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Jan/Feb 2015

From the Editors

Image courtesty of the British Library's Photostream


From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor

These issues of Eclectica have functioned as little time capsules of my life for going on 19 years now. Put together "on the margins" between work and family obligations, home improvement projects, and holidays, they serve for me as markers for the passage of time, like another school year, Super Bowl, or (lately) season of The Walking Dead.

I used to write essays in the Salon that functioned as editorials on politics, current events, stuff going on in my life, and those essays truly were time capsules. At this stage in my life, though, I don't have the time or gumption to shoot for what Thomas J. Hubschman continues to do, which is put together thoughtful commentary on the topics of the day, like this issue's "Hands Up! Why We All Can't Breathe," a response to the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases and the resulting, some would say anti-Police movement sweeping the nation. If I did have the time or the gumption, I'd be tempted to pluck the headline of the day, which is the Charlie Hebdo attack and aftermath in Paris—and perhaps riff off Hubschman's essay, exploring the dichotomy of the "Can't Breathe" movement and the apparent need for militarized police forces in a world of radicalized, home-grown Jihadists.

Or I might be tempted to discuss the fact that, as I type these words, a flurry of activity is taking place a few yards from my front door here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where there has been another officer-involved shooting, apparently of an armed man in body armor who passed by our house approximately five minutes after my daughter and I arrived home from her swim practice this afternoon. The street (San Mateo) has been cordoned off, traffic diverted, media trucks set up in the daycare parking lot... there are even protesters carrying "Jail Killer Cops." This, the 41st officer-involved shooting death in four years here in Albuquerque, comes as the APD is undergoing a Federal investigation generally, and more specifically, a murder prosecution of two of its officers for the killing of an homeless man last summer. I might be further tempted to reflect on just how close the issues surrounding the "I Can't Breathe" movement are coming to my family, particularly my 13-year-old adopted son of African descent, who could very easily have been out on the street this afternoon when the bullets started flying.

Even if I had the time to devote to a full exploration of these thoughts, these days I feel less inclined to "get personal" than I used to, what with identity thieves and data mining and the general lack of online privacy already in effect, even without spilling one's guts on Twitter, Facebook, or in a publication like this. I'd love to talk about my family, my home improvement projects, my job... but it just seems like doing so these days is not only inadvisable from a personal security aspect, but also either self-indulgent or presumptuous. Does it matter to anyone if I just had Sarah, our appliance repairwoman, over to the house to install a new heat sensor in the dryer I got off Craigslist a few weeks ago? Does anyone care to know my back is feeling better after I threw it out playing basketball last Friday? (As I staggered off the court, someone laughed, "Ha! Tom hurt himself with his own move!") Am I going to look back a few years from now and be glad I mentioned my wife and I are re-watching the last four episodes of last season's Justified in preparation for this season's upcoming premier?

A show, interestingly enough, which takes its title and overriding premise from the idea that sometimes law enforcement's use of deadly force is, well, a good or at least necessary thing.

"You'll never leave Harlan alive." Albuquerque isn't much different, apparently.

But back to the train of thought, I suppose the thing about time capsules is we can never predict what will be important when the capsule is opened. So, while essays in the Salon are for the time being not a practical option for me, I will make an effort with future issues, as I did here, to capture a little of the context surrounding their creation in my editor's note, even if that context has very little to do with the contents of the issues in question. In a publication called "Eclectica," one has to assume a certain lack of context, an absence of theme, a commitment to the random, the arbitrary, the happenstance. The real time capsule is the work we're sharing, work which somehow through the generosity of its authors has found its way to our virtual pages.

Speaking of, we've got some some great work to kick off 2015, led by our Spotlight Author Marc Frazier (poetry)—no apparent relation to last issue's Spotlight Author, Soma Mei Sheng Frazier—and Runners-Up Gloria Garfunkel (Nonfiction) and Gary Moshimer (fiction). All three have appeared in Eclectica before—Frazier in 2011, Garfunkel in 2010 and 2012, and Moshimer in 2007 and twice in 2008. All will enjoy a nominal cash prize and the knowledge they've joined an elite group—a group including a number of contributors to this issue: Jascha Kessler (nonfiction), Stanley Jenkins (fiction), Jennifer Finstrom (poetry editor), PD Mallamo (reviews), and William Reese Hamilton (fiction).

One of the things I love about about this little corner of the Internet is how a community has formed over the last couple decades, with folks dropping back in to pay a visit, sometimes sending a postcard, occasionally becoming a big deal out in "the world." Whether someone is a current or former Spotlight author, a returning contributor (as are 19 of the writers featured in this issue), or someone appearing in Eclectica for the first time, I sincerely think of them as part of our extended family of sorts. And when one of us meets with success in the broader literary community, it brings me great happiness to announce said success here.

