Fabula Argentea

We’re a quarter through the year, and so far I’ve made my commitment to review one literary journal or genre magazine a week. It’s been said that having routines helps one get through difficult times, so I’ll probably keep writing these reviews for a while.

Fabula Argentea is an online magazine published three times a year since 2012.

What they say about themselves: “Fabula Argentea (FA for short) is Latin for “silver story” and the name is pronounced FAH-boo-la ar-GEN-tee-ah (where the “g” is hard as in “grape”)… Our goal is to bring its readers the best writing we can find. Period. We accept a wide variety of material: genre, literary, humor, the grit of life, happy endings, sad endings, and perhaps the occasional spicy story… The most important aspect of anything we publish is good writing and a great story to accompany it… We encourage all authors to reach deep inside themselves to come up with pieces that will impress us, pieces that will have readers telling friends about, that will stay with us and not be easily forgotten. Think outside the box. Break some rules and do it up right.”

Issue reviewed: Issue 29, January 2020

Genre: Speculative fiction, with a decided comic tone to most but not all stories

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget: “Well Regulated,” by Matt McHugh. A wealthy young technology entrepreneur appears before a Senate committee and demonstrates a device that threatens to disrupt America’s fascination with guns. A story that leaves you wondering who the bad guys really are.

Clapperboard Rating: Three KLAKs. The characters in the stories are always up to something.

Profanometer: Dammit. The language was actually a bit toned down from what I expected.

The Dark

The latest in my ongoing series of journal and magazine reviews.

Founded in 2013, The Dark is a monthly online magazine.

What they say about themselves: The magazine doesn’t say a lot about itself, but the submission guidelines are significant — “Don’t be afraid to experiment or to deviate from the ordinary; be different—try us with fiction that may fall out of ‘regular’ categories. However, it is also important to understand that despite the name, The Dark is not a market for graphic, violent horror.”

Issue reviewed: Issue 57, February 2019

Genre: Horror and Dark Fantasy

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget: “Live Through This,” by Nadia Bulkin. When a high school student kills herself after being raped, her corpse appears in homes throughout her small town. A culture of violence and abuse comes back to haunt a community.

Clapperboard Rating: Four KLAKs. You always know something’s waiting for you in the next paragraph, and it always arrives.

Profanometer: Sunuvabitch. The language appropriately edgy for the material.

Kenyon Review

The latest in my ongoing series of journal and magazine reviews.

Kenyon Review is published as a print journal six times a year by Kenyon College in central Ohio. A companion online journal, KR Online, is published every other week.

What they say about themselves: “Building on a tradition of excellence dating back to 1939, the Kenyon Review has evolved from a distinguished literary magazine to a pre-eminent arts organization. Today, KR is devoted to nurturing, publishing, and celebrating the best in contemporary writing. We’re expanding the community of diverse readers and writers, across the globe, at every stage of their lives.”

Issue reviewed: November/December 2019

Genre: Literary realism, for the print edition; I did not investigate the online journal for this review

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget: “One Summer (Thomas and Anna),” by Robert Coover. The titular characters are a soldier and nurse stationed in an unnamed country at an unspecified time, although the setting definitely evokes England in World War II. Thomas and Anna begin an illicit affair which causes them to reflect on the nature of the human soul. Their affair is discovered, and they are coerced into assisting with a grisly experiment.

Clapperboard Rating: Two KLAKs. The characters struggle with their own thoughts more than they do with each other or with outside forces.

Profanometer: Dammit. The f-bombs are there, although I get the impression the authors don’t enjoy using them.

Silas Marner

Silas MarnerA first for me — an audiobook review inspired by a blog comment.

George Eliot’s 1861 novel reminded me a great deal of Dickens, but without the cloying sentimentality or excessive length that characterize much of the latter’s work. Set in early nineteenth century rural England, the tale’s title character is a working-class weaver forced by an unjust accusation into a life of miserly solitude. His fate intersects with the life of an upper-middle-class family desperate to hold on to its privilege. When a baby literally walks into his life (a Dickensian moment, the only part of the novel that seemed contrived), Marner experiences what his life could have been had he not been falsely accused and convicted as a young man.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable work (and thanks again to Dave Z’art for the recommendation).  Marner is not a hero by any definition, yet his simplicity and humility make him engaging. Eliot also conveys his condition without delving into pathos. The interaction between Marner and the family of Squire Cass seemed genuine; their attempts to communicate with each other are blocked by the awareness of their class difference. What I probably enjoyed most was the ending. Marner attempts to right the false accusation which had begun his time in solitude, and a more sentimental novelist would probably have given him this satisfaction. Eliot, however, uses this moment to make an ironic comment about the rise of the English middle class, and chooses to underscore the message Marner has learned in his journey: the wealth he has found in his unlikely family is far greater than the gold he’s lost along the way.

