Sometimes as we’re putting together an issue, there are themes that develop in the submissions we receive. It always appears to be spontaneous in the moment, though often later I’ve been made aware of some themed writing contest or another whose rejects make our way into our slush pile.
However, there are larger thematic cycles that occur in fiction, often influenced either directly or indirectly by the events of the day. As I was organizing the story summaries for Tara Lindsey, our Creative Director, to read through as a cheat sheet for writing the back cover copy, I was reminded of how many stories in this issue are centered around loneliness and loss.
Now, before you put this issue down, let me assure you that this does not mean there is no hope or lightness within these pages. Our talented authors have produced works of beauty and even humor that lighten the darkest tale and makes them all worth reading. That said, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that the events of the last couple of years are beginning to surface in the fiction that crosses my desk.
There is a thought out there that stories go in cycles, with dark following light following dark, depending on the mood of the day. For example, many of you will remember the influx of zombie stories across media in the early 2010s. Some think that explosion of dark, apocalyptic fiction was brought on by the exponential increase of social media at the time and some feeling that we were all becoming “zombified” by our phones. If that theory stands, then it is no wonder that we’ll be seeing more dark works in the next few years.
Many authors, myself included, find writing to be an outlet, not just for general creativity, but also for working through various emotions. We often don’t just write what we already know, we also write so that we can know. We write what we don’t understand about ourselves and the world so that we can get a better grasp on things going on around us.
It goes without saying that lockdown was highly impactful to everyone, and now it seems that stories that were written during that period, or are influenced by it, are beginning to be sent out for publication. I see this as a good thing, a healthy part of the cycle of literature, and a way for us all to begin to truly process and heal from the isolation so many people have gone through (and are still going through) throughout the pandemic.
Yet, I don’t want to limit the influence of these works. The majority of the stories we publish are not set in the consensus reality we all know and live in. These tales are fantasy and science fiction, which means that they touch upon the themes of loneliness, loss and isolation in ways that show how timeless these problems are to the human condition.
Long after we’ve moved on to whatever it is that comes next, these stories will be more than a snapshot of what it felt like to be isolated from friends and family during the 2020 pandemic lockdown. Be it on a marooned space station far in the future, a dry desert in a magical land where small gods wander in seek of worship, or a simple, otherwise normal home that houses a magical pair of glasses, whether together and alone, these stories show us the range of possibilities we all have available to us when dealing with difficulties. Most of all, they show us what it means to be human.