Our “beldams” theme was a tricky one to fill, given its relative narrowness, but I’m glad Lackington’s put out the call. Submitters didn’t disappoint. Do I take anything away from these stories by admitting that I was inspired by my Besom fridge magnet, which praises “obstreperous women” every time I reach for the butter? Or by allowing that I was irked by a recent fantasy bestseller featuring a belle dame sans merci love interest, and felt like kicking that absurd trope on the chin? Keats’s knight can get away with it, but today’s heroes oughtta be ashamed if they interpret unrequited love, or a change of heart, as cruel or even punishable. Contributor Barry King writes such heroes as literal ogres, and Lackington’s is only too happy to include this response.
Happy, also, to give space to older and elderly female characters, and to disrupt certain ideas long associated with them. Our beldams are indeed troublesome, haggish, and even prone to witchery, but they are also problem-solvers with agency, able to be the heroes of their own stories and the tellers of their own tales. They demonstrate the various pressures placed on older women—to be saviours, advisors, nurturers, and keepers even as they’re stereotyped as crones, spinsters, cat-lovers, and knitters. Even as they’re bestialized—sometimes long before their dotage.
This issue features a reprint by JY Yang not just because “Tiger Baby” addresses that last point and mines the straits of nonconforming women, however old or young. Lackington’s has amended its guidelines to accept reprints of English stories originally published outside Canada, the U.S., the British Isles, Australia, and New Zealand. There’s a wealth of English-language short stories published in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that readers in dominant English markets often miss entirely, and it’s a pleasure to make room for some of them in these pages. My thanks to Stephanie Ye and Math Paper Press for cheerfully permitting Lackington’s to feature “Tiger Baby” here.