Oct/Nov 2022

From the Editors

Public Domain image

From Tom Dooley, Managing/Fiction

One of the inevitable results of living a long time is losing more and more people you care about. This is true for online literary magazines as much as it is for individuals. Eclectica lost two pillars of our extended "family" this year. As I mentioned in the Spring issue, William Reese Hamilton passed in February, and now we've lost Peter Bridges. His obituary says he was "a poet, author, hiker, friend to many in Crested Butte and beyond, as well as a retired Foreign Service officer and former US ambassador, who died August 13, 2022, at the age of 90, in Virginia, far from his mountain home." We know him as a prolific contributor and former Spotlight Author who in the past decade saw his poetry, fiction, and nonfiction appear in 20 issues, often in more than one section at a time. It's with great pride that we'll remain the home for so much of his writing, including the last piece we published, the wonderful historical novel The Adventure of Aulus, which engendered in me a great interest in ancient Rome. Rest in peace, Peter, and happy trails.

Much appreciation goes out to everyone else who is new to or continues to be a part of Eclectica, whether as an editor, contributor, or reader. Stuart, Evan, and Marko are making their respective sections their own; Ann Skea keeps crushing out reviews, and it's fair to say Gregory Stephenson has become a regular in that section; Tom Hubschman remains a incisive voice in the Salon, where Marko is now (thank goodness!) giving him company; and two gentlemen making their third appearances have nabbed Spotlight Runner-Up honors: Ankush Banerjee in Poetry (and he's got a book review in this issue!), and Huntley Gibson Paton in Fiction. Welcome back to Don Stoll and Gilbert Allen, which means by my count, the other 22 people associated with this issue, including Spotlight Author Jo-Anne Rosen, are new to our pages. That's a lot of new family members!

One of those new contributors is Kay Sexton, whose artwork does an amazing job of complementing the words. We're grateful she agreed to let us use these singularly autumnal images for our Fall issue.

A few words about the Fiction section I was privileged to select...

Paton's "The Shepherd" leads us off with a melancholy look at class, race, and sports in America. There are no histrionics here, just well-realized characters inhabiting the world behind those glitzy Friday night high school lights, Saturday college and Sunday NFL games, and Monday (and now Thursday) Night Football. It's a gem of a story.

"One November Day" by Marcia Calhoun Forecki echoes a topic on a lot more peoples' minds these days, now that the prospect of nuclear annihilation is back in the news. Of course, nuclear annihilation has always been on the table—the Doomsday Clock has been well under ten minutes from midnight for most of the years since it was established in 1947 and has been at 100 seconds since 2020—but Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Trump's abandonment of the Iranian nuclear deal, and Kim Jung Un's saber rattling in North Korea have stimulated our collective imagination and inspired many to go back and examine artifacts from the early days of the Cold War. Hearing Sheldon Allman's "Crawl out through the Fallout" from 1960 on the radio the other day seemed about right. Again, though, like Paton, Forecki doesn't go in for flashy drama, letting us instead live through the experiences of two young girls in 1963 the very real, creeping unease of being powerless against racism, rumor, and distant Russians.

Don Stoll's "Praise God and the Lake" is a story written by a mzungu, for mzungus, with clear implications about perception and human nature. "Everything Changes into Nothing" by Gresham Cash and "Harrisburg, 1965" by Peter Gordon both strike me as being about how some people, especially some men, have struggled in post-WWII America to find meaning—and therefore live purposeful lives that honor their relationships—in a landscape, both literal and social, offering—even demanding—continual escape and reinvention. Which brings me to J. Alan Nelson's "Mount the Sky," which, to be honest, I'm not sure how to introduce.

I'll leave it at that and hope our readers enjoy what I feel is a solid batch of stories they're unlikely to see the likes of anywhere else.

Before I sign off for the year 2022, here are some snippets of news about former contributors. Elizabeth P. Glixman has a story in the forthcoming 2023 anthology Coolest American Stories. It's got to be said: that's pretty cool! Cat Dixon's poetry collection What Happens in Nebraska is coming out this month, so congrats to her! Grant Faulkner is in the newly released Flash Fiction America anthology. William Han's From the Wall to the Water: A Journey Through Asia is also out this month. Charles Yu's National Book Award-winning Interior Chinatown has been greenlit for a Netflix series. Dale Bridges' novel The Mean Reds is available for preorder (I gotta say, the blurbs for this one are pretty impressive). Jen Michalski's collection of stories, The Company of Strangers, is also available for preorder. The 2017 novella Dam Duchess by Ukrainian author Svetlana Lavochkina is now available in paperback in the UK. Corey Mesler has a new novel out called Cock-a-Hoop. Deborah P Kolodji let us know her eChapbook of scifaiku, Tug of a Black Hole, has won 2nd place in the Elgin Awards (chapbook category) as voted by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. JackLeg Press published Suzanne Frischkorn's book of poems, Fixed Star. Chika Unigwe has a new story coming out in The London Magazine. Dennis Must will have a new novel out in November from Red Hen Press called MacLeish Sq. And longtime Nonfiction Editor David Ewald's paranormal adventure novel He Who Shall Remain Shameless is also available in paperback on Amazon.

