Sunday, March 9, 2014

review: Lackington's Magazine, Issue 1

I've never reviewed a magazine before, but now seems like a good time to start, since Lackington's Magazine, a new journal of speculative prose, has arrived on the scene. Issue One features work by some of my favorite writers of speculative fiction, and each story is illustrated with original artwork. The image at left, by Paula Arwen Friedlander, accompanies "Mon pays c'est l'hiver," a poignant and jewel-like fairy tale by Amal El-Mohtar. Amal is one of my favorite writers, and she edits the poetry journal Goblin Fruit with Jessica Wick and Caitlyn Paxson, and as soon as I saw she had a piece in Lackington's I remembered a conversation, which took place maybe a year ago, maybe more, among several people who were saying, "We wish there was a Goblin Fruit for prose."


So goodbye Goblin Fruit fans, because by this time you have all left to read Lackington's, as well you should. For the rest of you, what I mean by "Goblin Fruit for prose" is that Lackington's offers fiction that's fantastical in the manner of folk ballads and romances, with that same sense of mystery and richness of language, but which turns the romantic impulse toward a broad range of subjects: contemporary identities, trauma, 20th-century history, sorority rivalries, interplanetary travel, the bond between humans and their pets. The stories draw on different branches of speculative fiction--fairy tale, epic fantasy, science fiction, slipstream--but share the common ground of attention to and delight in language. Lackington's Magazine is a feast of words.

Issue One contains the following stories:

Their Dead So Near, by Kate Heartfield

Secret history of Ottawa. Forgotten bones, fragments of text from headstones, ghostly voices under the dog park.

Mon pays c'est l'hiver, by Amal El-Mohtar

"She folds oceans into hours, pens hours into thoughts, pins thoughts to the sight of a tilting moon shining a blue light home." A luminous parable about making, rather than finding, your way home.

An Orange Tree Framed Your Body, by Alex Dally MacFarlane

A story about memory, trauma, identity and family unfolds in a vividly imagined alternate universe.

Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta, by Helen Marshall

Sharp, wicked tale of a romance with Death. Death has eyes the color of pigeon feathers. Like a movie star, he can't tell you his real name.

Balloons, by Christine Miscione

A woman is rescued by a dog--perhaps once, perhaps twice--in this brief story of renewal and death.

A City on Its Tentacles, by Rose Lemberg

"There is an octopus in the heart of the Undersea; its every tentacle carries a street, a city, and at night when its people light their reading lamps the octopus shimmers." The story you tell might save someone. A Rose Lemberg story might save you.

On Every Boy's Skin (All the Stars Ever, Also Bones), by Erik Amundsen

Melancholy story about interplanetary travel, adaptation and loss.

"Story and character are indispensable," says Lackington's editor Ranylt Richildis, "but so is wordcraft." In the foreword to the issue, Richildis argues that speculative fiction is dominated by "dependable frameworks and digestible language," by a "hook-plot-epiphany" structure that results in an "unintentional sameness" in the genre. Lackington's is meant to provide something different, richer and stranger in form, and Issue One succeeds brilliantly. It's the flashes of poetry I remember most clearly from my reading--the detached words from gravestones scattered over the page in "Their Dead So Near," the evocative titles to the sections of "An Orange Tree Framed Your Body," the abalone lighthouse of "A City on Its Tentacles," the velvet evenings of "Mon pays c'est l'hiver." I'll be keeping my eye on Lackington's, as will many other readers--the travelers and ravelers, to borrow Amal's words. Welcome, new magazine!


pat said...

This looks fantastic! Thanks for reviewing it, or I never would have heard of it.

Sofia said...

Glad I helped you find it, Pat! It's great.