AS WE enter the dwindling days of 2022, our thoughts turn toward our plans for the new year. Fresh ideas geared toward grabbing increased territory on the literary map. WHILE we’re not sure exactly how to accomplish that, beyond rough notes on strategy and tactics, we know that by necessity it means reliance on literary POP– readable writing which has clarity and intelligence. Toward that end we feature writers able to achieve that elusive mix. One of them being Bud Sturguess, whose new story– “No Romance On Mount Nebo”— we spotlight now. We hope you like it.
As friends will often do with friends, my friends decided it was time for me to hop back into the dating scene. I had no interest, but romance and relationships are among the things friends push on friends the most. Even more than narcotics. I’ve no statistics to back up this claim, but it seems to me friends are always selling friends the outlandish claim that “there’s somebody out there for everybody.”
THE APPEAL of science fiction is the idea of testing the outer limits of science, technology– and of the imagination. To stimulate questions of “What if?” and “What then?” At its best, sci-fi combines creativity of ideas with creativity of writing. Such is the case with our new fiction feature, “DEDCOM-204” by Courtenay Schembri Gray, one of the most talented young writers on today’s literary scene. We hope you enjoy her offering.
What is life but a series of little deaths? Those impactful, perhaps traumatic moments that take a part of us, all in preparation for our eventual big death—the one we don’t return from. I like to visit mine, from time to time; at the facility on the edge of town. Dad loves to remember his adulthood; the time before—when a firefly was a glowing bug, rather than a moment in your life preserved in a jar.
By the way, Ms. Gray also has a poem in our newest print publication, the ultra-collectible Fun Pop Poetry. Have you purchased your copy?
With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) almost upon us, our thoughts turn to fiction writing. What’s the mark of a good writer? What characterizes a good novel or short story?
For decades, good writing has been thought to consist of a sequence of well-written sentences. This has been the doctrine pushed by writing programs and by all those on the “literary” end of the writing and publishing spectrum. The result has been bombardments of thick texts of grandiose lyrical sentences, pages upon pages of them, displays of endless virtuosity like a prog rock lead guitarist given a ten-minute guitar solo going nowhere, as a means of showing off, then he forgets to end it regardless and continues on and on until even the most indulgent listener has vanished.
What if the experts are wrong?
What if the key to writing great fiction is simply telling an amazing, wonderful, human, magical story?
Today we present an argument for the latter idea, with one of the best stories we’ve ever featured, “Tales Along Turtle Heart Road” by Zach Smith. A simple and unassuming narrative that will sneak up on you. Read it and see what we’re talking about.
Harry stopped under the bridge. There was police tape but no other sign of the event. He had no intention of duplicating the actions; he just wanted to see it. No, that wasn’t quite right; he didn’t want to see it, he needed to. He didn’t know why he started climbing up the hill toward the trestle bridge, and he didn’t know how far he would have gotten, but when he turned around, high on the steep overgrown hill, he looked down at his car and saw something familiar in the road.
WATCHING the News the past two or three years one has received the impression, message, point, sledgehammer emphasis of a world in total collapse, screens filled with scenes of war and riots, destruction of cities and lives– protests rebellions insurgencies marches hectic hysteria as media generates panic leading to more turmoil feeding more media coverage and– the real point– sustained ratings. Jobs for designated experts on all sides.
TODAY we present a story which conveys what’s been happening. The Chaos of NOW, well captured in “Report from the Capital” by Timothy Resau. Fiction which depicts today’s tumultuous vibe.
Resau’s story is like a modernist painting in which you can see what you want to see in it. No sides taken– only a portrait of contemporary reality.
In spite of the curfew, sniper fire, violence, and bloodshed, we went into the capital that night. No one was safe. The ambushing was constant; gunshots, it seemed, were being fired randomly. Everyone was a possible target. The limited radio and TV reports warned of certain danger. In short, chaos and anarchy prevailed. Law and order were not in place—not yet. Law and order had been removed or erased. Citizens were being asked to remain tuned to local media for updates.
WHAT’S the most exciting short story ever written? One written by Jack London or Richard Connell? Edgar Allan Poe or Ernest Hemingway? Or someone more contemporary?
Today we present a good candidate: “True Survivor” by Greg Jenkins. A story perfectly structured and written, with a strong opening, classic setting, tangible details, and at least one dynamic characterization, all centered around a chase. The story does what only well-written prose can offer– presenting the interior thoughts and emotions of a narrator engaged in struggling with a manifestly real exterior world. We trust you’ll enjoy the experience.
What really struck you, though, when you looked into that face, were his eyes. Cold and unblinking, they didn’t seem like human eyes at all, but more like the eyes of some large reptile; when he trained them on you, sharp and dull at the same time, you felt as if you were being probed by something vaguely Jurassic.
ON OTHER FRONTS, we’re in the late stages of putting together a new print publication– this one featuring what we call fun pop poetry. We should have room to squeeze into the modest issue a couple more offerings.
