From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
It is a well known fact that older one gets, the faster time goes by. Time also seems to speed up the busier one is, and the more one is trying to get done in the limited time available. Under these conditions, the past year has whizzed by so quickly for me, I can almost hear the doppler sound as this milestone—the final issue of our 20th year—arrives and recedes in the rear view.
Another great issue it is, too. Every department—nonfiction, reviews, poetry, travel, fiction, Salon, miscellany, and our Spotlight author, Jason Lee Helm. Jason first appeared in Eclectica in April, 2015, with a "prequel" to "Unnatural Selection," the piece we're honoring in this issue. His characters in both stories—young Jacob, his sister Angel, his grandmother Patty, and his father Billy—are as vivid and, particularly in the case of Patty and Billy, disturbing a set of fictional people as you're likely to run across as you're traversing the Internet looking for fiction to read.
For the first time, we're recognizing a "Word Poem" author as one of our Spotlight runners up. Judy Kaber is no stranger to our pages, this being her fifth appearance. Her selection here drives home the value of the word poem exercise. We may present these poems in a separate section of the magazine, but they are full siblings of the "regular" poems. (Air quotes, because of course from my point of view, there is nothing "regular" about any of the poems in this or any issue!)
Kurt Schmidt in the travel section is our other Spotlight runner up, and he headlines a particularly strong offering from nonfiction, travel, and miscellany editor David Ewald. I was impressed with all the pieces, but given what's going on in the world today (as I write this, we're less than two weeks away from the 2016 Presidential Election in the US), I found Vic Sizemore's "The Will to Devolution" and Christy A. Hallberg's "Third Party" particularly germane.
Speaking of germane, Alan Bray's "Already She Was Root" is one of those stories that couldn't be more topical or prescient. Just last night, one of my friends on Facebook posted a Photoshopped image of Hillary Clinton being led to the gallows, with comments attached like, "I'd lead her up there myself!" This, while other friends of a different political persuasion are posting memes in support of the anti-pipeline activists at Standing Rock. These two groups of people, loosely identifiable as "liberal" and "conservative," might as well be living in two separate realities, given they occupy two nearly distinct virtual realities. "Root" reads less like a speculative piece of fiction and more like a warning all of us can feel in our bones.
I started this note by talking about the year flying by and our being really busy. One thing that's contributed to time flying has been our efforts on the Eclectica staff to produce four "best of" anthologies to celebrate our 20th anniversary. All four books are in the proof stage, and we're shooting for a pre-Thanksgiving release. That means the 113 folks who contributed to our Kickstarter campaign should be getting their books by the December holiday season, and others will have an opportunity to order them as presents. I couldn't be more proud of these books and the body of work they represent. More details to come—posted to our Facebook pages and the Kickstarter site.
I'd like to take a moment to thank David and our poetry editor Jennifer Finstrom, who have put in many hours of work this year not just helping to bring forth these issues, for which I also thank Gilbert Purdy, but they have also put in many more hours creating the aforementioned anthologies. I have no doubt the effort has taken a toll on them—it certainly has on me. It's definitely one of those things where I'm so glad to have been able to do it, and I've enjoyed every minute, but I'll also be super glad to finally be done with the production phase of these books.
And speaking of thanks, a huge amount of gratitude is owed to the readers, contributors, and past editors whom I've sincerely referred to as the "Eclectica Extended Family"—who have helped keep this modest online literary effort afloat for two decades. My greatest hope is that this issue and the coming anthologies prove worthy of the devotion so many folks have paid over the years.
From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor
Thanks to Ann Skea, as always, for her insightful reviews.
I would like 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
Sitting down to write my poetry editor's note well after the October/November issue has been out in the world in no way diminishes that issue's significance to me. This is the last issue of our official 20th year, and as such, it is certainly a milestone. As Tom Dooley mentioned in his own note, putting out quarterly issues while working on the anthologies was quite a challenge, but at the same time, it kept me thinking about what a special part Eclectica has played in my life, particularly regarding how I see myself as a member of multiple writing communities. I talk about this more in my introduction to the poetry anthology, but it was really Eclectica that first showed me what it was like to be a part of a writing community quite a few years ago, and that is of no small importance.
This issue is full of lovely work in all genres, but I wanted to spend a moment with Judy Kaber's poems. Again, as Tom mentioned, this issue is a milestone as well because it's the first time that a selection of Word Poems has been chosen as a spotlight runner-up. I believe spotlight authors (runners up or otherwise), have featured a word poem among their other poems, but here, all three poems include the words "circle," "remain," "illusion," and "bridge." These three poems resonate with memory and the past, but they do so in such different ways that a reader who didn't know would be hard pressed to easily pick out the repeated words. I can't wait to see what the next issue brings up with "silent," "puzzle," "envelop," and "hypnotize"—I'm sure the resulting poems will be wonderful!
I hope that you've been enjoying this issue and the wealth of material in our archives—and I can't wait for volume 21 to begin in January!
From David Ewald, Nonfiction, Travel, and Miscellany Editor
These are scary times—and that's not just because our fall issue is released on Halloween. In eight days, voters head to the polls. Depending on your worldview and which media outlets support and confirm it, either presidential candidate will usher in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and take a seat on the fifth stallion to ride off into a blood-drenched, final sunset, the Hordes of Hades surging at his or her back.
I have done my best to keep my political views off the Internet (and myself off my personal Twitter account—six months and still going strong), but when I read Vic Sizemore's submission, "The Will to Devolution," I knew I had to take it. Sizemore's writing is not new to Eclectica readers, and in "Devolution" he turns his social criticism on a truly scary subject, that of the rise—or, rather, the liberation—of nationalistic, racist, violent groups and organizations within the United States. Mere vestiges that will eventually die off, or the future of this country? Sizemore hopes for the former, but I fear the latter, the same way I find myself suddenly weeping in bed at night next to my wife, an issue of The Week open before me showing a small but unavoidable photo of one of the young victims of the Newtown massacre running from the bus that just dropped him off toward whichever family member has the camera, as I lie terrified at the possibility of a call from my sons' preschool.
It's not just politics and jingoism to Sizemore; it's also the candy in our kids' Halloween buckets. Just as white supremacy is evolving, so too is our penchant for sweets, for sugar—a major reason why diagnoses of type-II diabetes are also on the rise. I'm going to let my sons partake in all the Halloween candy they can stomach (I can no longer indulge in any myself), but, like the election, I'm going to be glad when Halloween is over.
Lest you think that everything published in the Nonfiction, Travel, and Miscellany sections is a downer this issue, take heart: we have plenty of lighter treats for you. Peter Bridges returns with another installment of his fascinating transport-themed family memoir ("My Family in the Air"), Joel Fry makes his case for "Why Poetry Must Become More Philosophical," and Amy Kenyon's elegiaic "Sally Draper at the Ford Rotunda" reminds us of a time when America was great—or at least different.
I would be remiss if I didn't tip my nonexistent hat to Spotlight Author nominee Kurt Schmidt, whose travel piece "The Rudest Woman in Bundenhof" stood apart for its gently sardonic tone and crisp pacing. Newcomer Jillian Schedneck ("A Good Swiss Name") finishes off the Travel section nicely by proving that travel writing doesn't always have to be simply about travel.
Whether it's the aforementioned pieces and their authors or Christy Hallberg's highly entertaining "Third Party" in Miscellany, or long-time contributor Jascha Kessler's lasting words in Nonfiction ("Our Daily Dose of Terrors"), there's more than enough to go around in this literary grab bag. Enjoy.