Science fiction is getting seriously strange

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Lately you may have noticed that hard SF is starting to break the rules. Writer Jason Sanford identifies this as the emerging "SciFi Strange" subgenre, and he's curated a list of free stories online that make SF a lot stranger.

Sanford says SciFi Strange reflects a multicultural world where tradition co-exists with multiple, minority perspectives on reality. He continues:

SciFi Strange also flirts with the boundaries of what is scientifically—and therefore realistically—possible, without being bounded by the rigid frames of the world as we know it today. But don't call SciFi Strange fantasy. This is pure science fiction. It's merely an updated version of the literature of ideas. A science fiction for a world where the frontiers of scientific possibility are almost philosophical in nature.


I was intrigued by his idea, partly because I was just re-reading the comments that people made on Genevieve Valentine's story, "The Zeppelin Conductors' Society Annual Gentlemen's Ball," that we posted about a few weeks ago. It's a brilliant story, which most people praised, but commenters kept complaining about how Valentine represented helium poisoning incorrectly. Then a whole debate broke out about whether it's OK to take poetic license with science or not. And I think Sanford's definition of SciFi Strange helps end this debate by situating Valentine's work in a sub-tradition where people bend the rules of science in order to create a mood, or convey ideas that don't fit into reality as we know it.

Best of all, many of the works Sanford identifies in this tradition are available online as free short stories. He's even compiled a "dream anthology" of writers whose work fits into the SciFi Strange trend. Here are his picks - enjoy:

The SciFi Strange Stories
"Exhalation" (PDF) by Ted Chiang
Published in Eclipse Two; winner of the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.
"The Sky that Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and Into the Black" by Jay Lake
Published in Clarkesworld Magazine.
"The Gambler" by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published in Fast Forward 2; finalist for the 2009 Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novelette.
"Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" (podcast) by Eugie Foster
Published in Interzone, winner of the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, finalist for the 2009 Hugo Award.
"From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7" by Nnedi Okorafor
Published in Clarkesworld Magazine.
"Eros, Philia, Agape" by Rachel Swirsky
Published in, finalist for the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.
"Longing for Langalana" (PDF) by Mercurio D. Rivera.
Published in Interzone; winner of the 2006 Interzone Readers' Poll.
"Elegy for a Young Elk" by Hannu Rajaniemi
Published in Subterranean Online.
"Blue Ink" by Yoon Ha Lee
Published in Clarkesworld Magazine.
"The Ships Like Clouds, Risen By Their Rain" (PDF) by Jason Sanford
I know, its crass of me to include my own story but since it's my dream anthology kiss off if you have a complaint. Published in Interzone, reprinted in Year's Best SF 14.
"Spinning Out" by Jamie Barras
Published in Strange Horizons.
"Ack-Ack Macaque" (podcast) by Gareth L. Powell
Published in Interzone. Winner of the 2007 Interzone Readers' Poll.
"The Integrity of the Chain" and "The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String" by Lavie Tidhar
Both published in Fantasy Magazine, but yes, they are science fiction.
"Jigoku no Mokushiroku" by John G. McDaid
An older story, but definitely SciFi Strange. Originally published in Asimov's.

Stories I'd love to include in this "anthology" but which aren't online include
"Third Day Lights" by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Published in Interzone, reprinted in Year's Best SF 11.
"Skinner's Room" by William Gibson
An older story, but still one which fits with SciFi Strange. Gibson later revisited this short story in his Bridge trilogy.
"Làzaro y Antonio" by Marta Randall
Published in F&SF.
"Butterfly, Falling at Dawn" by Aliette de Bodard
Published in Interzone, reprinted in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection.
"Stone Wall Truth" by Caroline M. Yoachim
Published in Asimov's.


via Jason Sanford's blog (Thanks, John Dillard!)

Image by Goro Fujita.


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Sean Wallace

Don't these just count as new weird? Do we need new labels when we have a perfectly-adequate one already? :p