The Story of Speculative City
by Meera Velu
Issue 1: Grotesque
Welcome to Speculative City!
Here I wanted to introduce readers to the magazine and its creators. As you begin reading the first issue, I thought I could provide more of an understanding of our intentions.
Speculative City is a magazine that began merely as play. Last year, when talking with friends, I found myself frequently mixing the world building of literature into discussions on contemporary politics and social phenomena. This happened most with my friend Andre, a linguist and Black American. We would recount to each other our experiences of moving in the world as people of color. I would then connect an experience to a character or situation in a recent story I had read; I wanted to envision new social structures or worlds.
One Saturday, while chatting at the local donut shop, we then both shouted, “a magazine!” How best to explore the world, people, and language but through words and writing?
But, really, why a magazine? And what type of a magazine?
At that time, the magazine came to my mind mainly as a forum to explore social and political issues. I hadn’t yet pinned a specific genre to it, nor even a main theme outside of confrontation—I wanted a magazine that forced people to think.
Going back to how I continually referenced literature, I realized it only made sense to have a magazine of creative writing because I liked dreaming of different worlds. Joan Didion, in a 1977 interview with Linda Kuehl, made a remark on writing that has stuck with me. In it, she prefaces that often a person will want to tell another of their dream or nightmare, but no one really wants to hear it. Then enters the writer, who “is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.” I realized with the magazine, in curating stories, I could trick readers into listening to dreams they would ideally avoid—dreams that tested perspectives and worldviews.
When I talked with my friend Devon, he took the magazine into greater formation. Devon is a writer and an avid reader of genre fiction. The thought of a magazine excited him because, thinking larger, he recognized a publication’s power to influence an entire genre. With our motivations merging, we realized that the magazine could be an embodiment of literature we love—literature that is diverse and challenging in its perspective. Of course, that naturally meant science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism, or more broadly, speculative fiction. After settling on speculative fiction, we finally asked ourselves what we really wanted to see, and it ended on the city.
Devon and I have lived primarily in cities all our lives. I studied urban planning. Our city roots distinctly inform our worldview. Cities are large motivators for us both; they innately present opportunities for new experiences and new understandings. Our dreams always take place in the city.
So from the desire to provoke thought, challenge the individual as much as the genre, and explore urban experiences to their furthest limits, Speculative City was born.
The process of rearing the magazine has not been easy, but reflecting upon it now, as we share it with all of you, it could not be more rewarding.
This first issue presents to you our newborn. As grotesque as that metaphor may be, Devon and I have labored together for months to create something we hope will be valuable. We are proud of our creation and excited to help it grow. We hope to continue nourishing the magazine with rich, provocative stories—stories that both nurture and test it. Ultimately, we aspire to have a magazine that is strong enough to push boundaries and exceed genre expectations.
Meera Velu is one of the founders and editors of Speculative City.