I’d long considered doing a sex-themed issue of Fray, but I was worried that it would end up sounding like an alternate-reality version of Penthouse Letters. Dear Fray, I never thought it would happen to me, but...

I’d also always wanted to do a death-themed issue, but how could we do it in a way that didn’t make the reader want to slit their wrists? By the time I got to these questions, I’d moved on to other theme ideas.

Still, the themes haunted me. Can you think of two subjects we spend more time thinking about, but discuss less? Sex motivates us in ways almost nothing else does. Ask any man why he started playing the guitar.

Death lurks in every conversation about age, health, and the future. Our fear of it drives the jogger out at 5am and the smoker standing outside in the rain. Run away from it or toward it, death is always there.

At first, the pairing seemed like a simple combination of opposites, but sex and death have a deeper connection. There’s something about each that inhabits the other. That’s why the French called orgasm la petite mort — the little death.

In assembling this issue, I found that death stories are not always sad stories. At their best, death stories celebrate life. And while sex stories can be funny, they can also be very serious. It’s these surprising turnabouts we focused on in this issue.

I also naïvely thought that there’d be a hard line between the two themes, but it ended up more like a spectrum. So we’ve structured the issue with the sex stories in front and the death stories in back, with the stories that touch on both nestled in the middle.

All the stories in this issue are true, as usual. But this issue is special in how close to the bone all these stories are. I want to thank our contributors for sharing them with us.

I hope this issue helps you see the hidden corners in all of life’s surprises.

Derek Powazek is a writer in San Francisco. He started Fray in 1996. His first time was in the back seat of a 70s Cadillac.

Miguel Cervantes is like a firefighter without all the heroics and shit: he just draws stuff but is likely to die in a fire.