In but Not of This World

Image by Ulia Koltyrina

In May, we got a message on Twitter: “Psst can we have a Quaker science fiction anthology” from @LeeFlower, who quickly roped in their friend @HBBisenieks with an offer to help put it together. Now Friends Journal doesn’t have guest editors. We don’t publish fiction. We don’t typically pay writers, as is expected in this genre. But all these objections were overshadowed by the realization that this could be a really cool and fun and thought-provoking issue, and we made it all work out. We’ve asked Annalee Flower Horne and Hilary B. Bisenieks to write this month’s Among Friends column. 

Also, this is our annual extended books issue, the last one put together by Karie Firoozmand, who has served as our book review editor for over ten years. Check the Books section for a well-deserved appreciation. And we’re excited to welcome John Bond of Mickleton (N.J.) Meeting as her replacement. [—Eds.]

To a world that often views us as antiquated (or even extinct), Quaker science fiction may seem like an odd contradiction. How can people who belong in the past imagine themselves in the future?

But for many Quaker communities, imagining the future is a central concern right now. Who will we be in 50 years? A hundred? How do we adapt to the rapidly changing world while staying true to what makes us Friends?

Speculative fiction—a “supergenre” that includes traditional science fiction alongside other “what if” stories such as fantasy and alternate history—is a way of examining things by changing their context. When x changes, what happens to y? What are the constants in the equation?

When you are a nerd about speculative fiction and about Quakerism, as we are, it seems natural to use one to examine the other: if we are in this world but not of this world, then who are we when we are not in this world but a world that has been reimagined in some way? What remains true no matter what shifts around us?

And yet, when we asked Friends Journal to do a speculative fiction issue, we didn’t actually expect them to say yes. We didn’t know if approaching these big questions—about who we are and where we’re going—through fiction would resonate. Would we get enough submissions for a good issue? Would people understand what we were hoping to do?

As it happens, they did indeed say yes, and folks from all over heard our call and sent us more amazing stories than we could possibly print. We’re delighted to have been invited to work with Friends Journal editors Martin Kelley and Gail Whiffen to choose from among so many fantastic submissions, and we’re really excited to share these stories with you.So who are we anyway? To be overly reductive, we’re a couple of queer Friends steeped in speculative fiction. Annalee Flower Horne is a science fiction writer and software developer from Washington, D.C. They grew up in Takoma Park (Md.) Meeting (Preparative) and the Young Friends program of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Hilary B. Bisenieks is a writer and podcaster with deep roots in Philadelphia, Pa. They live with their spouse and two cats in Oakland, Calif., where they host Tales from the Trunk, a podcast about kindness in the face of the overwhelming rejection of being a working writer. Together, we’ve been alternately joking about and wishing for an opportunity to do this very project for years, and we hope you enjoy this experiment.

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