I’ve always heard that a place is the people you meet. True words, but after co-editing this issue of Strange Horizons, I know truer ones: a place is the stories you tell. Like the authors in this issue, I am a person of color, with roots deep in the Southeastern USA. One of the beauties of this kinship is that as I read their work—and the work of the many brilliant writers whose stories we were unfortunately not able to include in this issue—each word brought me back to my family’s stories and to my own.
These are not the stories told from the outside, that fetishize pain and appropriate joy, mock accents and deride culture, and seek too often to absolve a nation of its deepest sins by denigrating a people and place who know them better than anyone. No, these are the kinds of stories that stay with you, challenge you to think about who you are, make you laugh and cry and rage and always, always, leave you sated but somehow wanting more. They are stories that are not always told and too often ignored, and I am overjoyed that you have the opportunity to read them here.
While the stories in this issue share a deep and common thread, they offer themes and approaches as rich and diverse as the cultures of the South itself. Some confront the history and legacy of slavery—Malena Crawford’s “The People Who Sleep Beneath the Waves” takes a journey in the cramped hold of a slave ship while honoring what came before, and, as importantly, what can be lost and found along the way, while Christopher Caldwell, in “Hide Me in the Shadow of Your Wings” takes to the air, soaring as it examines what it truly means to be free. Others uplift the bonds that tie families and communities together, whatever comes—in “Strange Mercy,” Christopher Alonso eloquently gives voice to a community forged in equal measures by mistreatment and kindness and Troy Wiggins’s “Dying Lessons” paints a picture of a family legacy that is at once modern and magical, unexpected and all too familiar. Others bring culture to life in a new way, with Inda Lauryn’s “Venus Witch’s Ring” composing a piece that rings so true that it seems to cross the line from fiction to biography and Eden Royce cooking up a mouthwatering treat in “Every Good-Bye Ain’t Gone” that mixes love, death, and a little bit of magic to deliver a tale that touches the heart as much as the taste buds.
Each of these stories is special, inventive and beautiful in the way that lingers in your mind long after your eyes have left the page, but if editing this issue has taught me anything—other than a profound respect and gratitude for my co-editors, the Strange Horizons staff, and every single writer who submitted a story to us—it is that they are just the beginning. There are so many stories still to be told, by black and indigenous writers, writers of color, writers from the Southeastern USA, and writers who are all of the above. If you are one of those writers, please, keep writing and keep submitting, keep sharing your work with the world. Your words are important and invaluable, in no small part because they are yours, and we cannot wait to read them.