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Welcome to the Strange Horizons Childbearing Special Issue, brought to you by donors to last year’s Kickstarter. At the time of that Kickstarter, the Supreme Court of the United States had newly voted to overturn many decades of U.S. caselaw supporting a right to bodily autonomy, in a case about whether pregnant people have a right to decide whether to remain pregnant.
It’s hard to speak for the Strange Horizons staff as a whole; we’ve been up front about the fact that we don’t have an editor in chief and operate as an anarchist collective. We don’t necessarily agree about what makes a good story or poem, or whether we’re excited about a piece of technology, or how we feel about various governments around the world—although we’re held together by a mutual respect for each other. We have very different bodies and operate in very different contexts.
However, I think I can safely say that all of us believe in a right to bodily autonomy. Sometimes that means support of trans rights or abortion rights. Other times, that means support of fertility treatments, or advocating for policies that make it easier to care for children, or that recognize non-nuclear family structures. We may not always have the same idea of how to get there; we live in different countries and societies with different laws, customs, and challenges.
Speaking for myself, outside the context of Strange Horizons, I hope to walk a line between respecting and supporting the varied challenges and sometimes amazing capabilities of biology—because different bodies color a person’s experience of the world, and of society—and ensuring that biology is not destiny. I hope I can draw on and add to a coalition, without getting too stuck in the limits of stereotype.
Within the context of Strange Horizons, many members of the editorial staff have worked autonomously, as is our way, to select or commission pieces which approach the subject of childbearing from many different angles, recognizing its complexity and centrality—not to mention the many metaphors woven through SF.
In Suzanne Boswell’s essay “The Curious Case of Abortion in Science Fiction,” Boswell provides an overview of how rarely abortion happens in SF, even in stories you may remember as being about that very subject—and in contrast, how often stories revolve around forced birth.
The lack of abortion in science fiction signals a failure to think about the future beyond the confines of heterosexual reproduction and the nuclear family. For a genre that should be concerned with the many, multitudinous, branching pathways of the future, it is a limited vision.
Our fiction leans into body horror and vegetation—the physical realities of incubating and growing something from seed. Kaitlin Tremblay’s “Of Heirlooms and Teeth” (illustrated by Daniela Viçoso) tells the story of a posthuman moss god who uses her body to turn baby teeth into rare plants, partly by vocation and partly for financial reasons. In “Sprouting God,” by Ezra Pilar Rodriguez, a young child incubates a powerful but parasitic being, in a situation he did not choose but must bear. And in Karlo Yeager Rodriguez’s story “Up In the Hills, She Dreams of Her Daughter Deep In the Ground,” a woman who has been involuntarily sterilized withdraws into fantasies of pregnancy and fertility which seem increasingly real.
Our poetry considers different ways agency and luck can impact the choice to bear a child, or not. Laura Cranehill’s “To the still daughter” is about the way a stillbirth feels like a ghostly third sibling alongside the narrator’s living children. Kristina Erny’s “Abduction” is about aliens who are fascinated by Earth’s mothers and children and want to bear some of them away. Jonathan Chibuike Ukah’s “A Woman with a Stomach Full of Stars” sympathizes with a god-landscape of a mother and all her realized and unrealized potentials. And Jordan Hirsch’s “Janeway Was Absolutely Right to Kill Tuvix” provides a full-throated defense of a starship captain’s abortion-linked choices in a memorable episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
The issue also includes three un-themed book reviews: Everything is Ori by Paul Serge Forest, translated by David Warriner, reviewed by Rachel Cordasco; The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin, reviewed by Divyansha Sehgal, and Imagining the Celtic Past in Modern Fantasy edited by Dimitra Fimi and Alexander J.P. Sims, reviewed by Debbie Gascoyne.
It’s a challenging issue, intentionally. But we hope you enjoy it, or find something useful in our engagement.