We nominated E.C. Osondu’s “Waiting,” a tragic-comedic short story set in an African refugee camp, because the piece reaches the highest goal for fiction: it reveals on the deepest level what it’s like to be someone else. This story was unsolicited.

Ben Marcus, guest fiction editor, brought Matthew Derby’s “January in December” to Guernica. Derby says he was inspired to write the story because “I wasn’t sure who John Lennon was in 1980 when his murder cast a darkness on my family, but the cold, muted nights leading up to the Christmas holiday that year still haunt me. There is a built-in pointlessness to the revisitation of that time, but trying to create things as they occurred would be worse somehow, so I imagined a second shooter—because who knows? The city on that night may have been teeming with lonely men waiting to take from the world its last true hero.”


We are forever in search of the stories that shine light on ideas or cultures we know nothing about. Akshay Ahuja’s “Death Metal and the Indian Identity” does so, and beautifully.

Seth Fischer’s “Shock and Awe” is relevant and affecting. It is the very best kind of writing.


Sarah Messer’s “American Familiar” may be an obsessive love poem or a cheeky meditation on the relationship between citizen and country. Either way, it lives on “chiggering in your dead skin.”

Ales Debeljak’s “Exercise for the Renewal of a Family Line” (translated from the Slovenian by Andrew Zawacki) is also interested in perpetuity and observes “the world is rising again.” Unlike Messer’s cynical look at the past, however, Debeljak’s new world comes from “the stuff of prior miracles” (which is perhaps an apt definition of poetry).

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