The City: Isolation/Togetherness Issue 3 – December 2016
Issue 3 marks a year of Flight Journal, as well as the end of our tenure as editors and Flight Associates. Its spearheading editors shaped the identity of the magazine as a publication for bold short fiction.
With this second and final issue for 2016 we narrowed our gaze to the city, and with that the opposing feelings of togetherness and isolation it can trigger. Our call for submissions went out with an added proviso: stories had to be up to 500 words rather than 2500. This aimed to mirror the thematic: micro/flash fiction is reflective of the fast-paced city life, and can hone in on a moment, a feeling, a breather from the city. While we set a theme for this issue, the fundamental goal of publishing dynamic short fiction remained. We are delighted to present you with a range of commute-length stories, diverse in form, tone, voice, and subject-matter.
We start at dawn, with portraits of individuals removed from fast paced city life. A dreamlike city setting meets the prosaic banter of a troupe of bin men in Sarah Wallis’ There’s Violets for You, a story which reveals the way the rhythm of city living can both isolate us and unexpectedly draw us together. In The Sugar-Picture Man, a waitress’ humdrum life is affected by a mysterious dreadlock-donning customer’s unusual creations. Karen Jones questions the boundary between voyeurism and human connection.
Then we move through the morning with daily commutes on the bus: the systematic, bordering robotic, cycle of modern dating, relationships and city life, is taken literally in the quirky Monday Morning in a Wheeled Box by Kevlin Henney. Then we find ourselves on another mode of transport: a flash of anxieties and a plea for empathy, Eliot Kierl’s The Interval’s stream-of-consciousness gives a voice to the people who run metropoles but are so often unseen.
Also exposed are the toils of misunderstanding in relationships, and in mind. Sara Jafari’s Be Positive snapshots the anxiety-ridden mind of a girl unrecognised both by her partner and the city as a whole. Marianne Tatepo’s People Who Have Never Hurt Me (Or So They Think) embraces listicle-storytelling and comedy to chronicle the sinuous forms love and kindness can take, exposing the pitfalls of (mis)communication.
In a break from city life, we are given a moment to ponder. Freya J. Morris’ The Tree of Life shows us a city dweller longing for a connection with nature – and with something that causes us to pause, think and feel in the hubbub of city life.
Moving through to the confines of city dwellings: Elizabeth Lovatt’s SHARKS depicts two lovers’ playful musings on the housing market in big cities and the obsolete idea of utter isolation therein. Whereas, Nick Ryle Wright’s sharp Sight Unseen captures a man mourning his departure from the city, his home, in sacrifice for the man he loves. Then we enter a community in which home means something different. In Corners by Shreeta Shah, we head to the fringes of London’s suburbs and a world of 20-somethings whose cars are their own independent states, the closest thing they have to being at home in their lives.
The night brings out a different side of the city. In Andrea Eaker’s The City’s Plan for You, we see a city’s nightlife, how it draws people close, too close for comfort. Moving into the early hours of the morning, Paul Attmere’s chilling, engrossing, vivid Earth Mother – much like the soil in which its protagonist finds herself writhing – explores the dark side of estrangement and anonymity.
We hope you enjoy reading Issue 3.
Sara Jafari, Marianne Tatepo and Shreeta Shah
Issue 2 – July 2016
January 2016 inaugurated a new team of editors for Flight Journal. With it came a new look, but we wanted to keep the journal’s fundamental purpose intact: to publish bold short fiction of no more than 2,500 words. We were excited about discovering fresh voices, and we found many amongst the 250 submissions. Narrowing these down to only six was no easy task, but we are so thrilled to publish this fantastic range of writing talent.
When we were selecting the stories that eventually comprised Issue 2, we were looking to be surprised, and even challenged. These pieces all achieve this by casting what is commonplace in a new, unexpected light. Chris Torry’s Trauma blends poetry and prose to illuminate a world we might think we already know: a hospital ward. Only here the author encourages us to slow down and look again, and, reading it, to paraphrase the author, something deep is brought closer.
Across many of the stories, we also found another theme speaking to us: placelessness. A feeling of being unrooted, or of struggling to find a place in the world. It’s perhaps not surprising to find this common thread in light of recent world events, and, closer to home, a young generation struggling to secure permanent homes for themselves. Some of the stories handled this with great wit. In Janet H Swinney’s Moving In, we witness a home that resists its new owner at every turn, denying comfort or settlement. It is a gravity-defying story brimming with exuberant flights of the imagination.
Bronwen Griffiths’ The President’s Cats examines placelessness within a dystopian setting both in the defiant babushka who goes against a tyrannical government, and in the black cats that represent the ‘other’ not accepted, generalised and often demonised individuals in society; a sadly timeless allegory relevant both hundreds of years ago and today.
In Abroad by Chantal Korsah looks at African diaspora, and how sometimes the home you leave behind is more comfortable than the one you migrate to. Through the realist, often comical, narrative we are taken on a journey through the different layers of London, and how this compares with the narrator’s hometown Accra.
The namesake for the longest story from Issue 2 is also its coffee cup narrator. Pascal Colman’s Polystyrene Coffee Cup in a Phone Box channels hints of le nouveau roman and defamiliarization (ostranenie). Through the personification of a household, disposable object, the idea of being left behind and becoming obsolete is explored with wit and incision.
Finally, Annie Dobson delivers an incomparably quirky slice of life with Thereness. Packaged as a colourful off-beat insight into Eliza’s habits, this short story’s underlying subject-matter takes the reader from wonder to sympathy as s/he moves through several vignettes, which flow in a manner evocative of the stages of grief. From placelessness to Thereness.
We hope you enjoy reading Issue 2 as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.
Marianne, Sara and Shreeta
Issue 1 – December 2015
Back in August, we put out a call for bold, short fiction. Unlike most prose journals, we set the word count for Flight Journal submissions at no more than 2500, recognising the power of brevity. We were inundated with submissions and choosing stories for issue one was no easy task. We think the variety and quality of work included, both in form and content, will make for a glorious debut issue.
Alienation seems to be the thread that unites and also separates these seven stories. Michael Wynne’s ‘Yours, Always’, is a lyrically stunning story, told in tightly crafted sections, about loss and desire, while Jay Merill’s ‘Vanishing Acts’ roots us in the mind of a mother in a care home suffering from dementia. ‘The Price’ by Ehud Sela captures the psychologically wearing effects of insomnia, while ‘Horn Torus’ by A.S. Arthur (the most experimental of the bunch) loses the reader in a black hole of nothingness, both through subject matter and style. From alienation, we switch to the nature of relationship, which can be just as lonely: a brother and sister have lost their parents to double suicide in Thomas Stewart’s ‘Mania’; a husband and wife escape a war torn country only to suffer more hardship in Ruvimbo Kuuzabuwe’s ‘Not Today’, and a young boy’s budding adolescence starts to set him apart from the rest of the family in Catherine McNamara’s ‘Yann at Night’.
As well as short stories, Flight Journal features an interview with the writer May-Lan Tan. Interviewing May-Lan seemed fitting. If there’s one book that has united us in adoration this year, it’s Tan’s excellent debut collection of short stories, Things to Make and Break. Unsurprisingly, she was a great pleasure to interview.
We hope you enjoy the first issue of Flight Journal and we also look forward to seeing how it evolves.
Jennifer, Len and Sanya