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SFF Author: E. Catherine Tobler

E. Catherine Tobler was born on the other side of the International Dateline, which either gives her an extra day in her life or an extraordinary affinity when it comes to inter-dimensional gateways. She is a Sturgeon Award finalist and the senior editor at Shimmer Magazine.


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Watermark: Mythic fiction with lush prose

Watermark by E. Catherine Tobler

Watermark (2014), by E. Catherine Tobler, is the story of Pip, a kelpie who is cast out of the Otherworld of the fae and into the human realm. Before that, she was being held in a tower in iron chains. She remembers very little before that; she doesn’t know what she was being punished for, or why she now finds herself in the town of Peak, Colorado, or why there was a dead girl lying next to her when she got there.


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The Kraken Sea: Lush, dark, and myth-driven

The Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler

In The Kraken Sea, E. Catherine Tobler tells the story of Jackson, an orphan with no last name, who has finally found a home with one of San Francisco’s elite — Cressida, also known as The Widow, who has an unnamed purpose for her new ward. Jackson has a secret of his own, though; when he becomes angry or uncontrolled, he breaks out in scales and tentacles, exhibiting enormous strength. The only person who knows his secret is his confidant and protector at the orphanage: Sister Jerome Grace,


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The Grand Tour: Strange, dangerous and seductive

The Grand Tour by E. Catherine Tobler

E. Catherine Tobler created Jackson’s Unreal Circus and Mobile Marmalade, a carnival/circus where things are not necessarily what they seem… or in some cases, exactly what they seem, no matter how strange that might be. The stories appeared in places like Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and now, in The Grand Tour: A Jackson’s Unreal Circus and Mobile Marmalade Collection (2020), Apex has gathered up nine of the tales, which traverse earth and time, as we meet Jackson and the people who find their way to the circus,


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The Necessity of Stars: A lyrical first contact story with teeth

The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler

I continued my Neon Hemlock novella-reading binge with E. Catherine Tobler’s The Necessity of Stars, published in 2021. I always approach a Tobler story preparing to be bowled over by strange and stunning language, and this story did not disappoint. I was surprised to be reading a story that slots more comfortably into the “science fiction” category than “fantasy,” because this is about first contact.

Bréone Hemmerli is a highly placed United Nations official, in a world increasingly submerged by rising oceans or devoured by desertification,


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Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 83 through 86

My favorite email every other week is the one containing the new issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Each issue contains two stories of what the online magazine calls “literary adventure fantasy.” The quality of the stories has been high throughout the year or so I’ve been reading the magazine, but it seems to be getting even better with recent issues.

Issue #83, published December 1, 2011, opens with “The Gardens of Landler Abbey” by Megan Arkenberg. The tone and setting of the story remind the reader of Jane Austen or other Regency fiction,


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Magazine Monday: Clarkesworld, Issue 80

“Soulcatcher,” the opening story in the May 2013 issue of Clarkesworld, is one of James Patrick Kelly’s best stories. His protagonist, Klary, is the owner of an art gallery who has lured xeni-Harvel Asher, the ambassador from the Four Worlds, into her establishment. The xeni is “embodied” as a human male, but he retains the charisma that causes some to liken his species to the human legend of faeries; he is nearly irresistible. But Klary has been on a regimen of emotion, and besides, this xeni ruined her life,


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Magazine Monday: The Dark, Issues 2 through 7

I was excited by the first issue of The Dark, which I reviewed in 2013. The following issues fulfill the promise of the first, containing lovely and mysterious stories of dark fantasy. Reading the sweep of the magazine from Issue 2 to Issue 7 reveals that a particular type of story is likely to catch the editors’ eyes: stories that are often elliptical, gentle, hinting at more than they say, and rich in poetic language.

Issue 2 is as wonderful as was Issue 1.  “Our Lady of Ruins” by Sarah Singleton opens prosaically,


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Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 171-173

The most recent issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, No. 173, dated May 14, 2015, opens with “Out of the Rose Hills” by Marissa Lingen. It starts promisingly, with a merchant’s daughter and her companion coming through the title hills on an unexplained but apparently urgent mission. The first person she sees when she comes out of the hills and into the city asks her if she is the princess, as prophesied for generations. She denies it, but a voice comes from behind her (where there should have been nothing but rose-covered hills).


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SHORTS: Tobler, Cadigan, Foster, Tidhar

Merry Christmas from Our column today focuses on Christmas and winter-themed stories. Enjoy!

“Every Winter” by E. Catherine Tobler (2016, free at Apex magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

As soon as I finished “Every Winter” I went right back to the top and started re-reading. It wasn’t because I enjoyed the reading experience (though I did) but because I was intrigued by things I’d missed ― all the signs that suggest that the villa in the story is not all it seems.


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The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk: Truly mammoth, with some great stories

The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk edited by Sean Wallace

The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk lives up to its name, with 21 works of fiction ranging from short stories to novellas. “Dieselpunk” is the term the coined for concepts that grew out of steampunk but have left the Victorian era behind and are now, for the most part, set in the time period between the two world wars. There are exceptions in this anthology; one story takes places during WWII and one during the American Occupation of Japan.

What you get here,


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Circus Love

E. Catherine Tobler has never run away to join the circus — but she thinks about doing so every day. Among others, her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and on the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award ballot. Her first novel, Rings of Anubis, launched the Folley & Mallory Adventures. Senior editor of Shimmer Magazine, you can find her online at www.ecatherine.com and @ecthetwit.

I wasn’t going to make a list of circus books,


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Next SFF Author: Colm Toibin
Previous SFF Author: Betsy Tobin

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