“With a genre like film noir, everyone has these assumptions and expectations. And once all of those things are in place, that's when you can really start to twist it about and mess around with it.”

—Lana Wachowski

 [ TFF Noir; Cover art © 2022 Saleha Chowdhury ]

Issue 2022.61

Short stories


TFF Noir

Noir is a peculiar genre in many ways. It is notoriously hard to define, often more easily identified by its aesthetic, and even its cliches, than by formalised literary rules. It has always been very popular, although in a lot of Noir stories things remain unsolved in the end: criminals get away; loss and futility assail the protagonist, who may be worse off than they were to start with.

This themed issue and the forthcoming Noir Fire anthology are an exploration of the reasons Noir resonates with us, and the ways it makes us reflect on justice, love, trust. Noir’s “fluidity” makes it a perfect component in cross-genres tales, both enriching and being enriched by different settings and tropes, while maintaining its distinctive Noir hue. That’s why we called for speculative Noir stories, and invited our authors to go wild with genre contaminations. We didn’t really know what to expect, and we were delighted to discover that beautiful and powerful Noir stories could be filled with ghosts, clairvoyants, and minor divinities.

But Noir is infamous for featuring some of the most obnoxiously misogynist, homophobic, racist and ableist stereotypes in literature and cinema. So why dedicate an issue of a progressive SF magazine to a genre with such a loaded history? Of course we abjure such retrograde or offensive stories; if someone says that those harmful stereotypes are an unavoidable part of Noir, we are very happy to prove them wrong. We like our Noir stories with strong women (who may or may not turn out to be a bit “fatale”), diverse voices, and in which the loners, the marginalised, the queer, the weird, the powerless are not just narrative devices for the pictureque but are fully fledged protagonists who can decide to stick together and fight back.

And that’s what you will find in these (electronic) pages. Our authors have risen to the challenge of a Noir that was bleak and dark but also progressive. And we believe that, in spite of all the tough talk, our Noir anti-heroes have human decency, and endeavour to keep it alive. If they have seen enough during their lives not to expect the good guys to win, they still struggle to be better than the crooks, the traitors, the polluters, the abusers, the corrupted and the corruptors.

Please enjoy the beautiful stories by Lam, Laura, M., Storm and Timothy in this issue, and look out for the rest of the anthology, available in print and e-book from your usual online retailers later this month.

Valeria Vitale, April 2022

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

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