When I was brainstorming, I had the idea that I might write the introduction to this Eighteenth Issue of > kill author as a kind of dramatic monologue. A monologue in the voice of Charlie Sheen, with his arm caught inside of a vending machine. Quickly, I realized that this method would present many unforeseen challenges, and would likely not be well suited to introducing this Eighteenth Issue of > kill author. I decided to save that conceit for a short story I will write at some other time. Later, it occurred to me that the image might actually make for a stirring political cartoon: one of the Republican candidates for President, with his arm caught inside of a vending machine, reaching for a candy bar that represents…something.

Someone asked me to teach him how to be a writer. I handed him a dollar and sixty-two cents and told him it was his budget for the day. I gave him a recipe for bathtub heroin. I told him go have some fun.

“I must unkiss her fleshy brittle to feel whole.” — Alex Kain

“Pages ago, streams of consciousness were promised to culminate in green back roads symmetrical as love.” — Amanda Silbernagel

“They arrived here and couldn’t place the smell of the river, the smell of the land, all that skin and those horrible toothy smiles.” — Becca Yenser

I’ve been drinking out of Dixie cups for the better part of two years now. Some days I look over what I’ve written and all I can think of is whether there’s anything here that a college girl would deem worthy of tattooing on herself. Anything a college girl would deem worthy of canonizing on the inside of her thigh.

I won’t say what’s a parable and what’s an anecdote. I won’t warn you before I start to sermonize.

“He ate sushi made of fish fed exclusively on his body.” — Ben Segal

“I could be the one suffering from space sweats on the examination table, looking up into the blinding light and saying, you gotta help me, doc, please.” — Brad Liening

I have this potentially bad habit when I’m reading literary journals online to look for the author’s third-person bio before I invest my full attention in their piece. It’s not because I necessarily care where they’ve published work in the past, or whether they even have any previous publications. I mostly just want to know whether or not a person is capable of writing a professional, presentable, and succinct bio in the third person. If a bio is too cute, too fraught with seemingly irrelevant quirky details, I am far more likely to dismiss the work in front of me as not serious than if the bio accompanying it is clear and simple. Consider the following two hypothetical bios:

A. John Doe lives and writes in New York City. He is working on a novel and a collection of stories.

B. John Doe likes eating sloppy joes and playing with his two cats, Sparky and Zipper. He took second place in the 2007 Missoula Moustache Tournament. He is a champion Warhammer player, commanding the fourth-largest army of orcs in the continental United States. He drives a Yamaha motorcycle and is frequently described as a “free spirit.”

Anyway, in the interest of fairness, I’m trying to get out of this habit. Maybe I should try wearing rubber bands on my wrists.

“So inseparable they were, we thought his middle name was an ampersand.” — Brennan Bestwick

“My eye is the eye of a storm. I rage and the earth quakes. I have eaten everything; all manner of creatures live inside of me like an ark.” — Brian Warfield

It is a mistake to believe that such a thing as a captive audience exists where no manacles are employed.

My friend once showed me an anthology of experimental poetry and prose that he bought at a bookshop in Portland, Oregon. What struck me about the anthology was that in every instance where the conjunction “and” would have been appropriate, there was instead an ampersand. I scoured the entire anthology for a single use of the word “and,” but there were only ampersands. Had I found a single story or poem that used the actual word instead of the symbol, I may have been able to convince myself that the pervasive use of ampersands was a stylistic tic shared by most, though not all, of the writers featured in the anthology. As it was, it seemed to me that it must have been an editorial decision to replace every “and” with an “&”.

“He said he wanted to put coal in my stocking. Said he had a package for me.” — David Wanczyk

“The way you sex makes discomfort” — Elizabeth Witte

“Opening a dictionary, he saw all of time ahead of him.” — Jake Syersak

“Baked Alaska among other things has a time & a place. This way we understand each other.” — Jenn Marie Nunes

If someone asks what the book I’m working on is about, I tell them, “Sex & Violence,” trying my hardest to make the ampersand audible. It usually ends the conversation.

My friend once wrote a song about me in which she informed everyone listening that “He’ll tell you he loves you if you give him a smile,” and that “He’s one motherfucking swanky creep.” Sure, I suppose that could mean anyone, but there were enough choice details to give it away, to me, at least. Anyway, I always thought Carly Simon was probably sneering just a bit too much when she wrote her signature line, “You’re so vain you probably think this song is about you.” Well. One should be so fortunate as to discover his or herself in another person’s vision.

