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?
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!
MOST of the chaos is in our heads as the networks and social media pump images of violence, tragedy, and trauma into our heads 24/7. BUT there’s enough reality to it to concern everybody with a conscience and with half a brain in their head.
The populace is in panic.
OUR TASK as a literary site is to capture the current cultural vibe– the real one, not a watered-down and insular Manhattan-Brooklyn version.
At the moment, the strongest vibes aren’t coming from New York. They’re coming from hinterlands like Uvalde or Buffalo, where the already-unhinged have completely lost it, and the world explodes into chaos like a fictional Killtown.
Which we present in a short story, “Chaos In Killtown.” Its “3-D” multi-dimensional framework is an ideal vehicle for the expression of chaos. The narrative comes at the reader from every direction. The goal with this particular story is to be completely pop, but also to capture the hysteria of now. Does it?
The mayor sat in his riverfront mansion at an enormous table sampling yet another enormous meal. Calls came into his private phone from aides saying the city was in chaos and he had to do something.
“The city is always in chaos!” the mayor shouted back, and disconnected.
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!
A QUICK ANNOUNCEMENT
FOR THOSE who haven’t heard, we have a winner in our first cash prize contest, one Tom Ray. Check out our NPL News story about it.
ON OTHER FRONTS, we’ve been using our revamped Special Projects blog for quirky writings, often of a humorous nature, as well as for sneak previews of pop lit things-to-come. Peruse our latest offering, “Sending the Dog to a Farm” by Gregg Maxwell Parker. Next up there will be amusing fiction from Wred Fright— before we move on at last to our planned collaborative novel– which should be fun!?
Plus much more.
(Art: “Organization” by Arshile Gorky.)
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!
2021 FICTION-POETRY RECAP PART TWO
THE YEAR’S OVERVIEW CONTINUES
America versus the Nazi war machine at the Battle of the Bulge– “The Deserters.”
A stripper working at a dive bar– “West Columbus.”
A young couple surviving the pandemic– “People Ruin Everything.”
The trials of online dating– “Symmetry.”
A whirlpool of surprise and terror– “The Boiling Point of Placid Water.”
Reflections of an aging mind– “The Age of Insomnia.”
The queen of storms– “The Sea At Night.”
An unusual man drops from the sky– “Cloud Dreams.”
A would-be superhero appears– “Waiting for the Superhero.”
EXPERIMENTS IN FICTION
Call it montage, or the 3-D or multidimensional story, or literary polyphony, the point remains the same: To get away from the linear, one point-of-view, one-tense format in short story writing, which allows for little variety. The solution? To innovate.
Our new feature, “Waiting for the Superhero”— about a man trying to survive in a tough urban landscape– is an attempt to do so. The story plays with viewpoint– to increase angles– and with time. The trick is to do this without hindering the flow of the narrative. Indeed, if well utilized, the technique will increase drama and pace.
Putting fragments of writing together– like editing film– isn’t simple, but opens up endless creative possibilities. Expect to see us go way beyond what we’re showing to date. Just saying.
He moved into the basement of a nearby vacant building. The several-storied structure was in receivership; kept by the bank which owned it in a modicum of shape. There, Ernesto created a cave. An escape. A small window, easily pried, provided access.
The first night he noticed a visitor in the form of a pair of green eyes. A cat.
In daylight he realized the cat was more or less black. Ernesto adopted its guise. So garbed, in the evening he became invisible, blending into the night.
(Art: “Night Over the City” by Otto Dix.)
THIS IS a question we hope to ask more often in coming months and perhaps provide answers– with the knowledge the short story is marginalized in the culture or at least fallen from its once-lofty station one hundred years ago when everyone in America was reading them and new story writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald were celebrities.
WILL the art become like string quartets or live theater– property of a set group of Insider cognoscenti based in select artistic capitals, with tiny groups of imitators scattered across the country, sharing their sacred texts like monks keeping an archaic cultural form scarcely alive? In what ways can it change? Is its regeneration doable– can a few Dr. Frankenstein mad scientists in artistic laboratories generate electricity through the monster’s body, and thereby rejuvenate it?
We don’t know. Odds against the idea are steep. We only know that in future days we’ll be looking for stories which look different. Which try new things, no matter how offbeat or quirky.
TODAY we present a short story which looks and sounds different from the norm, “The Age of Insomnia” by Christopher Landrum. Not a linear story so much as a painting you look at and try to take in as one impression, with allusions to law, to literature, and to maybe the short story itself.
Father was a lawyer. The idea that all the cases and statutes of the law can be read together as some grand story sounds like a childish cliché—but what I wonder these nights is, can a story somehow be law?
WE HAVE other thoughts about art and the short story in a post at our NPL News blog, here.
ALSO be sure to see what we’re doing new with our print issues, here.
Hello! We continue New Pop Lit‘s Summer Reading Festival with another excellent feature story that could/should be in The New Yorker (which I keep mentioning because it’s the only venue which still pays big $$$ for fiction, but this will change). The new story in question is “Symmetry” by Emil Birchman— another reason I mention that magazine in Manhattan is because our new feature has similarities to “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian, the only short story published anyplace the last ten years which made a cultural impact. Birchman’s story is also about an awkward, budding relationship, but is better written and more subtle. In it’s own way, like a three-dimensional image in which one can see different things, based on viewpoint.
We ask the question: What do you think of this story? How do you take the ending? What really happened or is happening?
Among other themes, “Symmetry” is about online dating, and more, what phones, computers, and the internet do to relationships and the perception of reality. But let us know what you think.
Fifteen minutes later, they found themselves in the local park synonymous with M.’s dating profile. For some reason, the scenery didn’t have the vibrancy of the pictures. The leaves were green, and pollen clung to the air. But her images weren’t edited, that was for sure. No filters, photoshop or other picture editing shenanigans. And the scenery, the movements on the pond’s surface and the breeze pressing against the foliage were all real. The only difference was the absence of his own filter. . .
ALSO, be sure to stop by our POP SHOP to peruse the joys of non-online reading. Is there anything more exciting than finding a wonderful new publication, full of colors and stimulating reading, in your mailbox?
(Art: “A Girl Reading” by Pablo Picasso.)