Richard Leis cannot help sharing his favorites (and sometimes his thoughts on things that are not his favorite.) Follow along with what he’s reading, watching, and listening to with his latest reviews of books, TV, movies, and music.
More Favorites & Reviews
Black Tide by KC Jones
Black Tide by K.C. JonesMy rating: 4 of 5 starsThe Oregon Coast becomes the site for a spectacular and unexpected meteor shower, followed by a grueling struggle to survive by two people already struggling to survive their day-to-day lives. I grew to care about these characters as their story unfolds over an action-packed and harrowing…
Girls From the County by Donna Lynch
Girls From the County by Donna LynchMy rating: 5 of 5 starsHaunting, heartbreaking, and highly accomplished. The razor-sharp poems in Donna Lynch’s latest collection mix the real and all-too-common with folklore as powerful commentary about the dangers women face, most often from men, but occasionally from themselves, too, especially while dealing with the danger and…
Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger
Cradleland of Parasites might be Sara Tantlinger’s best collection yet, a sequence of frightening, gruesome, breathtakingly beautiful poems about the Black Plague and other very real pestilence horrors up through modern times.
House of Zolo’s Journal of Speculative Literature, Volume 3
The future is frightening, often radically different, sometimes bleak, sometimes hopeful, sometimes both in the beautiful poems and short fiction included in the latest volume of House of Zolo’s Journal of Speculative Literature.
Reviewing & Ranking the Scream Franchise
My favorite horror franchise gets a fifth entry, so here is a quick ranking of the previous movies.
“It Was Another Time”: James Bond and Andrew Cuomo
I love the James Bond films. This weekend, I finished the fourth in the series—Thunderball (1965)—in my latest rewatch. I acknowledge, however, that most of the films in this franchise are filled with offensive and derogatory content, including racism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. There are too many of these scenes. I don’t love these films…
Review: Final Destination (Film Franchise)
I resisted watching the films in the Final Destination franchise for a long time because I was afraid of how extreme the gore might be. I’m getting a little braver and I kept hearing good things about the first one, so I finally watched the first film last night. And then binge-watched the other four…
Nightmare, Issue 93 (June 2020)
I really love every story in this issue. Everything had the right amount of tension, chills, and ambiguity. There’s an image of attendees at a party after the party is over in “Girls Without Their Faces On” by Laird Barron that will haunt me forever. As will the Dorset Ooser from “We, the Folk” by…
Fantasy, Issue 61 (November 2020)
Fantasy Magazine has been on hiatus for several years, but new editors Arley Sorg and Christie Yant have relaunched the magazine starting with Issue 61 and four short or flash prose pieces and two poems, along with interviews. In their opening editorial, Sorg and Yant discuss why they’re bringing the magazine back now; it’s a…
Lightspeed, Issue 126 (November 2020)
There’s a humorous tone to some of the stories in the latest issue of Lightspeed Magazine I don’t think I’m really in the right place emotionally right now to completely appreciate, which might explain why my favorite story in this issue is probably “Burn the Ships” by Alberto Yáñez. It’s dark, but also deeply satisfying…
Review: Friday the 13th (Film Franchise)
Know that this franchise is mostly awful and an embarrassment to horror. I honestly don’t know why this franchise is popular. Terrible. Just terrible.
Autumncrow by Cameron Chaney
I truly love Autumncrow by Cameron Chaney, a perfect-for-October and Autumn book, with fun and wicked, but frequently dark and troubling, stories that whisper to me about my own trauma and personal history, suggesting dark and light new ways for me to look at things. Chaney has a knack for seeing right into the soul.
Stories We Tell After Midnight Edited by Rachel A. Brune
A mix of flash and short fiction, Stories We Tell After Midnight from Crone Girls Press and editor Rachel A. Brune is an uneven mix, with several gems.
True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik
True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik is a difficult book to read, for sure, but what’s so remarkable about it and why I continued reading is how the author navigates this brutal material.
Coppice & Brake Edited by Rachel A. Brune
One of the most exciting and enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had this year. I’m enthusiastic because in a year of great anthologies, Coppice & Brake from Crone Girls Press and Editor Rachel A. Brune is an absolute favorite. I love every single story, which I cannot say about most anthologies.
“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass
Professor Geta LeSeur at the University of Arizona introduced me to Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech, a speech I now read or watch being read every year on this day.
2020 Rhysling Anthology edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
What bliss to read the latest Rhysling Anthology from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) and edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel, but what torture to select the best three short and long poems nominated for the 2020 Rhysling Award.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo is a great place for White people to start, learn a little humility, and start building stamina for grappling with race and racism. I learned a lot while experienced many head-smack moments and moments of shame while reading this…
Submission Opportunity: 2020 SFPA Poetry Contest
The 2020 SFPA Poetry Contest runs from June 1 through August 31, 2020 and is open to both non-members and members.