Avital Gad-Cykman is a former contributor whose spirited collection of flash fiction, Life in, Life Out, is Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts' ninth title, just released. Dealing with "war and resistance, parenthood and childhood, passion and longing," the 34 stories contained therein have been published in places like W.W. Norton's Flash International Anthology, Los Angeles Review, Salon, and Prism International. And, I'm proud to say, Eclectica.

I continue to watch with excitement as two books I mentioned last issue, Fiction Editor Anne Leigh Parrish's What Is Found, What Is Lost, and eight-time contributor Caroline Kepnes' You, gather accolades. Now that this issue is done and I have a little time to read before the next one, I ordered my own copies of both those books, and I urge you to do the same.

For the record (had to get that Amazon free shipping!), I also ordered copies of Sefi Atta's Everything Good Will Come and Ron Currie Jr.'s Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles. I'm going to have some good material to feed my New Year's resolution to read more.

By the way, if you are a former contributor with a book I've not mentioned in this forum, please do give me a shout. This summer I'll be putting together a list of titles and links to buy them—an Eclectica "book store" of sorts—and I'd like to make sure everyone is represented.

Another bit of news to share: the aforementioned Mr Hubschman has announced the new Gowanus is up. Tom has edited that pioneering publication for years, and he's introduced some outstanding fiction to his readers, but Gowanus is now devoted to reviews of neglected books from the past. The first reviews include a fine retrospective essay on Burmese Days comparing that novel with present conditions in Southeast Asia where the author lives. There's also a review of Joyce Cary's African Witch by Anjana Basu (former Eclectica author and top ten Million Writers award honoree), along with reviews of Victor Klemperer's diaries of the Nazi years in Dresden, a great read and essential historical material, as well as a review of B.L. Myers's A Reader's Manifesto, which caused such a firestorm several years back in the lit/crit establishment.

Tom tells me has also added a new review of Elizabeth Gaskell's two-volume biography of Charlotte Bronte. He describes it as "Fascinating work that very liberally quotes Charlotte's own letters, some of which contradict the verging hagiography of Gaskell (intentionally on Gaskell's part?)," and he goes on to say, "The material about the father, Rev. Bronte, is the stuff of a novel in itself." I hope when folks are done perusing this issue of Eclectica, they will head over to Gowanus and give it a gander.

Did I mention storySouth's Million Writers Award? Pretty exciting stuff from an Eclectica standpoint. As mentioned on our Facebook page, we had five authors make the notable list this year: GK Wuori ("I've Always Thought Marjorie Was Okay"), Christine Hoffmann ("Mock Epic"), Grant Faulkner ("The Filmmaker: Eight Takes"), Jonathan Sapers ("The Last Highway"), and An Tran ("The Grinning Man"). Former contributors John Givens and Svetlana Lavochkina also made the list, and An Tran scored a second notable story for a piece published in Big Lucks. The good news didn't stop there. Hoffman and Tran also made the Top Ten list! Huge kudos to them, and self-kudos to Eclectica for being Million Writers' most recognized publication for the second year in a row.

It's time to quit rattling on and let you get to the good stuff, starting with what my fellow editors have to say below. Enjoy the issue, and have a great new year!

 

From Gilbert Wesley Purdy, Review Editor

Many thanks, as always, to Ann Skea for her many fine reviews. We are pleased to add PD Mallamo to our group of occasional reviewers with this issue. Mallamo previously appeared as the Eclectica Spotlight Author for the Oct/Nov issue in 2012. His story "Heralds of a Fallen World" was nominated for that year's Million Writers Award.

As we begin a new year, I would like, yet again, to invite anyone who might read this to send along reviews of books, art, music, cultural organizations, companies and events—local, regional, national, and international—and cultural crit pieces on the same. Feel free to do so as a one-off or more or less regularly as works for you. I look forward to continue to expand the Review/Interview Section during the months ahead, to include a wide range of lively, insightful (even quirky) cultural crit. I hope you will stop by to read and/or submit.

 

From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor

Happy 2015 to all! I'm very pleased to welcome readers to the issue number one of the 19th year of Eclectica!

When I think of the many years I've been reading great poetry from new and returning contributors, first as a reader myself before joining the editorial staff in 2005, I feel so very fortunate. Since this volume's issue number three will mark ten years for me as poetry editor, I've been spending a lot of time looking back at past issues and enjoying the great variety of work to be found in them. I have also been trying to think of something fun and interesting to do to celebrate ten years: an extra-special Word Poem Challenge, perhaps, with twice as many pre-chosen words? If you have any ideas, please let me know!

