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art by Jeffrey Redmond

Dear Editor, Enclosed Please Find My Story About Your Unfortunate Demise

Luc Reid is a writer and speaker, the founder of the Codex writing group, a former radio commentator, an occasional musician, a small-time playwright, a 2nd dan black belt in Taekwondo, and a 5th-generation Vermonter. His publications include the 2006 book Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures and articles and stories for venues including Nature, Daily Science Fiction, two Writers of the Future anthologies, Clarkesworld, The Writer Magazine, and others. He writes and speaks on the psychology of habits, writing, and self-motivation techniques and has posted hundreds of articles on those topics at lucreid.com.

Dear Editor,
Enclosed please find my story about your unfortunate demise. Understand, this is not a death threat. You really are going to die, and there's nothing either of us can do about it (which, by the way, is also not a death threat).
I'd like to say, for the record, that since I built this machine that tells me when an editor's death is imminent I've gotten nothing but grief from the writing and publishing community, so don't start with me. I'm not trying to be clever by pretending to be threatening your life if you don't publish my story. I'm also not trying to be a psychopath and actually threaten your life. I just thought you would want to know you're going to die soon, because I figure everybody has lines of credit to run up, authority figures to tell off, last minute confessions to make, and unlikely crushes to pursue on the off chance they'll get a pity boink.
All of which is pretty blunt and maybe even crass, but seriously, the clock is ticking. Should I be wasting your time with diplomacy or getting through this as quickly as I can and leaving you to whatever it is you're going to do with your remaining thirty-one days, three hours, and twelve minutes (as of this writing)? By the way, I hope you're keeping to your posted three-week slush times. I'll query if I don't hear by then.
As to the enclosed story, obviously don't publish it. It contains the intimate details of your upcoming death. Based on my experiences so far, the predictions seems to be more or less final--the way I'm sussing it out is that the future that would have been is modified by your response to hearing about that future, which then changes the future I saw at the time I made the prediction, which then changes what I wrote to you in this letter and how you responded, and so on until the future I predict and the future you experience despite your best efforts converge through a process that weeds out the variables over which you have any control. I'd always been dubious of those time travel stories in which events conspire to make things happen whatever way they originally happened, because it doesn't seem to me that the universe is particularly inclined toward neatness. Having seen this convergence thing, however, I admit to finding fate kind of elegant. It's funny that something that (in your case) involves ferrets and hot oil could be called "elegant," but that's an amusing byproduct of the whole experience. Well, maybe not amusing to you.
Also, I hope you'll excuse that this is a multiple submission. Please convey my sympathies to your co-editor and the other passengers on her flight.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Author Comments

I have to admit that I was inspired to write this story because it amused me so much to be able to write a cover letter that said "Dear Editor, Enclosed please find my story 'Dear Editor, Enclosed Please Find My Story About Your Unfortunate Demise.'" Even if that's a bad reason to write a story, I enjoyed how it all developed, because I had to puzzle out why in the world anyone would be writing such a story apart from the obvious reason. Rather than threatening the editor to try to get a story published, I wanted my narrator to be somehow helping the narrator and to specifically asking that the story not be published. From there, it became clear that of course the writer had built a machine that could accurately predict the deaths of editors, although I remain very curious why anyone would want to build this kind of machine. Perhaps there will be a sequel when I find out.

- Luc Reid
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