Midwestern Gothic: Fall 2013 – Issue 11: 2013 Book #37

Midwestern Gothic, Fall 2013, Issue 11The Fall Issue of Midwestern Gothic is a special one – for the first time we’re focusing exclusively on Creative Nonfiction. Over the course of publishing over ten issues we’d always get a few request here and there about whether we accepted essays. This go round, we thought it’d be interesting to deviate from our format a little bit and explore the Midwest in a new way.

Even though folks don’t think of us as a Creative Nonfiction publication – we still received a lot of fantastic work from around the Midwest. There was plenty we loved that we had to turn down. A lot of the essays we received explored similar themes and it became an unenviable task to put together an issue that covered the spectrum of the Midwestern experience without becoming a one-note issue. As always, I was extremely happy with the result – if only because we published a handful of humorous pieces in this one. We say we want the “good, bad and ugly,” and we get a lot of bad and ugly. It was refreshing to read pieces that made me laugh out loud for once. (Take note, send happy stories in the future, guys!)

My favorite in this issue was “Beating Up Chuck Klosterman by Scott Winter. Right from the beginning scene, in which he pays off the title right away, you can’t help but chuckle at Winter’s self depreciating and unecessarily vindictive writing. The whole piece is about how the author has lived and dealt with a perceived rivalry and Klosterman’s meteoric rise in the world of not just literature, but pop culture. Here’s a short excerpt:

The fantasy is visceral and consequential and really pretty easy. We step out into the alley behind the Zoo Bar, the three of us, and Pete and I light up our straight Marlboros, not the Lights we’ve been smoking with the idea of tapering off to healthier lungs and longer lives. But who needs to prolong lives like these, anyway?

We talk to him about the Oscars, about the upcoming Transformers movie, about Family Guy or the BCS system or Oprah’s Book Club—any sort of low-level cultural phenomenon that seems to fascinate him, as shown in his books, in his radio commentary, in his sports blogging. In mid-sentence, I bull-rush him into the dumpster. More than my 190 pounds, what pins him there is his shock. I deliver body blows until his ego drops somewhere beneath his bruised kidneys. I’m all adrenaline and I knock his teeth into his throat, then I’m spent. Above his bloody face and broken horn-rims, I light up another smoke, and Pete and I head inside to finish our beers, drinking in the taste of the hops, the adrenaline of physical accomplishment and literary purification.

From this point forward, our lives would be better.

They would have to be.

Buy a copy of Midwestern Gothic Issue 11 and for the rest of the story and many more essays inspired by the Midwest.

Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy September/October 2013: 2013 Book #36

cov1309lg-2502 of 5 stars

If I had to sum up this magazine in one word, it would be “dated.” Granted, I have a preconceived notion going in as I’ve looked at this magazine as a writer, and they are one of the last few holdouts who still only accept submissions by mail only. However, some of the stories felt a few years too late, and even some of the little touches on their banners and marketing copy feel a little bit off, like a mom who wants to get technology, but doesn’t quite have the terminology right.

Two perfect examples was the story “MyPhone20”, and film commentary “Beam Me Up, J.J.” The story was clearly written by someone who’d held out and just got a smartphone, and was struck by the possibilities of how it might potentially impact how we interact with each other. This story would have been far more interesting five years ago. The film commentary was an odd essay on Abrams treatment of the Star Trek universe when placed against the Shatner- and Stewart-era shows/movies – but the publishing cycle must have been way too long, because Into Darkness came out almost a half year ago. This type of essay would have been much better suited on a blog and timed to come out with the movie.

All that said, I did enjoy a few of the stories. Particularly “The Queen of Eyes,” It felt like Gaiman’s “American Gods,” but done better and an appropriate length. “Hhasalin” was also a nice sci-fi tale set in an alternate world. It was one of those stories where the science fiction doesn’t get in the way of the story even though the world it takes place in is vastly different from our own.

One other feature that dragged this magazine down for me was the “Books to Watch” section. I’d think this would be a list of upcoming books the author enjoyed and wants to share with their readership, but he spent over half the review discussing flaws in the book – then ending by saying “You should definitely read this.” I’ll not mimic his technique here – I might give MF&SF another chance, but overall I was felt underwhelmed.