Size / / /

       For Stephen Hawking

As you approach the event horizon, star child,

at the edge of the known universe you face a carousel of dark energy

       devouring all light

spinning you down & in

       where the information that once was your world

       is smeared like Vaseline

       over a cracked lens

       at the far limits of thought.

How can you concentrate,

focus your intent long enough to defy

       the world-eater

       crushing you in its lawless jaws

       dragging you down its hungry gullet?

How can you gather enough strength

       to resolve the paradox

as your body dis i n t  e   g   r    a    t    e     s

like an astronaut too long in space—

       muscles atrophied

bones hollow as a bird's

heart shrinking without gravity?

Obsessed as you are

       with the last equation

       holding onto the "dream"

as night and day blur into half-sleep

 suspended and wired for half-life

 in a wheelchair spaceship

you must have considered

       that those who stand on your shoulders

       may one day bury your equations

  in a painted wooden boat

  moored in the sand

  where all horizons are defeated

   by mirage.

Perhaps long forgotten by those who memorialized you

  the robotic arm of an alien desert rover

 will turn you over in your tomb to identify the unfabled king

       dug up in the search for lost treasure

        from a dead world called earth.

Perhaps the information that is "you" will be lifted from a vortex

where brane and antibrane collide or sampled from a slab of limestone

       washed out of eroded mountains down into a sacred valley

       in the shadow of great pyramids and you will emerge from a culture dish

       like Athena from the head of Zeus, cloned without disease,

       or maybe found

       in the bottom of a crater,

       fused by the heat of some exploding meteor

       into a glob of glass like a paperweight

       or perhaps

some grad student in astrophysics will publish a thesis

       on the discovery of your ghost,

       therefore explaining

       the luminous smudge found

       in the blink of Hubble's eye,

still chasing Zeno's half of half


       into the widening maw,

       your celebrated stubborn streak

       an uncorrected flaw distorting

       perfect vision

The answer can only be found

       in other worlds,

       other dimensions

where another "you" lives in wholeness

       to compensate for the injustice of imperfect nature in this one.

There must be worlds entangled that make more sense

       than this rolling blue panorama of paradox & illusion

       with cruel laws of slow entropic decay

where each waking is another excruciating

       resurrection against all odds

       after your execution.

Falling into a blackhole, you learn to ask only for one more day

       to puzzle over the parts

       and piece it all together into this grand design,

this divine plan that will rescue you from total oblivion.

It is hard to see from here,

when even your sense of humor is lost

       stripped of every human nuance

       of spontaneous combustion

by the humorless pitch of a cyborg,

       you plod unerringly

       toward an unified theory of




       and the Big Bang

       seeking the far end of the universe

       where you might travel back to the beginning—

       a new beginning with strong legs

       with which to move about the world

       and strong arms with which to embrace it.

Even as extreme nature annihilates you

your thoughts are entangled bits of broken links

       scattered across sectors of some universal hard-drive,

       part of some total picture, unknown to us,

       but glimpsed by you.

Your name should be remembered

your story is a constellation in the night sky

       told and retold as the promise of breakthrough,

       a final proof,

          to conserve this basic truth:

       we were never created or destroyed,

    only transformed.

Perhaps the best we can do

 is offer a better incomplete description

 as the elephant continues to expand

  its inflation becoming more & more unknowable

like the contents of a wild mind

untethered &


evading the touch of a thousand blind & jealous hands

feeling for the whole but grasping only fragments.

From the last observatory on earth

       you watch

       as a faster-than-light spaceship

       catches up with the past,

moving closer to the first condition

       but no matter what you know

       it means nothing without proof.

       Your curse.

       Our curse.

There are bushwhackers in every quadrant

       looking to draw on you

       to make a name with their own proofs,

       disproving the proofs with new evidence,

       finding new particles more mind than matter.

All the while you are falling into this blackhole,

being pulled into an unforgiving singularity,

the information that is "you" blurred

       down the long corridor

       to a white room

       where David Bowman sits alone.

"It's about time," he says,

       soft electric eyes

       myopic telescopes

       through which he sees

       this other world—

       a world where light disgorges

       from a white hole

       at the other end

       of the darkness imagined

       by Arthur C. Clarke.

"Listen," he says.

And you hear

a reedy sound like music from a pipe organ

coming from a candy-striped big top tent

with bright pennants snapping in the wind.

Inside are three rings.

You go to the center ring and mount a black stallion,

his flared nostrils snorting inner fire,

one ruby eye burning outward

one turquoise eye turned inward.

And you ride bareback through a revolving door

of white light where the sound of the multiverse

comes to you as a marching band in a cosmic parade

celebrating you

       in all your dimensions.

Celebrants dance naked with Wiccan abandon around a bonfire

       twirling torches like batons in the light of the full moon

       dancing in your honor, dancing round and round

       tossing laurel at your feet,

       making offerings of tobacco to the four directions.

Imagine this:

       they pull you off the horse in jubilation

       and lift you up,

       run through the streets

       carrying you on their bare shoulders

for they remember how you flew through the fire,

never losing reason in faith, faith in reason.

This new language you made possible

they forge into a gold medal

you wear around your neck, starchild,

for you are the unconquered Olympian

and the gods

are jealous.

David Memmott's newest book is Primetime, a postcyberpunk novel. He has published in Interzone, Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, Nebula Awards 27, Airfish, Alchemy of Stars: An Anthology of Rhysling Award Winners, 2001: An Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry, Star*Line, and The Magazine of Speculative Poetry among others. He is also the author of Shadow Bones, a collection of stories, and The Larger Earth, a book of poems. He lives in La Grande, Oregon. He can be reached by e-mail at
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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