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Jaysee reported to decontamination, wondering why there hadn’t been a revolt by the augmented long before. Every quarter orbit, Jaysee exited the mine through the primary medlock. Their shoulders hunched as they cringed around stomach and intestinal cramping. Nerves stretching from spine to extremities screamed with every flex of degraded muscle as they pulled off their neoposiprene surface suit. The biotech epidermis exposed was more grey than silver as they stepped into the first chamber for decontamination via liquid spray. The slick green sides of the shower room glowed as both radiation and pain leached from every organic portion of Jaysee’s body.

A voice in soothing contralto filled their mind. “Jaysee, beloved, remember me. I’ll be waiting at the shuttle port the day your contract ends. No matter how a hundred orbits spent apart may change us, remember we were made for each other. I will always love you.”

In that moment, as synapses recovered and toxins flushed, Jaysee remembered Esvee. Whether the words were memory or an audio file from the augmentations, Jaysee didn’t know. How much more debt remained to pay, Jaysee couldn’t remember, but they remembered their love, Esvee. Surely that feeling of love was organic.

When Esvee said they were “made for each other” that was only a figure of speech. Jaysee’s body had been customized for work in the freezing and radioactive mines of this distant moon, so they could pay off medical debt. It wasn’t meant to change how they felt about themself or someone they loved. Jaysee remembered nothing like that in the contract.

As the green glow faded, they passed through another medlock into a chamber, white with mist that smelled like gardenias. The temperature drop made them shiver, or was that the memory of Esvee’s touch? Did the gas mixture truly smell of gardenias, or was that a misplaced memory of Esvee?

Each quarter orbit in the mines scrambled neural functioning. The physical agony experienced in the harsh lunar environment drove away higher level thought. But wasn’t pain proof that they were still alive? Each quarter orbit, when a visit to decontamination cleansed and reconditioned both biological and technological components, Jaysee gloried in being alive and free from pain.

After one hundred orbits, they would be free from debt and indenture as well. Free to return to Esvee, their love.

As Jaysee walked into the final decontamination chamber, a warm yellow light suffused the room. It triggered memories of bare human skin, a yellow sun, the physical act of love.

Standing with all six limbs spread wide, Jaysee struggled to remember the shape or appearance of Esvee’s body.

Jaysee couldn’t even remember their own.

Had their limbs and bodily systems been so altered that they could no longer identify what they’d felt? How they might once have been shaped? The way they came together with their lover?

But their love was strong. Their desire for Esvee remained. They’d chosen between death and being augmented for purely human reasons. When their hundred-orbit indenture was complete, they would survive for hundreds of orbits more in this augmented form. They would be free to live and love then.

The power of that motivation assured Jaysee that they were still human, as they donned their refurbished neoposiprene surface suit and stepped through the final medlock back into the mine.


A moment later, Kaysee reported to decontamination, wondering why there hadn’t been a revolt by the augmented long before.



Clara Ward lives in Silicon Valley on the border between reality and speculative fiction. When not using words to teach or tell stories, Clara uses wool or glass to make practical or completely impractical objects. Past and future writing, as well as occasional book reviews, can be found at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7302339.Clara_Ward
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
Tuesday: Genre Fiction: The Roaring Years by Peter Nicholls 
Wednesday: HellSans by Ever Dundas 
Thursday: Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052-2072 by M. E. O'Brien and Eman Abdelhadi 
Friday: House of the Dragon Season One 
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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