The two overarching themes of this magazine have been artifice and confusion. Sometimes we build labyrinths for ourselves to keep from moving forward. I’ve decided this will be the last issue of Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine.
This double-issue’s authors have made the decision easy for me by providing such eloquent treatments of the theme of “exits.” Looking at these works as a group, I realized they provided the perfect ending, and if there’s anything I’ve learned about fiction in the past few years it’s that you must always stop when you reach the ending.
Charles M. Saplak’s I’d Be Deleted, told through the email correspondence of a fictional editor and writer, is about a particularly dramatic exit from the world of spec-fic zines.
In Madelaine’s Echo, Shelly Li (who also recently contributed The Architect of Apathy) does that thing the famous writers do. You know, the thing where a few thousand words of narrative make you feel like you’ve known the protagonist your whole life, and you actually care what’ll happen to her after the story ends? It’s about girl’s escape from a virtual-reality life-counseling exercise that lasts for years of subjective time.
Megan Arkenberg’s The Copperroof War proves that a labyrinth story can have flesh-and-blood characters, passions, intrigues, and a vivid sense of place. But it’s also about the stir-craziness inherent in the genre—and its natural solution. Megan Arkenberg also contributed the poem Somnambulis way back in Issue 3.
That’s another reason this issue feels like an ending—it reunites so many of the greatest authors from past issues.
Heather Parker’s A Chance for Life is an interesting bookend to her previous Labyrinth Inhabitant story The Experiment—that was the one where the ordinary English couple got locked away in a biodome with people from every other nation and not enough food, to predict what would happen in the impending eco-collapse. A Chance for Life starts with a very similar setup and goes in another direction, a bit like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three Californias trilogy.
Kristine Ong Muslim takes the prize for most contributions to Labyrinth Inhabitant (and given her prolific career, I’m sure that’s a distinction she can claim at many other publications as well). The Lonely People is her only prose work on the site, but once again her characters have found a home that would be a perfectly lovely place except that it is alive and hungry and it is rapidly digesting them.
Lee Marvin and the Long Night, by Nick Cole, may not seem like a callback to Labyrinth Inhabitant’s past, but it feels that way to me because I first tried to buy it for Issue 4. It’s a surprisingly warm story about a virtual reality private eye who finds a higher calling.
Alexandra Seidel’s Turns, Twists; Lost Things is a sumptuously imagined poem about maze-running, emblematic of how excellent poetry has repeatedly slipped past a tone-deaf, untrained editor and onto the site.
And finally, because there won’t be any more Labyrinth Inhabitant after this issue, I no longer had to worry about policing the boundaries of the weird “artificial environment” theme! I was free to accept anything, no matter how goofy. I no longer had to insist that my website wasn’t “really” intended for stories about Theseus’s labyrinth and the Minotaur, and I no longer had to scold authors for daring to submit stories with scenes that actually took place outdoors. That meant I got to accept Richard Zwicker’s Daedalus and Icarus and Jack Dweeb, which is goofy awesome. It’s a witty, propulsive gumshoe pastiche and a terrific epilogue for the site.
I feel like, with these additions, I can look back on Labyrinth Inhabitant as a complete work. One reason I started Labyrinth Inhabitant was to introduce more collaboration into my creative life, and the real pleasure of editing Labyrinth Inhabitant has been the opportunity to work together with so many talented storytellers. Year in and year out, the quality of work published here has consistently exceeded my expectations. I hope everyone else who participated found it as positive an experience as I did.
Matt Carey is the editor of Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine.