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THE EDITOR’S WORD by Lezli Robyn

I had held off using the gorgeous artwork you see on the cover for almost a year. I had hoarded it for a couple of reasons. One, because this is our Worldcon issue, and I thought this image would look so striking on our Dealer Room tables as our most recent cover (if the Printer Gods deem us worthy enough to have copies in time to physically sell at Chicon!). And, two, this issue is filled with so many diverse voices, from at least six different countries, that I wanted cover art that could match that energy.

I actually have a milestone birthday during Chicon, on the same day the Hugo Awards Ceremony are held. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki—whose reprint, “Destiny Delayed,” is included in this issue—is up for a Hugo award for “O2 Arena,” which was first published in issue 53! The novelette has already won a Nebula award, and is also a finalist for Nommo, BSFA, and British Fantasy awards, too! I would be absolutely thrilled if Oghenechovwe were to win a Hugo on my birthday.

Speaking of awards, our publisher, Shahid Mahmud, will also be joining me at Worldcon, but instead of attending the Hugo awards with me, he will be flying to Dragon Con for just one day to present the winner of The Mike Resnick Memorial Award their trophy. Last month we had the pleasure of announcing the finalists and we can’t wait to reveal the winner! Congratulations to our finalists: Matt Broomfield, Akshayarka Alammyan Deka, Chris Kulp, Ellen Parent, and Sandra Sigienski!

In the same vein, all the new authors with original fiction in this issue have never been published by   before! Soumya Sundar Mukherjee’s short story, “Death’s Apprentice” starts off our fiction section. Not only was his characterization of Death refreshing, but we also get to meet Life—and both of their Apprentices. I was drawn in by the beautiful worldbuilding, but the twists and reveals in this piece are really what makes the story stand apart.

“Make a Memory With Me” by Xan van Rooyen, is the perfect example of an author’s ability to depict how one moment can really impact your life. Having spent zir last few years selling memories to make money, Danny leaves a recent session at RecollectUs, only to get stuck waiting with a stranger…. How can you truly learn from your life experiences, if you can’t even remember how you’ve lived?  Toshiya Kamei penned a science fiction story about the oni demons of Japanese folklore. The lead character’s Dad has managed to find one of the fabled creatures, frozen for centuries on an abandoned Earth, and decides to thaw him out. Using the technology of nanobots and gene modification to remove the oni’s innate aggression and cannibalistic tendencies, the resulting creature has the reader questioning where scientific boundaries should lie—and what the consequences are when you mess with nature.

Our last new-to-us author, Liu Yanzeng, was brought to our attention by Yang Feng, editor of our sister magazine in China. I don’t want to spoil her introduction to “The God Tree of Banbi Village,” but one of my biggest pleasures about our story exchange program is uncovering authors and fiction I might not have otherwise discovered on this side of the ocean.

As usual, our columnists are working hard to get us great content. Jean Marie Ward interviews Mary Robinette Kowal this issue, and we have reprint fiction by Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Angela Slatter, and the amazing trio: Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann, and Michael Swanwick.

I wanted to end this editorial with a final thought about Eric Flint, who lost his grasp on this mortal world this past month. As one of the best friends to my mentor, Eric had been the first editor to buy a solo story off me, and the first to encourage me on my new role as editor. Over the lunches we’ve shared, and the Sail to Success writing workshop we both cruised on, I had gotten to know the immense heart and intellect behind his prolific output and gruff exterior. My heart goes out to all who are grieving his loss.

Write well. Stay safe. Read on.