Archive for October, 2012

Strange Horizons and Me

October 23, 2012

Once upon a time I was a newbie, a writer larva.  I had a couple of short stories published, but I was still unsure of myself, not quite ready to call myself, you know, a writer.  At that time I had  just completed a ten-year exile from academia and was about to start a teaching position at a local college.  My exile had been wonderful in many ways, not so wonderful in others, and I was excited and anxious, but not yet ready to call myself a physicist again.  I felt smudged, undefined, a shade of grey.  Sometime during that period I published a short story with Strange Horizons.

I still remember the announcement that Mary Ann Mohanraj made way back on a South Asian women’s listserve — that she was planning to start a speculative fiction ezine with some friends.   That was before I was published, but I got up the courage to send them a science article and a poem  (both were published; the poem went on to be runner up for a Rhysling award).  Two published stories later, I sent Strange Horizons a rather unusual fiction piece, with a lot of trepidation.  To my utmost delight it was accepted.  It was called Three Tales from Sky River: Myths For a Starfaring Age, my first pro sale.  I still remember feeling for the first time like a writer — a giddy feeling indeed.  Later the story got an honorable mention from Gardner Dozois, the first time that my name was printed in one of the august Year’s Best volumes.

I continued to read and delight in the ezine — it was publishing work by newer writers as well as established ones, and it tasted (in a manner of speaking) adventurous, different, and richer than the other offerings, print or otherwise, that were then available.   After Mary Ann handed over editorship to others, the ezine continued to flourish, driven by committed volunteers based on a model that your average banker would have laughed at all the way to the golf course.  But it worked, and it is still working.  There are reviews, and stories, and columns, and poetry, and a blog, and it makes for fine, thoughtful reading that stirs the imagination and the intellect.

My old Strange Horizons story was about tales from a future age, but said nothing about the futuristic tale-teller.  Over the years his voice kept haunting me until I saw him in my mind and discovered his name: Somadeva, a wandering poet and collector of stories from 11th-century India.  He then told me his story, which was published (where else?) in Strange  Horizons in 2010.  A year later it was reprinted in the Hartwell and Cramer Year’s Best anthology.

Then I got to be a columnist for SH in 2011-2012, covering science and environment, a role I thoroughly enjoyed, not least for the learning it enabled me to acquire.  Strange Horizons is the ezine I read all the time, although I often only have the time (in my overworked life) to read it in snatches, stolen moments between stirring the pot on the stove and grading papers.  But I read it.  It’s published stories by my favorite writers, and by complete unknowns whose work was and is a delight to discover.  It’s reviews connect me to what other writers are doing.  Its poetry transports me.  Its columns and articles are always interesting, and its blog keeps me in touch with what’s happening in the spec fic world.  It’s the means by which I remind myself, even in the middle of a busy semester, that I am a writer.  It is my connection to the spec fic world, a mooring rope, a reminder of places and paradigms beyond the mundane.

Strange Horizons is having a fund drive at the moment.  If you like speculative fiction and want to support an ezine run by volunteers that pays professional rates to its writers and presents fine work every week, go over to and support them!