Review: “Strange Horizons” by Various Authors

Strange Horizons

Although I have no idea of the number or range of weekly online speculative fiction magazines, Strange Horizons (edited by Niall Harrison) is surely one of the better ones. Every seven days it publishes fiction, poetry, articles and columns, just as it has done (more or less) for the last ten years.

The quality of content to be found in the magazine is generally very high. It’s also remarkably varied. In the current issue there is an intelligent and absorbing column by Genevieve Valentine about the “glorious mess” that sometimes results when films try to please too wide a demographic; a short but atmospheric piece of fiction by Tracy Cranfield; an even shorter and equally atmospheric poem by Shweta Narayan; and a trio of reviews published during the week.

This is a fairly typical offering, and as such it seems that the definition of “speculative fiction” is cast quite widely. Fantasy, horror, science fiction, prose, poetry, opinion, the serious, the comedic, the experimental–all rub shoulders quite comfortably within Strange Horizons‘s digital pages. Perhaps this is why I–as someone who is not a regular reader of genre magazines–found it so accessible and compelling. Even if one piece is not to your taste there’s enough variety to keep even the most demanding reader occupied.

The greatest strength of Strange Horizons is however very definitely in its fiction. The tendency is towards tales that are well-rounded and solidly-built with a clear beginning, middle and end structure, though glancing back through the archives it is possible to find some more experimental offerings here and there. Given that past editions of the magazine are freely-available online, I can’t resist pointing out a few of my favourites.

All The Anne Franks” by Erik Hoel is a strange, delicate and utterly beautiful story about aliens and a failing marriage. And Anne Frank. It is breathtaking, and worth every second you spend reading it.

Chris Kammerud’s “The Blue Wonder” is a refreshingly different superhero story. It is quiet, heartfelt and quite different from what you might expect.

And finally, there’s Joey Comeau’s “The Machine“, a complex but gracefully-told little story about a machine that can record every second of everything in existence that will leave your head spinning.

Read these three short pieces, and I’m willing to bet you’ll end up hooked. Being a digital magazine Strange Horizons is marvellously open and easy to access, not to mention completely free. Though the layout may appear a little basic, this shouldn’t detract from a vibrant and eclectic genre magazine.

Strange Horizons appears every week at: www.strangehorizons.com.

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Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England.