Andrew Sachs doesn’t interject a lot of personality in his audiobook performance, as his character voices don’t have a great deal of variety. Yet for a work as strong as this, it’s better for the narrator to stay out of the way.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Today’s installment in my ongoing series of journal and magazine reviews leads me to one of my all-time favorites. I’ll know I’ve made it as a short-story writer when I see my byline on the pages of…

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has been one of the most acclaimed genre fiction journals since its founding in 1949. Appearing during the heyday of pulp magazines, it is one of few survivors, and is now published six times a year. I had a subscription back in my college days and devoured each issue, and when I’ve picked it back up on occasion in the following years, I’ve never been disappointed.

What they say about themselves: “We have no formula for fiction. We are looking for stories that will appeal to science fiction and fantasy readers. The SF element may be slight, but it should be present. We prefer character-oriented stories. We receive a lot of fantasy fiction, but never enough science fiction or humor.” In addition to short stories, the magazine also publishes novellas, poetry, reviews, and cartoons.

Issue reviewed: May/June 2019

Genre: Speculative literature, with equal emphasis on both words. At its best, the fiction in F&SF is far superior to the dreary self-indulgence found in too many literary journals.

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget: Since I like this magazine so much, and it’s my blog, I’m breaking my own rule and mentioning two stories.

  • “The Fourth Trimester is the Strangest,” by Rebecca Campbell. There are no allusions to The Yellow Wallpaper, but this unsettling tale of postpartum psychosis compares favorably to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic.
  • “Apocalypse Considered Through a Helix of Semiprecious Foods and Recipes,” by Tobias S. Buckell. The author uses food to provide fresh perspectives on four well-worn tropes of apocalyptic literature, then sets the final vignette in modern-day America. It ends with a well-chosen quote from William Gibson: “The future is here. It is just unevenly distributed.”

Clapperboard Rating: Four KLAKs. You want to keep reading not only because you can’t wait to find out what happens next, but also to continue appreciating the artistry of the writing.

Profanometer: Dammit. There’s the occasional f-bomb, and when a character lies another calls bullshit, but the language never distracts from the story.

Gordon Square Review

We’re into the third month of the year, and so far I’ve honored my commitment to write a review of a literary journal each week. It’s been a pleasant task so far… let’s see how I feel around August.

Gordon Square Review is an online journal published twice each year by Literary Cleveland, “a nonprofit organization committed to creating a vital, diverse, and supportive literary community in Northeast Ohio.”

What they say about themselves: “Literary Cleveland is headquartered in the Gordon Square Arts District, which serves as the cultural heart of Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Gordon Square Review embraces its namesake’s ideals surrounding creativity, artistic exploration, and the value of supporting and celebrating emerging talent.”

Issue reviewed: Issue 5, November 2019

Genre: Mostly literary realism, with a few fantasy and science fiction tales

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget: “The Name under the Picture,” by M. Bennardo. Almost entirely description, with no dialogue, not immediately accessible, and the most well-crafted short story I’ve read in a long time. Since Gordon Square Review is a free journal, I’m including the link here and encourage you to read it. You have to read it twice (It’s pretty short), and between readings you’ll probably want to check the Wikipedia page for the painter who’s the subject of the story. It’s definitely worth your time.

Clapperboard Rating: Three KLAKs. The fantasy and science fictions are more “literary” than the stories found in genre magazines, but they have their fair share of suspense.

Profanometer: Dammit. They keep their language pretty clean.

Zorba the Greek

At the start of my book and audiobook reviews, I typically explain what motivated my choice. For Nikos Kazantzakis’ 1946 novel, inspiration came from a boyhood enjoyment of instrumental music. I liked all kinds of popular music back in the day, but songs with a lively beat and no singing were a particular joy. Without the interpretation implied by lyrics, I was free to relate to the music however I pleased. This lead to a fondness for Sousa marches, and for contemporary artists like Herb Alpert. I loved Alpert’s trumpet, and his version of the theme song from the 1964 film based on Kazantzakis’ novel was a particular pleasure, so much so that I knew I’d have to read the book someday. Nearly half a century later, I finally purchsed the audiobook. I prefer to be more impressed by the enduring power of youthful passions than dismayed at the amount of time I spent watching ball games or bad movies instead. Fortunately, lengthy anticipation did not this time lead to disappointment. The relationship between the novel’s first-person narrator and titular character could easily have descended into any number of binary cliches — man of mind/man of body, curiosity/appetite, urban/rural — both characters come alive as distinctive personalities, and their bond takes them to some genuinely unexpected places and inspires philosophical insights from both of them. George Guidall’s performance on the audiobook was solid enough to make two weeks of car trips enjoyable. Unfortunately, the experience wasn’t entirely satisfying. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was a work that needed to be studied, yet by their nature audiobooks don’t lend themselves well to analysis, unless you hit rewind frequently and use a voice recorder for taking notes. There was little opportunity to investigate some of the historical and cultural references, or analyze challenging passages. One scene in which a female character perishes in a horrific fashion left me very uneasy, but there was no opportunity to investigate that moment. As much as I enjoyed the audiobook, I know I didn’t catch all the novel’s complexities; the kid who enjoyed Herb Alpert’s rapid-fire notes feels a little cheated, so maybe next time I’m on vacation I’ll get the full experience of reading the darn thing.

