What does “Mercurial” mean to Apparition Lit?

Greetings and salutations!

Are you ready for a rowdy good time? Mercurial, in its many fickle and dynamic moods, is storming towards us, gaining speed and steam rolling over any vestiges of the year past. 

What a word! What a theme! We do these blogs quarterly, to offer insight to what we hope to see in our submission piles, but never have we had such a vast array of responses from our readers and editors. It is as if the word itself is split in meaning, true to form…

Below you will find something for everyone to take away. From planetary and scientific answers courtesy our resident earth goddess, to the appropriately stream of conscious threads of our poetry editor. There’s even an answer if you don’t know the meaning of the word! What a veritable buffet of insight from our team. 

Without further ado, let’s start with our Guest Editor, the ever-evolving Jordan Kurella. Jordan is a trans and disabled author with a host of loving mentions and a successful (Nebula finalist!) debut novella “I Never Liked You Anyway.” His work explores queer themes, loss, the afterlife, wonder, and everything Apparition Lit loves to indulge. A fitting guide into this layered, and unpredictable, issue. 

Jordan (Guest Editor):  “When I think of the world ‘mercurial,’ I think of the ephemeral experience of change. Of how change is a constant, and ever-present set of moving goal posts in many people’s lives within the world. And in others? It is something they fear. For people of color, for disabled people, for neurodivergent people, and for trans people, the very existence of being ‘mercurial’ in this definition is a way of life. It is the aspect of being and unbeing. It is the aspect of code-switching to fit into a society that doesn’t accept us. For the poor and the unhoused, it is the way of always shifting expectations to find food or find a way to sleep. Life itself becomes a mercurial existence, but like mercury, the ever shifting temperature of life, there is a spring. There is hope.”

A. J. Van Belle (Submissions Reader): “I can imagine seeing stories that express the truth that the only thing constant is change. Since I’m often all about opposites or the unexpected, I like the idea of finding constancy/reliability in something that is, or appears to be, highly changeable. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a structure that also comes to mind. Also, to be more literal, it would be fun to see work that takes inspiration from, or retellings of, the myths of the god Mercury.”

Mary Anne (Submissions Reader): “I think of Toni Collette in ‘United States of Tara,’ a wild, revolving existence with no boundaries or regard to societal norms.”

Maria (Poetry Editor & Assistant Fiction Editor, Submissions Reader): 

“Mercury poisoning…

Big pendulum swings, unbalancing…

Mercury/Hermes, messengers, sudden changes in the wind…”

Moriam (Submissions Reader): “Mercurial makes me curious about that metaphorical tipping point where a person, a society, or a place is changed. Change can feel very unpredictable when we’re not in control of it. I’d love to see stories that dig in deep and explore the conflicts or consequences of these sudden changes. Also, I’d love some space tales that involve the planet Mercury in some strange and wonderful way!”

Monique (Submissions Reader): “For me, mercurial is yes, changeability and volatility, but I also think of it in terms of those things being somewhat hidden — and the revelation of the change coming as an interesting, and perhaps surprising, reveal.”

Amy (Owner/Senior Editor, Poetry Editor, and Webmaster): “I also am interested in seeing exploration of that Dr. Jekyll/Mx. Hyde dynamic, and excited to see how our submitters deal with that in a way that is MH aware. Also, I’d love to see poetry, or poetic prose, that plays with the actual reality of (the) slippery, metallic, poisonous element that we used to put in our mouths with only a thin globe of glass between it and our teeth.”

Léon (Submissions Reader): “I didn’t actually know what the word meant, I have to be honest, so I did some diving into different definitions, and I love how broad the meanings are: ever-changing, but also quick-witted, and of course related to the planet Mercury or the Roman god Mercury, and the element mercury (quicksilver!) itself. I love the scope of meanings this word has, and I think I want to see stories that are harder to pin down in terms of tone, stories that unmistakably do their own thing.”

Tehnuka (Submissions Reader): “Elemental mercury is liquid at standard temperature and pressure, and readily evaporates to form a toxic, colourless vapour. In nature, though, mercury is more often found as the relatively stable solid cinnabar (mercury sulfide). The planet Mercury experiences an impressively big change in temperature from day to night with no atmosphere to stop the heat of the sun escaping its dark side, but it also has a slow rotation and pockets of permanent ice cover. I’m interested in volatile people, places, or things and their dramatic, wild changes – and I’d also like to know what moderates them.” 

Evelyn (Submissions Reader): “Mercurial to me means two contradictory things. The first is, of course, changeability and caprice. The other is almost the opposite: longevity and immortality. At multiple points in the past, various subsets of humanity decided that mercury, unusual as it was, could be the key to producing gold from lead or achieving good health and everlasting life. With the benefit of hindsight and science, modern humans have realized this was stupid. I’d like to see stories that turn that idea of ‘everlasting’ anything on its head and show how things that seem eternal or unchanging really aren’t.”


There you have it, folks! Mercurial opens for submissions on February 15th; check out our submissions page for all the details and get ready for the portal to open! 

Until next time, friends!

Photo by Iván Guerrero on Unsplash

  • Marie Baca Villa
    Marie Baca Villa Blogger/Submission Reader

    Marie Baca Villa is a Chicana writer and artist in California. She has a master’s degree in psychology and used her education to build a long career in crime victim advocacy. As a fan of speculative fiction, she loves anything involving strange worlds, complex characters, and unexplained phenomenon. She’s a bonified cat lady, covered in tattoos, and she loves cussing, beer, and flaming hot cheetos. You can find Marie on Twitter @okay_its_marie

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