From the Editor

Quillette was created with the intention of giving non-journalists — in particular scientists and scholars — a platform to share ideas without unnecessary editorial interference. I used the tagline “a platform for free thought” when the site launched because I wanted to encourage a wide range of contributions, no matter who and where they came from. Since Quillette launched in November 2015, free thought has definitely shown itself to be alive and well. The platform has not only become popular across the English-speaking world, but we receive insightful and bold contributions almost every day. It’s as if, somehow, a dam has burst.

Why did I chose the name Quillette? In French, a synonym for quillette is bouture d’osier, which is a type of wood off-cutting used to grow new trees. An off-cutting planted in the ground that grows into a tree — this seemed to me a great metaphor for an essay. An off-cutting just needs the right conditions to thrive. Give it sunlight, water, and fertile soil and it will grow into something majestic, lasting generations. Likewise, a well expressed idea just needs a platform and it too can grow into something powerful and enduring.

Although many of us today live in professional and social communities that frown upon the expression of our most honest opinions, this reality doesn’t stop us from having insights and observations about the world around us. When we shape these thoughts into well-crafted essays, we are able to refine our ideas, and when we publish those ideas, we push open the doors that allow other people to articulate their own ideas in turn. I firmly believe that this process of innovation — whether cultural, scientific or technological — comes from the creative minority that is willing to push open these doors.

I don’t believe it’s hyperbolic to say that we are living in a period of great flux. Tremendous opportunities for innovation are open to us because of the wonder of the internet. Never before have so many people had access to standards of living that were only dreamed of by our ancestors. Never before has the barrier to entry been so low for those who want to communicate with an international audience. Knowledge has never been shared so easily, and access to learning has never been so open and democratic.

But at the same time, our old institutions are dying. Legacy media is not the gatekeeping institution it once was. Large parts of our higher education systems have been captured by administrators and activists. For better or worse, the esteem we hold for our establishment institutions is declining. 

So at this particular moment in time, when old institutions are dying, and current ideologies are in flux, Quillette offers a space for thoughtful discussion about the topics of import, no matter how complex or difficult. We believe that there is no challenge too great that it can’t be met head on with the human capacities for reason and ingenuity. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, and we may make mistakes along the way. But whatever the future holds, we hope you continue with us on this adventure and support us in our mission.

Claire Lehmann
Founder / Editor in Chief