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Summary: Strange Horizons, 2008 (Note that at the time of writing… - The Elephant Forgets

Summary: Strange Horizons, 2008

(Note that at the time of writing this is another time-traveling review -- I've been allowed to see the upcoming stories through December. For which thanks!)

Strange Horizons is one of the longest-running and one of the best webzines going. They publish a story a week. Most of the stories are short: only two this year were novelettes (serialized over two weeks) and those were short novelettes. (One other story, "Linkworlds", was about as close to novelette as you can get at 7499 words -- and as such is of course eligible under Hugo and Nebula rules in either category.) The focus is broad , a mix of general fantasy and science fiction, with a fair amount of what might be called slipstream. The fiction editors are Jed Hartman, Susan Marie Groppi, and Karen Meisner.

I counted just about 185,000 words of fiction this year, all new. This is pretty much the same wordcount they feature every year. There were a total of 45 stories, two of them novelettes, six of them short-shorts. (Less than 52 total because some of the longer stories appeared over two issues, and because SH skips one or two weeks per year so that there are 51 issues .) One of the stories was a reprint, so 44 new pieces.

My favorite stories: "The End of Tin", by Bill Kte'pi, a dark reimagining of Oz (is this our "Matter of America"?); "How to Hide Your Heart", by Deborah Coates, an affecting story of a man fighting monsters and the woman who may want to help; "We Love Deena", by Alica Sola Kim, a sharp-edged and creepy story of a woman magically stalking a former lover; "Linkworlds", by Will McIntosh, a very clever and weird story in an odd SFish environment -- worlds bouncing into each other sort of. Also, "Valiant on the Wing", by Chris Szego, about an isolated mountain family that rescues a lost city girl -- the resolution is traditional, but works; "The Gadgey", by Alan Campbell, funny and affecting, about a couple of Scottish boys who find an alien in a crashed spaceship; "The Magician's House", by Meghan McCarron, a disturbing story of a suburban girl learning magic from a neighborhood magician; "Down the Well", by Alaya Dawn Johnson, about an artificial environment demonstrating evolution, and a young scientist encountering an admired older scientist as the decision to close the experiment is made; and "Same Old Story", by Naomi Bloch, about artificial children and how families might treat them compared to "real" children. Of these I rate the Kim, McIntosh, and McCarron stories best. Other good stories came from Ann Leckie, Tina Connolly, Christopher J. Clarke, Constance Cooper, and J. Kenneth Sargeant.

I make the totals 22 SF stories -- 50% -- twice as many as last year by percentage. 16 of the stories were by men, 36% -- which means 64% by women. (A lower percentage than either of the last two years, but pretty similar to 2006.)


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sovay From: sovay Date: November 6th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Oz (is this our "Matter of America"?)

I think that would please L. Frank Baum.
From: elysdir Date: November 7th, 2008 08:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Rich!

...I was delighted by the idea of Oz as the Matter of America, but further thought and a little research led me off on a whole bunch of tangents, which I decided to pursue in a blog entry of my own.
From: elysdir Date: November 7th, 2008 09:27 am (UTC) (Link)
While I'm here, a couple of tiny tiny nitpicks--just corrections for the historical record, not objections or complaints:

1. Deb's story's title is "How to Hide Your Heart," rather than a heart.

2. I would say arguably three novelettes; by my word-processor count, "Linkworlds" comes to 7499 words, right on the short story/novelette border, and I suspect that by the traditional printer's-rule measure it would end up over 7500. (But if you were using that measure and it was under 7500, then never mind; I didn't actually test this theory.)

3. "a couple of weeks were skipped for holidays" -- actually only one; we always skip the last Monday of the year, to end up with a total of 51 weeks' worth of fiction. (Last year had 53 Mondays, so we skipped the last two, but I think that's the only year we've done that.)

4. It's 16 stories by men rather than 12, but the 36% number is correct.

...I've kind of given up on categorizing our stories into "science fiction" and "fantasy" buckets, except for purposes of sending them to Year's Best editors; there are too many stories that I can't decide how to categorize. (Even if I count slipstream as fantasy.)

I started running into this with superhero stories--are they science fiction, fantasy, or something else?--but we also publish a fair number of other stories that could be science fiction or fantasy depending on how you read them. (Psi powers, or magical mind control? Aliens, or demons? And does mad science count as SF?) Counting several such stories as SF, I ended up sending 26 stories to Year's Best editors who wanted only SF--but it's certainly valid to go by a stricter definition, of course.
From: ecbatan Date: November 7th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I apologize for the typos (16 stories by men is indeed in my notes, but 12 made it onto the page). Should be fixed now.

I think I did exactly as you suggest with "Linkworlds" -- it came up just short of 7500 words, and I put it at 7400 (I round everything to the nearest hundred, but disambiguate borderline stories by rounding them down). Of course it is fully eligible for award consideration at either length category! (As +/- 10% is allowed.)

I tend to skew to a very broad church definition of Science Fiction (just ask Dave Truesdale!), with one curious exception -- I usually define Superhero stories as Fantasy. (Unless, a la Batman, their powers are clearly technological in origin.) But I can see that those are borderline cases.

And I tend to define all Slipstream as Fantasy ...

I agree that all these categories are slippery and imprecise and not terribly important, except in generalities.

The Oz as "Matter of America" comment was of course offhand, sparked mostly be seeing so many Oz stories lately. I do think that something about the West (specifically the Old West) might perhaps need to be part of any Matter of America, though.
benrosenbaum From: benrosenbaum Date: November 9th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
16 of the stories were by men, 36% -- which means 64% by women.

Not at Strange Horizons, it doesn't! :-)

(I really liked Alice and Meghan's stories, too.)
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