Size / / /

In a car-park in Leicester

You have never believed in this degree of nakedness
being anything akin to purity,
although it stands to reason, now, that it must.

In dust-masks and coveralls, rustling, crouched
in your white forensic tent, you can't be the only one
worrying over smallpox, over plague,
wondering at a kind of improbable persistence
at dark miracles uncovered
at musty spores
at revenge.

Consider the thickness of soil 
think smothering, think Vesuvian
scattered at first, layered with words,
then shovelled, frantic.
Again, silent.
Left to silt and slide between his ribs
and settle about the small round bones of his spine.

Think thin smoke,
burned books and something aflame
just over the distance, over the castle walls.

Air that's the same as the air that drifts
(or drifted) up a spiral staircase 
it echoes the same, or almost, now,
mechanical and tinny, like the mythic radio ping
shuttling back and forth in its atmospheric layers,
an echoed legend, a sleepless, soft-footed troubadour,
the looped love song of lost pilots,

distinct, carrying like the voices of boys,
voices young enough to sound like bells and curls,
like slippers and bowled hoops,
running steps and stopped steps, laughter
and the total absence of a concept of time, a real one,
one beyond boredom and the sure inkling
of when a game should naturally end.

Imagine the sharp hum of halberds, gleaming and fantastical,
fit to twist a man from a horse and to slice a skull like 
well, like nothing you've seena perfect circle,
edge smooth and clean as polished marble, new
and shocked by air, by everything,
by the leaking out and spilling in,
the cold unroofing air.

Air with a weight to it that isn't just microbial,
mist-dark, chain-mail and mud.
Tart to the tongue, now, weightless
and strange with nothing he'd know as scent,
a distant magnetism that doesn't come from metallic hills,
from soil made coppery with blood,
with swords and hammered icons.

Time meets part-way.
This was death, always has been death,
so long hidden and now rushed, undone.
This muddled, flooding time
running down like small steps on stairs
it is not death,
not any more, at all.

The tent roofs him, flaps a little, covers all your bent heads
and gloved hands, the small, utilitarian hooks and vanished heart.
Think how much it might take to have a man from then stop praying
Because a brush, however fine, is not pity
not tenderness
not reproach
but simply a brush.




Jude Alford is a poet and writer from Sydney, Australia.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
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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