One of the reasons Seize The Press exists is because contemporary short fantasy and science fiction tends to be dominated by middle class writers who don’t understand what it’s like to have never been economically comfortable, and it’s often reflected in the kinds of stories they tell. Take a look at the big awards for short fantasy and science fiction in recent years and they have largely been taken up either by comfort reads or by incredibly didactic Important Message stories that pay lip service to a middle class kind of diversity. Horror has so far largely resisted this pressure; horror is, after all, a genre that thrives on discomfort and transgression. But even in the horror space there is a noticeable and creeping attempt to make it cosy and comforting.
Longform fiction isn’t immune from this trend. Small business owner and middle management fantasy books like Legends and Lattes and The House in the Cerulean Sea seem to be written by and primarily aimed at the economically comfortable, people who have for example never been workers in the service industry, or for people in need of assurance that working comfortable bureaucratic jobs in oppressive institutions does not constitute complicity. Light-hearted (even escapist) fiction is entirely legitimate of course, and there are authors like Terry Pratchett who have excelled at writing quick, entertaining books while also incorporating working class life and culture and social satire into their stories. Given that the two can coexist, it begs the question, what are these contemporary hollow comfort reads escapism from? What is it that readers of such books need to escape from, as a class? As our non-fiction editor Karlo Yeager Rodríguez said in a recent interview, they’re “escapist for who?”
All this to say that Seize The Press is a magazine that will always look to publish speculative stories that confront hardship and grapple with the tough choices that come with not being economically comfortable, with being queer in a heteronormative world, or living under imperialist occupation. But more than that, we will always be for stories that refuse to moralise or make demands about how people should respond to living under such circumstances. We’re for stories (much like the real world) in which idealised victims do not exist, which don’t demand oppressed people be pillars of individual morality to be deserving of our solidarity. Where so much of contemporary short fiction has nothing to say and wants you to feel comforted by it, the stories that make up issue #7 of Seize The Press Magazine have a lot to say, and they won’t make you feel good about it.
‘You Forever’ by Maxine Sophia Wolff is narrated by a particularly despicable law enforcement bureaucrat and is very much an antidote to the ‘middle manager as heroic challenger of the oppressive system they work for’ story.
Andrew Kozma’s ‘Claimed for a Higher Purpose in the True Glory of the Universe for Our Lord’ is an end of days story that grapples with the fact that even in the midst of an apocalypse people still need to pay rent. Landlords truly are the cockroaches of capitalism.
‘The Last Sound of the Moon’ by Gessica Sakamoto Martini challenges head on one of my least favourite demands for contemporary science fiction – that it must be imbued with a sense of ‘realism’. This is a story that eschews realism for melancholic authenticity. It is a scathing indictment of environmental destruction and of space exploration motivated by resource extraction.
The setting of Judith Shadford’s ‘Endless Yearning’ is one of grinding oppression, where even in the bleakest, most hopeless of worlds, people and families still make the attempt at forming bonds of community.
Carson Winter, rising star of the weird horror world, gives us ‘Canonical Victims’, a story that grapples with the concept of confronting death in true weird horror fashion – by crafting an unsettling scenario out of something we already subconsciously recognise is not right.
Finally, C.B. Blanchard gifts us with an upsetting and entirely comfortless tale in ‘MYCOPHILIA’, a story that joins the growing subgenre of truly grimy trans horror.
In addition to all this incredible fiction, Josh Pearce reviews the anticapitalist themes in David Cronenberg’s latest film Crimes of the Future; Jean Brigid-Prehn examines the aesthetic of transobjectivity in SFF film and comics; and Emmie Christie situates artists as workers in the age of automation. On top of that we have an interview with Rebecca Campbell, author of the First World War alternate history sci-fi body horror The Talosite, and Zachary Gillan reviews Canadian fungal horror The Marigold by Andrew F. Sullivan and The Wishing Pool and Other Stories, the latest collection from the inestimable Tananarive Due.
Enjoy Seize The Press Magazine Issue #7!