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Dear New World,

Life here is perhaps as you remember. Garlic cloves
are still nailed above Grandmother's sick bed, both
equally dried and pungent. The youngest is still given
to fits, gabbling in the darkness of the coal cellar,
a belt cinched around his head. Inquiries have been
made to the lay brothers regarding a future position
for him within the Order.

Yes, life is mostly the same: little changes, and
change is little. The Laird still rides to the hounds,
marauding fox, fen, and convent alike. Gypsy caravans
still shelter in the forest, tinkering copper pots and
causing an abundance of runaways and two-headed
calves. The poets, as usual, drape themselves across
the gravestones, mewing flirtatious threats towards
their intended.

Yes, yes, and yes, there are still dragons, bears and
boars. Pestilence, Death, and Pride, as always, walk
upon two legs. During the rainy years, saints and
devils crop up alongside the ergot. Drafty chinks in
the wattle are stopped up with dung, and, of course,
there's never a shortage of drafts or dung.

Yes, there are still witches, idiots, cudgels,
infidels, St. Vitus' dance, and maypoles. The Blind
still lead the Naked, a one-eyed King rules both, and
all eat blackbird pie.

Don't laugh, New World. Tradition is capable of
crossing any ocean, and here, such lessons are still
taken seriously.


The Old World


Copyright © 2004 Tobias Seamon

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A finalist for the 2003 Erskine J. Poetry Prize, Tobias Seamon's work has appeared/is forthcoming at such places as The Mississippi Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Smartish Pace, and Strange Horizons, with his novel The Magician's Study forthcoming in 2004 from Turtle Point Press. He lives in Albany, NY. To contact him, email

Tobias Seamon's first novel The Magician's Study was recently published by Turtle Point Press. Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Mississippi Review, Pebble Lake Review, Santa Clara Review, and Strange Horizons. He lives with his wife in upstate New York. You can see more of Tobias's work in our archives, or send him email 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.
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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.
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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.
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