As we settle into the swing of things at Lackington’s, our modus op adjusts for a better fit. Some might call these adjustments growing pains, except they haven’t been at all painful. Since we launched Issue 1, we’ve raised our rates summat for artists, formalized a minimum rate for stories, and moved to a quarterly format. We also had themes drop into our laps for Issues 1 and 2, and because these themes expand the meaning of each tale and give a sense of commentary to each collection, we’ve opted not to fight it anymore. Our first theme was decided by accident; the invited authors I reached out to in the project’s early days sent in tales about death. Wonders and serendipity! And Issue 2, without even being asked, offers up an investigation of the body, from all kinds of angles, and makes for a shivering overall read on the straits of corporeality (we’re looking forward to sharing it with you in May).
The themes for Issues 3 and 4 — for which we’re reading now — are just as providential in the sense that they rather chose themselves. We had one very fine story selected for publication that didn’t fit into Issue 2’s “Body” theme, so it became the foundation tale for Issue 3. When I accepted another story that also featured a quest, the theme was born. Issue 4’s theme, “Institution,” was determined the same way, and going forward I imagine this will be our path: accept a great story and see how other submissions radiate out from it. When our “Quest” issue is full, we’ll let submissions determine the theme for Issue 5 and post it at once. And so forth.
We don’t believe this will limit writers. There are many wonderful SFF mags and zines calling for subs by theme, and they remain inundated with enough stories to produce first-rate curations every time they print or post. Moreover, themes are protean. They are bendy, elastic, bottomless, and accommodating. They want to fit your work, and readers (no less than editors) are pattern-seekers, prone to spotting connections. “Quest” is perhaps the most accommodating theme of all, as it’s been argued that all fiction features a quest of some kind. And “Institution” doesn’t just mean structures, schools, hospitals, and paperwork. Rites and rituals are institutions, too. So are traditions, and arrangements, and laws. Where you find culture, you’re bound to find institutions, so look twice at what lurks between the lines of your yet-to-be-published tales. Be as literal or as oblique as you like. Send us the orthodox, or stretch a theme to its outer limits. The important thing is to submit, submit, submit your speculative, speculating prose, and help give unexpected dimension to the collections we’ll produce four times a year.