If the last year had been focused on the darkness we would have known what to do. Most artists don't fumble in the darkness. Most of us have dance parties when presented with the absolute absence of light. We react in those small places, in the dangerous places, and in those places we do our work. We sort through the thickness and complexities of the modern existence the same way we experiment with language. We try it all out, and through our effort, our talent, and our bravery, we almost always manage to emerge from the darkness with a companion work that is worthy of others' exploring.
The problem of the last year was that it wasn't about the darkness. The last year was well lit. We saw real evil emerge, mobilize, and walk freely as if its common presence made it something good.
As the field set in front of us in shocking ways, did any of us shirk away from our practices and explorations? No. There was hate lining up in the streets, and over and over again we saw great art emerge to confront it in ways that surprised us. The staunch passion that I saw stride out into the arcade was naked and vibrant and took no shit from anybody. I had known about the resoluteness and power that many of you held, but I had no idea you could command it in such a beautifully surgical way. The last year produced so much knock-your-ass-down work that I spent most of my time just trying to get back up again. Once I would find my feet, I would almost certainly read an essay or a story or a poem that would catch me off-guard again.
This is what I present to you with the work included in this year's Best of the Net, a collection of art that found the energy and spirit of the dervish and didn't hesitate for to take control of the scene. The work included this year carries with it great beauty and skill, but more than even that, the work included is necessary. What you will read this year is only a small sampling of the work we received, and the process of culling that work was nearly impossible. Our final judges, our genre editors, and our readers struggled with these decisions in defiance of every deadline they were given. They needed more time, so we gave them more time.
As always, without any vote in the matter, I am the only person that read every submission. The years before I would read them out of curiosity or pleasure when each magazine or journal or blog would submit their nominations. This year I read each piece because I needed to. Some of my favorites weren't even semi-finalists this year. I was amazed by the sheer number of great works, and it's a very good thing that I hold no sway in the decision-making process or no decisions would have ever been made.
You folks have always had my respect, but before this year I had no idea how much I was indebted to you. Thank you to every one who wrote a piece that was nominated for inclusion in this year's Best of the Net. I can't wait to run into your art again in whatever form it takes. I can't wait to walk next to you in the harsh light we now march towards.
Darren C. Demaree
Managing Editor, Best of the Net