Letter from the Editors

by Meera Velu and Devon Montgomery
Issue 5: Occult

To welcome this year’s fall, Speculative City presents Issue 5: Occult. Fall, our favorite season, is the time of year that presages the coming of the quiet dark. It’s also the season that cheerfully welcomes witchery.

As children, witches and wizards often form our first exposure to the occult. In their depictions, we see magic in action, from enchantment spells to ruinous transfigurations (no one wants to turn into a mouse!). The occult captures such mystical and mysterious phenomena. In tandem, occultist practices, like those of a coven, dive into these hidden workings of the world and seek ways to exploit or control them. The occult works with the strange, and, in exploring the concept, it allows us to imagine ways of gaining power outside of the mundane. 

Through embodying the supernatural, the occult permeates the genre of speculative fiction and may, in fact, make it what it is. In the works of this issue, the theme emerges for a purpose—not simply as a byproduct of the world, but as a reaction to or way of coping with a situation, whether that be death or abuse. 

Issue 5 leads with works that approach the occult as practice. In the title story “Dawn Colored Night,” a young woman, finding herself in a difficult domestic situation, relies upon a ritual passed down from generations to obtain protection. The power the protagonist gains in this story comes not simply through the ritual performed; it is also captured in the strength of ancestral knowledge. 

“Glass City, Glass Heart” relates another form of practice. This story satirizes western society’s perversion of the spiritual and brings focus to the obsession with life after death. Following that humor, “Sparkle and Shine” playfully shows how expertise in secretive conjurations can repeatedly work in one’s favor. 

The last two stories of the issue shift focus and emblemize the occult through a situation or state of being. “Seeking Flesh” delves into the emotional turmoil inherent in all partnerships and makes a reader think twice—perhaps that little bird you keep seeing is actually telling you something.

The issue’s fiction closes with “In a Tide of Blood,” where the supernatural displays itself in visceral force. With the mechanics of her transformation are occulted, the story follows a woman undergoing unspeakable changes, her body and spirit in quiet deliberation and ultimate upheaval of the torture she endures. “In a Tide of Blood” is an unflinching story that doesn’t spare the reader from the physical and emotional horrors that drive the story.

While this issue presents the occult in the context of gloom, its presence ultimately empowers. There is an inherent appeal to the theme; it is an invitation to imagine a more magical world around us. It is also a welcome to different ways of interpreting the world.

In respect to traditional occultists, Issue 5 also introduces the magazine’s resident witch, Hilary Berwick. In the spirit of Dear Abby and Dear Prudence, Witch-in-Residence will explore and answer questions that impact our professional, social, and emotional lives through the lens of a speculative world unbeholden to natural laws. We hope you find advice on blood magic as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Thank you for joining us in our fifth issue, and don’t stop speculating!

—Meera Velu & Devon Montgomery