It seems to me a sacred duty to be trusted by writers—established or emerging or still incubating—with their sweet, sharp, and strange work. Being an editor feels at some turns like being an Olympic scorer or a naturopath, but mostly it is like being a small child opening gift after endless gift of new worlds to live in and new characters to admire and befriend.
As an emerging editor and author who is from and for the South, I feel a keen sensitivity to the representation challenges presented by special issues. With room for only a handful of (augh, so amazing!) stories, one issue can’t possibly reflect a comprehensive view of the vibrant and multiple lineages of the South we know. What I can hope for is that readers and writers will find each other and that more publishers will embrace a wider view of Southern experience. I hope that Black and Indigenous Southern writers and Southern writers of color take courage knowing that their slices of the South are valid counterpoints to the stereotypes and erasures we contend with. While I’m at it, I might as well wildly hope for more special issues and even a bold series of anthologies. What I can plan for is that this work will continue. May this beginning be one of many.
I want to begin by offering oceanic gratitude to all the authors who sent in their stories for this special issue. I also want to celebrate all the Southern Black and Indigenous writers and writers of color who didn’t send stories for this issue but who are patiently and with great devotion making a way for their work into the world. Finally, I want to honor all our peoples and ancestors who made and are still making stories with the lives they live, even when they don’t have the opportunities to write them down. To all the Southern authors and artists out there working right now—black, native, immigrant, queer, and so much more—I echo my co-editors: Please keep making and keep sharing your work, for you are cooking the food whose nourishment we need.
With that, a few words of encouragement to send you on your way to the poems, essays, reviews, art, and podcasts:
In his poem “Hula Hoops,” Oak Morse offers dispatches from the frontlines of childhood taunts and circles around to a reminder that we are all—at best—temporarily abled, and shows how abuse and shame can cost us parts of ourselves.
Michael Díaz Feito’s “Cagastrophe in Steerage” densely renders a fight between family members in the “gravity ring” of space, using fantastical imagery and all-too recognizable bitterness over debts to show the dangers of space travel when not in first class. This piece offers more on repeat reading, and invites us to consider a time perhaps not far from our own when debt leads families to stowaway into space.
In reviews, Zina Hutton reads Speculative Literature Foundation award-winning author L.D. Lewis’s book A Ruin of Shadows and gives us a peek into a future colonial world where the awakening of critical consciousness turns the empire’s greatest weapon—General Daynja Édo—into its most potent threat. As a long-time fan of Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s deep work on dreams, divination, and ancestor guidance, I’m excited to see Maya James’s reading of M Archive: After the End of the World, which moves through the challenges and possibilities of an Afrofuturist feminist document that is “post-scientist” and “ancestrally co-authored.”
In a hybrid form that rehydrates research with taut storytelling, Jamey Hatley’s “Always Open, The Eureka Hotel” enacts a historical rescue very close to the spell cast in Inda Lauryn’s “Venus Witch’s Ring.” Part travelogue, part queer lineage, and vibratingly fictionalized re-enactment of Black family travel in Jim-Crow era South, this piece deserves a careful reading all the way to the footnotes, which are a curated trove unto themselves.
Also be sure to take time and listen to the podcast recordings that illuminate each story—our editorial team and the staff at Strange Horizons took special care to showcase a range of Southern voices, many of them belonging to other artists and writers. Award-winning author Stephanie Malia Morris reads “Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone,” while Geneva Benton provides a feature illustration that will have you ready for the full graphic novel. Author and journalist Ayodele Olofintuade graces us with a reading of “The People Who Sleep Beneath the Waves.” In a real treat, issue editor Sheree Renée Thomas casts a spell with “Venus Witch’s Ring.” Finally, it is such a joy to introduce readers from my Alternate ROOTS family: Mujeres en Ritual theatre artist Dora Arreola incants the collective, bilingual voice of “Strange Mercy”; Carlton Turner of the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production takes us from the bayou to the Caribbean in “Hide Me In the Shadow of Your Wings”; and photographer and organizer for Southern movements Jovan Julien brings us the voice of a young man with powers of shadow and light in “Dying Lessons.”