Category Archives: anthologies

Things Rich and Strange: Mormonism through the Lens of Steve Peck, a Sympathetic Alien

8.14.15 | | 3 comments

Title: Wandering Realities: The Mormonish Short Fiction of Steven L. Peck
Author: Steven L. Peck
Publisher: Zarahemla Books
Genre: Short Story Collection
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 219
Binding: Trade Paperback
ISBN13: 9780988323346
Price: $14.95
Also available as an ebook

Reviewed by Jonathan Langford.

Steve Peck is an alien. A kind of geeky-looking one (wholly appropriate for a professor of evolutionary biology), friendly, congenial, but an alien nonetheless. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for how, in this set of 16 stories, he so consistently manages to provide such startlingly different, yet at the same time deeply insightful, perspectives on the culture and religion he has adopted for his own.

Which is about the only thing these stories — which range from short to long, humor to pathos, realism to postmodernly zany, contemporary to historical to science fiction — have in common. Eight of them have been previously published, in venues ranging from Irreantum to Covenant to the Everyday Mormon Writer contest. Yet the effect is not incoherent. Rather, it provides a sense of the range of Peck’s work, which includes something that will, I guarantee, appeal to pretty much everyone with the slightest interest in reading fiction about the Mormon experience: highbrow or lowbrow, literary or popular, funny or serious, light or thought-provoking. It’s pretty much all here. And while not every story is equally polished, each provides something interesting and (here’s that word again) different.

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Update on the Alternate Mormon History anthology

11.20.14 | | one comment

Back in June, I did an interest gauge in an anthology of Mormon alternate history stories. I am happy with the response and have decided do it. Here’s where I’m at with the project:

  1.  I will not be putting out a call for submissions this year. I will likely do so next year and am fairly confident that that will happen, although the timing is still up in the air. It probably won’t happen the first 4 months of 2015 and might not happen until fall.
  2. Unless something changes, the anthology will be published by Peculiar Pages. (I don’t expect something to change).
  3. The anthology will offer token payments to contributors and will be confined to original short fiction (sorry poets and cartoonists and novelists and dramatists and short story writers with reprint hopes).
  4. I will be the acquiring editor for the anthology. Theric will be involved in the production process, and I may run some editorial decisions by him if I need a second opinion.
  5. Part of the reason for the delay is that I want to make sure that I have a dedicated fund from which to pay the contributors. I know it’s only token payments, but it’s important to me (and, in my opinion, to the field) that there be some form of renumeration even if it’s small.
  6. We did consider crowdfunding and that could happen if we decide to do a print version (which would likely also be an expanded version), but the idea here is to do something that has a 100% chance of success and is manageable.
  7. You may not want to start writing until you see the call for submissions. That said: I’m quite confident that I won’t be accepting stories over 9,000 words; that my preference will be for stories 4,000 – 6,000 words in length; and that I’ll be looking for killer concepts and plots, for sure, but also great prose. The short short pieces I mention in the interest gauge are also still on the table but are more nebulous in my head at the moment.

Any questions/thoughts? I may not have answers for you yet, but I’ll answer what I can.

Interest gauge: anthology of Mormon alternate history

6.5.14 | | 27 comments

NOTE: I posted an update on this project in November 2014. More news on it in late spring/early summer 2015.

Here’s the bad news: I don’t have the time and energy to do a second Monsters & Mormons anthology. I believe that there are a few people who will be disappointed by this. I know there’s at least one: me. I’m sorry. It’s just not going to happen.

Here’s the good news: I’ve been focused the past few years on writing fiction and criticism. See my author blog for a glimpse of what I’ve been working on. Most of that has not been Mormon-related. It’s great fun, and I’m continuing those activities, but I also am feeling the desire to edit again. I’m also concerned about the fact that with the shuttering of Irreantum there aren’t enough venues for Mormon short fiction. I’ve been saying for awhile now that what we need are more one-off projects that don’t require sustained effort — that that’s the best way to grow the body of Mormon short fiction because they don’t require the kind of long-term commitments and resources that most of us just can’t supply. Well, I suppose I should lead by example. So…

My vague thoughts: I’m thinking about editing an e-only short anthology of alternate Mormon history stories. I know for a fact that at least two of the entries in this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz are in the alternate history genre (one of them is mine). I’m guessing there might be more. It’s funny. I’ve been thinking about this for several months and even went so far as to toss some ideas around with Theric. And then Scott Hales recently posted Emily Adams review of  D. J. Butler’s  City of the Saints series, which is Mormon alt history steampunk. And, well, it just seems like it’s in the air. Indeed, it seems to me that in this post-Mormon moment moment alternate visions of Mormon history could be one of the more compelling ways of expressing our culture and help us think through both our past and future trajectories in interesting and fruitful ways.

