2014 recap: January fiction

posted by Niall Harrison on 24 October 2014 | Comments (0) »

One of the things we like to do during the fund drive (well, we did it last year and it seemed like a good thing, so here it is again) is to look back at the stories we've published in 2014. In January, for instance:

Art © 2014 by Paula Arwen Friedlander

Some reviews!

The Serial Killer's Astronaut Daughter

Hana Frank is to the point:

Another fantastic story on Strangehorizons. I should make a donation to this wonderful magazine this year.

(Now's your chance, Hana!)

Jamie Lackey for Tangent Online:

Damien Angelica Walters’ "The Serial Killer's Astronaut Daughter" follows an astronaut after a reporter reveals that her absent father is a convicted serial killer. After learning of her existence, her father reaches out to her in a series of emails and offers to tell her (and only her) details about crimes he hasn’t yet confessed. In the media circus that follows, she has to decide if she’ll speak up or remain silent, but neither choice offers much promise for her future. The prose is a bit exposition-heavy for my taste, but Walters captures a strong voice, and the protagonist is a compelling character in an interesting situation. The feminism in the piece is overt, but genuine and thought-provoking.

Overt feminism! Lois Tilton also had thoughts about that at Locus Online:

A feminist work – about which I have misgivings. The workers on the station are constantly referencing female space heroes like Ripley as role models for the nameless daughter. And between the daughter and the female commander, there is a consensus that males get away with this kind of negative publicity when women don’t. I’m not sure that applies in this case. What if the serial killer’s secret child has been a man? I suspect he would be the subject of even more distrust than a woman. After all, serial killers are almost always men. A son would probably resemble his father more closely than a daughter, and the media would be likely to press such a resemblance. On the other hand, it does seem that the killer is victimizing his daughter as a way of harming one final woman, who are his preferred victims. I think the strength of this piece lies more in seeing how this person deals with a devastating personal crisis than generalizing it into an ideological issue.

On the other hand, there's this long review by Janet Nicolson:

She is going out on her terms, whatever it means. She is more than the serial killer’s astronaut daughter. She is a call to society to look at itself and realize that by judging the narrator and those like her, they are finding her guiltier than her father, who has committed murder. Her crime is being born and becoming the person she is in present, and no more. The narrator’s story concludes before she speaks to the camera, because nothing more needs be said. The act of speaking, alone, ties together the frame and sees her transition from being the vulnerable Ripley to the immune Vasquez.

It was a pick for the Science is Magic podcast:

You would think our astronaut would have an easier time of it, being in space and all, but no – the author does a nice job conveying just how vexing low-res video feeds and an email account can be. There were a lot of great ideas about identity floating around in this story and I am glad they came together into such a solid piece of literature.

Finally, Nicky Drayden:

This piece uses a unique situation to point out some of the double standards that threaten to follow us into the future if they aren’t addressed head on. There are a ton of references to the Alien movie franchise, in which Sigourney Weaver is the supposed measuring stick for all badass women astronauts, and a ton of f-bombs are dropped, so if either of those things don’t appeal to you, you might give this one a pass, but if twentieth century pop culture and sailor-mouthed astronauts are you thing, take half an orbit with this story. I think you’ll enjoy it.

The Innocence of a Place

Just the regular review 'zines for this one, so far as I can tell. Rich Horton in the February Locus:

Strange Horizons in January has a nice atmospheric horror story by Margaret Ronald, "The Innocence of a Place". It's told at a distance, by a historian studying the disappearances of the 15 girls at the Braxton Academy for Young Girls during a flood in 1911, along with a few older people, such as the lawyer who had opened his house to them when the Academy threatened to be submerged. We can see from the start what sort of thing is going on ... What works is the distancing, the historian telling the story decades later, mainly using the diary of an adolescent who witnessed ... some things ... from their window. Of course, maintaining their distance will prove problematic for both chroniclers.

