The Best of Strange Horizons 2016+

written by David Steffen

Strange Horizons is a freely available online speculative fiction zine that also publishes nonfiction and poetry.  Their editor-in-chief is Niall Harrison.  Their fiction editors are Lila Garrott, Catherine Krahe, An Owoyo, and Vajra Chandresekera, and their podcast is edited, hosted, and usually read by Anaea Lay.  They publish a variety of styles of stories and have regularly attracted award nominations in recent years.  All of the stories and poetry in the zine are published in the podcast.  This list covers all of the stories published since the last Best of Strange Horizons list posted here on November 9, 2015.  In that timeframe, Strange Horizons published 52 stories.

Since last year they have upgraded their website so it looks all shiny and new.

This year they added a new feature when they reached a fundraising goal to add Spanish translations.

Stories that are eligible for this year’s Hugo and Nebula awards are marked with an asterisk (*).

The List

1. “The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R.” by Benjamin C. Kinney*
Story of hauntings from the point of view of the ghost, who in life had been a researcher, as she tries to research her own non-corporeal state.

2.  “Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson*
A story of a new member of a sculpting guild, sent to repair one of the ancient living sculptures known as Steingeschöpf.

3.  “The Witch’s Knives” by Margaret Ronald*
The story begins as a woman ends a long quest to rid her husband of a curse that has made him into a beast.

4.  “We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?” by Rebecca Ann Jordan*
Non-human POV as an alien (the last of its species) that’s primary sense is taste.

5.  “Water, Birch, and Blood” by O Horvath and Sara Norja*
A woman abruptly remembers her childhood trip to a portal world, and tries to find her way back.

Honorable Mentions

“Tigerskin” by Kurt Hunt

“Dragon-Smoked Barbeque” by M.K. Hutchins*

“Timothy” by Philip Schweitzer*



Best of Strange Horizons Podcast

written by David Steffen

Strange Horizons is a freely available online speculative fiction zine that also publishes nonfiction and poetry.  They publish a variety of styles of stories and have regularly attracted award nominations in recent years.

All of the stories and poetry in the zine are published in the podcast.


When Mary Anne Mohanraj founded Strange Horizons in the year 2000, online publications were often looked down upon in many circles as inferior to print magazines–not getting much attention come award season and that sort of thing.  Since then the attitude has shifted greatly and many of the award honors every year go to online publications.  I believe Strange Horizons is the oldest of those online publications that regularly draws that kind of honor, and Strange Horizons has done a lot to turn around fandom’s opinion about online publications.

Mary Anne Mohanraj was Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons until 2003.  Susan Marie Groppi was Editor-in-Chief from 2004 through 2010.  The current Editor-in-Chief is Niall Harrison and the current fiction editors are Julia Rios, An Owomoyela, Catherine Krahe, and Lila Garrott.  There have been other fiction editors in the past, but I’m honestly not sure where to find a full list.

Strange Horizons is a nonprofit organization in the US and is run entirely run by volunteers so that all the money goes toward licensing the publication rights for the content.  Most of their funding comes from their annual fundraising drive, which ended a few days ago.

One of the rewards for reaching goals in their 2012 fund drive was to start producing a fiction podcast, which began publishing in January 2013.  Anaea Lay is the host and also narrates most of the stories.  There is also a poetry podcast if that suits your fancy–I am focusing on the fiction podcast here because I don’t understand poetry well enough for my opinion to be of much value.  Since then, all of Strange Horizons stories also appear on the fiction podcast.

Best Episodes

1. “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link
Wonderfully weird story of two siblings waiting on a strange planet for their parents.

2.  “Broken-Winged Love” by Naru Dames Sandar
Story of a dragon parenting a child with a damaged wing.

3.  “The Suitcase Aria” by Marissa Lingen
A castrato magician hunts an opera house murderer.

4.  “Why Don’t You Ask the Doomsday Machine?” by Elliot Essex
From the POV of a machine that outlasts civilization after civilization.

5.  “Din Ba Din” by Kate McLeod
Living days completely out of order, often years apart.

6.  “Such Lovely Teeth, Such Big Teeth” (part 1 and part 2) by Carlie St. George
A modern story of Big Bad Wolves.

7.  “What We’re Having” by Nathaniel Lee
A skillet serves the food that we’re having tomorrow.