Details and timing: I don’t know for sure yet. My best guess is that I’d put a call for entries out this fall with a deadline of  early spring 2015 and a goal of having the anthology out in fall 2015. I would pony up the funds for token payments to the contributors. The anthology would likely be limited to 7-8 short short pieces, 3-4 short stories, and 1-2 novelettes with a goal of hitting 45-65k words (Monsters & Mormons is close to 180k). As with M&M, I’d be looking to range across the pulp and literary spectrums, but I’d also be shading a bit more towards the literary (where with M&M we shaded more towards pulp). And with the short short pieces, I’d be looking for a variety of forms of discourse including sermon, journal entry, reportage, personal letter, etc.

Feedback: If I decided to do this, who would be interested in submitting? Or reading? Reviewing? Am I wrong that Mormon alt history is swirling about the current Zeitgeist? What are the promises and pitfalls of Mormon alternate history?

Speak up in the comments below, or if you’d prefer not to be public with your thoughts, email me at william AT motleyvision DAWT org.

Review of Field Notes on Language and Kinship, by Tyler Chadwick.

11.21.13 | | 4 comments

I approached this review with a lot of trepidation. I am not a schooled poet. I took exactly three writing classes in college, and I haven’t read nearly the amount of poetry that someone who professes to be a poet ought to have. I have written many poems, but I didn’t really figure out what a poem was supposed to be, for me, until I took that one poetry class (Jimmy Barnes, BYU, “writing poetry”) about ten years ago. So beware and bear with me. I’m coming at this from a very unschooled angle.

Field Notes on Language and Kinship is, essentially (I think) an observation on poetry and the way it fits into LDS culture in particular. Chadwick explores, in turn, how to read poetry (don’t force interpretation, instead give way to the language), why to write poetry (poetry can “give shape to ideas… that might otherwise be too diffuse”), why to read poetry (poetry is often intended to be mediation—an act of “moving” and “softening” for a reader and for the poet, and thus might draw them closer to God, the gospel, or other redeeming forces/ideals.)

The first story Chadwick relates in the book is about his grandmother who loved to hike, and went on many difficult excursions during her life. At each hike’s summit, or endpoint, she would collect a rock and label it. She collected these rocks in a jar. And Chadwick inherited this jar—chose it from his grandmother’s possessions after she died. As a boy, it intrigued him—rocks from all of these high points of his grandmother’s experience.

I believe this book is a similar rock-collection for Chadwick, only instead of pieces of granite, he has assembled poems to mark high points, important conflicts, switch-points and turns in his development as a human being and as a reader and writer of poetry.  Each of the sections focuses on a different aspect of his own relationship to language and how it developed and was influenced by life events, whether that be his mission, his mentors in college, his explorations of Sonosophy, his wife’s first pregnancy, the birth of a child, a sister struggling with infertility, and of course the time and attention he spent putting together Fire in the Pasture. more

_Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama_ is Now Available

5.17.13 | | 10 comments

SaintsOnStage-Cover.inddSaints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama is now available at Zarahemla Books’ website, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

After a half decade of delays, obstacles, research, and revising, I am so pleased that this behemoth is now ready to release onto an unsuspecting world! The plays it includes (from such Mormon Letters luminaries as Eric Samuelsen, Margaret Blair Young, Melissa Leilani Larson, Thomas F. Rogers, Susan E. Howe, James Arrington, Scott Bronson, Tim Slover, Robert Elliott, and Thom Duncan) have effected my life in profound ways and I hope other people will feel the same. They make up some of the finest accomplishments in the history of Mormon Drama. The volume is huge… nearly 700 pages. It has 11 plays, playwright biographies, and a 30+ page introduction on the history of Mormon drama. We’ve tried to be thorough, we’ve tried to give you something meaningful. I hope you’ll see why this is a project I thought was worth working and waiting for.

_Saints On Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama_ is Off to the Printers!

5.10.13 | | 2 comments

It’s taken the better half of a decade, but Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama is off to the printers. This is the description of the book on Zarahemla Books’s website:

SaintsOnStage-Cover.inddSaints on Stage is the most comprehensive and important work on Mormon drama ever published. This volume anthologizes some of Mormonism’s best plays from the last several decades, many of them published here for the first time. Several of these plays have won honors from institutions as varied as the Kennedy Center and the Association for Mormon Letters.

