Permafrost

This series of reviews of literary journals and genre magazines has become quite irregular, yet I’ll keep it going until it no longer interests me. As of today, I’m still interested.

Permafrost is a literary magazine founded by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 1977. The journal publishes an online and print edition every year.

What They Say About Themselves: “As the editors of the farthest north literary magazine, we’ve chosen an unconventional, expansive place to live. That, too, is what we seek in your submissions… Like many people, we’d rather read an interesting failure than something safe and boring, but interesting successes are really what we’re after here. Engage us. Challenge our perceptions. Increase our capacity for empathy. Make us aware of prejudices we didn’t know we had. Teach us how to see beauty in the way that you do.”

Issue Reviewed: 42.2 (2021)

Genre: Mostly literary realism, although there’s a good deal of speculative work as well

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Elevation,” by Alfredo Lafarga. Alex struggles to hike up a mountain after receiving a cryptic voicemail message from a woman who knows his brother. A convincing tale about two people who love a man they know doesn’t deserve to be loved.

Exploding Helicopters: Three Explosions. Most stories were very engaging.

Profanometer: Dammit. Not as many four-letter words as I find in other literary journals.

Blue Mesa Review

The latest in my irregular series of reviews of literary journals and genre magazines.

The creative writing department at the University of New Mexico has published Blue Mesa Review twice a year since 1989.

What They Say About Themselves: “We are committed to providing your work with a great home. We believe we are on the forefront of creating a lovely, readable space for great writing online and in print. At BMR we understand that literary magazines have a responsibility to writers, and we work hard to provide a space that you can feel proud to publish your work in. We also are constantly working to find creative ways to support writers financially; one such way being our Annual Summer Contest. As a magazine that receives no funding from our affiliated University, we are currently working on creating a payment structure for writers. We are a magazine run by writers, so we understand the financial burden that can come with creating beautiful work. We hope to ease that burden by supporting good writing in a practical way in the coming year.”

Issue Reviewed: 44 (Fall 2021)

Genre: Literary realism with speculative touches

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Scorched Earth: The Legacy of the Globizent Affair,” by Kelly Neal. Written in the form of a near-future academic paper, the story analyzes an absurd conflict among employees at a corporation that produces nothing but pettiness. As a refugee from both academia and corporate inanity, I appreciated this dual satire.

Exploding Helicopters: Three Explosions. Not a lot of action, but the narrative voices kept me engaged.

Profanometer: Sonovabitch. A little more profanity than I’ve found in most literary journals, yet not excessive.

Event Poetry & Prose

Nearly every literary journal and genre magazine recommends reading a sample issue before submitting work to it. That’s one of the motivations for my ongoing series of reviews — to demonstrate I’ve done my homework.

Event Poetry & Prose is a literary journal founded in 1971. Published by Douglas College in British Columbia, the journal comes out three issues a year.

What They Say About Themselves: “For 50 years, EVENT has published the very best in contemporary new poetry and prose. We are one of Western Canada’s longest-running literary magazines, and welcome submissions written in English from around the world. Each issue of EVENT includes high quality fiction, poetry, non-fiction and book reviews, and we feature emerging and established writers side-by-side in our pages. We also print commissioned illustrations alongside the writing, and each cover features the work of a BC photographer.”

Issue Reviewed: Volume 46, Issue 1 (Spring/Summer 2017). This was the complimentary issue offered when I signed up for the journal’s newsletter.

Genre: Literary realism

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “My Holocaust Survivor,” by Méira Cook. Daniel is a disaffected high school student interviewing an elderly Holocaust survivor in a senior center for a school project. Resentful at the assignment and disgusted by the ill-mannered man he interviews, Daniel eventually discovers a unique bond with the survivor. Stories on this subject can be predictable and maudlin, but this story was neither. I appreciated this fresh take.

Exploding Helicopters: One Explosion. The stories featured a great deal of dialogue and introspection, but very little conflict.

Profanometer: Dammit. After two-plus years of reviewing literary journals, I’m coming to believe that writers routinely throw in an f-bomb or two as a perfunctory demonstration of their stories’ adult content. I know that’s cynical, but then again I am kind of a fucking jerk.  

The Sun Magazine

After a couple journeys into the dark side of fiction, I’m returning to more “literary” work in my series of reviews of literary journals and genre magazines

Published in North Carolina, The Sun Magazine is an independent monthly journal of art and opinion.

