Images in this issue courtesy of The British Library photostream
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
As I welcome you to another issue of Eclectica Magazine, a free, online publication produced by volunteer labor at kitchen countertops, on sofas, in beds, and sometimes using free McDonald's Wi-Fi, I'm struck by two sets of thoughts percolating in my mind. One was catalyzed by Michael Milburn, whose essay "Pretty Little Lies" in the nonfiction section of this issue communicates the idea that most poetry—and here I'll generalize to writing of all sorts—is pretty disappointing, if in large part because it can't live up to the hype used to sell it. To be sure, there are works that inspire, wow, transcend, redefine. But reviewers and blurbers and publishers who take on the job of promoting an author or piece of writing, most of the time, are overselling. I have never desired, nor do I now desire, to contribute to the glut of hyperbole clogging up the literary arteries. I've provided and solicited positive comments, sure, and if I didn't believe in the work I'm presenting for you to read, I wouldn't present it. But is anything in this issue a harbinger of the next Elizabeth Bishop or Raymond Carver or David Sedaris? Well, maybe. Probably not. As the reader, yours is as big a part of the equation in determining the answer to that question as the authors who will either go on to cement their legacies, or not. And time. Only time can tell if the works we have before us will stand the test of time.
The other thought I'm struck by right now is how bad the show Fear the Walking Dead has become. Julie and I fell off on our watching and didn't get to starting the second half of season four until this past month. Wow. What a precipitous drop off in writing quality. I don't think I've ever seen a show become so bad so quickly as this one did from mid-season finale to whatever you call the first episode of the second half of the season (one might ask why we need to demarcate mid-seasons in the first place?!), and I can't imagine a more open and shut case for blaming bad writing for said decline. In fact, the other day I thought about putting together a film course syllabus titled "How NOT to write for television: a case study of seasons four and five of Fear the Walking Dead." We just finished the penultimate episode of season five, and I have to say, I've also never actually been made angry before by how poorly written a TV show was. This Fear writing is relentlessly bad. Inexcusably stupid. The series' current executive producers / showrunners are Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss, and based on these results, I honestly don't think they deserve to work in this capacity ever again. If the world of television producing were anything like a zombie apocalypse, these two dudes would've been eviscerated by their poorly realized "stumblers" (one of the laughably bad variations on the term "walkers" this season gifted us) a hundred times over.
What does one thought have to do with the other? I guess the two thoughts lead me to a third: determining what writing gets published or wins contests or finds its way onto one of the most watched television franchises in America is not only incredibly subjective, it's also, sadly, driven by forces I have to believe—if only to maintain my faith in human intelligence... at the expense of human integrity, perhaps—don't have anything to do with the actual, inherent quality of said writing. Say what you will about the creative pieces in this issue. Maybe none of them will grab you like they grabbed me or poetry editor Evan Richards or nonfiction editor David Ewald, but rest assured these pieces are here because they did grab us. The are not here out of economic expediency or nepotism or political backscratching or whatever total commitment to incompetence explains Fear the Walking Dead's decline. They're here because these pieces gave us pleasure, and we hope you also derive pleasure from them.
Stuart M. Ross, a former spotlight author, published a novel this September with Tortoise Books. It's called Jenny in Corona, and Rebecca Makkai says it "is by turns hilarious and devastating and profound." Ms Makkai's praise may or may not be warranted; I ordered a copy to find out for myself. I also ordered Garrett Socol's new short story collection, The Unexpected Aneurysm of the Potato Blossom Queen, which contains "Better Looking From Behind" from the the April/May 2016 issue; and I ordered Inderjeet Mani's new thriller novel, Toxic Spirits, a chapter of which is adapted from Inderjeet's story "Genes" from the January/February 2017 issue. I didn't have the budget this month to order Universal Oneness: An Anthology of Magnum Opus Poems from around the World (360 poems by 360 poets from 60 Countries), which former review editor Betty Glixman let me know about, but it's on my list of potential future acquisitions. Former Spotlight Artist Richard Risemberg also just let me know today he has a new novel out (his second) called Family Ties. I'll be checking it out in the coming weeks.
Our Spotlight Author this issue is poet Katherine Tunning, with runners-up honors going to nonfiction writer Kat Meads and fiction writer Emily Collins. As the fiction editor, I selected Emily's "The Widow of Shafter" for its strong imagery, artful prose, and emotional impact. It's one of two stories in this issue written in the second person (welcome back to Kris Broughton, whose "Heroes" is the other!), which isn't an easy point of view to pull off. When it works, as it does here in "Shafter," it effectively and literally pulls the reader into the story.
That brings me to my customary wishes: may you enjoy reading this issue, and may the coming months until the next issue be kind and fruitful.
From Gilbert Wesley Purdy, Review Editor
Delighted to have Matthew Wade Thomas back with us to present his observations on the novel A Clockwork Orange. Ann Skea reviews books by and about Oliver Sacks and a raft of other titles. I review Dean Young's new volume of poetry, Solar Plexus, and provide the new installment of my column on freelance writing in the Internet Age.
As always, 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.
From Evan Martin Richards, Poetry Editor