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I’ve never been completely comfortable writing editorials. I’d be surprised if any editors are. It is inhibiting to try to become the Voice of the Magazine, particularly a magazine like Strange Horizons, whose core strength, to me, is its polyphonic nature. And yet this occasion, when I am writing only as myself, is no more straightforward. The facts are easy: the time has come, I’ve decided, to move on; I’m handing the editor-in-chiefship of Strange Horizons over to our current associate editors, Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde, who have become invaluable to the magazine since they joined last year; I’m looking forward to re-encountering the magazine as a reader under their leadership. The feelings that accompany the facts are harder.

In June 2005, in a blog post that seems to have vanished into the ether as a consequence of our transition to this new website last year, the then editor-in-chief Susan Marie Groppi advertised for a new reviews editor for Strange Horizons—already an institution, coming up on its fifth birthday in a pre-social-media internet. (Google Reader hadn’t even been launched yet, let alone discontinued.) I was just about to turn twenty-five, and living in a one-bedroom flat in Maidenhead, a medium-sized town just west of London. I had been writing reviews for a couple of years, I was about six weeks from attending my first Worldcon, and with the confidence of a straight young white man, I sent in an application that is now, probably mercifully, equally lost in the digital mists. I do, however, have a copy of Susan’s reply to me. In it, she explained her Grand Plan: instead of a weekly featured review, the department would publish more frequent, shorter reviews. After a few rounds of back-and-forth, at the end of June she offered me the job, and I accepted; and in September, Strange Horizons started publishing reviews on the thrice-weekly schedule it’s followed since then. The average wordcount has crept up a bit, though.

I was a little drunk on SF fandom and SF history, and the sense of community and continuity they provided. Strange Horizons was publishing stories by writers like Elizabeth Bear, Anya DeNiro, Kameron Hurley, N. K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, David Moles, Vandana Singh—writers I was convinced were going to be a major part of SF in the early twenty-first century—and so I was excited to be a part of it. I had, in fact, delusions of grandeur about what I was about: I blame having that summer read Rob Latham’s essay, “A Young Man’s Journey to Ladbroke Grove,” which discussed M. John Harrison’s groundbreaking tenure as reviews editor for New Worlds. As I said, I was young. There was a learning curve. Susan was very patient. And Strange Horizons became a doorway to a community of critics and writers who shared many of my views about the field. I made contacts, I made friends, I met my partner. I went to Wiscon in 2007—still the only time I’ve ever made it there—and finally met many of my magazine colleagues in person. Five years somehow went by.

At the end of 2010, I took over as editor-in-chief, and this time I do have a copy of my application. Susan asked me what I wanted the magazine to be like in ten years’ time. I said that I wanted it to be more integrated, with more coordination between the different departments; to be well-known for finding and developing new writers of fiction and non-fiction; to continue to be a venue that was known for ambitious, adventurous short fiction; and to be one of the first places you would look for serious discussion about SF. To me, this was simply saying that I wanted it to remain Strange Horizons, but more so. (I also said that I wanted to transition to a new website by the end of my first year in charge. Better late than never on that one, I hope.)

Another six and a half years have gone by, with a new issue every Monday. I’m not far off turning thirty-seven, and living in a four-bedroom house in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a city quite a long way north of London, with the partner I met through Strange Horizons. We’ve just acquired a cat. (She is adorable.) Later this year I’ll go to my fifth Worldcon. I’m still a little drunk on SF fandom and SF history—and that, in the end, is what it’s all been about for me. We talk a lot about the fact that everyone who works on Strange Horizons is a volunteer, and there are probably as many reasons for volunteering as there are staff, but for me personally, it hasn’t been a career move; I have no intention of attempting to make editing my livelihood. For me, working on Strange Horizons has been about being a part of a tradition, a community; about helping to build a thing, a space, that I think is of value.

I’ve used the word “community” quite a few times now, and I’m still not sure I’ve emphasised it strongly enough. It has never seemed to me that observers fully appreciate how much of a team effort Strange Horizons is: polyphonic behind the scenes as well as, hopefully, on your screens. This is a magazine with over forty current staff, organised on the principle that many hands make light work, and intended to ensure that no single person is indispensable. There are over 150 names on our “emeritus” page. The buck stops with the editor-in-chief, of course, and I like to think I’ve been more useful than not; but do not allocate too much credit to me for whatever you perceive the good things about the magazine to be, since it’s very likely they are the work of other hands.

That also means there are a lot of people to thank, so many that I cannot possibly name them all, but in something vaguely resembling chronological order: Mary Anne Mohanraj; Susan Marie Groppi; Juliana Froggatt; Donna Denn; Mithran Somasandrum; Jed Hartman; Karen Meisner; S. J. Chambers; Phoebe North; Abigail Nussbaum; Shane Gavin; Kate Cowan; Brian Peters; Sharon Goetz; Brit Mandelo; Julia Rios; An Owomoyela; Anaea Lay; Rebecca Cross; Vanessa Rose Phin; Farah Mendlesohn; Sonya Taaffe; Adrienne Odasso; Romie Stott; Tim Moore; Lila Garrott; Catherine Krahe; Maureen Kincaid Speller; Aishwarya Subramanian; Dan Hartland; Tahlia Day; Heather McDougal; Tory Hoke; Jane Crowley; Kate Dollarhyde; Vajra Chandrasekera; all of the rest; I hope you have got out of your involvement with this magazine a part of what you have given to me over the years. And then to every reader and contributor from the last decade-and-a-bit: thank you.

Strange Horizons has been an enormous part of my life. It has been home base. But it’s in the nature of any organisation that it changes, and I think it’s important for Strange Horizons specifically, given the type of magazine it aspires to be, that it remains new, that it continues to look outwards and forwards. Kate, Jane, and the rest of the team understand that, and I’m excited to see where they take things. So all that’s left is to say to all of you is: keep reading. I’ll be reading with you.



Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
12 comments on “Moving On”

Niall, you've done an amazing job; I look forward to more amazingness from you and SH both. <3

Thank you for your past service and best wishes in your new life as a reader!

Sorry to see you leave, NIall. You've been a tremendous editor.

Gerry M. Allen

Every editor who follows you will inherit a better environment, a better magazine. Your work has markedly improved this place. Thank you.

Pete Young

Best wishes with whatever you're gonna do next, Niall. Whatever it is, I'm sure you'll make it *better*.

Niall Harrison

Thank you, all! Those are some generous comments, and much appreciated.

Thank you for your incredible work.

Looking forward to whatever you, and Strange Horizons, each does next!

A beautiful post, Niall. As someone who first began reading SH right around the time you became reviews editor in 2005, I think I would speak for many in saying that you have cemented the magazine's place in SFF history. Brilliant work and here's to the next stage.

Thank you for everything you've done!

Niall, thank you for all your work, it has been much appreciated!

[…] know, I know, I'm out the door. But I just wanted to briefly note the passing of Mike Levy, who died on Monday. Locus have a brief […]

Albeit briefly, it was an honor to serve during your tenure! Best wishes, and thank you for all you've done here. I know you wouldn't leave unless SH was in good hands, so I am looking forward to seeing Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde at the masthead helm.

 

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