With our relaunch drawing near, we thought it might be fun to look back at twelve stories that hold some significance regarding the history of the magazine. One per day with commentary and an invitation to read the selected piece. Welcome to day eleven!
Today’s story is “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (issue 105).
Because we have a reputation for publishing dark material, I’ve had readers point out to me that there is nothing dark about this story. It’s not that we want stories that have a toe dipped in the horror genre; we want work that explores darker themes. In Alix’s story, we have a disadvantaged youth who needs the power of fantasy fiction to escape the harsh reality society has placed him. Certainly, this reality isn’t at the forefront of the plot, but it is the ground from which it grows.
There is certainly some romanticizing of the role the librarian plans in the boy’s life. But as someone who was profoundly affected by the kindness and attention of a librarian during my youth, the story hit me in the feels.
Of course, this story not only worked on me. It was award the Hugo Award for Best Short Fiction by genre fans.