The year was 2010. It was my freshman year of college ending, and sophomore year starting. That was when Duotrope was still free, and I will always miss when you didn’t have to pay for the subscription out of pocket and wonder when you would earn that much from an acceptance. And no, I still don’t have one because it’s the principle of the matter.
I still have the email. It was my first submission to Strange Horizons. I was excited about this piece I had written, inspired by Peter and the Wolf and auditing orchestra in college. My email notified me that Strange Horizons had responded with a form rejection. I shrugged my shoulders, said oh well, and tried again when I felt a story was ready. Over time, I would learn how hard it was to get a story in the magazine.
This year, in 2020, I can say that I have a story published in Strange Horizons! It is called “The Oldest Solution,” about a Lovecraftian Old One that does relationship counseling for humans. You can read it as either text or listen to the podcast. I love what has happened with the audio, to add to the melding of aura and reassurance.
I originally wrote “The Oldest Solution” in response to a Lovecraft anthology’s call for bad futures with the Old Ones. The anthology sadly folded, so I did what I do and resent it out to other places. The trick was to balance the comedy with the heart.
Social media has been full of discussion about why the “cure” narrative is dangerous. It erases people that cannot just have a magic wand replace a missing leg, or remove chronic pain. Some manga like Fullmetal Alchemist neatly toe the line, where there is no easy solution or magical cure. Every transaction with the closest thing to a divine presence has a price.
I didn’t want to do a cure narrative, and I still don’t. With mental health, there is no magical pill. Instead, people have to put in the work. There had to be a way to combine the fantasy part to reveal that. The work and the magic had to go hand in hand.
To be honest, I think that H.P. Lovecraft treated the Old Ones too harshly. They’re beings from outer space that come here to conquer, and we don’t know why. They just have one side to them. If I were an old one, I’d stay in space. It seems a lot safer there rather than coming to contend with the mortal coils.
What if Old Ones didn’t hate humanity? What if, instead, they were intrigued? Humans are full of surprises. That’s what makes us keep going.
What Is Strange Horizons?
Strange Horizons is one of the professional science fiction and fantasy magazines, and one of the oldest in the business. They created a list of cliches of what not to send them regarding fiction. Thus, no muse stories, and no hallucinations where it’s a dream or everyone is in an aslyum. Other magazines would adopt the list. It is quite useful to avoid the cliches.
As you can imagine, my submissions would be on and off. I would draft a story, eyeball it, and send it using the website form. Strange Horizons uses Moksha, which used to inform you where you were on the waiting list. At some point the designers must have realized this wasn’t healthy and removed the feature last time I checked.
Getting published in Strange Horizons has been one of my writer’a dreams. I’ve been studying their lists of cliches and was published in their magazine last year for nonfiction. Reaching the fiction track is amazing and thrilling. Thank you, and I will not forget it.