A few years ago, a friend of mine was speaking at a humanities conference near my then-home in Pittsburgh. I was dying to see them talk, but I didn’t have any money, so my husband and I snuck in and nervously spent the day pretending to be intellectuals. There were so many fascinating new perspectives and terms and lenses that when it was over, I felt both thrilled and vaguely hung over.
As I was reading for this magazine, I kept going back to that day—particularly one lecture that discussed James Vandemeer’s exploration of hyperobjects: things that have a scale so at odds with our experiences that our brains can’t fully process them, like how long styrofoam lasts or how the wealth of a billionaire compares to the average person.
As a concept, the topic was both illuminating and unsettling—but I was struck by the deep ties the hyperobject has to the SFF space, the way we writers constantly try to process and represent phenomena that defy description. Over and over, we find that the substance, scale, and tempo of things isn’t how we assumed, and we strive to give the reader a sense of that wonder.
Take, for example, our place in the world. We are insignificant meat-beings in a possibly infinite, ever-more-quickly expanding universe—one we now know is not empty, but instead 95% full of an occult combination of dark matter and dark energy. And yet, within each of us, there is an entire microcosm of atoms and organs and neurons and emotions. Somehow, from these disparate progenitors, we draw love, justice, and art.
Each of the pieces we have for you this month in some way addresses these questions of substance, scale, and tempo.
- Marie Croke’s Flock of Words and Wonder explores the magic behind the creation of new writing against the backdrop of a magical library that descends into chaos when its librarian disappears.
- May Chong’s poem Beefriend is a sharp, beautiful invitation to marvel at the multitudes contained in the smallest of insects.
- A Home for the Hungry Tide, by Alexandra Singer, subverts classic western fantasy tropes to explore the limits of a god’s power and the division between human and ghoul.
- Shaoni C. White’s poem Stranger Organs is a haunting, visceral education on the exotic multitudes of the body,
- while Atreyee Gutpa’s lyrical yet unsettling cave-diving story, Cocoon, asks a trapped miner to give up the body entirely.
- In Feudal Superstition, by Yiwen Bu, we explore the limits of the modern and rational against the backdrop of a rapidly-changing, drought-ravaged China,
- while Lavender, Juniper, Gunpowder, Smoke, by Alyson Grauer, encapsulates the wonders of growing up and finding our place via a magical presence at school.
- Finally, we have an essay by Jessica Cho that explores a writer’s journey of curiosity, doubt, and diaspora.
I and the rest of the editorial team are so excited to share these pieces with you, with their wealth of curiosity, awe, dismay, and joy. It is my greatest hope that you find them illuminating, unsettling, and moving, and that you come away seeing the world just a bit differently than when you started.
A prolific writer of short fiction, articles, essays, and poetry, Maria‘s work has been published in dozens of venues, including Apex, Lightspeed, Augur, Nightmare, Khoreo, Apparition, and more. Her debut novel, THE CONFIGURATIONS OF KATRINA KIM, comes out from Grand Central Publishing in winter of 2023.
Although she’s currently a computer programmer, in her previous lives, Maria’s held a variety of diverse careers, including property manager, English teacher, and occupational therapist. She lives with her partner and a potato-dog in southwest Michigan, in a centenarian saltbox house that is almost certainly haunted, watching K-dramas and drinking Bell’s beer. She can be reached via Twitter at @mariadongwrites or on her website, mariadong.com.
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Thank you for reading
Rebecca Bennett, Amy Henry Robinson, Tacoma Tomilson, and Clarke Doty