Review: Reckoning 2 (Dec 2017)

I got a copy of this over the summer, and finally got a chance to read it this fall. Now, with the third issue about to drop in December, I’m glad I discovered I should be paying attention to what this small magazine is offering.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect, or wonderful, or for me. On the surface, it’s a collection of poetry, fiction, and essays growing wild like plants in a field; like any wild bunch of things, it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which, and what works together with other creations in that setting instead of merely being there at the same time. There are essays which seem like stories – one that works and one that doesn’t – and poems I wanted more from, stories I would have cut down. But in between, there’s brilliance.

Before I get further into my review, I have to stop you right here and ask: have you read Innocent Ilo’s “To the Place of Skulls”? It’s easily one of the best and most impactful stories I’ve read this year, and I am honestly surprised that I haven’t seen more people talking about it. If I had to pick one story for you to read from this year’s Reckoning, it would be Ilo’s. So well-crafted it reads like it’s a far simpler story than it really is; the kind of craft that leads you into a dark and heavy place before you know it, without forcing you there, without feeling saccharine or unsupported. There’s nothing I don’t love about this story (except the subject, of course, which is both fiction and just barely, maybe tomorrow, going to be true somewhere).

Luckily, I don’t have to pick just one, from this thick annual magazine that editor Micheal DeLuca envisioned to showcase “creative writing on environmental justice”. With six poems, five essays, twelve stories, and art, there’s going to be something for everyone. Even the work I didn’t connect with has a purpose – like “From Paris, With Rage“, an essay framed as a story, which mostly focuses on teaching readers how to deal with being arrested at a major ecological protest, if that’s something you need to know. I was comforted, seeing a high level of quality work through a magazine of this size, because it tells me that it’s not a combination of good stories and bad ones, or well-written compared to badly constructed. It’s work that suits my tastes and what I needed to read at that moment, and other work that isn’t written for me. Maybe it’s written for you.

The work I did connect with, I’m grateful to have read. “A Wispy Chastening” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires is exactly what flash fiction should be: tightly written but hinting at vastly more than is on the page, allowing you to fill in the blanks in your head to supply the worldbuilding that wouldn’t fit into the word count limit. Marie Vibbert’s “Fourth-Dimensional Tessellations of the American College Graduate” is another one of my favorites – even if you don’t have a soft spot in your heart for bees like I do, it’s a cleverly winding tale of young adult attachment, and the way we collect the people who complete us, whether we like them or not.

Both “The Bull Who Bars the Gate to Heaven” by Zella Christensen and “A Hundred Years From Now” by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam are excellent poems that are simultaneously both stories and messages, and while some of the other poems here I felt lacked something, or tried too hard, these two were perfect as they are. Marissa Lingen’s “The Shale Giants” is another flash fiction story, but its word count barely constrains its slow-moving mass of rock and building resentment. Definitely worth reading.

Girl Singing with Farm” by Kathrin Köhler, is a weird science fiction story both beautiful and heartbreaking, but one that also hints at a happy ending, and even the possibility (never certain) is something most other pieces in this issue don’t offer. “Rumpelstiltskin” by Jane Elliott is one of the better uses of this particular fairy tale I’ve read in a retelling. A father slowly losing everything to a global famine recounts how the world came to be this way, and through his recollections, you get a glimpse of where the fault lies.

The answer is the same for much of Reckoning: the fault lies in ourselves. Maybe if we open up to more creative environmental writing, we’ll figure out how to fix some of what we’ve broken before it’s too late. (At the very least, Reckoning aims to get you thinking about the problem, which is the first step.)


Ebook released December 21, 2017.
e-ISBN: 9780998925226
Weightless Books
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Print edition released June 21, 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-9989252-3-3
248 pages, 67,000 words.
$20, free shipping

Follow Friday Five: LONTAR Journal, NatureFutures, Gamut, Reckoning, GlitterShip

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should be familiar with, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to know more about.

Last week, I recommended: Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong,  and the Gay YA project.

This week? Magazines!

LONTAR Journal is a biannual literary journal produced in English by in Singapore. Their focus is entirely on Southeast Asian speculative fiction. They publish a mix of established and new authors, and they are open for submissions on a rolling basis:

The editors of LONTAR are looking for quality literary writing with elements of the fantastic, which is in some way connected with the cultures, traditions, mythologies, folk religions, and/or daily life in Southeast Asia*. While we are happy to look at works by writers outside of the region, we want to actively encourage Southeast Asian writers to submit your work.

