This is only the second year that Washington City Paper has published its Fiction Issue, but a trend is already discernible in how authors respond when you ask them to write a story about the District. A modest flurry of entries will arrive in the days after the announcement. Then come the quiet weeks that make you wonder what, exactly, has sapped the city’s creative spirit. Finally, in the hours before the deadline, an avalanche of prose arrives, and you realize that most writers are just procrastinators—or, perhaps, obsessive fine-tuners of their prose. One entry we published last year arrived literally at the last minute.
Nobody in this year’s issue played chicken with email timestamps quite so intensely. But each of the three stories selected from the email@example.com inbox did what I hoped for when City Paper editors came up with this idea: shed light on life in the District in ways that journalism doesn’t, or can’t. Once again we called in an established D.C. writer to anchor the issue—this time bestselling novelist Louis Bayard, author of The Pale Blue Eye and The Black Tower (and an occasional City Paper contributor, too). But we hope you’ll agree that this issue is full of pleasures and surprises from start to finish.