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THE EDITOR’S WORD by Lezli Robyn

For readers of ours not living in the United States, you would be right in thinking that Americans appear to be living the prologue chapter of some near-future apocalyptic novel. Sure, the rest of the world is also going through its own kind of hell with the COVID-19 pandemic—well, except for New Zealand, that is—but in the United States the pandemic has hit during the stirrings of great political, civil, and economic upheaval, dividing a once (usually) united country. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more people have escaped into a good book or a favorite comfort movie to forget the reality of a life that currently appears more alien than fiction.

This November issue greets our readers with new articles from regular columnists L. Penelope and Gregory Benford, and reviews of the latest and greatest fiction by Richard Chwedyk. We have another Mike Resnick short story for our readers, this time written with celebrated French writer Jean-Claude Dunyach. Nancy Kress also returns to our pages with “Machine Learning,” which tells the tale of a researcher and his partner teaching an AI to train others as depression overtakes the researcher following the loss of his family.

In “The Ecology of Broken Promises,” Andrea Stewart gifts us a thought-provoking and confronting magical realism story that depicts the journey of a woman grappling with the guilt of all the vows she has broken in her life. If you haven’t yet read Andrea’s debut novel, The Bone Shard Daughter, published by Orbit this past September, you’re missing out! I would not be surprised if we see her name on some award ballots in the coming year.

We welcome Joe Haldeman back to our magazine, with “The Monster,” and J. Scott Coatsworth will dazzle our readers with “Lamplighter,” about Fen, a member of a fantasy world guild whose selfless attempts to relight a city and find a way to keep his love will spark a revolution. “Night Folk,” by Barb Galler-Smith, also takes part in the absence of daylight, where some aging creatures of the night put aside their walking canes to battle some geriatric hunters. It’s not often that we read about retired supernatural creatures, and this story doesn’t disappoint, flipping well-known tropes in this unexpected read.

If you are wanting something witty and entertaining, you can’t go wrong with “A Farmboy, a Wizard and a Dark Lord Walk into a Tower” by Dantzel Cherry. And who doesn’t like a time traveling story? William and Tyler travel into the past to save the life of William’s first child in “Saving Sarah,” a science fiction story by newcomer John Haas. With an ending that brought this editor to tears, this piece will show you how far a father will go to protect his child, and remind you that you can’t escape the consequences of your actions.

With the holiday season upon us, this issue showcases several pieces with a festive flare. “A Midwinter’s Tale” by Michael Swanwick tells a story within a story, about a soldier recalling an incident in his youth when an alien revealed the secret of how their species met. “To Hell with the Stars” is a charming tale by Jack McDevitt about a boy’s dream to travel into space, just like his favorite characters did in the thousand-year-old science fiction novels he loves to read so much. And last, but not least, Larry Hodges returns to the pages of Galaxy’s Edge with “The Untold Christmas Carol,” which explores Tiny Tim’s real origins, and the frustrations the Devil experiences when his hauntings don’t go according to plan.

Now, more than ever, when the United States is so divided, is the time we should come together to curl up with our family and loved ones in front of a roaring fireplace, sipping hot cocoa or eggnog as we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, grateful for surviving the shitstorm that was 2020.

But before that, on the day this issue is published, the United States’ presidential election will be looming. Vote. Urge others to vote, whether they identify as red or blue. That way, when we ring in the New Year, we can remind ourselves that like the many brave characters of this issue’s science fiction and fantasy stories, we too have the ability to reshape our lives, and the lives of others around us, for the better.

We can’t be the heroes of our own story if we don’t step up, take a chance. Hold ourselves accountable.