They’ve had fiction from Geoff Ryman, Ken Liu, Paolo Bacigalupi, Sabrina Huang, E.C. Myers, Eka Kurniawan, Dean Francis Alfar, John Burdett, Nikki Alfar, Ng Yi-Sheng, Kate Osias, Zen Cho, and Eliza Victoria in their pages, along with poetry from Bryan Thao Worra, Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, Jerrold Yam, Tse Hao Guang, Shelly Bryant, Anne Carly Abad, Arlene Ang, David Wong Hsien Ming, Daryl Yam, Michael Gray, Joses Ho, and Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. They also publish non-fiction and the occasional comic.

Their print issues are hefty, lovely, tomes, and their editorial eye is locked onto a part of Asia that doesn’t get as much love from American SFF readers as, say, China. Read them to get a broader view of the world than you have now, and to support the idea that SFF really is a global community.

You can find them online at lontarjournal.com and on Twitter @lontarjournal

Nature magazine publishes flash science fiction under the collective title “Futures“. They accept unagented submissions, pay a pro rate, and have an interesting target word count: 850-950 firm. I love their focus on hard science, and they publish a wide range essays, interviews, and even podcasts as well. The editorial team is thinking globally now; recent offerings include interviews with Ken Liu and Liu Cixin, talking about Chinese translations, and an essay by Ben Peek talking about Australian SF.

Their fiction has been hit or miss for me in terms of originality — it’s all good, but sometimes I feel as if I’ve read the themes a hundred times before. When they do something novel, though, it’s wonderful. Check out “Mortar flowers” by Jessica May Lin, “The Plague” by Ken Liu, for example.

You can find them online at nature.com/futures and on Twitter @NatureFutures

Gamut is a digital magazine that bills itself at actively seeking diversity in neo-noir and speculative fiction. (You can read a sample here.) Their Editor-In-Chief, Richard Thomas, says:

I want to support the voices that aren’t getting enough recognition, and pay a great rate (at ten cents a word we are twice the going professional rate). I want to surround myself with talented authors and artists that inspire me. We need more markets like this, publishing edgy fiction that straddles the line between genre and literary fiction, and based on the four anthologies I’ve edited, the books I’ve published at Dark House Press, and my own writing—I feel like we’re in a golden age of dark fiction, and there is a demand for it.

They’re new, launching in January 2017 after a very successful kickstarter, and they’ve already got a staff of 15 people, which means they’ll either be ready for a long and well-organized run, or they’ve got too many cooks in the kitchen; time will tell. I think they’re worth keeping an eye on, though.

You can find them online at gamut.online and on Twitter @gamutmagazine

Reckoning is another new magazine, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. According to editor Michael J. DeLuca, “environmental justice” is:

the notion that the people (and other living things) saddled with the consequences of humanity’s poor environmental choices and the imperative to remedy those choices are not the ones responsible for them.

He created the magazine after guest editing an issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet,

Reckoning is open for submissions (as long as you send in work that shows “your searingly personal, visceral, idiosyncratic understanding of the world and the people in it as it has been, as it is, as it will be, as it could be, as a consequence of humanity’s relationship with the earth”), and their first issue is out this winter.

I’ve know DeLuca for several years now, and he’s the kind of editor who doesn’t let his singular vision force him into accepting anything but the best work. I can’t wait to read this magazine.

You can find them online at reckoning.press and on Twitter @reckoningmag

GlitterShip is a podcast-only magazine creating audio versions of LGBTQ stories from authors of all backgrounds, twice a month. Edited by Keffy R. M. KehrliGlitterShip records (mostly) previously-printed genre fiction, so there’s a chance you may have read these stories before, but you won’t have heard them like this. Plus, all 29 of their episodes are available to read in text format on the website for anyone who can’t (or prefers not to) listen to the podcast.

If you’re looking for a new way to get your speculative fiction, podcasts are easy to access and great for listening during long commutes or your morning walk. I put them on when I’m cleaning the house, or driving, or when I’m too tired to read and I want to lie on the couch, eyes closed, absorbing fiction by the least amount of effort possible.

Try it. You’ll like it.

You can find GlitterShip online at glittership.com and on Twitter @GlitterShipSF