8.  “ARIECC 1.0” by Lillian Wheeler
POV of AI meant to help people with traffic and weather issues.

9.  “Among the Sighs of the Violencellos” by Daniel Ausema
A very interesting and evocative mix of fun elements, including fantasy hero tropes.

10.  “Significant Figures” by Rachael Acks
Alien masquerading as human tries to protect Earth from other aliens. My favorite character is a waffle iron.


Honorable Mentions

“The Innocence of a Place” by Margaret Ronald
Cool epistolary tale trying to piece together evidence of a mysterious series of events that happened in the early 20th century, with a historian’s notes on the subject.

“Dysphonia in D Minor” by Damien Walters Grintalis
A world where music is used to build things, and a story about the people who do this as an occupation.

“20/20” by Arie Coleman
Time travel is used to change the result of medical treatment plans that turned out to be incorrect.

“The Visitor”  by Karen Myers
Very cool alien POV and its first contact with humans.

“Never the Same” by Polenth Blake
A sociopath who has learned to function even in a society that scans for sociopaths and treats them differently tries to make a positive difference in an SFnal world.


Review: Electric Velocipede #27 (final issue)

written by David Steffen

Issue 27 is the very last issue of Electric Velocipede, the Hugo-winning speculative short fiction magazine edited by John Klima.

I don’t often do reviews, and even less often do I do reviews of short fiction magazines. Why? Well, mostly because I feel terrible giving a short story author a bad review for a story that I didn’t like. I don’t worry about that with Hollywood movies or big name novels since they’re not going to notice or care what I think anyway. Short stories are a varied bunch, and I find that I have gotten a lot more choosy over the years for what kind of fiction I like. I still consume loads of it, but I usually just share the ones that I love (like my Best Of podcast lists) and leave the others unmentioned. But somehow, when I’m reviewing an issue of a magazine I usually feel like I should review everything in it.

So I did think about doing that with this issue. There were stories I loved. There weren’t any stories I hated, but there were stories to which my principle reaction was “I don’t get it” or “It’s not for me.” Thinking on it further, I didn’t really have that much more to say about those stories, so I’m just going to list the stories that I really liked and tell you a little bit about why they were good for me. I’ll also note that I rarely grasp poetry (apart from Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allen Poe, and perhaps the occasional by another poet) so none of the poems are on this list–not a reflection of the poetry, I expect, but my lack of understanding of the medium.

The Girls of the Forest by Margaret Ronald
Cynthia, a heron-girl who can become a human or heron or a mixture at will, returns pregnant to her forest home from the mundane world after the end of her relationship. Before she left the forest, she saw so many others leave and come back like that, and she always swore that she would never make their stupid mistakes, yet here she is returning alone with the seed of a child in her. Great story, well told. Great worldbuilding. I can imagine this mythical place where discarded mythical lovers return to and endlessly compare notes about their lives in the mundane world. I could really root for Cynthia, trying to raise her half-human child in this place surrounded by discouragement.

The Fungi That Talk Softly by Harry Markov
This one was decidedly weird. The story posits that fungi are a collective intelligence that communicates through some kind of mental bond. They assimilate the memories of any animal whose body they consume, and so are by far the superior intellect on the planet. They live on such a scale that they can note the extinction of species, but only once have they noted an individual of a species–this is the story of the relationship they grow with Rostislav Kazakchiev, a peculiar man who learns to speak with them.

The Carnival Was Eaten, All Except the Clown by Caroline M. Yoachim
Speaking of weird. The protagonist is the “seed clown” of candy carnivals made by a magician. Just before he hosts a children’s party, he dissolves her in water and makes a new circus which includes her and an entire candy cast and set of candy props. She serves as the seed for carnival after carnival and they are sent away to perform and be eaten without her. But she wants a change and she will do what she can to make it happen.

Song of Mary by Geoffrey W. Cole
I like stories about generation ships where something has gone wrong. In this particular one, the generators have weakened to a point that there is not enough energy to sustain the entire colony. The ship’s AI must do what she can to help the population find a way to trim their numbers and maintain the survivors.

Ondine’s Curse by Katherine Mankiller
A sea witch becomes romantically entangled with an unsavory man she rescues from a shipwreck. She is old and powerful, but naive to the ways of such men, and he sees little value in any relationship aside from short-term gains.