This was the letter from the editor in Cipher in December 2016. The theme of the issue was "Desert."
Dessert—what a fascinating topic. In some ways it feels like an essential conclusion to every meal. Something that should be considered an integral component to the necessary act of self-nourishment. In other ways, someone with health on their mind might want to avoid the caloric pitfalls of dessert altogether. Nevertheless, desserts come in varieties far and wide—from the fruity, fluffy likes of a whipped lemon meringue to the rich, deep wonders of dark chocolate truffles—
Wait. Halt the presses. I’ve just received a memo that this is the desert issue. With one “S.”
Although I was wrong, I don’t think anyone could blame me for the mix-up. These two words, despite having similar names, mean completely different things. One is a sweet mini-meal you eat after a larger one, usually dinner but also sometimes lunch. It comes from the French word desservir meaning “to clear the table.” The other, a barren area of land, comes from the Latin word desertum meaning “waste.”
This issue—we need to be clear, here—is about deserts, or barren areas of land. We have just one article about literal deserts—Charlotte Wall’s article about the suburbs on page 30. We have pieces about places that are almost deserts, such as Ethan Cutler’s riveting account of his month at Standing Rock on page 16 (North Dakota is not desert, but plains). AJ Rien (p. 24) gives us some fantasy fiction featuring a barren land that’s not made of sand or dirt, but literal nothingness. And less literally, but just as importantly, we have some contemplation on the metaphorical desert of Colorado Springs: some on the sparse gay community (p. 36) and some on the shortage of black hair stylists (p. 12).
Even though I’m disappointed that this isn’t the dessert issue, put this baby on your nightstand. Whether you’ve pummeled through a load of homework or just watched hours of Netflix, we hope you make this issue of Cipher the dessert to your lengthy Block Plan day.
Catherine Sinow and the Cipher editors