Size / / /

It's just after midnight. "Joey!" Elsie calls. Her brother galumphs over and skids into her shoulder. She didn't jangle the harness or leash, but somehow he always knows.

He slips his meaty arms through the harness and waits for her to clip on the leash, and stares pointedly at the door.

"I'll be right back. Stay here."

He won't budge from that spot, not while he's waiting for a walk. She's used this to her advantage at times; back when Laura came around, she sometimes used the promise of a walk to keep Joey out of the bedroom. She's not proud of it, but it worked.

She retrieves the knife from behind the busted silverware drawer and tapes it to her side. The cold metal warms against her skin until it feels a part of her. She replaces the drawer and pauses until she can force a smile again.

Joey can't understand her sadness. He thinks life is like Blaster Crusaders. He thinks there's a reset button: that people can die and start back at level one. He thinks Laura will walk through the door any minute now.

Elsie cups her face in her hands, lets her fingers drag through the livid mass of scars, traces the aching patterns down her neck. Sometimes she wonders what it would've been like if she'd been the one to contract M1, instead of Joey. Maybe being Simple made things hurt less.

At her signal they set out, past the broken-down elevator, descending the stairs to the bottom floor.

"Shh," Elsie warns.

"Ki-et," Joey whispers. His mouth gapes open, tongue reflexively twisting from side to side.

They sneak past a couple of unconscious 'donie burnouts, and out into the night. The chill clings and accompanies them through the city corridors. Elsie sets a quick pace. From inside her hoodie, she studies the folks they pass on the street, especially those who cross to the other side as Elsie and Joey approach. When they near the Gonzales place, Mr. G. beckons them over and then hands Joey a stick of gum. Elsie thanks him, even though she knows Joey'll just swallow it. They move on.

Near the old grocery, a gang of fem-skins emerge from a burnt-out structure, their shaved heads as naked and pale as the moon. Joey bares his teeth and snarls like Elsie taught him. Most folks are superstitious about catching M1, even after the vaccinations. M2 is the one they ought to worry about. Elsie scans each girl's face as they mock-bark at Joey. He strains against the leash until the skins back off.

As they head toward the train tracks, Joey warns: "Ka."

"Patrol?"

He nods.

They high-tail it back to the building. Elsie ruffles Joey's hair as they hike the linoleum stairs, and he grins, in his way. Sometimes it's hard to reconcile his passive sweetness with what he did to Laura.

Elsie was the champ at ignoring unpleasantness, until a year ago. Until Laura came through the door, hair disheveled, eyes and nose weeping rancid pink fluid. Elsie stroked Laura's matted hair as her lover moaned and vomited black sludge. M2.

She should have run, but she couldn't believe Laura would hurt her. After Laura carved holes in her face with a box cutter, after Joey tackled the sick girl and tore out her throat, then she believed. She bled as Joey whimpered in the corner, and when she woke, Laura was gone.

Elsie tears the knife from her side and stashes it in its hiding place. She wipes her damp eyes on her sleeve. Perhaps she's as simple as her brother after all; who needs M1? Every time she leaves this apartment, she catches herself thinking: this time, I'll find Laura.




Christie Skipper Ritchotte is the eldest daughter of two Mormon hippies, which should explain a lot. She lives in the Salt Lake Valley with her husband and son, and reads slush at Shimmer Magazine. Feel free to email her at galacticfuzzball@gmail.com; she likes email.
Current Issue
30 Jan 2023

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much.
It is probably impossible to understand how transformative all of this could be unless you have actually been on the receiving end.
Some of our reviewers offer recollections of Maureen Kincaid Speller.
Criticism was equally an extension of Maureen’s generosity. She not only made space for the text, listening and responding to its own otherness, but she also made space for her readers. Each review was an invitation, a gift to inquire further, to think more deeply and more sensitively about what it is we do when we read.
When I first told Maureen Kincaid Speller that A Closed and Common Orbit was among my favourite current works of science fiction she did not agree with me. Five years later, I'm trying to work out how I came to that perspective myself.
Cloud Atlas can be expressed as ABC[P]YZY[P]CBA. The Actual Star , however, would be depicted as A[P]ZA[P]ZA[P]Z (and so on).
In the vast traditions that inspire SF worldbuilding, what will be reclaimed and reinvented, and what will be discarded? How do narratives on the periphery speak to and interact with each other in their local contexts, rather than in opposition to the dominant structures of white Western hegemonic culture? What dynamics and possibilities are revealed in the repositioning of these narratives?
a ghostly airship / sorting and discarding to a pattern that isn’t available to those who are part of it / now attempting to deal with the utterly unknowable
Most likely you’d have questioned the premise, / done it well and kindly then moved on
In this special episode of Critical Friends, the Strange Horizons SFF criticism podcast, reviews editors Aisha Subramanian and Dan Hartland introduce audio from a 2018 recording for Jonah Sutton-Morse’s podcast Cabbages and Kings which included Maureen Kincaid Speller discussing with Aisha and Jonah three books: Everfair by Nisi Shawl, Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan, and The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar.
Issue 23 Jan 2023
Issue 16 Jan 2023
Issue 9 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
2 Jan 2023
Welcome, fellow walkers of the jianghu.
Issue 2 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
Issue 19 Dec 2022
Issue 12 Dec 2022
Issue 5 Dec 2022
Issue 28 Nov 2022
By: RiverFlow
Translated by: Emily Jin
Issue 21 Nov 2022
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