Size / / /

Color provokes a psychic vibration.

Color hides a power still unknown

but real, which acts on every part

of the human body.

The spiral circumscribes a center, but no limits.

Nothing held there and

nothing there that desired to be held.

The populace falls up,

shedding confinements of skin and shadow,

riding the inverse surge of gravity

as light and line.

To yearn for flight

is to fall into forever,

every landing a new abyss.

Before his century arrived

he abandoned numbers for art,

abandoned a wife for a mistress,

abandoned a mistress for a wife,

till he at last found a companion

who could withstand deepest space.

The more frightening the world becomes

the more art becomes abstract.

He refused the most sure sanctuary,

hands extended, again and again,

promising escape to America.

He brushed them all away,

not trusting the beautiful void

to seek him out once more if he fled.

A human telescope aimed

at an angle no other could perceive,

focus adjusting over decades,

foregrounded first in the fey realms,

noting the tiny stars that crawled

through river flows

and couples in love.

Yet these lights shone from nowhere close.

The vast distance apparent

as he bent his lens.

His gaze rose through the shapes

behind the world,

the aggressive disputes

between entities without boundaries,

fields of mud and blood and blue

warring on the skins

of creatures without faces

seen in perilous closeup.

For so many years

those hostile clouds blocked his view.

Yet he had to strain further,

never dared stray too far

from his vantage—even

when the Bolsheviks took his home,

when the Nazis shut his school,

he only ran as far as Paris

and stayed put when the Nazis joined him.

The calming void

came to him each time he closed his eyes.

Those stars were letters swimming at creation's edge,

glyphs larger than galaxies,

moving over and under and around one another,

an endless ever-changing text,

new epics written with each shift in space.

He strove to read them,

captured in frustration on his canvas

mere words, snatches of calligraphy,

fragments of a cosmic alphabet.

When his own colors began to fade,

huddled by the wood stove,

hands afire with a vision of two great towers,

posts for a gateway to emptiness policed by ghosts,

he recognized he might, before his soul

broadcast out into the dark,

transcribe a single sentence.

It would have to be enough.

Perhaps the letters aren't in proper order.

Perhaps no one born since

could piece the map together,

place galaxies true in their quadrants,

connect the constellations.

But walk the ascending spiral.

Storms of shape and hue rain tremors

somewhere parsecs deep behind your eyes,

yet still electric, urgent,

spurring you to climb,

to slice through the harness of gravity

and fall into the codex written

at the boundary of time.

Color is the key. The eye is the hammer.

The soul is the piano with its many chords.

The artist is the hand that sets

the soul to vibrating.




Mike Allen is president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and editor of the speculative poetry journal Mythic Delirium. With Roger Dutcher, Mike is also editor of The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, which for the first time collects the Rhysling Award-winning poems from 1978 to 2004 in one volume. His newest poetry collection, Disturbing Muses, is out from Prime Books, with a second collection, Strange Wisdoms of the Dead, soon to follow. Mike's poems can also be found in Nebula Awards Showcase 2005, both editions of The 2005 Rhysling Anthology, and the Strange Horizons archives.
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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