Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Strange Horizons (November 2022)

Strange Horizons, ed. Gautam Bhatia (et al.). November 2022 (four issues). Free online at

Reviewed by Storm Blakley

Strange Horizons’ November issues have a lot to say, and in them, I saw a reflection of much happening in the world today, from the climate crisis to the digital world, monsters and magic and far-away planets. Stories and poems about communities standing together, of breaking free of what chains us, of creating a better world for those to come (including ourselves); these issues really resonated with me.

Ariel Marken Jack’s “Sister, Siren, Silkie, Shark” sings us a song of women lost and used and finding themselves again. Honestly, this story broke my heart a little bit. I see myself in the girls, taken advantage of, and their older selves, wanting fiercely to change things for the girls to come. I expect a lot of people can relate, especially these days. “Tzedek: The Wild Hunt” by Elisheva Fox runs in a similar vein; a poem about great beings, gods or monsters or perhaps something else, that the narrator has seen, or called upon in times of need. Overall, a reflection on being a woman, and wanting to be free. Again, something I feel many can relate to. The next poem, Adam Fell’s “Sorry I Don’t Feel Like Talking About Golf Today,” was very different, not at all what I expected from the title, although afterwards, it made perfect sense. Of course the narrator didn’t feel like talking about golf, there were other, deeper things on their mind.

In the second issue, Crystal Odelle’s “B-ing” made me think about the lengths we go to, the things we give up, to be our true selves. While I was a bit confused as to what was happening at the beginning, it soon became clear, and I’ll admit I teared up at the end. What I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to kid-me, to tell them it’s going to be okay. “Excerpt From A Proposal For The New City” by Alyssa Lo intrigued me quite a bit, I was left with a lot of questions, a feeling that I was missing something, as if I were disconnected somehow, which seems apt, given the piece itself. Emily Jiang’s “Unicorn’s Patience” really struck me; the matter-of-fact reflection on being restrained, and the consequences of that to the world of the would-be jailer. Not afraid, not concerned, it’s just a thing that’s happening, predictable as the sunrise, as is the matter of the jailer’s death, and the subsequent revenge, inevitable and inexorable as nature itself.

The third issue starts with “She Dreams of Moons and Moons” by Marisca Pichette. A fascinating sci fi tale of rebirth and hope, grief and growth, terraforming and living sustainably, with an emphasis on learning through careful observation, and the passing of knowledge down through to future generations. Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan’s “Gosh, It’s Too Beautiful to Briefly Exist in a Parallel Planet” grabbed me right away. I keep coming back to it, reading it again and again, and I still can’t quite put my finger on why I like it so much; a reflection of our internet world, which is itself a reflection of our own, perhaps. In “Ampersand,” Sarah S Messenger gives us an interesting perspective and point of view, as if we, the reader, are a rushing train, caring for our passengers, each and every one. The name, I think is perfect; in a train, we are all grouped together, as if by an ampersand.

The last issue of November opens with Claire Smith’s “Exhibits From Schneewittchten.” I’m always interested in fairy tale retellings, and this one was unexpected. It’s told in the format of artifact cards in a museum, rather than retelling the story itself, and that’s interesting. There’s no need for a lot of backstory as the story is well-known, and that fits quite well with how artifact cards tell their stories. Alexis Renata’s “To Those Who Inherit the Earth” moved me. The threat of the climate crisis, a disaster of our own making, looms large, and seems inescapable. To the bitter end, we try to understand, to make sense of things, and to enjoy the beauty in the world all around us. Like the narrator, I want to apologize to everyone who comes after us.

All in all, I found the November issues thoughtful and very much worth reading, I highly recommend. Each issue offers a few carefully chosen works, easy to snap up in short bites for those of us with not enough time in the day.

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