You Know What’s Cool? Strange Horizons Is Cool

You Know What’s Cool? Strange Horizons Is Cool

"After the Fall" by Malcolm McClinton
"After the Fall" by Malcolm McClinton

As an upstart n00bie writer in the fantasy field, I tend to be very fond of those editors who actively seek out and nurture upstart n00bie writers in the fantasy field.

I know, right? Shocker!

That’s one of the many reasons I adore Black Gate Magazine with radiant rip-tides of affection. The time and attention these editors bestow on their writers is mind-boggling. You think you’ve written something pretty okay, and then the editors get their scalpels and flensing knives and broadswords right into the meat of it, and your story suddenly becomes EPIC LIKE BEOWULF!

And that’s an experience I had recently with Strange Horizons editor Karen Meisner.

Back in late July, Strange Horizons accepted my story “Household Spirits,” which went live online today.

In the interim between acceptance and publication, there was the Editing Process.

Now, I’m not saying that “Household Spirits” is Epic Like Beowulf or anything. (Truly, what can be?) But my entire experience with Karen over a series of emails full of tough questions and supportive compliments, with everything from nitpicks to philosophical discussions and all the way to world building, was so gentle yet incisive, so thoughtful and thorough that much of my anxiety over “Household Spirits” (which was considerable, upstart n00b that I am) abated.

A friend of mine, who’d been reading up on gem-cutting for her story in the forthcoming Steam-Powered anthology said that the editing process at Strange Horizons made her feel like a jewel in the hands of a master craftsman.

One discovers one’s depths and facets. That’s no small thing.

Someone agrees with me. After all, Editor-in-Chief Susan Marie Groppi of Strange Horizons just received the World Fantasy Award for her work on the magazine.

So. Check out their fund drive. It’s important. It fuels their mission statement, which I have copied below:

"Wings So Fair" by Damir Radic
"Wings So Fair" by Damir Radic

Since its inception in 2000, Strange Horizons has sought to encourage and support new writers, to provide a home for a vibrant new generation of science fiction and fantasy authors who showcase a diverse range of voices and perspectives. We have also sought to provide a home for a new generation of readers, readers who want to step outside the boundaries of traditional fiction. Furthermore, we wanted to provide content to our readers free of charge while still paying our contributors professional rates, and we wanted to do all of it while remaining volunteer-staffed and without being dependent on advertisers or corporate interests…

Gene Wolfe once told me, “Writers who don’t subscribe to the magazines they’re submitting to are cutting their own throats.”

In the age of the internet, it is so important to participate in crowd-funding for worthy magazines. It ensures that the market for new writers (and, heck, for seasoned pros, too!) continues not only to survive, but to thrive.

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Congratulations. I haven’t had a chance to read your story, but I’m sure the story rocks!

I’ve heard the same thing about Strange Horizons. They’re very nurturing folks and open-minded too. When I sent them an email and asked them to correct this sentence in a story called “Seven sexy Cowboy Robots”— “I was always suspicious that you wouldn’t sleep with me.” When I pointed out that the word- that- should probably be when, well they were very kind and explained that they didn’t make mistakes and didn’t need my help in editing their zine. Jed wrote and said it was “intentional choice” and so, proper English could be dismissed.

The next month I wrote them about this sentence in a story entitled “What We Left Behind in Jacksonville”— “We weren’t pretend about God, not even for a minute.” You’re probably thinking that it was another case of “intentional choice.” Wrong. This time Karen wrote me and said that the reason the sentence was written that way was because of a little ditty called “narrative voice.” It means pretty much the same thing as “intentional choice”—apparently, it gives editors the ability to suspend good grammar, punctuation, and reason. I’m having one installed on my word processor this week!

The upchuck of all these emails is that I’ve been blacklisted, blackballed, put in a corner to stand away from all the other writers. I’ve apologized, but it didn’t do any good. I asked about 1st amendment rights and freedom of the press, but these were concepts that the editors at Strange Horizons were not familiar with.

I’m happy your experience with Strange Horizons was a positive one. But if you under some delusion that professional editors have worked on your piece then I’m afraid you’ve mistaken. If you think that these two sentences are exceptions take a look at this sentence where they unabashedly mix tenses:

“Thunderheads rolled in and the rain had begun to spit.”

But, like the Pope, these editors are infallible. That’s not to take anything away from your accomplishments. Whenever you can get a story published, no matter the venue, you learn from it and the self-satisfaction is immense. So go out and celebrate tonight! You deserve it.

I’ll probably get around to reading the story tomorrow. If I were to happen to find a small mistake, well then, you’ll never know about it. I don’t know how many other writers have been banned from their site. Hopefully none. But that’s the problem with censuring; you never know who or what is being denied access.

I look forward to reading you piece.

P.S. I’ve got a straight-up lit piece in “The Southern Cross Review” this month that i’m proud of, hope I didn’t make any mistakes!


Dear Ms. Cooney,

Terrific piece. Three quarters of the way through I thought I was reading an allegory about Gandhi or perhaps, Dr. King. Of course, the ending defies that interpretation. Being a child of the 60’s I was a bit disappointed, but we buried the peace movement four wars ago.

Three little nits:

I didn’t do this venture with him, he’d’ve gone to sea. Comma splice

You said it all and I remember everything. Run-on sentence (needs a comma)

I can’t rightly believe I’m sitting here like this is just any old day and this is any old letter. Run-on sentence (needs a comma)

As to the voice: It was as good as the story. How’d a Chicago girl ever come up with that diction? Eerily Mark Twainish. Remarkable. I hate to admit it, but this was also a pretty fair editing job.

P.S. And now a word for Karen and Jed: Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. However, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. This is a pretty good example of an editor allowing “voice” of the author. Kudos.

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