“We need to have a movement that is willing to let everyone speak, to create space, to listen to different voices, to be challenged.”

—Talissa M. Soto

 [ Issue 2023.64; Cover art © 2023 Cécile Matthey ]

Issue 2023.64

Short stories

Poetry

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How many of you have made new year’s resolutions along the lines of “Be yourself”? (Unfalsifiable clichés make great resolutions, avoiding the risk of being called out on them—even by yourself.) “Speak up.” “Be seen.” (Except when it’s safer to be unseen.) “Don’t undersell yourself.” “Make room for joy in your life.” Easier said than done?

The corollary of these self-affirming resolutions is to make it possible for others to be themselves. Don’t judge the outcast, the other, the shy, the counter-intuitive. As Soto tells us: be willing to let everyone speak (but not, I would add, when their speech is designed to silence and persecute others). Let people be themselves, let them speak. See them. See the discarded, the invisible, the underdog, the unseen. Pay people what they are worth—half the workforce are currently striking for basic working conditions. Let people have joy in their lives, and maybe let them bring joy into yours. It becomes easier to foster good habits when our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends go out of their way to hear us, see us, value us.

These may be platitudes when I abstractly list them, but the stories and poems in this issue of TFF are full of concrete cases where we have to deal with society’s controlling rules, the despair of the discarded and the unseen, the balance between important struggle and allowing yourself small joys. They ask us: who is allowed to speak? who does the dangerous and unpleasant work and for what pay? who—however resilient they are—gets to be alone? and can we just be allowed not to be happy all the time? Throughout it all we see the magic of small things, the wonder of worlds other than our own, the warmth of human touch among the alien, the monstrous, the cold, uncaring universe.

So please start off this year by enjoying the beautiful words of Avra, Brackett, David, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Jonathan, Simon and Ujjvala, and the gorgeous art from Cécile, Fluffgar, Joyce, Miguel, Dr T. and Toeken. And above all, be excellent to each other!

Djibril al-Ayad, January 2023

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

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