Size / / /

They often spoke of the seed
as they sipped from a dwindling supply of absinthe,
their words tumbling from absent-minded lips
into my hiding place behind the vent.
I was young in years but old enough to keep their
company, however furtively; a partisan
witness to the uneasy union of life and loss in their eyes.

I was a mistake, an unfortunate result of my mother's
refusal to live for the sake of being alive,
a victim of the fact that we are a long-lived race.
For we will surely be around until
we can be around no more;
we have already outlasted the others.
Our problem is the lack of space, the lack of
resources, the slow moving fever that clouds
the minds of those who look too far ahead.

You see, if what they tell me is true (and
believe me, I don't like to think that it is)
there is nowhere for us to go.
There is no "where" there anymore.
We fly in our network of ships among the cool
husks of planets, all uninhabitable.
We are reluctant tourists, agape at the spectacle
of stars turning in on themselves
in the desperate dance that signifies a loss
too great to name. Soon we will lack the capacity
to keep ourselves warm, to keep ourselves moving,
to keep our selves at all.

What we do keep are artifacts, as if
reflection and categorization will slow the inevitable.
As if material reminders of a planet-bound past
will keep the reality wolves at bay.
Our artifacts have become relics,
objects of worship in a universe we know
no righteous god could have a hand in.
The relics fuel our reverence for the past
as we lie in the shadow of a future we cannot name.

It was among our carefully preserved detritus
that they found the seed,
a round breath of hope keeping cover
in the gem and mineral collection.
It seemed so like a gem: smooth as glass,
its surface shimmering with the queer light
of a star's final gasp.
Hard to believe that something so small
held the means for galaxy upon galaxy in its core.
It forced us into our current state of ambivalence --
to know that when the end comes, we hold a
beginning in our hands.

After the discovery we began to undertake
the business of living for something other than life
itself, able to feel time pass again.
Now, as I listen to them speak of the seed,
I imagine our final hours.
I think of how the seed will circumvent
innumerable years of blank infinity,
erupting with the self-assurance of the new.
And of those who will live in the new space?

I wonder at their dreams, at that faint,
persistent whisper that drives one to speak,
to listen, to create. The voice that
compels us to answer the questions it asks,
in the process coaxing a new seed into existence.
Does this drive to divine give us license to do what we
must? It's a question we don't dare to ask.


Copyright © 2002 Abbi Ball

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Abbi Ball recently decided to combine her enthusiasm for writing poetry with her passion for speculative fiction. The result is this, her first speculative poem. She lives in Pittsburgh, where she works as an information architect for a communications firm. For more about her, visit her Web site.

Bio to come.
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.
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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 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?
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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.
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By: RiverFlow
Translated by: Emily Jin
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