Lois Tilton mostly liked it:

A well-done work that is, at the end, psychological, as revealed through the narrator’s voice, which we increasingly recognize as unreliable. As she tells us herself, people make up stories to justify what has happened, to justify their own reactions to what has happened, to what still may be happening. I only wish the author had omitted the metaphorical parallel storyline about the narrator’s partner and their estrangement. I really weary of that device.

And Jamie Lackey was positive for Tangent:

The speculative element in "The Innocence of a Place" by Margaret Ronald is subtle, like the sense of dread that grows as the story progresses. The epistolary form, which can often be distancing and distracting, works perfectly in this story. The main character spends her time researching a tragedy that claimed the lives of fifteen girls and their caretakers, and as she submerges herself in history, her grip on the world around her grows more tenuous. Overall a beautiful, haunting story that is well worth your time.

Palimpsest

Lois Tilton wasn't so keen on this one:

There’s a lack of focus here. The author spends too much time on the very standard-issue future dystopian setting, the privileged center of which, we may suppose, Nim entered as an experimental “volunteer”. I’m also not buying the idea of obtaining large numbers of bodies from the “wild” for mind transplant; feral humans would be likely to have diseases, deformities, and other physical flaws, making them unsuitable hosts for members of this society, who cringe at body hair. Another problem is that Nim succeeds in his quest far too easily, as if guided by the provident hand of the author.

Jamie Lackey also had mixed feelings:

In “Palimpsest” by Anders Åslund, the wealthy live in a floating dome far above the crumbling city below. When their bodies wear out, they take people from the lands outside the city, wipe their minds, and move into their bodies. The main character helped with that process, but decides to leave to chase mysterious flashes of memory. The prose is lovely and evocative, but the setting and the character both felt distant and vague. The main character’s main motivation is curiosity – there’s no sense of guilt or implication that how the wealthy live is wrong, and though there was some worry that the people from the crumbling city would resent him (or her), that never felt like a real danger. The ending worked beautifully, but it felt hollow, and I was left wishing that I cared more.

Fund drive update: $3,411. Donate here!




$3,000! (and a bit!)

posted by Niall Harrison on 23 October 2014 | Comments (0) »

We actually hit this milestone yesterday, but I'm only getting a chance to blog it now: we've passed $3,000 and unlocked our next bonus content, Arkady Martine's wonderful poem "Cloud Wall"! Here's how it starts:

The city does not love you as you wanted to be loved.

Don't be surprised.
These ways are inhuman ways:
no midnight phone calls,
no possessive hand curved on your waist
when you stood on the pier
and took the sea-wind full in the throat.
Nothing of the city is only and ever yours.

Read the whole poem here.

Next up in our fund drive issue is a new story by Alex Dally MacFarlane (plus podcast), "Because I Prayed This Word." We're at $3,263 now, and the story will be unlocked at $4,500. Thanks to everyone who's donated so far, and if you've been meaning to get round to it, here's the link to donate.




This week's issue...

posted by Niall Harrison on 20 October 2014 | Comments (0) »

The new issue is up, and what do we have for you this week?

  • "Dream Cakes", a story by Kelly Jennings (with podcast reading by Anaea Lay)
  • "Seeds", a poem by M. Sereno
  • Our latest poetry podcast, featuring work by (deep breath) ric Otto, Yoon Ha Lee, Pamela Manasco, Saira Ali, Catherine Butler, Penny Stirling, and M Sereno
  • And in reviews, later this week Sofia Samatar on Kuzhali Manickavel and Alix E. Harrow on Lauren Beuekes, but first up Phoebe North on Genevieve Valentine

Of course, because this is a fund drive week we also have a new batch of prizes to tempt you to donate -- books by Mitchell, Ramirez and Gladstone! Book boxes selected by Justin Landon, Liz Bourke and Ana Grilo! A scarf knitted by former SH editor-in-chief Susan Marie Groppi! The current fund drive total is just under $2,700, and we'd really like to hit $3k and publish Arkady Martine's poem "Cloud Wall" ... so have you donated yet?




