01 November 2010

Strange Horizons, World Fantasy Award, and Susan

Yesterday, Susan Marie Groppi won a well-deserved World Fantasy Award as editor-in-chief of Strange Horizons.  I did a little dance for joy when I found out, because aside from this here blog, Strange Horizons is the publication I've had the longest ongoing relationship with as a writer.  It was just about six years ago, in fact, that Susan first asked if I'd be willing to write an occasional column, and the request just about knocked the wind out of me, because all the writing I'd done had been stuff I'd had to hustle myself -- nobody had ever asked me to write for them before.

I've had the pleasure of writing reviews and interviews for SH, too, and it really always has been a pleasure, because the community of staff is exemplary.  The magazine has lasted longer than most of its peers, and the quality of work has been astoundingly strong for a weekly website.

Susan's award was in the "non-professional" category (a category I have a certain fondness for) because though SH pays its writers professional rates, the staff are not paid.  It's truly a labor of love.

Susan announced today something she's been preparing to announce for a while: she is stepping down as editor-in-chief.  Niall Harrison will be moving up from being the reviews editor to being editor-in-chief, and Abigail Nussbaum will take over as reviews editor.  I've worked with Niall on all the reviews I've written for SH, and he's been among my favorite editors, seeing things in my drafts that I didn't, and saving me from potentially horrifying mistakes (nobody could save me from all of them, but still, his average is great!)  I've been reading Abigail's writing for years, and just turned in a review for her a few days ago (yup, she, too, saved me from an embarrassing mistake, so I am already thrilled she's on board).

Strange Horizons is in great hands, and will, I expect, continue to thrive.

But I'm going to miss Susan something awful.  She was mostly hands-off when it came to my columns, but it was her presence that I felt whenever I wrote them.  It's much easier for me to write when I have a sense of an audience, especially one or two people, and Susan was always the one person I hoped liked the column, the one person I hoped to please, because she had been the one who asked, who said, "Hey, I think you can do this."  Now and then I'd get a quick email saying: "I really liked that one."  It made whatever effort it took to write the piece, whatever seas of self-doubt I sailed to reach the shore, more than worth it.

I'll probably keep thinking of Susan as I write the column; six years of habit is hard to break.  I don't know what new projects she'll join (after some much-needed rest!), but she's continuing as a co-editor in the fiction department, and will, I expect, continue reading the other stuff in SH each week, just like the rest of us, and maybe my column, too, as long as I can keep it going (I never thought I'd last more than a few months, never mind entire years!).

In all that time, though, I don't think I've sent her a simple note of thanks, myself, because it's really hard to write a simple note that really and truly means: "Thanks for everything."  We've got a massive vocabulary for insults and criticisms, for put-downs and take-downs; the language of gratitude feels impoverished in comparison.  But I mean it: Thanks.  For everything.


Strange Horizons is still in the midst of a fund drive, and they're half-way to their goal of raising $7,000.  One great way of celebrating -- of thanking -- Susan and the site would be to contribute.

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