It starts as it ends, as it inevitably must: with dragons.
Back in the summer, when I announced this zine’s birth, I had very little agenda and even less of a plan. Ideas I had by the boatload, but I was driven more by motivations than concrete goals. I wanted to publish more, to provide another marketplace for the sorts of poetry and prose I liked to see, to help redress some of the imbalances in publishing, and so on.
When I wrote the submission guidelines, I had a much clearer idea of what I didn’t want to see than what I was looking for. There was nothing premeditated about the fact that our first issue shook out to contain writers from multiple countries and continents and of multiple races and genders, but no men. We simply looked for stories and poems that we like and we bought them.
The end result is a bit more heavily skewed towards higher fantasy than I had planned when I named my outlet Ligature Works, but the heart wants what it wants and so does the editor. We certainly didn’t plan to start this issue out with a dragon, or end it with one, but that was how things fell.
The first must-have submission we received came from Mary Soon Lee, a fragment of epic poetry called “Keng” that stood well enough on its own. The last piece we accepted was “The Twisted Princess” by Sheryl R. Hayes.
Laying out a table of contents is as much art as it is science, but by that token there is an art to it. I appreciated the symmetry of our submissions process beginning with a dragon poem and ending with a dragon story. It appealed to me enough to lay out the issue with those as bookends. Adding to the strange symmetry: we went to a speculative poetry panel at WorldCon 74 in part to meet Mary Soon Lee in person and thank her again for submitting. It was also at WorldCon that we met Sheryl R Hayes and gave her a card, telling her about our zine and the then-open submissions window.
Neither of them are completely what you would call a traditional dragon story. One of the things that grabbed me about Mary Soon Lee’s epic poem is the way it blends the fantastical traditions of different cultures together. On its surface, Sheryl R. Hayes’s tale of a dragon and a maiden might seem to hew a close to the sorts of stories some editors will turn down out of hand for being done to death, but the specifics of her story were like nothing I’ve ever read, and as I said to Jack: if we can’t do a dragon-and-maiden story in our maiden issue, when can we?