$2400!

posted by Niall Harrison on 17 October 2014 | Comments (0) »

Time for another fund drive update, and as the subject line above states, we've just reached $2,400. This is the highest total at this stage of the fund drive since I took over the magazine, and by a healthy margin -- our previous-quickest fund drive was $1,582 at this stage in 2012. So it's going brilliantly, and thank you to everyone who's donated so far; it's so much less stressful when we get off to a good start.

But there's still a long way to go. For the last few years we've made our stretch goals as well as our primary goals, which always means that last year's stretch is this year's primary. So we're aiming for $13,500, and that's our highest-ever target, and it means we still have $11,000 to raise from here. If you haven't yet donated, in other words, now would be a good time.

What do you get for your donation? You get another year of Strange Horizons, for starters, ad-free and open to all: thirty-six weeks of original fiction (all with podcasts, twelve of them with original art), five curated reprint stories, fifty poems, one hundred and fifty reviews, twelve articles and interviews, and thirty regular columns. You get entry into our donors prize draw, which already includes books by Adam Roberts, Sarah Tolmie, Lavie Tidhar and Elizabeth Bear that you need to read. And you get to help unlock the content in our special fund drive issue -- next up is a poem by Arkady Martine, and then later in the drive we'll be publishing stories by Alex Dally MacFarlane and Ann Leckie, an interview with Iain Banks, more reviews, and more poetry.

Everyone here at SH is a volunteer, so all of your donations go to our contributors or to the running of the magazine. Your $30 donation covers a review or poem, $40 covers a column, $50 covers an article, and $300 (ish) covers a story. And we like getting better each year, so we've set another stretch goal, at $15,000. If we hit that, we'll be bringing you more fiction -- longer stories, throughout the year. We'd really like to be able to do that.

So, it's been a good start, but we're not there yet. Help us keep up the momentum?




$1,500!

posted by Niall Harrison on 14 October 2014 | Comments (0) »

We've reached the first milestone in this year's fund drive issue, so here's our first bonus content! Adam Roberts reviews Jeff VanderMeer's recent trilogy, Southern Reach:

Trying to think what one word best describes Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. I could go with "masterpiece," since it is so clearly a major achievement in SF/Fantasy/Weird writing—since it accomplishes so many of the things it sets out to do, since it is so beautifully imagined and written, since it will clearly scoop all the awards next year and remain a touchstone text in the genre for a long time. But that's an evaluative word, and I'm interested (for reasons that will become more apparent) in the descriptive space outside evaluation.

Read on here. If you haven't yet, consider donating here! Next up, at $3,000, will be Arkady Martine's poem, "Cloud Wall".




$1,000

posted by Niall Harrison on 14 October 2014 | Comments (0) »

Twelve hours into this year's fund drive, and we've raised our first $1,000 - thanks to everyone who's donated so far! Our first bonus content this year will be at $1,500, and will be Adam Roberts' review of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. Here's a teaser:

The trilogy is science fiction on the haunted, fantastic side of the genre; often brilliantly spooky and uncanny. And VanderMeer has, I suppose, a reputation as Purveyor of High Quality Weird to the Refined Reader. But I remain unconvinced as to the coherency of "weird" as an aesthetic descriptor; and certainly weird-for-the-sake-of-weird (a coinage along the lines of l'art pour l'art—l'étrange pour l'étrange, I suppose) is really not what Southern Reach is about. One of the things that makes these novels so readable is the air of absorbing mystery that VanderMeer flawless evokes; but what makes them so satisfying as a whole is that they are not content simply to evoke that mystery, to make the tiny hairs at the back of the reader's neck stand up. They are not just mood pieces. Indeed, after I had finished I found myself wondering if what these books are doing is reconfiguring pastoral for a new century. So that's the one word I'm going with. Southern Reach are strange pastoral.

To read the whole thing, donate!




