From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
It's been a busy summer for Eclectica alums. Caroline Kepnes found her book Providence mentioned on none other than The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as one of the finalists for his Tonight Show Summer Reads. Others with books out included Seth Rogoff (Thin Rising Vapors), Jill Stegman (One Pill Makes You Stronger: The Drug That Scorched My Soul), Dennis Must (Brother Carnival), Darren C. Demaree (Bombing the Thinker), Ryan Blacketter (Down in the River), Stephen Bett (Shall We Dance That One Around Again?), Stanley Jenkins (Down the Plymouth Road), Chaya Bhuvaneswar (White Dancing Elephants). Ben Daitz has been working on a documentary, The Medicine in Marijuana, with Ned Judge, and they just premiered their work at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque's Nob Hill to a packed house. Also in New Mexico, Laura Robbins had an exhibition of her work titled Scenes from the Ground at the Wild Hearts Gallery in Placitas.
Also of note, my fellow editors and I submitted our Sundress Best of the Net nominations for last year, and they were "The Children of So Many Tears" by Dyna Kassir and "Who Won the War?" by Seth Lorinczi (nonfiction); "Protagonist" by Gian-Paul Bergeron and "To Death" by David Flynn (fiction); and "Alone" by Urvashi Bahuguna, "Missing Loved Ones" by Robert Okaji, "Child's Pose" by Jack Murphy, "For the Swimming Girls" by Elizabeth Kerper, "The room is dark when I wake up this morning" by Jen Davis, and "When Valentine's Day Falls on Ash Wednesday" by David Mathews (poetry). Kudos to all of these authors, and to the many more who are out there doing great things.
Now let's talk about this issue! I love colorful images, but I also have a thing for rich textures and patterns. For this issue's artwork, I found a bunch of public domain pictures of various woods, metals, fabrics, rocks, etc., and played around with some rudimentary photo editing, removing the color and going for as abstract a look as possible, resulting in pieces like the one you see here. Thank you, Internet, for providing so much variety and grist for creativity. Thank you, contributors to Eclectica—past, present, future, and would-be—for similarly enriching my life with so many colorful characters and textured windows on humanity. Every three months, a new issue takes over my life for a few weeks, filling my conscious and subconscious mind with so many worlds, I begin to feel like I might have a split personality. Whoever I am, and whatever planet I'm inhabiting, I consider myself super lucky to have what amounts to a work-intensive but also extremely rewarding hobby—one that, with this issue, has now been part of my seasonal routine for 22 years.
Every issue, as I start to read through the latest batch of submissions, I wonder what will happen if I don't find a single story I really love. Will this finally be the issue with no fiction in it? Well, I'm happy to report that once again, our contributors did indeed provide. Not just one but nine gems made the cut, and I'm thrilled to present them to our readers. We've got returning authors represented: Gary Moshimer (a former spotlight runner-up making his fifth appearance) and Peter Bridges (whose poetry, nonfiction, and fiction has now appeared in ten issues since 2012). Mark Crimmins previously appeared in the humor and satire section back in 2015, and John Van Kirk is already on his way to be a multi-threat author, as he also has a piece in this issue's miscellany section. But we also have newcomers to our pages, authors I sincerely hope we'll see plenty more from in the future.
Nicky P. is one such newcomer, and if I could have nominated two stories for the Spotlight, her "Duck, Duck, Goose," a vivid character study of a Hong Kong male prostitute, would have been a very close second. "Duck," similar to many of this issue's stories, explores the challenges people encounter as they try to bridge that sometimes yawning distance between themselves and the people in their lives. Whether it's children (Grace Glass's "Wednesday at the Casino"); spouses or romantic interests (John Van Kirk's "Hostelería La Fantasía"); children and spouses or romantic interests (Gary Moshimer's "Crime Babies," Aidan O'Brien's "The Hierophant"); or children, spouses or romantic interests, and really all of society (Michael Beeman's "The Shift," Ian Keith's "The Conspiracy of Lonely Men"): these stories illustrate just how hard it is for us to all "get along." Some have happy endings, some less so, but in all there are hints of the humanity that keeps us persevering.
My pick for the Spotlight, the aforementioned Mark Crimmins' "Benton City and the End of the World," is, like Peter Bridges' "The Matter of France"—the two pieces bookend the fiction section—a departure from the stories I've described above. In fact, I've never read a story quite like it, so in that sense, perhaps, it is a departure altogether. I found the conceit of "Benton" extremely satisfying, in large part because as a reader, I was right there with the protagonist, engulfed in a swirling mass of dramatic irony. "France," besides also being not so much about personal human relationships, shares with "Benton City" glimpses of how absolutely certain, but nonetheless wrong, very smart people can be when it comes to things they think they know well.
The Spotlight winner this month is Romana Iorga for her simple but powerful poem "Bread." Jennifer Finstrom is still putting the finishing touches on the rest of the poetry section for this issue, and we'll add it as soon as we're able. Until then, we've got a special batch of stories, some great nonfiction with a tight little thematic theme, the usual Salon suspects in Thomas J. Hubschman and Stanley Jenkins, and a packed review section. I hope you'll check it all out, and that as 2018 draws to a close, you find it's been a good year for you and yours.
From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor
I'm delighted to welcome Peter Amos and his review of Americana: A 400 Year History of American Capitalism by Bhu Srinivasan. I look forward to seeing more of his reviews in the future. Thanks also to Betinna Hansen for her fine interview with the novelist Christian Moerk. And, of course, thanks to Ann Skea, as always, for a raft of insightful reviews across a range of genres.
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 expanding 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.