From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
The "Spotlight Author" for this issue is Roy Giles. His short story, "Black Night Ranch," is in some ways evocative of Annie Proulx's work, less stylistically than in terms of its death-tinged western subject matter. With vivid, Proulx-weird characters and subtle, crisscrossing coming-of-age plot threads, this story has some quiet, grown-up heft.
As is often the case, the range of stories in this issue's fiction section is pretty spectacular. G. K. Wuori and Caroline Kepnes are back with works that both fit with and expand upon what they've previously published in Eclectica. It's gratifying when writers like Wuori and Kepnes continue to be a part of the magazine, and it's equally gratifying to present stories by authors who have never appeared on this site before. Indira Chandrasekhar is one of seven such newcomers in the fiction department, and I can only hope all seven will continue to send work our way.
Speaking of fiction, a couple weeks ago, storySouth's Million Writers Award announced this past year's "Notable Stories." Eclectica was fortunate to place three stories on that list: "Semolinian Equinox" by Svetlana Lavochkina, "Being Chased by the CIA on a Warm Summer Night" by Allan Richard Shapiro, and "Along the Fault Line" by Anna Sidak. Congrats to those authors, and to Krishan Coupland, whose "Sexy, Hot, Sad, Tragic, Accident" was selected for the Sundress Best of the Net Anthology.
There were a number of former contributors who made the Million Writers list for pieces that appeared in other publications, including Wuori, Gary Moshimer, Toshiya Kamei, Richard Grayson, Carole Lanham, Nicholas Hogg, and Zdravka Evtimova. I'd also like to recognize all the Eclectica authors whose stories didn't make the list, including two of my nominations, Richard Larson's "Last Call" and Thomas Lee's "Reminder's of Absalom." We had some very strong fiction this year, and along with Larson and Lee, I think Ann Ang's "A Good Mother," Otto Lambert's "Tangle of Thorns, or the Fair Use of the Commons in a Transformative World," and six or seven others could easily have been selected as "Notable."
Poetry editor Jennifer Finstrom has presented us with a packed selection of verse. It's good to have Shoshauna Shy back in the magazine after a ten year break from her first appearance in November of 1999. Her new poem, "The Story," is a tightly constructed gem, with the best kind of images for facets—simple, unsentimental, vivid, and heartfelt. And speaking of poetry from 1999, that was the year CE Chaffin made his Eclectica debut as well. He's back with his usual impeccable attention to form and willingness to invoke members of the Canon. Looking back, I found it an interesting exercise to compare "Story" with Shy's 1999 poem, "All I Remember about Sunday School," and CE's "Prolunar" in this issue with his "In Your Hands" from 1999. I leave it to the curious reader to draw her own conclusions, but I enjoyed seeing what effect, if any, the intervening decade had on CE's and Shoshauna's sensibilities.
There seems to be something in the nonfiction water, because three of the four pieces in that section, Michael Copperman's "The Files of the Living," Rebecca Peterson's "Eulogy," and R.A. Costello's "Pulse," all have to a lot to say about death—or more specifically, about what it's like when someone else passes. Julia Braun Kessler may be the odd person out with her celebratory, rambling "Orgones, Jazz and General Motors: Young, free And Easy in Motor City," but faithful readers of Eclectica will remember her previous four pieces, going back to January of 2007, and enjoy returning to the world these memoir excerpts are building.
One piece in this issue that I urge readers not to miss is William Reese Hamilton's "Tumbando" in the travel section. Bill has been sending us his excellent explorations of the Venezuelan countryside for a while now, but this just might be my favorite of his so far. It isn't "travel writing" in the strictest sense, but it sure is good writing, and by that I mean it puts the reader in a beautifully realized setting, gives him some interesting things to chew on while he's there, and then winds up taking him someplace just a little bit unexpected. I suppose that's as good a travel recipe as any.
I'm happy to say that this will be the last time I sign off with an adoption update. Both our children have finally made it through all the bureaucratic hoop-jumping and are home here in the United States. Our hearts go out to the children and families in Haiti, the U.S., Canada, and France who are still dreaming of the day they can say the same thing. We look forward also to when the tragedy upon tragedy borne by the Haitian people begins to be, on balance, replaced by joy, success, and comfort. As for us, my wife and I have the happy task of giving these two amazing children the foundations they need to build their own lives full of joys, successes, and comforts. They're already giving us joy a-plenty in return.
Best wishes and happy reading,