2014 Fund Drive underway!

posted by Niall Harrison on 13 October 2014 | Comments (0) »

This week's issue (as well as having the conclusion of Alyssa Wong's story, a poem by Penny Stirling, Renay's latest column, and reviews) sees the launch of this year's fund drive!

We're hoping to raise $13,500 this year, with a stretch goal of $15,000 to increase the fiction budget, if things go well. As usual, everyone who donates will be entered into our prize draw (new prizes added each week!), and we'll be publishing bonus content as we raise money (Poetry! Reviews! Iain Banks interview! Stories by Alex Dally MacFarlane and Ann Leckie!).

If you can donate this year, then thank you! Every donation is appreciated. If you can't, but want to support the fund drive, please tweet or tumblr or blog about us -- spreading the word is a huge help. Thanks!




Stranger Horizons, September 2014

posted by Niall Harrison on 30 September 2014 | Comments (0) »

Crowdfunding first, this time: Sabrina Vourvoulias directs our attention to the Latino/a Rising Kickstarter, which is aiming to fund the first collection of US Latino/a science fiction, fantasy and other speculative fiction. It will be edited by Matthew David Goodwin, and feature stories from (among others) Sabrina, Carmen Maria Machado, and Daniel José Older. Read more about the project here in English, and here in Spanish.

New stories: Carmen Maria Machado has published a choose-your-own-adventure story at Yalobusha Review: "Ekphrasis." The new Hieroglyph anthology edited by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn includes Vandana Singh's novella "Entanglement", about which you can read a little here, and Brenda Cooper's "Elephant Angels", which you can read about here. GigaNotoSaurus featured Laura E. Price's "The Curator's Job". Daniel José Older's "Animal" appeared in Nightmare (also in that issue: Sunny Moraine's "Singing With All My Skin and Bone"). Two new stories by Seth Dickinson: "Economies of Force" in Apex, and "Anna Saves Them All" in Shimmer. Liz Argall's "Soft Feather Dance" appeared at Apex, while AC Wise's "Dream of the Fisherman's Wife" is also in Shimmer. Rich Larson's "Dreaming Drones" appears in AE. Sarah Pinsker's "No Lonely Seafarer" appeared in the September Lightspeed, while Beneath Ceaseless Skies included Stephen Ramey's novelette "Seeing". Neil Clarke's new anthology Upgraded includes work by Elizabeth Bear, Tobias S. Buckell, Rich Larson, Mari Ness, Genevieve Valentine and others, while new Haikasoru anthology Phantasm Japan includes among its non-Japanese contributors Tim Pratt and Alex Dally MacFarlane. Margaret L. Carter's erotic paranormal romance novelette "Romantic Retreat", in which a married couple facing the husband's retirement from a Navy career stumble on a supernatural solution to their disagreements about their future, is out as an ebook from Ellora's Cave. Francesca Forrest's "Andy Phillips and the Jones Sisters" appears in Not One of Us #52, along with work by Sonya Taaffe, Liz Bourke, Finn Clarke, and Adrienne J. Odasso. And three flashes to finish: Michelle Ann King's fantasy, "Waiting to Burn"; Cat Rambo's flash fairytale, "The Mouse and the Moon", in Daily Science Fiction; and Natalia Theodoridou's sacrilegious flash piece, We Call Her Mama", in the third issue of Flapperhouse.

What about new books? Adam Roberts' new novel Bête is out from Gollancz in the UK ("'Moo', said the cow, arching one hairless eyebrow.") Octavia Cade's novella The Don't Girls is out from Masque (and if you haven't read Trading Rosemary yet, do). Tina Connolly's Copperhead is out in paperback (ahead of Silverblind in October). William Alexander's new middle-grade SF novel Ambassador is just out. Adrienne J. Odasso's second poetry collection, The Dishonesty of Dreams, is out from Flipped Eye Publishing. The second volume in Stefon Mear's "Telepath Trilogy", Immoral Telepathy is out from Thousand Faces Publishing. Joel Best has released The Dogs Are Gone, a collection of flash pieces, through Smashwords. Aliya Whiteley's post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novella "The Beauty" is out from Unsung Stories. And Jenn Grunigen's post-apocalyptic novel Skyglass is being serialised at Sparkler Monthly -- start here, or read the latest chapter here.

