, regressive, developments when it comes to representation. Also, she has her own plan for a Justice League movie. There was a short article by Yoon Ha Lee called Fruitcakes and Gimchi in SPAAACE, about the ways in which he has included Korean history and food in his writing. The only flaw in this was that it wasn’t longer – I wanted more! Then we have Ana Grilo getting annoyed about the abusive treatment of Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thea James discussing where to start with the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
A lot of the pop culture articles were lost on me – I just don’t know enough about the things being referred to. The reviews were quite good. Of the articles, the Yoon Ha Lee one was the only one that really spoke to me. And I did like one of the stories. So I think this goes higher up the ballot than Ceaseless Skies.