Karen Meisner has explained that she and the other editors of the online SF magazine Strange Horizons, which is run as a donation supported NPO, have a problem I can easily relate to: a lack of facility for self-promotion. I need to merely think back to how my high school councilors tore their hair trying to get me to sell myself in my college applications to empathize with this. I feel healthier and happier when I let people decide for themselves what sort of person I am, without trying to convince people I’m awesome, so I am right there when she says that the self promotion push makes her feel icky. But Karen is very clever, and knows that while tooting one’s own horn is unfun, gushing about things you love and are unconnected with is pleasant and wholesome. So she has declared this Strange Horizons appreciation week, and asks that people who like the magazine talk about it and explain why.
I first came to Strange Horizons as a reader in 2006. I originally got sucked in by the stories of Meghan McCarron and Joey Comeau, and I stuck around, finding new authors and voices to love. At this time I was still working on my physics degree, and in retrospect I can see Strange Horizons as an early step in my focus shifting from science to fiction. I got unexpectedly excited reading reviews by such cogent and incisive critics as Abigail Nussbaum and Paul Kincaid. The next semester I carved out a place in my schedule for a class called Fiction Writing, and the semester after that I took Advanced Fiction Writing.
In both of these classes the professor asked that we stick to mimetic fiction rather than writing genre fiction, as he would be focusing his lessons on qualities (complex characterization, exploration of meaningful human scenarios) that mimetic fiction had and genre fiction largely did not. By the second semester of his course I had built up enough good will that I felt comfortable challenging these stereotypes, and tried to write a piece of genre fiction that ticked all of his mimetic fiction checkboxes. It was a story of decrepitude and self deception and zombies. A couple of years later I decided I wanted to go to Clarion, and used that story in my application. And when the people at Clarion convinced me that it was worth trying to get my work published, I sent that story to Strange Horizons. They published it earlier this year — my first professional sale.
This is the wall over my desk. The photographs on the right are my high school creative writing class, my college graduation, and my Clarion class. On the left is a National Merit Scholarship certificate and a print by John Picacio. In the middle there is a lot of empty space that it is my intent to fill with more letters like the one I have framed from the fiction editors of Strange Horizons telling me they wish to publish a story of mine. They gave me the first chance to fill some space on my triumph wall, as they have done for many others. Championing new talent is part of their mandate, the fund drive page says that over 10% of their stories in the past year were first publications, like mine. There are lots of of reasons to love Strange Horizons, but one of the most important is that they are a conduit through which new voices come into the field. They supported me, and will support other talented people in the future, if we support them.
Go give the Strange Horizons fund drive page a look.