This volume includes historical backgrounds and playwright biographies, as well as an introduction that provides an extensive overview of Mormon drama. The following plays are included:

Fires of the Mind – Robert Elliott

Huebener – Thomas F. Rogers

Burdens of Earth – Susan Elizabeth Howe

J. Golden – James Arrington

Matters of the Heart – Thom Duncan

Gadianton – Eric Samuelsen

Hancock County – Tim Slover

Stones – J. Scott Bronson

Farewell to Eden – Mahonri Stewart

Martyrs’ Crossing – Melissa Leilani Larson

I Am Jane – Margaret Blair Young

Mormons and the Fiction (and Poetry) of <i>E Pluribus Unum</i>

2.13.13 | | 7 comments

This summer I have another chance to teach a literature class rather than my usual course in freshman composition. This time around I’ll be teaching (in four short weeks) the second half of the American literature survey, which covers everything since 1900. Initially, I planned on assigning a number of novellas rather than an anthology, but my mind changed when I decided to focus the class on how the canon has been opened up over the past one hundred years to allow writers from a variety of backgrounds to participate in this thing we call “American Literature.” I’ll be calling the class “The Fiction (and Poetry) of E Pluribus Unum” because I intend to focus on the way the canon has and has not embraced the beautiful and elusive American paradox of a unified community comprised of many—often discordant—voices. Plus, we’re going to be reading fiction and poetry. So there’s some wordplay there.

The text I plan to use is the second volume of the shorter eighth edition of the Norton Anthology of American Literature. The Norton anthology, in many ways, , making it an ideal text to use with my class. I haven’t selected reading assignments yet, but I expect that I’ll include some of my undergraduate favorites—Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People,” Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif”—as well as others that I’m unfamiliar with, but sound interesting—Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Lullaby,” Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Sexy,” Junot Díaz’s “Drown.” I’m also interested in other texts, like John Steinbeck’s “The Leader of the People,” which seems (tellingly) to have taken the place of “The Chrysanthemums” in the academic canon. I imagine these texts and the others will help us have some interesting discussions about the meaning of the E Pluribus Unum ideal. I especially hope to get them thinking about how and why we construct and reconstruct (a) canon(s). I also want to them to think about the voices that are still outside the canon.

For this reason, I’m planning on assigning three Mormon short stories and a few poems. Mormons, that is, will be our case study of a community of American writers who have not yet been given a place in today’s multi-cultural canon—even though their numbers are comparable to other communities—the Jewish and LGBTQ communities, for example—that are reasonably well-represented in the Norton anthology. My hope is that the Mormon works I bring in will spur a discussion not only about the ongoing “fiction” of E Pluribus Unum—the never-ending (and ultimately impossible?) task of bringing more voices to the table and truly being one from many—but also the limitations and ethics of the canon model itself. Should we even have a canon, after all, if its overriding structure demands that we value one voice over another?

Canon debates are always fun, and I wouldn’t be opposed to having one here on AMV, but before we do so, I want to solicit your help. As I said, I’m planning on using three Mormon short stories and several poems. Which do you recommend? My only stipulation is that they much be accessible free to students via online archives like those of Dialogue and Sunstone. I don’t want to make them purchase any more books than they have to. The Norton anthology is expensive enough.

In asking this question, of course, I am also asking us to create a kind of Mormon canon of short stories and poems—which means I’m asking you to include some works at the expense of others. Feel free to justify and defend your choices.

Bright Angels & Familiars: “Woman Talking to a Cow” by Pauline Mortensen

1.15.13 | | 3 comments

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This series has been on hiatus for a while, so, for those who do not recall, Signature Books has made this seminal collection of stories available free online. I have been reading the stories and posting about them. Together we share our thoughts and opinions.

Today’s tale was also collected in Mortensen’s Back Before the World Turned Nasty which I read is at is best in describing place. This particular tale is quite short (enough to be included on Everyday Mormon Writer).

Go read it then return.

The story is exactly what it claims in the title—a woman talking to a cow. About the problems in her life, each of which is desperately symbolic. The fork she uses to serve hay is missing a tine. Which makes the hay fall through but also makes it loaded in other ways as well. Then her husband enacts Christ (and she draws our attention to it), her children destroy symbols of comfort and heritage, the sheep are black and steadily decrease in number while jumping up and down in perceived value, and finally we learn they must decide to feed the sheep (possibly at the expense of all else) or treat their little ones not so well. All while the narrator is revealing herself an absolute Martha (however unfair the Martha/Mary dichotomy may be). more