Now that there are apparently canals on Mars again, now that Pluto turns out to have a blue sky, now that crowdfunding is underway to shoot a titanium bullet with a digital payload at the moon, isn’t it time for fiction to think beyond these horizons?
Actually, fiction has done so since people put reed pens to clay tablets, of course. But there are two things fiction can’t do without: 1) a reader and 2) a writer. Fiction lives where these two meet. And when they meet, strange and unquantifiable things happen.
Strange Horizons is that interface. It’s a webzine of speculative fiction and poetry, reviews and articles, updated weekly. They provide podcasts of their stories, and they do occasional roundtables about a book, a film, or a current issue. And best of all, it’s free.
The first time I read a Strange Horizons story, I was amazed at the quality of the writing. I had never heard of the author, but the story was just damn good. I knew Strange Horizons had published authors that went on to become well-known names in the speculative field, but this was the kind of writing you would expect to find in one of the big professional print magazines. Indeed, stories from SH have won or been nominated for several of the big speculative fiction awards: Nebula, Tiptree, Hugo, World Fantasy, etc. Moreover, I found that the variety in the stories was astounding, especially the way in which tradionally under-represented perspectives were given a voice.
So how did they do it? I wondered. How could a free webzine attract this kind of talent? As a writer myself, of course my eye was immediately drawn to the Guidelines link in the menu bar, where I found out that they did actually pay professional rates. I decided to submit one of my own stories, Utrechtenaar, which subsequently appeared in two installments in June 2015.
So how do they do it? Everyone loves “free” content, but without commercial backing, economic reality catches up fast with even the most zealous of free publishers. And that, dear reader, is where you come in.
Every year, Strange Horizons has a fund drive to finance the following year. Almost all of their financial resources are devoted to compensating writers for their work, so everyone who donates can be sure their money goes to the right place. For 2016, they aim to raise $18,000, and everyone who donates Can! Win! Prizes! Many, many books, ARCs, and signed first editions of brilliant works by great names and small. The list of prizes is so long it’s scary, and donating just $10 will get you an eBook of Strange Horizons: The First Fifteen Years.
So if you like speculative fiction and have a few quid to spare, hop over to the fund drive page and drop something in the jar. Pluto will thank you.