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Beginning with this issue, Strange Horizons will be adding a content warning feature to all of its published material. It will take some time for us to add them to back issues, but we intend to do that as well.

Why?

We have received requests for content warnings from readers, authors, and our editors—including me—who deal with post-traumatic reactions to triggering content. It is time.

Content warnings were originally created to help people deal with content that caused flashbacks associated with post-traumatic stress syndrome. People who have experienced trauma can have severe reactions to reminders of that trauma. Those reactions can be even worse when the reminder comes out of nowhere, keeping them from being able to use those practices that help them confront a traumatic topic. The traumas can include events like hate crimes, self-harm, combat, and abuse.

This is not about suppressing free speech. No content on our website will be removed. It will simply contain small, appropriate labels that are intended to help the people who need it. It is our hope that providing content warnings will give readers agency in dealing with material that might negatively impact their mental state.

How Does It Work?
At the top of a page, you may see the words Content Warning.
Screenshot of a content warning message with a tab that reads "show warnings"A tab located beneath the warning can be expanded to get a specific list of warnings.

Screenshot of a content warning message with a tab that reads "show warnings" -- beneath it, a box with the heading "This page contains:" and child death, child sexual abuse, and rape/sexual assault in a bulleted list.

The feature is in development. How it works will change over time as we adjust for community usability. Our current list of triggers is below: if you think of a new one that you feel is appropriate for us to add to a past or future story, let us know.

Content Warning List

  • Ableism
  • Abuse
  • Animal cruelty/death
  • Blood
  • Cancer
  • Child death
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Death/dying
  • Disregard for personal autonomy (kidnapping, enslavement)
  • Drug use
  • Dysphoria
  • Incest
  • Mental disorders
  • Needles
  • Pregnancy/childbirth/abortion
  • Rape/sexual assault
  • Racism
  • Shaming
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Sex
  • Slurs
  • Snakes
  • Spiders/Insects
  • Suicide
  • Transphobia
  • Violence/Combat
  • Vomit
  • Xenophobia


Ness is a queer Baltimorean with a gaming habit and a fondness for green things. Work hats include developmental editing, calligraphy, writing, learning design, and community management (that history degree was extremely useful). Ve started as an articles editor at Strange Horizons in 2012, and is constantly surprised about the number of fencers on the team.
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