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“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.”
—John Berryman, Dream Song 14

“Everyone knows how hard it is to get Raoul from the hotel room into the elevator. Everyone has had to do boring, dogged work. Everyone has lived a life that seems to inflict upon every vivid moment the smears, fingerings, and pawings of plot and feeling. Everyone has lived under this oppression.”
—Lynn Emanuel, The Politics of Narrative—Why I Am a Poet

  rew wanted a fiction issue, and I try to keep him happy because he’s both the genius and the workhorse of this operation. It’s true, I’m in charge of content and he’s in charge of product—I get to correspond with all the shiny people and he has to sit in the shop with the glue and the hacksaw—but he says he likes it and I’m not gonna talk him out of doing the hard part. So, he wants a fiction issue and sure, who wouldn’t want a fiction issue?
     Okay, whaddya mean, fiction?
     I mean something that doesn’t scream up offa the page “Look at me, look at me, I’m a fucking poem!”

     Mostly I think Drew got tired of formatting poems for the website. Hugh Steinberg sent us this awesome 24-part poem with crazy wonked-out lines that we published in Issue 2.1 and Drew just sorta quit formatting poetry somewhere in the middle of that document. He says he’ll get to it eventually, but meanwhile he wants a fiction issue.
     If you have been following the ongoing Dick vs. Drew clash of conflicting visions you may have already noticed that we each strive for the impossible in our own way. Drew wants to make books out of toast & jam, or steam & light, while Dick wants to publish a literature that hasn’t been written yet. Sure, we could reinvent the world, but can we do it twice a year and under budget? No, we can’t. So we compromise. We make our dreams more realistic, more manifestable. So: a fiction issue.
     Whaddya mean, fiction?
     You know—people doing things, getting into situations, one thing happening after another instead of a whole buncha glop about somebody’s feelings.
     I like feelings.
     Well alright, but only if there’s plot.

     Ah, plot. That dirty, four-letter word. So maybe it’s more than the formatting, maybe there’s something sinister at work: a power-grab, a coup d’etat. Am I being undermined? Overthrown? Am I being ideologically ramrodded?
     Plus, we’ll save at least $50 on contributor’s copies.
     Fifty bucks is like two weeks of hot lunches.
     Okay, but really, whaddya mean, fiction?
     I don’t care, as long as it’s in paragraphs. Just make something up.

*                     *                     *

Fiction bores me. And terrifies. I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true. The constant development of thing after thing, cause and effect, the inevitable always waiting for you, up ahead, in the distance, as you inch reluctantly forward, phrase by phrase, clause by dependent clause, towards everything’s ultimate termination, full stop. In poetry, the voice can float. Fiction needs bodies; demands bodies. People stuck in bodies moving through space and time, bonking their heads on things, or each other, just to bounce off and smash into whatever comes next. In fiction, you realize you’re a thing—taking up space and casting a shadow—you’re a dot, a blip on the screen, something graphable hurtling irreversibly through space-time on a trajectory set in motion by events that happened long before you were born. And even when you’re lying in bed, curled fetal with a head full of noise and too tired to move, you’re still barreling through time at the speed of time, as you always do, every ticking minute of the day, towards your final annihilation, full stop.
     All stories end the same way, and if you think they don’t it’s only because the narrator you’re listening to quit talking. But what choice to they have, these narrators, captaining their ships against unbearable odds? What do you want us to do? They ask. Tell them it’s hopeless?
     And then there’s the beginning: that big lie—the idea that there’s a definitive start to it all, or it specifically, or anything. And then, of course, there’s the middle: the leading-up-to-it, the messy part. End, beginning, middle; splendorous in their predictable glory. Even if you don’t believe in god or fate, at least you can believe in narrative.
     I have issues about being dead, and I hate people who spend their whole lives waiting for their beginning, and then there’s the causality dealio, so for me the whole fiction thing kinda creeps me out. You turn the knob on the faucet and you get tap water—or you don’t because the landlord, etcetera—but you don’t get monkeys. Rarely do you get any monkeys when you turn on the faucet. And you could. Maybe not in real life, but in fiction you could. You could more often than you do. And you should. Because that’s how you cheat death. Well, maybe you could. If you messed it up real bad maybe death would get confused.
     Drew said no broken lines, so I said let’s break everything else. Why not? Let’s pull down the bronze statues of causality, let’s smash the store windows of plot and plausibility, let’s riot in the streets of character development and mix our metaphors. I said monkeys, we need more monkeys, everywhere monkeys, world without end. Well, I said something like that. And Drew put a note on the website that said CALL FOR ENTRIES: NO BROKEN LINES.
     So here it is, our fiction issue: Broken/Unbroken. It’s not all fiction and it’s not all broken but we’re happy nevertheless. Hugh Steinberg once told me that literature should be like a rollercoaster, and like a rollercoaster the only rule is: don’t throw the reader out of the car. I’m making no promises, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

—Richard Siken