From Granta to the Paris Review, literary magazines have their own place in the world of magazines. But as with everything else at Stack, we try to dig for the hidden independent gems to show you, like last month’s subscription delivery American Chordata.
Another beautiful pocket-sized title is London-based Somesuch Stories; its second issue is out now, featuring writers whose work has been published by the likes of n+1 and Granta, as well as the editor of the sharply satirical British Values zine. We asked editor Suze Olbrich to give us her guide to the issue.
1. Cats by Jen George
“I came across Jen George when scoping out Dorothy, an excellent independent American publishing project that brought us Nell Zink’s The Wallcreeper. One of the books they had slated for 2016 was a collection of shorts by Jen; its title story, The Babysitter at Rest, was online at Bomb magazine, and a further piece, Guidance/The Party, was available to read on n+1. I was floored twice over by her wry, wise, surreal words.
“Happily, Jen was open to contributing and already working on fiction ideas pertaining to the performance of self and identity, such as increased societal pressure to present a coherent, commodified persona at all times, and the repercussions of failure. (I mean, we all know it’s impossible to maintain, for a human, in any case.) She submitted the wondrous Cat/s soon after. The story’s narrator is a self-employed, non-specific creative young person with a fondness for fucking in public restrooms, and ludicrously expensive, health-engendering smoothies, whose fracturing self unravels yet further when faced with a possibly undead pet.”
2. Nanaji’s Story by Kieran Yates
“I had previously read Kieran Yates’ astute culture journalism and knew she edited the brilliant British Values zine, which celebrates diversity by sharing BAME Brits’ experiences in response to the upswing in intolerance, xenophobia and attendant twattery in recent times. She suggested that the story of her grandfather’s initial years in the UK might be a way to shed light on the early experiences of thousands of South Asian immigrants to UK in the 70s, and an excellent way to counter the well-worn, demeaning popculture trope of Indian men as ‘comedic’ shopkeepers. It’s a moving essay that covers aspects of Kieran’s own coming of age, illuminating how aftereffects of racism reverberate through generations.”
3. Daddy, Daddy, You Bastard, I’m Through by Philippa Snow
“Philippa Snow contributes whipsmart pieces to the site about modern day icons such as Anne Carson and Britney Spears, and the criticisms, fantasies and mythologies that they attract. When she responded to the brief by suggesting an essay on Mia Farrow and Secret Ceremony (wherein the actress plays a daughter seduced by her step-father), on how life came to imitate art in that black way, and how in general girls’ and women’s identities can be shaped by their abusers, I knew she’d come back with something nuanced and thought-provoking. She did. And the more light thrown at ‘Daddies’ who rule LA and all over, and their evil aftereffects, the better, to my mind.”
4. The Wall by Ka Bradley
“After receiving a mail out from ShooterLit declaring Ka Bradley, an editor for GrantaBooks, their fiction prize winner, I emailed her and soon we were discussing ideas for the brief, which included words such as walls and boundaries (this being summer, 2016.) In any case, Ka made intelligent remarks about why it might be an idea to write a story about a young girl growing up in a city cleaved by a border wall, and what that does to consciousness as it forms — what if the self splits. Also, having been reading plenty of r/creepypasta, she suggested it had a haunting element. I don’t want to give any more away, but it turned out a treat.”
5. The List by Abiola Oni
“Abiola came to my attention as the winner of Fourth Estate and The Guardian’s BAME writing prize. The List is set in a dystopic, hyper-nationalist near-future. It focuses on the tribulations of a man who cannot live the life that he should: a universal tale of the millions condemned, or otherwise diminished, by fear, hatred and paperwork around the globe. The clarity of its telling makes it all the more resonant. Let’s just hope it’s not proven bang on prophetic.”
All photos by Lucas Liccini and Fraser Muggeridge
Get the best literary magazines delivered to your door – Sign up to Stack from £6 a month!