ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ᾽, εὖτ᾽ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι.

— Hesiod, Theogony 27–8

 [ Issue 2020.53; Cover art © 2020 Gwen C. Katz ]

Issue LIII (2020.53)

Nonfiction

Reviews

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LIIIES

The Greek quotation from Hesiod translates loosely as “We know how to tell many lies resembling the truth, but we also know, when we like, how to sing true things.” The problem has always been whether mortals can tell which is which.

We are used to the idea that fiction—speculative or otherwise—may be an effective medium to tell important truths. Aristotle tells us that poetry (i.e. fiction) is a “more philosophical and a higher thing” than history (i.e. nonfiction), because the truths written in history are particular, while those in poetry are universal. Science fiction does not only imagine particular futures, and comment on the trajectory of the present with satire, cynicism or hope, it also speaks to the human (and posthuman) condition, to the ethics of our relationship with technology, to social and political observation at least potentially unfettered from the immediate historical context.

But I wonder if we should also consider that nonfiction—book reviews, essays, opinion pieces, historical surveys or character profiles—can also entertain us with stories, can contain narratives, can be guilty of lies? A review should not only tell readers coldly and objectively what the book is about, whether they will like it or not, about its genre, setting, characters and failings, attempt to interpret and critique the literary quality and context; it should also contain the very subjective story of the reviewer’s response to the reading. An essay should be a journey from question to answer, or method to conclusion, historical discovery to interpretation and narrative. An opinion piece or editorial should make clear not only what are the issues and how we believe we should respond to them, but whose opinion this is: I am a pseudonymous editor of science fiction, a historian and a futurist, a horror writer, and an internationalist (does that change how you read this editorial?).

We have therefore decided to collect together in issue LIII of The Future Fire, in lieu of the usual poems, short stories and novelettes, a selection of nonfiction and reviews that tell stories, that have their own internal narratives, their own lies. All these reviews, profiles and histories are entertaining enough in their own right that they are worth reading even if you will never read the book, or even if the book didn’t exist.

As always, kudos to all our authors and artists, including Fabio Fernandes, Michael M. Jones, Ari Kaness, Gwen C. Katz, J. Moufawad-Paul, Scirocco, J. Rama Stephens, for their lovely and insightful work in this issue. And thanks to copyeditors Brian Olszewski and Hûw Steer, all my co-editors, and other invisible contributors to this compendium of lies.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time. Happy edible book day!

Djibril al-Ayad, April 2020

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

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