What They Say About Themselves:The Sun is an independent, ad-free magazine that for more than forty years has used words and photographs to evoke the splendor and heartache of being human. Each monthly issue celebrates life, but not in a way that ignores its complexity. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry, and photographs that appear in The Sun’s pages explore the challenges we face and the moments when we rise to meet them.

From its idealistic, unlikely inception in 1974 to its current incarnation as a nonprofit magazine with more than 70,000 subscribers, The Sun has attempted to marry the personal and political; to challenge the status quo and reveal injustice; to honor courageous and honest writing; and to touch the mystery of our humanity. In a world where advertising pursues us almost everywhere, The Sun remains a rare ad-free sanctuary.”

Issue Reviewed: Issue 553 (January 2022)

Genre: Literary realism

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “The River Corrib,” by Mohan Fitzgerald. A Canadian musician emigrates to Ireland and begins an affair with a woman whose father was a famous painter before dying two years earlier. When the woman’s mother loses possession of the painter’s portfolio, the musician agrees to help move the paintings. The balance between dialogue and narrative description was well done in this story. Honorable Mention: “Disclosure and Consent,” by Hanna Bartels, written as a patient disclosure form.

Exploding Helicopters: One Explosion. Not much dramatic tension in the stories.

Profanometer: Dammit. The f-bombs in this story were limited to the dialogue of a character for whom swearing seemed as easy as breathing.

Fever Dream

Remaining in the dark for my next review of literary journals and genre magazines

An online journal,  Fever Dream posts new content several times each month.

What They Say About Themselves:Fever Dream is a new online literary journal of maniac mutterings, half-remembered hallucinations, and all manner of stories that burrow their way into your brain when the clock strikes midnight. This doesn’t mean that we are strictly a horror journal (though horror submissions are enthusiastically welcomed), more that we look for work with a particular sense of odd and alluring darkness (especially those that explore mental illness/neurodivergence through a fantastical lens).”

Issue Reviewed: Since the journal doesn’t publish updates as issues, I reviewed content posted in the last three months.

Genre: Horror

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “The Lunatical,” by Ceda Parkinson. As a very big object from space descends on the Earth, Satomi hears music from an unknown source as her family and the world around her deteriorates. A lyrical apocalyptic tale.

Exploding Helicopters: Two Explosions. There’s more internal than external conflict and threat in the stories.

Profanometer: Dammit. For the most part, the language was pretty tame.

Coffin Bell

I’ve been reviewing a lot of literary journals in my ongoing series of reviews, so today I’m going to the other extreme

Coffin Bell is a quarterly online magazine of dark fiction, first published in 2017. The journal has also published two print anthologies.

What They Say About Themselves: “Dark times call for dark literature.

Coffin Bell is a new quarterly online journal of dark literature seeking poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and creative nonfiction exploring dark themes. When we say “dark themes,” we don’t necessarily mean traditional horror. Send us your waking nightmares, dark CNF, dystopian flash, cursed verse. Surprise us. Make us think in a new way. Give us a new fear. Make our skin crawl.”

Issue Reviewed: Volume 5, Issue 1

Genre: Horror, Gothic

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Sadie,” by Alex Davidson. The title character is a young woman who attends a funeral then rushes back to her apartment for a blind date. The fun starts when he comments on her dog cage and she responds that she doesn’t have a dog. This one definitely had me guessing, right up to its chilling end.

Exploding Helicopters: Four Explosions. Most of the stories featured very compelling action and intrigue.

Profanometer: Sonofabitch. The language was a little excessive at times, but that’s the nature of this genre.

The Missouri Review

Another in my ongoing, semi-regular reviews of literary journals and genre magazines

The Missouri Review, founded in 1978, is published four times a year by the University of Missouri.

What They Say About Themselves: “The Missouri Review, founded in 1978, is one of the most highly regarded literary magazines in the United States. For the past four decades we’ve upheld a reputation for finding and publishing the very best writers first. We are based at the University of Missouri and publish four issues each year. Each issue contains approximately five new stories, three new poetry features, and two essays, all selected from unsolicited submissions sent by writers throughout the world. The Missouri Review maintains an “open submission” policy; we read year-round, sifting through approximately 12,000 submissions each year.”

