Letter from the Editor(s)
By: Christina Shideler
Hysterical is the second time I’ve tried to make a magazine like this happen. Soon after a disastrous exit from the publishing industry, I was planning on launching a literary magazine that didn’t publish cis dudes called Honestly Yes, with the idea that it was an answer to the question “Is this really necessary?”
It’s many years later, but it feels even more necessary than ever. When I worked in publishing, I was consistently astonished and disappointed that an industry primarily staffed by women still seemed to value male voices over all others. Women editors were consistently paying more money and attention to first-time male novelists with “muscular prose” (yes they really used that phrase!), and rejecting or trying to re-brand “quiet” prose (a description often used to dismiss work by women that was, to me, more thoughtful). I would watch editors circle a new young male novelist and work themselves into a frenzy in a bidding war while more complex, artful books by women were rejected or positioned as “women’s fiction” (cue pink cover, or a photo of a woman walking away, heels upturned). By the time I left publishing in 2012, I was sick of it.
Shortly thereafter, in graduate school, I read Jennifer L. Knox (who appears in this very issue) for the first time and I felt an enormous sense of relief. I had spent my whole adult life trying to write “important” things in an affected tone, while I spent all of my free time coming up with jokes with my friends and partners. Finally, I found a writer as funny as I found my friends, and I felt a sense of permission to write the things that came most naturally to me. I’ve spent the intervening years seeking out and admiring the works of similar writers, most of whom were female. And so, I wanted to find a way to highlight the voices of these writers that I admired most. I wanted to make it easier to find them.
Establishing this magazine has also given me an opportunity to work closely with other like-minded, whip-smart, and deeply empathetic humans as eager as I am to help others tell their stories. Though our community is small, getting to build this thing with two close friends, whose passion and expertise amazes me regularly, is the first small step in creating the buoying community I hope to create with Hysterical. I cannot thank my co-founders enough for helping to make this a reality.
Now focusing on women and non-binary folks is more important than ever. To showcase the incredible diversity of their voices, the stories they have to tell. We are not a monolith, and in this time when so many women and non-binary stories are heartbreaking, I believe in humor as a tool to make them feel powerful, brave, and connected, though we are not shying away from those heavier stories. I’m so excited to bring this work to you, and I hope that you’ll agree that the people showcased here show the kind of lively, beautiful, and hilarious dissection of existence I always hoped to champion. That being said, we want MORE. More writers of color, more folk beyond the gender binary, people with disabilities, more queer voices, more women writing and acting outside of expectation, more people on the margins with something to say. We’re listening and we want more people to listen, too.