Reading the first issue of this new literary magazine is like crashing a party. You walk into the room, you recognise a couple of faces but not many. It’s exciting in there, sexy and uncertain. Look around you: there are a few beautiful faces, the girl in the corner throws you a smile. But there’s this guy giving you a hard stare over the top of his beer bottle. It looks like he’s brewing for a fight. Someone hands you a drink — it’s unfamiliar but it tastes good. A couple in the corner have their hands all over each other. You want to join in.
Walk on through. A black girl is dancing in the kitchen and a preacher is pushing his way across the room to you. Out of the open first-floor window you glimpse a lone man smoking — but it’s not a balcony, he’s suspended in mid-air.
Welcome, writers, to the Fractured West party. You don’t need an invitation; they don’t care who you are as long as you’re hot. And the flash fiction here is sizzling. This is writing for writers, yes, but it’s also writing for readers. The stories in this issue are smart, sassy, and sometimes a little surreal, but there are no pretentions. Kurt Vonnegut would be pleased to see that the editors have firmly avoided letting literature disappear up its own arse.
In this debut edition, there are twenty two writers, two dozen brilliant short-short stories. A taster of the stand out pieces for this reviewer:
“Billie on Sunday” by Kay Sexton, which arrives at the perplexed and wistful conclusion that:
–no woman whose orgasm was like olive-green globes should be allowed to leave another, who was annihilated when she came.
The theme of doomed love also comes through in “Vertical Axis” by Darren Richard Carlaw, a fantastic account of Â a pair of dimensional accidents, who were meant to be together and also, not:
The same force which held him ten feet above the ground held her ten feet below.
“Lesson” by Sheldon Lee Compton is a dark and dangerous warning about boundaries:
I can live with what was done to this boy. But it can’t happen to you. Not ever.
And the strangely poignant “Missing: Marmosets” by Fan Li sees the narrator emptying his mind
Rules, truths, etiquettes, caskets, a couple of marmosets, and an ottoman I inherited from my great-granddad who fought in the First Balkan War. Poof, gone, defenestrated.
Here are many reasons why I loved this juicy little magazine. Because it fit snugly into my hands. Â Because it’s easy on the eye and as I explored its pages, outdoors on a warm summer evening, the paper felt good and right. Because it fit in my pocket and when I read it on the bus, people stared at it surreptitiously and you could tell they were thinking how sexy it looked. And maybe that made me sexier too.
Go, buy it, support indie literature and get yourself a classy little magazine to enjoy and show off. Just one small health warning — beware the biographies at the back. They come too soon. Just as you were thinking you could be in for one, maybe two more stories at a squeeze, you’re left with the vivid last image of Robert Hinderliter’s “Acts of Cowardice” — a small soft penis, as it happens — and wondering when the next issue is due.
Get Issue #1 here.
Claire King has an open relationship with her novel and several short lovers.