This next year will be my come as you are year. Come in alone. Come in tandem. Come with your whole collective. Walk in naked and confident or pick out the perfect sneakers to match your riot gear. Pearls are lovely, and if you swing a whole strand of them hard enough it can do some real damage in a fight. You don’t have to be nice or be good, you just need to be open and accepting and always be trying. Entrances and exits be damned. Just be.
That’s what I saw in the work that was submitted for inclusion in this year’s Best of the Net Anthology. You all have your energy and pride back, and the work you created was incredible and considered and dangerous in all the best ways. You folks got your blood up and kept it up the entire year, and honestly, I’m not sure how you did it. I kept getting tired the past year. I’ve never written less. I’ve never taken more naps. I’ve never focused more on my day job. I think I wanted the year to go by as quickly as possible, so I mostly stayed out of it, but that’s not what you all did.
What you wrote and created this year woke me up. Getting to read and sample things as they come in is always one of my favorite parts of this job, and I was blown away this year by new voices and voices I know trying new things. The risks, the undeniable strength and tenderness, the sheer orneriness and messy shoves of language hit me hard. This year more than any other year so far, I had so many “Oh, I didn’t even know you could do that in a poem or an essay or a story or in a piece of art” moments. Even in some pieces where it didn’t completely work, you showed me fresh tethers and new teeth working on them to free, I don’t know what, into this world of ours.
It was definitely not the year of limited beauty and striving I thought it was. I know the magnificent feelings are still there. I just need to make sure I start showing up again so I can witness them, and maybe even create some of my own. I need to be there, to be with you all, and if that means bringing my tiredness and my anxiety and my not-quite-right with me then so be it.
Thank you to every magazine/journal/review/experiment that nominated work this year. The editors of these endeavors make so many things possible. Please never doubt that the work you do is vital to our community. Thank you to our many interns and readers. I hope you all had as much fun as I did this year. Thank you to our incredible genre editors, Ellen Orner, Erica Frederick, and Sarah Chavez. All three of you are so beyond our expectations this year. Thank you to our assistant editors of Best of the Net, Crysta Montiel and Ashley Somwaru. Thank you to our supremely-talented final judges, Toni Jensen, Rhonda Lott, Shayla Lawz, and Jane Wong. Choosing the work for inclusion in the anthology is a daunting task, and you all gave your time and attention to those hard choices. Thank you to Erin Elizabeth Smith and Sundress Publications for giving me the key to play with. Thank you to our Managing Editor, Tennison Black, for keeping everything running smoother and smoother every year she’s in charge.
Showing up has never meant more to me. Showing up for your love, your health, your safety, your rights, your joy, and your art. You folks definitely did that this year. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Darren Demaree, February 2023