Typehouse Literary Magazine

One thing I haven’t explained yet in my ongoing series of literary journal reviews (more on that can be found here) is that I’m focusing solely on the short fiction available in these publications. Many of these journals also publish flash fiction, as well as poetry and non-fiction. If I broaden my literary ambitions someday, I may need to re-read all these journals again, which wouldn’t be such a bad fate.

Typehouse Literary Magazine is published three times a year by a group of writers and artists from Portland, Oregon. Unlike many literary journals, Typehouse is not affiliated with any academic or creative writing program.

What they say about themselves: “While our content is primarily for adults, we welcome submissions from creators ranging from highschool age to one hundred plus. Our purpose is to showcase previously unpublished material of all genres, that seeks to offer a fresh, unique perspective of the human experience, with a focus on underrepresented voices of all kinds.”

Issue reviewed: Issue 17 (volume 6, number 2), published sometime around the middle of 2019

Genre: You name it. The issue I read contained literary realism, science fiction, and fantasy.

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget:The Me Paradox,” by Gina Hanson. A woman travels back in time to prevent her younger self from entering a relationship that will eventually devastate her/them. It can be a bit trite to say that experiences shape who we become, but conveying that message in a clever and entertaining tale makes that lesson seem real.

Clapperboard Rating: Three KLAKs. While there wasn’t a lot of action or tension in the stories, the writing was consistently imaginative and engaging. I definitely enjoyed this one.

Profanometer: Dammit. It’s refreshing to read authors who don’t feel they have to use rough language to convey the immediacy of their thoughts.

Colorado Review

One of my goals for this year is to write a review of a literary journal each week. Doing pretty well so far. I explain exactly why I’m doing this here.

Founded in 1956, Colorado Review is published three times a year by the Center for Literary Publishing, affiliated with Colorado State University.

What they say about themselves:Colorado Review is a national literary journal featuring contemporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and book reviews. Each issue is approximately 200 pages… Colorado Review is committed to the publication of contemporary creative writing. We are equally interested in work by both new and established writers. CR does not publish genre fiction, nor do we subscribe to a particular literary philosophy or school of poetry or fiction.

Issue reviewed: Summer 2019 (volume 46, issue 2)

Genre: Literary realism

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget: “Are You Happy?” by Lori Ostlund. In order to visit his dying mother, a gay man returns to his family home after a long and awkward absence. It’s a storyline that’s been done many times, and what I admire is how the author makes Phil’s responses seem genuine and moving rather than trite and cliched.

Clapperboard Rating: Two KLAKs. The focus is on interior thoughts and feelings rather than external action.

Profanometer: Sonovabitch. I definitely need to change my criteria for this category.


The latest in my series of reviews of literary journals. More information about these reviews can be found here.

From its origin in 2014 as a collaboration between graduates of the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, Sequestrum is an online-only literary journal that’s published quarterly (more or less).

What they say about themselves:We publish concise, evocative writing that couldn’t exist in any other form, yet reminds us of the breadth and scope of longer works. Brew us in the morning to swirl with your coffee grounds, or let our bones rattle and sing their skeleton song on your daily subway ride. In the whir of modern life, we spread our splintered dreams under your feet; tread softly, for you tread on our dreams—be them home to many a toothy edge.

Issue reviewed: Issue 21, 4th Quarter 2019

Genre: Literary realism, but with a strong predilection for unorthodox characters and unusual situations.

One Story I’ll Remember to not Forget: I’m tempted to nominate Andreas Trolf’s “Sean Will Eat (or Drink) Anything (Except Straight-Up Poison) for $35” because, you know, the title. However, “After the Monkey” by Susan Robison is really the story that caught my interest. Tom and Annie, a young couple devastated after Annie’s second miscarriage, decide to train an infant capuchin monkey for a year.

Clapperboard Rating: Three KLAKs. The stories don’t feature much action, but the storylines are unique and engaging, leaving me anxious to find out what happens next.

Profanometer: Sonovabitch. I think it’s time to revise my ratings in this category, as it’s getting hard to find stories in literary journals that don’t toss in a few f-bombs. I wonder what the late George Carlin would have to say about that.