Lightspeed Issue 120 (May 2020)
Lightspeed’s May 2020 issue includes stories by some of my favorite authors, and some new favorites.
In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland
At 94 pages, In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland is a quick read, but be warned that the mounting tension might require an occasional break to catch your breath. You’re going to need the oxygen: the final third of the book, when the breathless pace escalates and characters become even more desperate,…
Cricket Hunters by Jeremy Hepler
Cricket Hunters subverts the usual tropes and nostalgia of coming-of-age horror by reaching for something even darker in this tale of friendship and rivalry
Midnight in the Graveyard Edited by Kenneth W. Cain
I have definitely been in the mood for ghost stories, and Midnight in the Graveyard, the first anthology from Silver Shamrock Publishing, delivers the ghostly goods!
Phreak by JE Solo
Phreak often worked against my narrative expectations with its fragmented, time-jumping, and vignette-style approach, and in the process delivered a singular character whose clear and deeply felt recollections warn us how close we are to delivering a similarly bleak future to the next generation. You’ll want to get your hands on this novel as soon…
How We Broke by Bracken MacLeod and Paul Michael Anderson
This little novella full of big revelations and emotions really got to me.
Snow by Ronald Malfi
The rapid pace doesn’t get in the way of good details and atmosphere; I felt the cold, eeriness, and rising tension along the way. What they encounter is creepy as hell and led to heart-pounding horror and heartbreaking deaths.
We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk
It took me several pages to adjust to the direction Kirk takes later in the novel, but I was rewarded with an unexpectedly humane, emotional, and satisfying ending. Despite its challenges, We Are Monsters left me with a lot to enjoy and think about.
Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors Edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey
So this is what today’s pro-level horror looks like.
Ghosters 3: Secrets of the Bloody Tower by Diane Corbitt
What I like the most about Ghosters 3 are the characters and their personality quirks and other details that make them individual and interesting.
Philip Ivory’s “31 Days of Classic Horror”
Tucson writer and instructor Philip Ivory dives into “31 Days of Classic Horror” films on his “Write Yourself Sane” website, starting with 1931’s Dracula.
Kids by The Midnight
One musical act in particular is responsible for my current retrowave obsession: The Midnight.
2019 Rhysling Anthology edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Lots of good poems this year, but when I read the poems I later selected while voting for the Rhysling Awards, they really leapt out at me and I love them fiercely.
“Forever Baby” by Dana Diehl in Cartridge Lit
Dana Diehl’s latest flash fiction piece titled “Forever Baby” and inspired by the game Stardew Valley is available on Cartridge Lit in the new “The Double Click Temple Issue.” Her story is awesome, sad, allegorical for so much, and you don’t need to know anything about Stardew Valley to appreciate it.
Supporting Professional Payment Rates in Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction Markets
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America sets the minimum payment rates for professional short fiction markets. In September, this rate rises from 6 cents per word to 8 cents per word.
Movie Review: Assimilate (2019)
Assimilate isn’t the cheap and nauseating found-footage film the trailer led me to believe it would be, but instead an effective low-budget thriller that relies too much on jump scares but tempers these with earned emotions and suspense.
The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee
Anders Carlson-Wee’s poems in The Low Passions feel like they have exactly the right words; the perfect, accessible, blunt, beautiful, challenging, and surprising words.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
🎥 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a fantastic movie! I love the energy, art style(s), story, and characters. If this is the future of the Spider-Verse (and Venom 2 turns out to be a major improvement on the first one), then I’m eager for the franchise to expand.
Alice Hatcher Craft Class
📚 I participated in a fantastic craft class today with Alice Hatcher, author of The Wonder That Was Ours. She was interviewed by Reneé Bibby, Director of the Writers Studio Tucson, and local students in the Master and Advanced workshops.
“What’s Done Can’t Be Undone” by Reneé Bibby and “CARBORUNDORUM > /DEV/NULL” by Annalee Flower Horne
How does the writer of genre fiction approach difficult subject matter like sexual assault? Two excellent and potentially triggering recent short stories by two fearless writers suggest two effective approaches.
HERE: Poems for the Planet by Copper Canyon Press
New Kickstarter for HERE: Poems for the Planet, from Copper Canyon Press.
Horror 101: The Way Forward edited by Joe Mynhardt
Horror 101: The Way Forward edited by Joe Mynhardt explores a tremendous territory of information, advice, and experience with essays written by many different creatives who work in the genre.
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
The tone and humor might be a little dated, even insensitive and problematic at points, but there’s no question that Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a book packed with useful, easily digestible, but comprehensive information.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is beautiful, emotional, full of love, humor, and hope, and also horror and tragedy. It’s devastating.
