RogerBW's Blog

Strange Horizons, August 2019 15 September 2019

Strange Horizons is a weekly on-line magazine edited by Vanessa Rose Phin.

Everything is available in HTML from the magazine's site. I'm collecting all four of August's issues here because that's about the size of collection I feel happy to review in a single blog post.

5 August

"The Weather Dancer" by Aisha Phoenix has an old woman in a hospice, or something like it, keeping the secret of her weather-magic, then passing it on to a young woman she likes. But it's all atmosphere and no substance, no characters.

"Seven Truths and the In-Between" by Alexandra Seidel seems to be referring to fairy tales, but is too busy trying to have imagery to achieve anything else.

The Dollmaker by Nina Allan, by David Hebblethwaite (yes, this is an awkward subtitle, but the review titles include the first "by" so I'll just stick with it) makes it clear that this book is not for me while the reviewer clearly loves it. Good work by Hebblethwaite.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark, by Foz Meadows, makes it sound like a lot of fun, and I'll certainly look for this story. (There's no publication data here, but isfdb tells me it's only been released as a chapbook so far.)

The Hidden Witch by Molly Ostertag, by Anthony Cardno, is a YA book that's not at all appealing to me, but there's no reason why it should be.

12 August

"Someday We'll Embrace This Distance" by Niyah Morris has a lovely conceit, a woman who meets someone who claims to be her future lover travelling back in dreams to meet her before they met, but then utterly fails to do anything with it except for a downbeat ending. (Being written in first and second person doesn't win it any favours with me.)

"Advice on Love from an Astronaut with a Failing Memory" by Rasha Abdulhadi is just a blank to me.

The Migration by Helen Marshall by Daniel Haeusser sounds interesting, but probably isn't for me. Good review though.

Everything is Made of Letters by Sofía Rhei, translated by Sue Burke, James Womack, and Sofía Rhei by Rachel Cordasco has in its first paragraph the phrase "Rhei is interested in everything from human speech to xenolinguistics and everything in between", and I find it hard to forgive those last four words. Anyway, the collection sounds a bit grim, and three translators don't bode well, but I may take a look at this if it crops up again.

The Road to Neozon by Anna Tambour by M.L. Clark is "a collection of short stories often more estranging than speculative" – which sounds to me like a lot of what I dislike about the modern short SF I've been reading in magazines.

19 August

Invisible and Dreadful by S. R. Mandel is that rare thing, a modern SF short that I really like – in large part because (a) it is actually SF rather than just having high-tech wallpaper behind a generic story and (b) it's a story with an actual conclusion. A foreign student in Japan goes with her local friends to visit the AI-driven "hologram" of Lady Murasaki, author of The Tale of Genji, for advice on her thesis, and things don't go in the obvious way.

Heatwave by Joanne Merriam and Roger Dutcher is an effective portrait of the end of the world. Or a world.

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, by Jenny Hamilton, sounds like a grim and unwelcoming book, but the reviewer loves it so that makes for an interesting review.

The Smoke by Simon Ings, by Nick Hubble, is a deconstruction of a book which sounds distinctly un-fun – and a desperate scrabbling for reasons why making the scary transhumans Jewish isn't racist.

Space Sirens, Scientists and Princesses: The Portrayal of Women in Science Fiction Cinema by Dean Conrad, by Octavia Cade, spends more time on what Conrad's left out than on the book itself. It doesn't sound as though there's much new here.

26 August

The Unicorn's Question by Cynthia So is really more short prose than poem, and I can see where it's going but it doesn't take me along with it.

Stories from the Radio by Kuzhali Manickavel is short stream-of-consciousness notes on listening to an old radio play. If you aren't willing to put yourself into an approximation of a contemporary mindset in order to get some enjoyment out of it, why are you listening to it at all?

"A lag is happening": A disconnect between YA writers and the readers the books are written for, by Victoria Chen, is ranty and poorly-structured, but has a solid thesis: that as more adult readers have started buying YA, there's market pressure to publish YA books that will appeal more to them and perhaps less to the actual teenagers for whom, in theory, the category was invented. (In particular she's concerned about readers of middle-grade books who are stopping reading rather than moving "up" to a YA that seems more distant from what they're used to than it should be.) Given that Chen is herself a teenager, I think she's doing a solid job.

China Dream by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew, by Christina Ladd… sounds like a grim and phantasmic book that Ladd didn't entirely understand, though she makes a good fist of it.

Ambiguity Machines by Vandana Singh, by Sessily Watt, sounds like an excellent short story collection from an author I haven't heard of before. I shall give it a try.

Sealed by Naomi Booth, by Anthony Cardno, sounds like too many stories colliding. (I think this is a first novel.)

I don't like everything in these issues, but overall I'm very impressed and I'll be repeating the experiment next month.

Series: Strange Horizons | Next in series: Strange Horizons, September 2019

  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 11:03am on 15 September 2019

    I've read a couple of novellas by Vandana Singh and enjoyed them (Distances and Love & Other Monsters), so I'll look out for the short story collection.

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