“It’s a comfort to say one’s piece, even to no real effect.” So muses a character in Kate Heartfield’s “The Automatic Prime Ministers” (and Kate’s third Lackington’s story to date). That particular character knows of which she speaks—look at the average Facebook wall or Twitter feed for evidence of our need to throw words at even the most gargantuan-intractable of problems. Issue 10 was born of that impulse—of frustration over the state of things, when it seems all we can do to move our rulers (march, vote, missive-write) leads only to more naught and nonsense. Our call for this issue’s theme, “Governments,” bade submitters to sound their yawps and make art, at least, if they couldn’t do anything else to fix the world. My own country experienced a staggering change in government between the day that call went out and the day this issue emerged, but the feeling remains. There’s too much that needs addressing, locally and globally.
So we talk, scream, feel overwhelmed, or divert ourselves with story. Issue 10 ends on a hopeful note, but there’s nothing in these pages worse than what we see in the news. This was a fascinating Table of Contents to assemble, in that the more I read of these authors’ governments, the more I found that was anything but dry and bureaucratic. This collection doesn’t forget the joy of sex in the midst of tyranny, for instance, and it turns on intimate dialogue, too—patterns I didn’t expect to see in Issue 10. Of course, it wouldn’t be a “Governments” theme without the violence and the gore, the fell oppression, the Barnaclean circumlocution, and even the grasping Orientalism, so if one needs bracing, it’s best to brace oneself now. Soft moments turn sharp on a dime in these tales, and if we feel satisfaction when the villains suffer, they tend to take the rest of us down with them more often than not, much like certain politicians. The artists have been telling us this for years: we must live, as well as we can, within the interstices, privileging closeness, story, and even the merest cooperation.