Multimedia painting by Janet Bothne
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
It is one of the great privileges and pleasures of my life that every few months, I get to read through a virtual pile of submissions, pick out stories I like, and share them with the world. Maybe not the whole world—Eclectica's readership is a great deal more modest than all of humanity—but given the miracle of the "world wide web," yeah, at least in some sense, the world. Here in the middle of April, 2020, with most of humanity in some way impacted by a global pandemic, I'm especially grateful to have this outlet for my creative and constructive energies.
Irrespective of pandemics, I go into every issue with the same mindset: hopeful but doubtful. Hoping to find stories I didn't know I was looking for, and hoping I'm not going to be my own worst enemy by dismissing unfamiliar and challenging work I should have accepted; doubting I'm going to find even one story to accept. Not because I hold our submitters in low regard, but because I'm naturally pessimistic and would rather keep my expectations low. It's also hard to imagine all these great writers out there willing to pay a few bucks to Submittable and wait a couple months to find out if a schlub like me—a guy wearing slippers, grabbing spare minutes on his laptop at his kitchen counter—approves of their work. But bless 'em, they keep doing it, and my expectations keep getting exceeded.
In terms of expectations, beyond keeping them low, there's never any goal in mind beyond choosing the best work I've been gifted with each reading period. Last issue, we wound up with three novellas and about 74,000 words worth of fiction, over 73,000 of those words written by what are presumably white dudes with names like Michael, Ed, and Robert. This issue the word count happens to be more modest and the authors' genders more varied, but the result is the same: another strong batch of fiction, rich in setting, characterization, and insights into the human condition.
My nomination for the Spotlight goes to Mary Grimm for her story "Night Work." I've read a lot of stories over the years about small town teenagers, and frankly, few of them manage to say anything new about that millieu, but "Night Work" rides on the strength of its vividly drawn main character, a surly young lady named Reggie, no wise genius herself but neither a fool, whose arc in the story bends toward an awareness and acceptance of her place in the space and time she occupies.
"Revelation" by Marlene Olin and "To Drink Around the World" by Kameron Ray Morton bring in still other distinctly female perspectives of varying ages on finding and coming to terms with one's place—a challenge Thomas J. Hubschman's "Question Mark" titularly addresses, albeit from a more masculine point of view. Gilbert Allen's "The Eye of the Needle," lighthearted tale that it is, manages to convey some feminist sentiments as it plays (lightheartedly!) with religious allegory, and Peter Bridges' "The Stars Above Somalia" may center on a male protagonist, but it is a female Somalian ship captain—one would imagine a rare phenomenon even today, let alone in the 1950s—whose presence gives this story its staying power, both in its narrator's memory and in ours as readers. And then there is Sharona Muir's novella, Animal Truth, which was a close second in the Spotlight running. Not only does Truth have some of the most uniquely beautiful prose I've read in a long while, but it encapsulates every bit of what I might retroactively want to ascribe to this issue's fiction selections in terms of feminist sensibilities. It also feels very relevant to this particular historical moment.
I'm most grateful to the artist Janet Bothne, whose gorgeous work adorns this issue. We (my lovely wife and I) met Janet as a part of a worthy team of adversaries at trivia night, back when humans could congregate and recreate. The piece shown above looks even better in person, and I urge anyone visiting Albuquerque to drop by the Studio J Contemporary Gallery in Los Ranchos to see it.
As always, I hope you enjoy the issue, and that life, especially in these difficult times, is treating you well.
From Gilbert Wesley Purdy, Review Editor
Gregory Stephenson reviews Poems from the Greenberg Manuscripts. Ann Skea reviews a Zoroastrian murder mystery, a dictionary of dogs and much more. I review Red Pine's translation Written in Exile from the poems of the T'ang poet Liu Tsung-yüan.
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
First and foremost, I hope this note finds you and your family well. These are strange and difficult times. If you're like me, you've been spending nearly all of your time these past several weeks in your home, perhaps working remotely if fortunate. There is uncertainty and anxiety all around. With so many things we took for granted now out of reach, I am grateful to be able to bring together this latest collection of poets.
I'm excited to bring a good mix of new and returning poets to this issue. Much of their work meditates on place, weather, permanence, which feels particularly apt at the moment. Perhaps reading their work will provide you the same relief it has provided me.
A housekeeping note: In an effort to focus submissions and bring out the most refined pieces, Word Challenge poems will now be limited to one poem per submission. I believe this will make the challenge more rewarding and will remove the pressure of feeling compelled to write several pieces in a few weeks—the next issue's words are hope, walk, sugar, and sky, so be sure to send in your very best.
Stay safe, and I'll see you again soon in our summer issue.