Births commonly and symbolically herald beginnings, but they can also herald endings. Sometimes it takes a deep dig into fiction to communicate this dichotomy, and I appreciate how the authors of Issue 13 have done just that. One might expect a “Births”-themed collection to be filled with stories about newborns and the labours that brought them to life, or tales full of religious or mythic representations. Of course these figure in this Table of Contents, as they should. But some of these pieces go elsewhere, or complicate our view of the world with wonderful contradictions, knotting life and death together and making it hard to separate hope from despair. There’s something realistic about this balance and—if we’re honest—wholly accurate about the life-giving process itself, since life persists under omnipresent shadows that baby-shower celebrants rarely acknowledge.
This issue also redresses a small flaw in Issue 12, “Animals,” which was strangely devoid of cats. Those who know me pointed this out with lifted eyebrows or confusion emojis. I get it. I’m just as surprised. But it seems all the cats destined for our bestiary migrated to our “Births” issue, for cats abound here. Three of these five tales have something feline in their title—Rachael K. Jones has even seen fit to stuff entire cosmoses with kitties in her tale for these gruelling political times. And Kyle E. Miller opens the collection with a tender bit of slipstream that’s part fable and part Pinter production, featuring a vegetized kitten that could soften the hardest heart. It was too easy to fall in love with these stories even without the addition of my favourite animal.
Speaking of favourites, a long-time Lackington’s illustrator has broken a long-time Lackington’s convention in this issue. Random Dreaming, a Polish photoillustrator who’s been with the magazine from the beginning, has provided interior art as well as the cover art for Issue 13. I’m not sure I can ever thank our artists enough for the stunning work they send in every quarter. Nor can I imagine this magazine without these images, and I live for that pulse of excitement I feel every time I open an email attachment—knowing how thoughtfully these creators read assigned stories and how much care they put into their work. A heartfelt and enormous thank-you to everyone who has ever drawn for Lackington’s and made our authors dance in their chairs when they see their story come to vivid life.