Nightmare Magazine, Issue 10
The highlight of this issue is most definitely the interview with Joe Hill. I haven’t read any of his work yet, but I’m really interested now that I’ve read this interview.
The Wonder That Was Ours by Alice Hatcher
The Wonder That Was Ours by Alice Hatcher is a deeply moving novel that makes smart use of its narrator—the collective “we” of cockroaches—to explore the legacy of colonization. Hatcher’s collective cockroach narrator is funny and astute, and finds the disturbing and heartbreaking parallels between our species, while pointing out the ways humans might be…
Nightmare Magazine, Issue 9
An issue of mostly Lovecraftian horror (including an essay asking what the hell that even means.)
TV Girls by Dana Diehl
With TV Girls—six incredible flash fiction stories in one fantastic chapbook—Dana Diehl’s compassion for reality TV stars flattened by the medium recovers their individuality and complexity by exploring in gorgeously-crafted prose how they are vulnerable, exploited, and managing the relentless attention.
For Every One by Jason Reynolds
I’ll keep this with me for a long time, and you should, too.
“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman
“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman is one of the best poems I’ve read this year. It was my top pick when voting for the 2018 Rhysling Awards, and must have been for many others because it recently won in the long poem category!
The 2018 Rhysling Anthology
Neil Gaiman’s “The Mushroom Hunters” was my personal favorite in the collection, along with Mary Soon Lee’s “Advice to a Six-Year-Old” and all her other poems, Linda D. Addison’s “Sycorax’s Daughters Unveiled”, Cislyn Smith’s “Hot”, and Shannon Connor Winward’s “The Raven’s Hallowe’en.”
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Simon and the other characters are the highlight of Simon vs the Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, about a high school student on the verge of coming out as gay dealing with doubt, first love, and blackmail.
The World to Come: Stories by Jim Shepard
Every single story in this collection of historical fiction and contemporary fiction pieces is breathtaking, full of incredible and often all-too-real details, and features characters (whether based on real people or not) that leap off the page.
Third Class Superhero by Charles Yu
Short, genre-defying stories that look at people and things—mothers, relationships, language, infidelity, etc.—in unexpected ways.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
An incredible if interminable reading experience made nauseating by deplorable racist interjections (sometimes an excruciating chapter long) and gory slaughter.
Shekhinah by Eleanor Wilner
I find Wilner’s style to be very straightforward and clear (as is her reading style) and her poems full of beautiful sensory detail and movement, featuring persona narrators who are typically distant and generally focus almost all their attention on the subject and themes of the poem.
“Leave” By Katie Predick
I’ve been fortunate to have been in several workshops with Katie Predick, a poet I highly regard. Her poetry is rich with images and surprises as she explores myth and nature and themes of womanhood and parenthood, relationships, science, and human impact on the environment (she’s also an accomplished scientist.)
“How We Cured Racism” by Philip Ivory
This is a story that will get under your skin, no pun intended.
Lace & Pyrite by Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil
A short chapbook of beautiful epistolary poems between Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Ross Gay. Ostensibly about their individual gardens, the scope of these poets’ poems frequently expands in breathtaking ways.
Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
I know when poems are working for me when the images suddenly erupt in vivid virtual reality in my mind and I gasp; several poems in this collection had those effects on me.
Everything is Free
When I say that Brian Jordan Alvarez’s queer film Everything is Free is not afraid of penises, I mean that as high praise … and this is your opportunity to bail out of this review if this isn’t subject matter you’re comfortable with.
Juste la fin du monde (It’s Only the End of the World)
My goodness is this a rich, complex, brutally emotional movie that I need to watch a hundred more times.
Shard Atlas by Wren Awry
A micro-chapbook of impactful poems concerned with what needs to be preserved, what needs to be acknowledged, and what needs to be torn down. Beautiful and timely.
In Another Country: Selected Stories by David Constantine
I loved several of the stories and the rest, though somewhat opaque to me, were generally thought-provoking, evocative, and beautifully written.
Book and Movie Reviews: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Comparing the movies and the book. The novel has more room for exposition than the film, and in general this additional information is really interesting.
Asimov’s Science Fiction August 2016
The August 2016 (I’m a little behind) issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction is a really good collection of stories, poems, and essays.
“The Price of Oranges” by Nancy Kress
One of my absolute favorite short stories. I’ve read “The Price of Oranges” many times, but I always seem to forget how it ends, making each new read a magical, emotional experience all over again.
“Dancing on Air” by Nancy Kress
Bio-enhanced ballerinas and dogs. Mothers and daughters. The price of passion. This powerful short story is a must-read.
Beyond the Gates (2016)
Beyond the Gates is one of those slow-burn horror films that may bore some viewers but the nostalgia and character building are going to make fans of the rest.
The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster
The characters in The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster are so engaging, their world so compelling, and the book cover art so gorgeous that I feel bad giving this novella only three stars, but the truth is I personally wanted more details and more time in this world with these characters.