Issue Reviewed: Volume 44, Issue 3 (October 2021)

Genre: Literary realism

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Picnic, Ocean, Hatred,” by Kristen Iskandrian. Katie suffered a loss 20 years ago that still angers her. “She knew there were people out there who turned their grief into love, but she wasn’t one of those people, in the same way that she wasn’t a gymnast or a farmer.” An unconventional tale about grieving which is at times funny without any jokes or laugh lines.

Exploding Helicopters: One Explosion. Far more focus on interior struggle rather than exterior conflict in these stories.

Profanometer: Dammit. Each story had a solitary f-bomb

Harper’s Magazine

A couple years ago, I began posting reviews of literary journals and genre magazines. I maintained a nearly weekly commitment with that series for about a year, but my enthusiasm definitely waned the following year. Been over three months since my last post, and with so many more journals to review it’s time to renew this series.

Harper’s Magazine, founded way back in 1850 and the subject of numerous recent controversies, is a monthly magazine of literature and journalism published from New York.

What They Say About Themselves:Harper’s Magazine, the oldest general-interest monthly in America, explores the issues that drive our national conversation, through long-form narrative journalism and essays, and such celebrated features as the iconic Harper’s Index. With its emphasis on fine writing and original thought Harper’s provides readers with a unique perspective on politics, society, the environment, and culture.”

Issue Reviewed: February 2022

Genre: Literary realism

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Late at Night,” by Matt B. Weir. Intrigued by a line in a video game review, Adam Edwards lets his curiosity lead him on an after-midnight research journey on a prominent 20th-century political movement. A story where literally nothing happens — the guy reads a Wikipedia article on his phone, gets out of bed, watches an online documentary, goes back to bed — it’s nonetheless compelling for its portrayal of a man who realizes his desire for understanding is constrained by his limited knowledge: “He didn’t know enough… to be able to think as deeply as he desired to think.”

Exploding Helicopters: Zero Explosions. I haven’t assigned this rating to any journal yet, but the complete void of activity in this issue’s only short story, which is still fascinating, calls for this initial honor.

Profanometer: Dammit. The story doesn’t contain any coarse language, but other journalism in the issue did.

The Georgia Review

The latest in my increasingly infrequent reviews of literary journals and genre magazines.

The Georgia Review is a literary journal published four times a year by the University of Georgia.

What They Say About Themselves:The Georgia Review is the literary-cultural journal published out of the University of Georgia since 1947. While it began with a regional commitment, its scope has grown to include readers and writers throughout the U.S. and the world, who are brought together through the print journal as well as live programming. Convinced that communities thrive when built on dialogue that honors the difference between any two interlocutors, we publish imaginative work that challenges us to reconsider any line, distinction, or thought in danger of becoming too rigid or neat, so that our readers can continue the conversations in their own lives.”

Issue Reviewed: Fall 2021

Genre: Literary realism

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Copper Queen,” by Aryn Kyle (and if you guessed this was the only story from this issue available for free online, you just might be on to something). A 25-year-old aspiring fiction writer from Idaho wins a summer residency at a mountaintop mansion that was once owned by the wife of a copper magnate. Meeting with other artists that summer inspires and forces her to make decisions about her life and career.

Exploding Helicopters: One Explosion. I kept waiting for something to happen in the story, but that wait didn’t pay off.

Profanometer: Dammit. The NSFW language was contained to a few paragraphs.

Pensive

After an even lengthier hiatus — need to recover my enthusiasm for this project — here’s another of my reviews of literary journals and genre magazines.

Pensive is an online literary journal published by the Northeastern University Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service.

What They Say About Themselves: “Founded in 2020, Pensive is published online biannually by the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service (CSDS) at Northeastern University, and showcases work that deepens the inward life; expresses a range of religious/spiritual/humanist experiences and perspectives; envisions a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world; advances dialogue across difference; and challenges structural oppression in all its forms.”

Issue Reviewed: Issue 2 (Spring 2021)

Genre: Literary realism with spiritual elements

One Story I’ll Remember Not to Forget: “Entwined,” by Laine Cunningham. Regina, a single woman in an uninspiring job, takes in a stray cat who keeps showing up at her door. When Regina is stuck with cancer, the cat takes on a larger role in her life. What I found interesting here was the absence of dialogue; the story is all third-person limited omniscient narrative, but it works.

Exploding Helicopters: One Explosion. Not very much action in the stories.

Profanometer: Dammit. A few f-bombs here and there, but noting gratuitous.