Editorial: In Which We Come to Better Know Ourselves

- by Michael Matheson -

Welcome, new and returning readers, to the start of year three! A year of doubled contributor rates and expanded content—in the form of the long-planned introduction of poetry to these pages. And though our 2019 run may just be getting underway, already our year is beginning on some thematically consistent notes. 

Issue 7 is focused on two of our core aesthetics, evincing a balance between burning mirrors allegorically reflecting the nightmare realities of our own world, and the terrible, beautiful possibilities of revelation in the face of found love, hidden histories, and resisting oppression. But overarchingly, Issue 7 is an issue of internal understandings—of gnosis and acceptance.

That seems somehow appropriate in the face of a field that is both continuing as it ever was and changing sometimes radically, sometimes incrementally.

The last year-or-so’s loss of magazines like Shimmer, Liminal Stories, and Apex to closure or indefinite hiatus is a solid blow to the weird, dark, and dream-like in spec lit. (Their content remains largely accessible online, so do avail yourself.) Even as magazines like FIYAH, Fireside, The Dark, Vulture Bones, Foreshadow, and Monstering, among numerous others, rise or reinvent themselves while seeking to diversify the field alongside industry-leading stalwarts like Strange Horizons and Uncanny.

This year will also see (in September) the long-overdue raising of what qualifies as professional pay rates, according to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), to a still paltry but quite welcome .08/word. Which, as writers and editors, we applaud in a field where rates for spec fic have not changed largely (admitting outliers) since the early 1900s, while inflation and economic realities most definitely have. But this change also further solidifies the perceived professional legitimacy primarily of magazines run by white publishers and editors with primarily white readerships—the majority of magazines already paying or exceeding those higher rates. Observing that preservation of legacy status for white-helmed operations, one finds a reflection of the larger state of North American publishing wherein the necessary work of opening up the field to more marginalized voices is still being done by teams of marginalized creatives who are once again denied legitimacy because the system is built against them. 

Attempting to stimulate/force a rise in pay rates across short fiction is inarguably a good thing. But as with all change in this industry stemming from white-led organizations, it comes with hidden layers to navigate and consider. And I say this as someone who is co-EiC of a mag whose aim is to provide space for and support to marginalized creators, but whose masthead is nonetheless currently 66 percent white. The point is this: good intent is excellent, but it also has to come with consideration of how one’s actions affect the entirety of the field and what systems you’re grounding deeper in so doing.

So what do we, with this issue and with Anathema more broadly, hope to do to affect the field?

If you’re a reader, we want you to be aware of new and existing voices, some of whom you will already know, others whose first publications you may be seeing in our pages. And we want you to go out and support endeavours that are diversifying and decolonizing publishing in both broad and specific terms. We want you to support the expansion of the field to include more amazing, talented, exceptional-as-fuck creators in all disciplines who have traditionally been marginalized by a straight white hegemonic, patriarchal power structure. We want you to use your voice and your funds to uplift those who most need it.

As a writer, a poet, an artist, we hope for you to see yourselves reflected ever more broadly in traditionally white-dominated publishing spaces, and in the pages of what we and other magazines produce. Here, in this issue, perhaps that will be through kiDChan’s gorgeous cover art, “Fajar.” Or in the dark lyricism of Maya Chhabra’s poem “Things to do When You Believe You Have Been Cursed: A Checklist,” or Jessica Jo Horowitz’s exquisitely cathartic poem “Planting Season.” Maybe it’ll be in the navigation of and resistance to oppressive systems found in Joe Ponce’s “Roots (Raices),” or in the power of finally facing who we are in L. D. Lewis’ “Moses.” Maybe Eboni J. Dunbar’s story of forbidden love in “Birds of a Feather” will call to you, or Qurat Dar’s tale of the burden of guilt and other, more literal legacies in “Inheritance.” Or perhaps in delving into buried family histories in Tara Sidhoo Fraser’s creative non-fiction, “The Secret Tara.”

Wherever you find yourself, we hope the reflection leads you to submit your work as broadly as possible, and to aim high. Because you’re damn right that we want to publish you. But we also want publishers who pay ridiculously good rates to publish you. We want them to revel in the chance at publishing you. To seek you out and promote you and edit you well and without bias or pushback, and to do so in understanding and welcome. We want you to be able to publish whatever the fuck you want without having to explain it or lose your voice. Because the world is ready for it. Because the world is ready for you.

© 2019 by Michael Matheson