I apologize for this in advance, but I’m going to be one of those officious fools that starts off with a quote. You have been forewarned, armed and possibly footed.

In the introduction to the introduction of Mort Castle’s Moon on the Water, incidentally one of the finest collections of short fiction a person can weep themselves into a coma over, Robert Weinberg goes on for a bit about how much more difficult it is to write a short story than it is to write a novel. So little space to say what is needed and no spare room to muck any of it up. I always loved that.

That would be why the mission of this particular magazine struck me. If short form fiction reduces wiggle room to nil, then poetry and flash aren’t merely difficult. They are damn near impossible. Doing so seems to require the creation of quantum pockets and small scale black holes. With words.

Suck on that, Mr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

To make matters worse for the poor, unfortunate inky cohorts (patent pending Jessica McHugh) of the realm, we sit here on our high thrones of judgement, requiring more than just sense and entertainment from these non-euclidian intercessions of syllables. We demand a solid sense of import, of impact, be nestled in their cramped confines. I, particularly, look for a sense of graceful undulation and emotional resonance while lighting even a dim flicker of luminance on some hidden aspect of the human condition. I also like it when they make me get all weepy.

The vulgar jackanape in me wants to continue prattling on about how this is quite a bit to expect from anyone, but, at the risk of violating those ideals I have already fairly mutilated, I’ll try to cut myself short with a thanks. To those writers out there that tear and claw and scream through the dim gulfs between their own neurons to find these stories in themselves and whittle them down to their most bare essentials and then had the kindness to submit the results to us here.

It’s pretty damn awesome to get to read this stuff and I get to share it with all of you, too.

—Anton Cancre

I recently fell in love with a new series, which is a magical time in any reader’s life. I found the first book in the Science Fiction section and devoured it. It quickly climbed up the best seller’s list and, by the time I went to get the second book I found the series had migrated to the in Literature section. The content hadn’t changed. The second book was no less supernatural than the first.

So what’s the reason for the sudden move? How can something be speculative one moment and literary the next? We were taught genre as a roadmap through the written word, but the truth is that it’s anything but. Moby Dick was originally criticized as a shallow adventure story. Shakespeare is filled with the same fairies and sea monsters that would put him pretty securely in speculative fiction.

So, when we say something is literary we’re actually saying several things. We are saying the story is grounded or ‘normal’ in a way that is recognizable to us. We are not surprised by the intervention of either science or magic. If someone told us this story about themselves, we could believe them.

We’re also talking about what the story lacks – usually elements we expect in other genres, like rocketships or aliens or princesses or fairies. What we are not talking about is the quality of the writing, the emotional power of the story, or the poetics of the language. I find stories about princesses rescued from dragons rather cliché, but I feel the same way about dissatisfied English professors who fall in love with their students. I’ve seen both these stories before, and I am sick of them. However, my ability to love even these cliché ideas lies in the language, the characters, and the craft.

Beyond that, I want a story that fearlessly marches towards the boundaries of the genre and never feels the need to reassure me that it belongs to one or the other. What does that look like? To me it looks a lot like Moby Dick, a story which is infused with magic and yet the magic is never overtly discussed. It is as evident as the ocean. Ishmael never bothers to explain the ocean. We all know it’s there.

—Leslie J. Anderson

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