Sea and story are inseparable so let me devote this foreword to the tales themselves, which are predominantly yarns of travel, transformation, and society. Our Issue 6 theme was inspired by Rhonda Eikamp’s “Ambergris, or The Sea-Sacrifice,” with its marine fae-folk and shimmering conch-shell palace. “Ambergris” builds on the tradition of painting sea-as-myth—the one being as indispensable to human culture as the other. So too does David K. Yeh’s “The Selkie,” which deploys a popular European sea-myth to explore how the very tides unite the legends of different peoples. Yeh’s syncretic portrayal of several northern myths (and one highly mythologized modern war) uses its marine setting to its fullest advantage, in this sense.
Steven Earnshaw’s “The Whale of Penlan Tork” is precisely the sort of tale I hoped to showcase when I launched Lackington’s: experimental in form, oblique in idea, and not necessarily reverent towards its ancient allusions. Readers can’t tell where this tale will take them—it’s written for our inner explorer. In “Spider Moves the World,” poet Dominik Parisien, who crafted this prose-poem specifically for Lackington’s, paints a different sort of sea—one of grassy landscapes and flowing masses of arachnid bodies. I’m grateful that I get to feature Dominik’s exquisite wordplay in short-story form. I’m also grateful to be able to present L.S. Johnson’s “Littoral Drift” after a bureaucratic delay (fitting, perhaps, for a story originally slated for our “Institutions” collection). One of the most sophisticated stories we’ve published to date, “Littoral Drift” is an oh-so-soft SFnal study of melancholia, subtly told. I’m thrilled it’s finally available to our readers.
When I think seas, I think also of abstract things that engulf us, such as ideas and language—things we swim and sometimes drown in, as the Post-Modernists have long held. It was important to me to include stories about this vexing sort of ocean. To this end, I’m delighted that novelist Michael Cisco has offered Lackington’s the opening passage of his unpublished meta-novel, UNLANGUAGE (you can read another section in Postscripts to Darkness Volume 5). His piece washes over readers even as it pulls them into its currents; one has a sense of being lost in a great expanse while enjoying a navigator’s unsettling moment of discovery. The magnificent UNLANGUAGE is a work for language-lovers and language-cynics, and I’m one of many who hope to see the full novel in print soon.