On the poetry front: The inaugural issue of new 'zine Liminality, edited by SH alums Shira Lipkin and Mat Joiner, includes JC Runolfson's "Sea Widow", Sofia Samatar's "Make the Night Go Faster", Adrienne J. Odasso's "The Word for Love", and work by others including Lynette Mejía, Gemma Files, Lisa M. Bradley and Erik Amundsen. Meanwhile Mat has one of his own poems, "The Bryomancer", in the aforementioned Not One of Us #52. Virginia Mohlere's found poem "Tilda Swinton Has a Life" is the latest entry in Sliver Birch Press' Celebrity Free Verse poetry series. Peg Duthie is featured poet at The Houseboat, with ten poems and an interview. David C. Kopaska-Merkel's poem "Curiosity Reports a Comet" appears in The Martian Wave: 2014, edited by J Alan Erwine, while Jenny Blackford has two poems in A Slow Combusting Hymn, a collection of work about Newcastle (the Australian one) and the Hunter Region, edited by Kit Kelen and Jean Kent. Jessy Randall's "A Different Kind of Stupid" appears in the October-November Asimov's. The latest Ideomancer features "The Glass Men" by Alexandra Seidel. And Elizabeth Barrette's September poetry fishbowl theme was "healing and growth."

Nonfiction! The September NYRSF includes Ursula Pflug's "Around the Gyre", an essay on Ruth Ozeki's novel A Tale for the Time Being. Lawrence Schimel translated "Exilium Ergo Sum", an essay by dissident Cuban author Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (whose Abandoned Havana is forthcoming from Restless Books), for Words Without Borders. L. Timmel Duchamp has put a new essay online: "Real Mothers, a Faggot Uncle, and the Name of the Father: Samuel R. Delany's Feminist Revisions of the Story of SF." Adam Roberts has been busy at Sibilant Fricative, with reviews of Memory of Water, Europe in Autumn, Howard Jacobson's J and more. Nina Allan has some thoughts on J in comparison with David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks. Dan Hartland is blogging his way through this year's Booker Prize contenders. In the latest Clarkesworld, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro interviews Ann Leckie. Meghan McCarron has an essay at The Toast: "Awkwardly Dapper: The Strange Exhilaration of Buying, and Wearing, a Suit." And Abigail Nussbaum has posted an essay on "The Problem of Mike Peterson: thoughts on Agents of SHIELD and Race."




A Brief Hiatus

posted by Niall Harrison on 29 September 2014 | Comments (0) »

Very brief, in fact: this is just to note (and say sorry for the fact) that there is no issue of Strange Horizons this week, 29th September, and to say that we'll be back as usual next Monday. The glitch is due to a combination of factors, but it is a glitch, and we don't anticipate it happening again any time soon. So -- see you next Monday!




A Last-Minute Boost

posted by Niall Harrison on 16 September 2014 | Comments (0) »

Where does the time go? I've been meaning to blog about Accessing the Future all month, and suddenly there are only 13 hours (at the time of writing) left on the crowdfunding clock.

So: this is the next Future Fire anthology, following on from We See a Different Frontier. It will be edited by Future Fire editor Djibril al-Ayad along with Kathryn Allan, who has previously edited Disability in Science Fiction (reviewed here by Aishwarya Subramanian). Together they will:

... call for and publish speculative fiction stories that interrogate issues of disability—along with the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. We want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future.

I trust the editors, and I'm interested to see what stories come out of this project, so I've supported the book. The good news if you're still considering it is that the project is already funded, and now ticking off stretch goals -- as I write, they need just over $250 to hit their next target, internal B&W illustrations.

Some related blog posts, if you're on the fence:

EDIT: And now that the anthology is officially funded, here's the call for stories.




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