Appreciating an architectural classic can be a both/and exercise, because story complicates the art of line and load. A building might be tied to a terrible history. It may have consumed lives, neighbourhoods or even cultures in its making. The beautification of Europe was purchased with bald-faced plunder, while around the world palaces and houses of worship rest on the graves of other palaces and houses of worship destroyed by strident victors. New architectural gifts rise up every year, funded through questionable means or promoting questionable creeds. It’s hard to strip the story from the stone, but nor should we. If an atheist can experience an aesthetic rather than a religious ecstasy in the Antwerp Cathedral in 2016, the church architects have done their job even if those of the Church (so to speak) failed to convince or even succeeded to disgust.
The writers who contributed stories to this issue approached the “Architectures” theme with this complicated mindset. Each work features some kind of physical structure, one that roots the living (or the spiritual) to place, that comes with a cost, or that expresses something sinister. There is beauty in these tales—of line, proportion, mathematics, or texture—but nothing is uni-dimensional, no matter how basic the engineering described. These stories remind us that principles and beliefs have their architects, too, and that it’s too easy to erect a worldview that puts ourselves at the seeming centre of it all.
The collection opens with Arkady Martine’s planetary hagiography in which all manner of lasting things are crafted, material or not. It’s followed by a mock epic by Sara Saab, which stars a pair of barnacles who’ve finished building their crusts but not their souls; tongue may be firmly in cheek but aspersions can still be cast on a certain human system. That cheekiness follows through in a piece by Ottawa author Y.X. Acs, who takes on the Freemasons and whatever grows at the back of our fridge. Natalia Theodoridou brings us back to the classical world and its old myths as they’re tied inexorably to stone and soil, while Julia August’s epistolary tale re-imagines an obscure but influential character from early SF as he flogs a development on Mars. (This is the third story I’ve purchased from Julia, which officially makes her the writiest Lackington’s author to date.)
I go weak at the knees over too many buildings, so this one is personal. One of the best things about being an editor is the power of say-so; I get my “Architectures” issue simply because I want one (with apologies to the stellar Unlikely Story gang, who clearly have excellent taste in themes). I hope readers enjoy this collection as much as I enjoyed putting it together, stone by stone. May interesting things result from trivial indulgences.