As always, the first poetry section of 2015 is a blend of new and returning voices. Nick Engels, Jillian Merrifield, and John Ladd Zorn are all new to Eclectica's pages, while Spotlight Author Marc Frazier appeared here previously in 2011.

I'm so pleased to have Frazier's work here again. I've been fortunate enough to hear Marc read his work, and it gave me the same experience of journeying while standing still that reading his work on the page provides. It's difficult to choose just one line or two to share here, but here is the first stanza of "Little Gods":

Where we left off: the woods behind the creek,
looking to be lost, to be found.
If we were listened to, it was chance.
Meaning waited in the future.

This poem begins in the midst of things, and we must learn to read it as we move through the lines. There is much in Frazier's poems about what is in the past and what is in the future, but in the world created by the poems, the motion of time seems to eddy around while we are standing still, able to observe it in ways that are not always possible in life.

I always like to say a few things about the Word Poem Special Feature, and this time, I noticed something that I've never noticed before (though that doesn't mean it hasn't happened). In addition to using the same four words (drape, harpoon, lullaby, and garden) of course, contributors David Mathews and Greta Bolger also use a fifth word in common—brazen—in poems about two very different topics. Not only do I find this fascinating, it also tells me it might be possible increasing the number of words in some future Word Poem Challenge might indeed be doable.

Again, very best new year wishes!

 

From Anne Leigh Parrish, Fiction Editor

In Seattle, where I'm writing from, this time of year can be foggy. I refer, of course, to the physical presence of fog, which dims the outlines of our proud evergreen trees, obscures the hilltops, and gives everything the aspect of a gentle dream. I also mean that the boundary between the old year and the new isn't quite established yet, but that's a personal observation, not a meteorological one.

The stories in our Winter issue cross boundaries and blur outlines, not in a way that leaves one disoriented or ill at ease, but as if to open some magical door within us where reality is reshaped, yet wholly recognizable.

Melvin Sterne's "Tiger Hunting" takes us to an exotic locale, and a man's subtle display of sabotage and revenge. "Color Blind" by Caralyn Davis has a fabulous dystopian sensibility, and a spooky parallel between events in the natural world and family life. We come then to our spotlight runner-up, "Diary" by Gary Moshimer, which drops us down into the realm of the worn-torn and militarily occupied with a surprising twist on current events. Mack Basham's "Ponce de Leon has a Problem" makes us wonder what, if anything, in human history ever really changes. "The Fish Story" by Jennifer Lunden offers an interesting parallel between life in and out of the bowl. The protagonist of Steve Vermillion's "Surface Tension" has the same experience over and over, straining his marriage and his wits. In "All We Have Left" by Jonathan Starke, a man follows the trail of a religious zealot as he reflects on the love he still feels for his ex-wife. In very few words, Bowen Astrop's "Sister & Me" paints the lives of two children and the challenges they face. A man embarks on a journey of distance and spirit through a gorgeously described world in "Flight" by Douglas Cole. We close with another journey and the age-old questions of religion and philosophy in Stanley Jenkins' "Down the Plymouth Road (Series Two)," and "Smoke" by William Reese Hamilton, which offers a unique look into the rarefied New York City art scene.

Come, suspend your disbelief, and open yourself to the deeper visions and startling truths of these fine authors.

 

From David Ewald, Nonfiction Editor

The new year brings new avenues of social media to Eclectica. Since 2013 we have had a tumblr (some would call this a blog), which you can find here. Recently I spent some time updating and redesigning the site, and our intention in the new year is to post more often, connect with even more readers, and continue posting great material such as the interview with contributor and now successful author Caroline Kepnes, whose debut novel You has gotten a lot of attention lately. Along the lines of this latest interview, I am eager to conduct future interviews with Eclectica contributors who have published book-length works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, miscellany—you name it, as long as it's a book in print or available on an e-reader. I encourage Eclectica contributors-turned-book authors (or book authors-turned-Eclectica contributors) who would like to be interviewed to shoot me an email and express their interest. We'll set something up.

Also, for those readers on Twitter, do follow the just-launched Eclectica Magazine Twitter feed, which can be found here. We can't promise a slew of daily tweets; nevertheless our Twitter feed is a great way to get fast information that could easily send a reader down the Internet rabbit hole—in a good way.

It's become customary for me to write a little about each piece published in the Nonfiction, Miscellany and Travel sections each issue, but this time around I'm going to get out of the way and let the pieces peak for themselves. Each are of course unique in a way typical of Eclectica. I hope you enjoy.

—David

 

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