What does “fun pop poetry” mean? Decide for yourself and send one or two examples for consideration. (Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
WE ARE putting this project this summer as much as possible into the zeitgeist the vibe the flow of angst and anger rushing on all sides around us. We’re caught in a sense of chaos. Of reality, the world, and all stability preconceived notions of comfort and sense dropping beneath us– as if the floors and earth under our feet have given way. In all likelihood the challenges we all face are temporary. Which doesn’t make them easier.
This summer we plan to have the writing– the art– we present reach a crescendo. Afterward which (we hope) the world will resume a course of peace and harmony. Setting the stage for a fun and reinvigorating pop culture revival.
FIRST UP in our literary symphony is a short story by M.C. Schmidt— “We Love You, Ringo”— ostensibly about a Beatles tribute band, but at the same time about a relationship, and maybe also, about the world we live in today. Humor combined with seriousness. We hope you enjoy it.
ALSO when you get a chance drop into our Special Projects room on this site and check out the latest piece of quirky writing there: “Aim For the Snyder Brothers” by Bud Sturguess. With more fun stuff already posted at the blog, and more (including a collaborative project?) to follow.
Don’t miss any of it!
CAN there be a new avant-garde in the writing game?
Can an avant-garde be anything but new?
We started the year looking for writing which strives to set a different tone and appearance from the accepted and the acceptable. From the same and the sane. One of the works we’ve accepted along that line we present to you today: “Turning Over the CD,” a novel excerpt by Anthony Kane Evans.
ONE OF the first stories we accepted for this project was also by Anthony, and showed his unique style. Anthony’s writing is marked by its clarity and conciseness– which allows him the ability to toy with new ideas in presentation. This piece follows the first rule of artistic change: disorient then reorient the reader. As you’ll see.
I slam the car door behind me. A fat lot of good that will do. I mean, it is not going to join the two halves of this book together. I consider, for one awful moment, to throw the CD away. There is a pond in a field nearby. I imagine skimming the CD across its placid surface. I stop. There are frogs over there, I can hear them singing. My God, is it that time of the year again? Have we been so long on the road? Has this blackness which I am now a part of been going on since Vienna and am I only now aware of it?
But what of the avant-garde?
What is “avant-garde” anyway beyond a widely-used marketing phrase from the 1920’s? Is it intellectual writing existing in an airless John Cage glass box suspended over the heads of the potential audience: isolated; sterile; detached? Or should it not instead follow Richard Wright’s prescribed path (per literary historian Paula Rabinowitz): folk art to popular art, then to politics?
Or: Can an avant-garde be a vanguard (the literal translation) without a popular following to be the vanguard of? We’re not certain, are only asking. The difficult trick for all who pursue the literary game is to find or create that following.
The Writer’s Dilemma is that there are an estimated two million novelists in America, and maybe ten million self-styled poets– with many more of both writing in English in other countries. The performers are on the verge of outnumbering the audience. Or: writers have become the audience.
The only possible solution is to recreate the art. To construct works wholly new, to set those who write them apart from the innumerable crowd.
TOWARD THAT END we recently ran a contest for stories with two viewpoints. We present the winner of that contest now: Tom Ray. His winning story is “What He Thought Was Right.” His tale is about two Vietnam veterans, and their encounter with a World War II veteran and that veteran’s grandson. Has the clash of generations always been with us? A clash, maybe, not of generations so much as viewpoints. It’s an excellent story. We hope you’ll like it.
Harold said he served in infantry, and Art believed him. Old guys who lie about Vietnam would shut up and kind of drift off when they found out Art had been there. And Harold didn’t tell war stories that sounded like a movie script. He’d just make a few vague statements, always ending with, “I saw some bad shit over there, man.”
At the same time, we have new work at two of our supplementary blog. At our new Special Projects blog, home of quirkier writing, we have “The Little Squirrel and the Baby Eagle” by Wred Fright. At our News blog we have a look at what we’re up to behind the scenes, with a post titled “Prototypes.”
Something for everyone!
WE DECIDED at the start of this year to avoid the predictable. Toward that end we have imaginative new fiction set near a beach, “The Longboarders” by talented writer Nikki Williams.
Physicists tell us time is an illusion. Is it? As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
We hope you enjoy the story!
A man sat between two peaks in lotus pose, his back turned to them. Theo looked back at her, put a finger to his lips. The Maori raven tattooed on the man’s back seemed to wink at Sasha. Then he drew in a long breath, his exhale sounding like a sigh.
ALSO: We’ll be announcing soon the winner of our impromptu Contest. Stay tuned.
(Art: “Painterly Architectonic” by Lyubov Popova.)
OUR FIRST FICTION FEATURE OF THE YEAR–
–and it’s a good one, capturing the insanity of the hypertechnological world we live in now, but also structurally a terrific tale, full of unpredictability and imagination, as well as subtle humor. The story of which we speak is “The Swipe” by Michael Maiello, who is one of the finest talents on today’s writing scene. It has to do with a dating app, an image, and the world, and– we can’t say more. Read it!