F(r)iction is fun, young and colourful. They do not shy away from the experimental or strange. In fact, they want to “publish weird.” They court the unconventional. They are proud not to be limited by form, genre or style. Just good writing is welcome.
The centerpiece of issue number two is a forty-two page excerpt from Pascalle Lepas’ comic series “Wilde Life,” which follows a young writer as he moves into a haunted house in Oklahoma. Not being a graphic novel reader, in fact, I haven’t read anything illustrated, longer than a comic strip, since I was a teenie-bopper, I found this a welcome introduction to the genre. The pictures push the narrative forward and although my mind was continually hunting for more text, the illustrations provided a depth that words cannot. It’s like reading a storyboard to a short story. F(r)iction’s editorial staff completed their mission; they’ve opened the mind of another reader, perhaps many. No longer do I believe that graphic novels are trite and juvenile. In fact, now I’m looking for a few to put on my bedside table and for the introduction, I am thankful.
When I said that F(r)iction was colorful, I was not lying. Every single piece in this issue is illustrated beautifully in full color. As many literature magazines are ditching the print model or turning to black and white to save a few dollars from the ever-shrinking budget, it is an audacious and inspiring move to print full color illustration. This choice should be applauded. It also compels readers, who might never pick up a literary magazine, to handle it and that is half the battle. This issue is so eclectic and accessible, once in hand, it will be read cover to cover. This is new territory; a bridge between the conservative and conventional lit mag tradition and those colourful speculation-driven pamphlets that you find in stacks by the coffee-shop door, full of zombies and vampires and crashing space ships. This is a serious journal with a wide aesthetic.
Just read “Cooing at The Stripes” by Daniel Ross, which could have easily been published in some of the big-gun publishers and may still be, about a tiger-tamer in a Vegas stage-show. The first person narrative is bleak and comic and believable, served with a delicious concluding twist. Also Rose Hartley’s “Captain Marvelous” a post-apocalyptic tale about a mother and daughter and a pet pig trying to survive in a cabin, while the world and cabin-fever threaten to destroy their sanity. This story could easily fit into one of the annual Best Story anthologies.
On the flipside of this well-crafted longer stories, there are several flash fictions published. “Thank You” by David Abrams is a poignant and powerful page. A spray-gun of images. Basically a very detailed thank you letter from a soldier clearly stating almost everything wrong with America in the most vivid terms. “Thank You” pulls no punches and will make you think twice about your morning Starbucks and evening Fox News and filling up your SUV. This is the type of writing that needs to be published and is probably too truthful for commercial journals. Well done, brave editors, brave writer.
Although F(r)iction is a young offspring, its parents, Tethered by Letters have had an online presence for more than a decade. TBL is a non-profit dedicated to helping writers succeed. They coach, provide feedback, build platforms and communities while continually educating. They visit high-schools, partner with universities and forge publishing contacts. Basically, they are the grass-roots guerrillas that are fighting to keep print journals on bedside tables. This is the perfect place to start for the young emerging writer and a good place for the older emerging writer who wants to keep in touch with the zeitgeist. The journal bubbles with raw energy, both audacious and insightful, while being professionally presented with creative flare. Perhaps said best, by founder and editor-in-chief, D.M. Hedlund, “TBL is a crazy idea. But sometimes the world needs a little crazy.”
If Tethered by Letters continues to keep the editorial bar as high as when compiling F(r)iction Issue 2, I have no doubt, this young, fun and colourful journal will grow into an old, fun and colourful journal, and will succeed in capturing thousands of new readers while maintaining the ones already awaiting the next issue.