Once upon a time, in a class on fantasy literature, I asked if anyone was familiar with the term “speculative fiction.” Of thirty students, only one raised his hand—a skinny sophomore with round glasses and brilliant red hair, equal parts Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Upon attempting to explain it to the class, he said, “It’s like, when, you know . . . ” and here he scrunched up his face in concentration, searching for the right words. His hands were actually opening and closing on his desk, as if the definition were an invisible pebble he could grasp in his fist. The awkward pause stretched to an excruciating length and I was just about to jump in when he blurted, “Something weird is going on!” Indeed it is, young Gryffindor.
Our sixty-seventh issue is full of those intriguing moments where you sense that something is a bit off. Timothy Day introduces us to the mysterious “Woman on the Couch,” and Sej Harman shows why “The Smell of Green Onions” is the perfume of revenge. Jessica Wiseman Lawrence reminds us how the beach tends to follow you home in “How to Write About Sand,” and Derek Osedach discovers an unusual pizza topping in “Baby Calzones.” Finally, there’s Marina Favila’s “The Blue Spruce,” a dark tale of love, paranoia, and botany. And if you’ve ever wondered how many spiders it takes to change a light bulb, look no further than our extraordinary cover art, Hermin Abramovitch’s “Hunger.”