The previous paragraph is pretty darned impressive, and I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of what our "alums" have been up to. If I've left anyone out, please let me know and I'll either add a paragraph here or include a mention in the Jan/Feb 2023 editor note.

Best wishes everyone for a safe and productive winter and a positive end to another journey around the sun.


From Marko Fong, Nonfiction

In my last editor's note, I too quietly mentioned I wanted to do a theme for this issue about "Provocation." I doubt any contributors noticed, but it somehow worked out anyway. I'd argue our feature article, "My Body Is My Biz" by Jo-anne Rosen, is about being provoked to "speak out." I met Jo-Anne more than 20 years ago in a writers' group that's still going thanks largely to Jo-Anne's caretaking instincts. Whether it's an elderly mother, a former romantic partner dealing with dementia, friends' children, people who want their words curated, or an unruly herd of writers, Jo-Anne has always prioritized looking after others. It's not what you'd expect of someone who made adult movies in the '70s or who chose to have three abortions. Who knew anyone could manage to bring together adult movies, abortion/family choices, and dementia care so movingly. I suspect the Dobbs decision "provoked" Jo-Anne to come forward to say, "I believe in my power to make my own choices." In the meantime, I hope it provokes some of you to someday check out her novel in stories, Libidoland. If we're lucky, a story or two might find its way to the fiction side of some future issue here.

Andrew Tibbetts's "Incident at Grocery World" is a case of my being provoked as an editor. Even though I'd published a short story in Eclectica many years ago, Tom recruited me to help based on our Facebook friendship. Andrew's article started as a Facebook post. Taking Tom's cue, I asked Andrew to submit it here (a hint to future submitters, Facebook isn't all bad). At one level, it raises a simple question: if a stranger is being rude to someone else, when do you intervene, and how far do you go? Outwardly, it's about the comorbidity of impatience and anger that piggybacked on the COVID pandemic. Ultimately, it explores the writer's identity as a gay man who's suddenly reminded of the always looming possibility of anti-gay violence in the wake of an earlier epidemic. At another level, Tibbetts also considers his own reservoirs of patience after having eased his mother through dementia.

Haseeb Andrabi's "Shooting a Kashmiri Boy" is about the ultimate provocation: a police officer has to decide if it's his duty to shoot a Muslim boy who is throwing rocks at other citizens. After the Pakistani partition, Kashmir has politically remained part of Hindu majority India despite the fact that Kashmir itself is majority Muslim. Recent Hindu nationalism has exacerbated the issue. As a Muslim police officer, Andrabi struggles with multiple internal conflicts, giving us a rare window into a "Muslim Lives Matter" situation likely unfamiliar to many Americans.

Carol Runyan's "Disturbed" provides a fascinating contrast to Andrabi in that it's far too familiar to too many Americans: what do you do about a mentally disturbed neighbor? Ironically, Andrabi and Runyan's stories ultimately converge. Equally fascinating, "Disturbed," like "Grocery World," looks at the impact of an epidemic. It's just that one is viral and the other is rooted in the Second Amendment. Is a society that demands you shoot and kill a young boy for throwing rocks really any crazier than one that prioritizes permitting seriously disturbed individuals to keep firearms over the safety of their neighbors?

Finally, this is my third issue as an editor here, and I'm especially proud of this group of articles. Next issue, I'm hoping to conjure or summon pieces exploring another topic: that of looking after others and the choices we make, which emerged as a sub-theme in this issue and strikes me as worthy of further exploration.


From Evan Martin Richards, Poetry

Welcome to the October/November 2022 issue of Eclectica!

In the poetry section, we have first-time Eclectica authors Jai Bashir, Nathaniel Calhoun, James McKee, Claire Rychlewski, and Samantha Schnell. Returning to our pages is spotlight runner-up Ankush Banerjee, whose piece "Feet of Women I Know" renders love, grief, and worry through anatomy and a small act of compassion. Anatomy, then, might constitute a theme of sorts for the issue; it occurs to me that all of this issue's pieces deal, figuratively or literally, with bodies and structures, appearances and facades. Or is that always the task of poetry? In any case, this selection of poetry seems fitting for the season of changing leaves!

This issue's Word Challenge section—poems featuring the words match, control, hang, and cost— brings an all-new cast of poets! Please welcome and enjoy the work of Nicholas Barnes, David A. Goodrum, Mickie Kennedy, Caleb Libbey, Sara Pirkle, Gretchen Rockwell, and Susanna Skelton. Seeing the unique wide-ranging places that authors take the same set of words is always a highlight, and this issue delivers, taking the reader to rain-swept slopes, smoking coffins, the wings of dragonfly, and more. The words for next issue's challenge are sea, save, after, and easy. I look forward to reading what you come up with!

Happy reading!


From Stuart Ross, Review Editor

I'm excited to showcase some thoughtful reviews of new and possibly overlooked work. Gregory Stephenson returns to Eclectica with a close look at a fascinating biography of the "wild west" bandit Pearl Heart. It's amazing the lives people led before the Internet. Ankush Banerjee takes an in-depth look at the poetry of Rohan Chhertri. And Courtney Ludwick reviews Sarah Fawn Montgomery's Halfway from Home, a personal essay collection which also explores universal themes affecting us all. I spend some time ruminating on the purpose of Jordan Castro's The Novelist, a funny piece of metafiction.