“jealousy is a good place to start.” — John Mortara

“a source of emission, a channel wandering happy, alone” — Joseph A. W. Quintela

“The old woman bartender. Rebel is my name. Look it’s stitched right here on my left tit.” — Joseph Musso

“it’s ok, we wanted orchards in our front yards & rabbits in our lawn.” — Joshua Young

“someone made my bed, but nobody turned the covers down and tucked me in.” — Joslyn Sklar

I once wrote a short story where the narrator was dating a math major who wanted to write an equation or a formula that would explain or express sexual intercourse. My working title for the story was “The Fucking Algorithm.”

“If I cast my nets wide, will I catch you?” — Julie Marie Wade

“We knew something was wrong when we reached the horizon and it crumpled the car’s bumper.” — Mark Cunningham

Nobody holds the rights to the concept of entropy. Nobody has a license on infinity.

My friend told me she’d been dating a guy for a few weeks, but they hadn’t had sex and she was getting frustrated and/or bored. All she was looking for was some casual sex, but the guy was too formal for that, too polite. She told me he was a fencer. Well, let me tell you: I don’t like fencers. I never have. I suggested to her that perhaps the guy she was dating had some sort of unusual, though probably not uncommon complex. Perhaps, I said, he was ashamed of or confused by the pork sword between his legs, and his fencing foil was simply a phallic surrogate. I thought she might stop talking to me after that, but she said that I just could be right. She said that the fencer liked to have “friendly debates” with her. She said a willingness to participate in “friendly debates” was something he looked for in the girls he went with. I said I thought that sounded like a terrible idea in every way. I said that if I was going to have a debate, I wanted it to be goddamn antagonistic, and I wanted at least one party to leave in tears. Anyway. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t like fencers, and that I never have.

“I’ve never seen anything as sinless as your pale thin wrists—file under Things I Should Have Told You When I Had You Here in the Passenger Seat.” — Matthew Burnside

“YEAH THAT’S RIGHT BITCH I’M WEARIN YOUR UNDERWEAR HUH YEAH THAT’S RIGHT BITCH I’M WEARIN YOUR UNDERWEAR” — Meghan Lamb

“of course it is harder to have a culturally sentimental definition of start then start over.” — Mel Coyle

“This was in the time of lake mermaids and cargo ships.” — Michael Seidel

“There’s this one bullet that haunts the metropolis in search of a recipient it shall never meet.” — Miggy Angel

I’m up late writing about heroin addictions again. Like there aren’t already enough ways to die young.

Yesterday the wind was blowing like an astronaut. I was in a peacoat and a seersucker shirt. Someone stopped me in the sidewalk and asked for my name. “Puddintane,” I said. “Ask me again, I’ll tell you the same.” He asked me again. I looked him in the eye and said, “Neil Armstrong.”

“Redemption in the depths. It seemed too easy.” — Sara Crowley

“Given what we called ourselves, I think we would have named our sons after warlords, our daughters after shipwrecks.” — Shannon Hozinec

“It is not appropriate to discuss children dying so early in the morning.” — Shelby Hinte

2006, 2007: The brown-eyed girl with a clockwork smile wants to know what I’m thinking. As if I could be thinking of anything but the erection in my pants as we brush fingertips under the blanket out in the grass beneath a California sky of constellations. As though she’s shocked to discover we’re hardly the first to think these things. As if she’s horrified to know we aren’t characters in a coming-of-age novel.

“Perhaps a strawberry crushed beneath a foot and your heart explodes in your chest.” — Stefan Milne

“I have so much skin. Perfect curves, melting.” — Zoelle Egner

As we approach the end of 2012, we may be required to begin thinking more seriously about the apocalypse. Shall it come in the form of impossibly large whales that beach themselves in our greatest cities, or slowly, painlessly, like memory loss, like losing one’s mind in a beautiful place out in the country? Like I give a damn. Did you ever see the movie where Dustin Hoffman plays Lenny Bruce? Actors make the best mercenaries.

Did you ever read something and have the distinct feeling that someone had peered into your mind, or your heart of darkness? Did you experience discomfort, unease, fear of a Big Brother, or were you relieved that someone had finally understood, that someone else had finally understood and put it all so elegantly, did you feel the lifting of a burden, did your body fill with joy? I never knew quite what I was thinking, or what I was experiencing. Like I gave a damn.

Ian Sanquist