And with this issue we close out our first year. 2014 accumulated friends, illustrations, fictions, and lessons learned, and it succeeded better than I ever imagined. Contributors have been generous with their talent and time, and readers appreciative. Lackington’s will press on through 2015. The rewards are too fine to let small-press challenges prevail.
Issue 4 was built around the theme of “institutions” after we received an SF tale from Rose Lemberg set on a communal spaceship. The stark routine and interior that encase the narrator make institutions manifest, as does the nod to universities, but Rose’s story also explores less tangible institutions, such as friendship, art, and war. It’s these immaterial ones that surely affect us more than the physical variety, however central schools and hospitals and prisons might be for some people. The issue opens with Rose’s “Stalemate” and closes with Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus,” which shares similarities with the former thanks to its emphasis on spacecraft, aesthetic philosophy, and loving bonds that persist after death. (It’s fitting these tales are bookends, as both Rose and Kate appeared in our inaugural issue.)
The rest of the stories in Issue 4 dispense with material institutions and focus on intangible ones such as private property (“The Harbour Bears”), motherhood and religion (“Fertility Tree”), and storytelling — “More Embers than Feathers Filled the Firmament” is a joyful flight of consonance and alliteration that will thrill some readers and flabbergast others, and it’s one that I’m delighted to present in this experimental space.
What’s most striking about this collection is its morose quality, which maybe shouldn’t be surprising in an issue devoted to institutions — those oppressive, depression-inducing things. Melancholia dominates most of these tales, but the tone can’t just be blamed on characters’ physical spaces. The kindlier institutions of art, friendship, and storytelling will have to see us through as we walk our dread matrices.