the first part of this introduction
Once, not so long ago, some youngsters walked into the world feeling reasonable and passionate. When they felt a certain kind of reasonable, passion called the shots, and when they felt a certain kind of passionate, reason did.
Sometimes the youngsters felt so much of one or the other that who they thought they were just about disappeared.
This disappearance could be thrilling or terrifying—the world they were of might act for them, calling the shots, bending them into bravery or cowardice, kindness or cruelty. They might be given gifts or ground into pudding, flung into chasms or led by hand to nearby heavens. They might steal a candy bar or kick a bully in the crotch.
They were many things at many times and were okay with this mystery.
They turned to tales.
In tales—fairy tales, wondertales, folktales, legends, myths, anecdotes, rumors, riddles—the youngsters found worlds they weren’t of to step into.
At first the youngsters felt that what they wanted most was the right plot, adventure, or characters. These elements seemed to help them step into the tale. They called this stepping “magic,” and looked to every tale to provide it.
What the youngsters discovered, however, was that the teller gave the tale its magic. A seemingly good tale in the wrong hands didn’t enchant, but a seemingly bad one, in the right hands, did. This became clear when they retold tales, when they did or didn’t tell them better.
They began to pay attention in a different way.
Soon, another discovery: most tellers refused to take credit for any magic, giving it all to the tales themselves.
This was confusing, but not when the youngsters sensed the relationship between teller and tale—a third being, a lively intangible entity, and if powerful, if made of something bigger than the teller or the tale alone, the youngsters would tingle in anticipation of disappearing into it.
The youngsters gathered in green woods. Standing in a circle, they agreed: what they’d been looking for from the get-go was the right language, language they could step into, language that immersed them (through its rendering of beauty, rhythm, voice, character, plot, wisdom, mystery, play) into the world of the tale.
Some pointed out that in most tales there was a moment when a character or voice or figure stopped being surprised by the world’s rules and knew what to do, and did it. Their world acted through them.
Some suggested that the world of the tale was actually their world, that there wasn’t a difference.
“Folktales are real,” said Italo Calvino. He was perched in a tree, eating cheese.
The youngsters sat down.
Italo Calvino winked one eye, then the other, and split into two smiling men: Italo and Calvino. They both tumbled out of the tree.
Italo paced about and waved his hands. Calvino, who had the cheese, took a seat on a spongy mushroom.
“Taken all together,” said Italo, circling the circle of youngsters, “they offer, in their oft-repeated and constantly varying examinations of human vicissitudes, a general explanation of life preserved in the slow ripening of rustic consciences; these folk stories are the catalog of the potential destinies of men and women, especially for that stage in life when destiny is formed, i.e., youth…”
Chewing, Calvino added, “The infinite possibilities of mutation, the unifying element in everything: men, beasts, plants, things.”
The youngsters stood up. Each took their own way out of the woods.
The youngsters mutated infinitely into and out of adulthood.
All the adults they’d known, moms and dads and uncles and aunts and grandparents, teachers and waiters and artists and operations analysts and mechanics, infinitely mutated too.
Some wrote poetry and prose, prose poetry, poetry-prose.
When you go here what you’ll discover is a “catalog of potential destinies”: stunning works that through loved language invite the reader to step into the imaginative worlds that they are of. These worlds are tragic and comic, stewed and raw, dense and airy, head and heart, soul and bones, piss and peaches, vinegar and cream. These worlds are once upon a time right now. These worlds are our world and always will be.
I was just there and I want to tell you that I am grateful. I am grateful to be going back.
Below are twenty-seven invitations—a single line from each piece in this exciting, thoughtful, and innovative issue of > kill author, an issue rich in writerly talent and ambition. The following lines aren’t meant to represent the writers’ pieces, which represent themselves, but only to mark moments of pure immersive magic when, for any number of any number of reasons, I felt the rising of the world around me. I felt it calling the shots.
When you read these works, I know you’ll feel it too.
A.A. Balaskovits: “The father wrung his hands and covered his face and said, Oh, where can I find a young man who will love the easily bruised fruit of my loins?”
Alex Haber: “In the mirror, he left a mark.”
Anhvu Buchanan: “Set up a tree fort across the window of your lover with binoculars in hand.”
Brandon Amico: “Our bodies are stone. / These wishes to fly come from a need / to be what we are not.”
Caroline Hagood: “tried to make my delirium into something I could serve at a dinner party.”
David Greenspan: “Francis cannot talk because his mouth is full of seagull. Feathers are sticking out of his teeth at right angles.”
David Mohan: “Curled in a fist the future form sits tight in its shell—soon as the sun turns it will unclasp, exhale, its first exhalation a cloud of spores.”
Declan Tan: “All of the faces began melding into one, a super-face that was a dastardly thing to behold, as you can imagine if you take the time to picture a giant super-face.”
Diana Salier: “i gave a cookie to all the bad things that were happening around us.”
Donald Dunbar: “If I could just clamp around him with my ass and digest him upwards.”
Drew Roberts: “Rodolius Dorsey sounds like a nether dimension nemesis: the face that emerges from the pointillism of our collective perversions.”
Fortunato Salazar: “I want Stan not to realize that his sounds resemble not only noisy migration but also applause.”
Gabriel Valjan: “The reflection in the mirror is an object. It possesses the quality of reflecting, but it has no identity. It does not know itself.”
Garrett Socol: “She wanted to ask her how she knew her father, but the woman’s fedora flew off her head and when she ran to retrieve it, she disappeared.”
Gary J. Shipley: “we happy in horse, we dead in fly, we deadhorsehappy in the horseflyhorse.”
Ian Sanquist: “The story doesn’t really go anywhere for a while, until God intervenes, and then the moral kicks in, and a number of impossible or improbable things occur.”
James P. Elliott: “We share a thunder-laugh; blood-goo quakes.”
James Tadd Adcox: “‘It was kind of a joke,’ Viola said. ‘I don’t think he got it.’”
Kira Clark: “There are slits all over this body this body that limits me.”
Krishan Coupland: “He wants to have a baby and a basket of clams. He doesn’t know what he wants, or why he wants it.”
Neila Mezynski: “Been there in between so long.”
Nic Alea: “on the third floor they found a gas mask and a bucket full of ice picks.”
Paul Hostovsky: “A murder of crows, an unkindness of ravens, restore my faith in the collective noun.”
Rachel Springer: “Thank you for bridging gaps: a brassiere, Saturday hours, the hottest neck.”
Sierra DeMulder: “He heaved / the Love onto the butcher’s block, / lifted its limp neck.”
Stevie Edwards: “Eat / and be whole. Don’t let this death / thieve a room in your stomach.”
Will Clingan: “And they’ll never listen to you, never learning anything even when they do it the hard way and yep, yep, yep because gobbledegook is whoop-whoop.”
Joseph Scapellato was born in the suburbs of Chicago and earned his MFA in Fiction at New Mexico State University. His work appears in Kenyon Review Online, Gulf Coast, Post Road, Unsaid, Artifice, > kill_author, and others. Joseph is Blog Editor at The Collagist. Currently he’s working on a novel and a collection of short stories. He can be reached at [email protected]