This issue marks the end of volume 29 of NYRSF. In a better world, we would be celebrating the end of volume 30 (issue #1 came out in September 1988) and throwing something of a party, but our once rock-solid monthliness has eroded over the last few years. We’re still averaging more than 8 issues a year. Trust me, I’m aiming to get closer to that “every monthly like clockwork” that has eluded us of late.
Next issue we will be holding a memorial for Gardner Dozois, celebrating as many aspects of his life (writer, editor, raconteur, fan, friend) as we can fit in.
And the month after that is #350. In American comics, it’s a tradition to treat issues divisible by 50 as milestones, so maybe we’ll end up having that party after all!
Anyone who follows me on Twitter has probably seen me quoting one of my favorite pieces from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s from the last portion of the novel, as O’Brien is teaching Winston Smith about the nature of the Party. It’s helped me understand a type of cruelty.
“All this is a digression,” he added in a different tone. “The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.” He paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil: “How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?”
Winston thought. “By making him suffer,” he said.
“Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own?”
Shortly after is the famous image about a boot stomping a human face forever.
But earlier in this issue (skip back to page 15 if you haven’t read it already), we have Stanislaw Lem taking Orwell to task for misunderstanding Stalinism:
It had absolutely nothing to do with the version of Stalinism—to simplify things here a little— popularized by Orwell in 1984. The state functionary who tells ... that the future is a boot forever stamping on a human face is a totally unreal and fake figure. No representative of the regime was EVER such a Mephistopheles, a Machiavelli, a de Sade. Instead, there was the myth, more potent than any individual—and its unspoken evil beauty.
Lem’s pushback was echoing around in my head when I saw a thread on Twitter from Charlie Jane Anders (@charliejane), a commentary on writing that began with this:
Which, as she says, is a common piece of advice, and her elaboration of her points is well worth following up. But Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) responded almost immediately with a different critique:
And that collided in my head with the Orwell and Lem’s commentary thereon to land here, O’Brien reinvented for today:
How do we know we are winning, Winston?
By making other people lose.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine so much winning we will all be sick from it, forever.
—Kevin J. Maroney
for the editors