Did you notice how the figure on this issue’s cover is holding a goblet of something fortifying? So many of us are doing that ourselves, around the world, united in our need to ease our troubled minds. Yes, we have concoctions in frosted glasses, or delicate flutes, or hardy steins, but we also have narrative— whether we consume it in TV series or video games or brick-sized epic novels. Or short stories, come to that.
I was glad to have an issue to put together this spring. There may be a lot of personal disruption going on, but there’s something therapeutic about going through the motions of routine when we’re on a deadline—of keeping a project going. Completing Issue 21 wasn’t just a balm for the Lackington’s staff; we hope it brings gentle distraction to our readers, and to the contributors who walked along with us this spring to serve up this selection.
One contributor in particular must be singled out. I was just gearing up to commission artwork for this issue when the pox turned the world inside out; it seemed too much to ask eight other people to meet a deadline when many might be dealing with job loss, domestic upheaval, anxiety, heartbreak, or worse. So I turned to one of our long-time regular artists for support. Wonderfully, P. Emerson Williams agreed to do something different for our “Cocktails” issue: every illustration you see in this collection was created by him. When I had the idea to ask one artist if they’d be willing to illustrate every story in Issue 21 (plus the cover), it was in desperation. But seeing the stories linked not just by theme but also by artwork is sort of grand, and Lackington’s may do this again. You can find P.’s full bio after this foreword.
Two other contributors were instrumental in convincing me that a “Cocktails” theme was viable. For this, we go back to last July, on a very hot day in Munich, when I was drinking a basil smash with poet/artist Lynn Hardaker and writers Alexandra Seidel and Steve Toase. Being all four of us enamoured of mixed drinks (we were in fact—heat be damned—on a cocktail crawl through the city), the idea of doing a “Cocktails” theme for Lackington’s was first a gleam in Alexa’s eye, then a folly on our tongues, then a fleshed-out concept before we had even left our little outdoor table. It turns out there are enough writers out there to fill an inbox with cocktail-themed submissions, and that the prompt was inspiring enough for Alexa and Steve to come up with their own stories for this issue. This one was born in bourbon and gin, and I’m thanking all three of my Munich friends for being part of the process.