“And you think they’ll let you,” said Machine. It was a flat, sad statement.
“No,” she said, “but nobody ever let me do anything in my life before and I never let that stop me.”

—Joanna Russ

 [ Issue 2014.31; Cover art © 2014 Martin Hanford ]

Issue 2014.31

Short stories

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Welcome to Issue 31 of The Future Fire. Writing the editorials doesn’t usually fall to me, but I wanted to kick off this issue by voicing an opinion in an area that so many women are too scared to at the moment.

It’s hard to think that in 2014, women would be fleeing their homes, leaving their jobs and staying silent online, due to the Gamergate controversy. The vile trolling these women have received has profoundly disturbed me, and even articles that were supposed come out in support of the women affected, by calling out the very behaviour they intended to condemn, added fuel to the fire, leaving me thinking that yet again women are underrepresented as they face this, the latest in such a wearying line of misogyny.

Sometimes real-life horror is too fraught to communicate. Sometimes it takes extreme examples and hypotheticals to highlight what is unequal and what needs to change. The stories featured in this issue explore the possibilities of what could be, in the framework of fractured and troubled worlds. They deal with godly and ghostly realms, what can be readily explained and mysteries that can not.

As the quote from the lyrical and haunting story ‘Seven Bridges’ states: “The bridge to international understanding begins with our shared stories.” Traditionally, stories have been used to explain and to instruct. The worlds of speculative fiction can help make more sense of the one we live in, with its divisions, prejudice and inequalities.

Bringing awareness to issues that require change can be uncomfortable and daunting. To quote the beautiful ‘Tears of the Gods’—“Change, I don’t want anything to change. Not yet. I’m not ready.” Ironic how we fight change when it is the only thing we can be sure of. Yet we and our world have never needed to change as much as we do now, in an age where sexual violence is threatened by invisible predators in response to idle gossip and petty grudges.

‘Tanty Marlene’ and ‘The Poisoned City’ explore the choices and limitations we grant other life forms and by doing so, explore what it means to be human and the relationship we have with sentient life forms around us. What it means to be ‘other.’

‘Digital Ligatures’ sees its narrator take the fabled “red pill.” If awareness of the true nature of reality, that we’re not all as special or different to one another as we think we are, was more prevalent, would there be so much hate? I have to hope not.

During my time working for multinational tech companies I myself and other women I’ve worked with have fallen foul of brogrammers in silly day to day land grabs so I can see where the seeds of Gamergate have spawned. One of the reasons I am so proud of TFF is because each issue changes the way I think a little bit, and that brings me hope that things can change, when the light of awareness dawns. I hope you’ll get as much out of reading the stories in this issue as I have, and I hope the voices of our writers encourage people to make their own voices heard on issues that matter.

Regina de Búrca, Associate Editor, October 2014

Comment on the stories in this issue on the TFF Press blog.

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