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Ted Chiang’s collection of his stories published between 1990 and 2002 is now one of my favorite books ever, full of some of my favorite stories ever. There is not one story in this collection I did not enjoy, and all of them left me in awe. Yes, I’m going to be a little breathless…
The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig includes over 30 lists of 25 tips about various subjects like writing, rewriting, craft, and publishing.
Analog September 2016
First time subscriber, first issue of Analog I’ve read, and I loved everything in it!
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Lisa Williamson’s wonderful The Art of Being Normal explores the complicated and emotional coming-of-age of two English teenagers.
The Economic Singularity by Calum Chace
Much of The Economic Singularity by Calum Chace is devoted to supporting the argument that machines will take over many and eventually most jobs from humans.
Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
What I like most about The Expanse series of books by James S.A. Corey so far are the characters. In the second book, Caliban’s War, a few new characters are introduced, including my new favorite, Bobbie Draper, a Martian Marine. Her story is one of two frames, beginning right after the prologue that introduces the…
The Gilded Razor: A Memoir by Sam Lansky
Lansky’s account of his drug use is riveting but also very upsetting.
The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss by Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper
I started Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper’s conversation The Rainbow Comes and Goes not expecting to enjoy it much, but by the end of the book I was thoroughly charmed.
Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley
I highly recommend Garrard Conley’s beautifully written and emotional memoir about his religious upbringing, sexuality, rape, and conversion therapy.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies #206
The stories in issue #206 are about long, painful journeys, but one leads home and the other does not.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #205
I have enjoyed several recent issues of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, but this was a rare issue with stories that didn’t quite work for me.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #204
This was a difficult issue to rate because these two stories were to different degrees a little opaque and difficult for me to read and understand. They both rewarded my effort, however, and gave me much to think about, in terms of their content and their craft.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #203
Both stories in issue #203 of BCS deal with transformation, gender, and the strict roles of women and men in two very different societies and two very different settings.
Nightmare Magazine, Issue 46
I found some of the stories in Issue 46 of Nightmare Magazine to be a little opaque, making for interesting reading and leaving me to think about possible meanings.
Jonathan Issue 11
With issue 11, Jonathan diversifies from fiction written by gay men to fiction written “by self-identified queer writers from all across the LGBTQ spectrum.” I haven’t read the previous ten issues, but the quality of the stories in issue 11 convinces me to purchase the back issues and also look forward to upcoming issues.
The Machinery Second Edition
The artists and the writers are from various parts of the world and part of the charm and enjoyment of The Machinery is how writer and artist from different backgrounds are paired together.
The Machinery First Edition
A young group of artists from India has organized a new literary magazine of poetry, prose, and art and photography.
The Year’s Best Fantasy First Annual Collection
I’m rating this 5 stars for a very good reason: nearly ever story in the collection are themselves 5-star worthy.
Olivia De Havilland at 100
Fantastic list from the Nitrate Diva and now I want nothing more than to dive into these movies.
Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper
There isn’t a lot of depth, but for beginners and those in need of a review, I think this book may be handy, and it will suggest to you topics you’ll want to explore further elsewhere.
Lightspeed Magazine Issue 2 July 2010
I really enjoyed the second issue of Lightspeed Magazine.
Nightmare Magazine Issue 1 October 2012
I’m reading the most recent issues of Nightmare Magazine and also going back to the beginning to read every issue. Fantastic issue!
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #202
Although I found these two stories somewhat opaque (especially the second one), they feature strong writing, memorable characters, and vivid world building. I was left after reading both wanting to know much more about their worlds.
Lightspeed Magazine Issue 1 June 2010
The four short stories in the debut issue of Lightspeed are all fantastic.
Nightmare Magazine Issue 45 June 2016
Oh, wow, this is a great issue. I haven’t read a lot of horror short fiction in recent decades and I’ve been curious to see what writers are writing about. Thus, I’m a new subscriber; it has already been rewarding.
Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 117
Brief descriptions I read about “And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald and “Things With Beards” by Sam J. Miller convinced me to subscribe right then to a year of Clarkesworld Magazine, and I’m so glad I did.
Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft
Many of my favorite writers contributed stories to this anthology after they visited with Microsoft about cutting edge technology and speculation about the future.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #201
Another great issue.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 200
The four vividly imagined worlds in these four fantasy stories are populated by characters on journeys through time and space, their loyalty to existing systems sorely tested, similar in their resolve to see their way through, but different in the complexities of their own unique personalities and how they forge ahead.
Phobos Magazine Issue Three: Troublemake
The poems and flash fiction in this issue tend to feature ornery characters, leading to lots of humor and dark twists.
Phobos Magazine Issue Two: Emergence
Several absolutely fantastic and often chilling flash horror, fairy tale, and science fiction stories.
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