For a theme as uplifting as “New Life”, the Winter 2018 issue drew an awful lot of stories about dead babies.
Given the preponderance of childbirth horrors in Shooter’s submissions pile, the stories and poems in the issue that addressed this subject had to work extra hard to stand out from the rest, offering something imaginatively unique or handling such emotive matter with deft control. Stuart Snelson’s opening story, “Home-birthed Monsters”, counts among the former, while “Little Bean” by Anton Rose leavens parental disappointment with a comic twist.
Two short non-fiction pieces – “Little Peanut, Little Monkey” by Kyleen Russell and “Flores” by Yasmina Floyer – share poignant perspectives on parental challenges and loss. Among the poets, Amanda Quinn’s opening prose-poem “From the Stories I Never Got to Tell” sounds a hopeful note, as does Victoria Richards’ “You Won’t Remember Any of This”. Julia Webb captures the bittersweet edge of parental love in “Celebrate” and, in “Multplication”, Anna Forbes handles profound grief with a delicate touch.
Departing from birth and children, Laurinda Lind contemplates post-marital reinvention in her poem “Redress”, while Lori Anne Gravely conjures the traveler’s experience of new places in two African poems, “On Waking in a New Room” and “Transfiguration”. For some light relief, the winner of Shooter’s 2017 Poetry Competition, Kay Sidebottom, engages in some witty (literally) literary wordplay in “Ex Libris”.
Plenty of the prose writers approached the “New Life” theme in a more indirect manner. In our fiction-packed issue, Nick Norton (“The Opening”) and Austyn Wohlers (“Hothouse Bloom”) depict characters seeking fresh starts, trying to build new lives with varying degrees of failure. New life for Raoul Colvile’s couple in “A Rat in Stockholm” will come – perhaps – as a result of an unconventional proposal, while the hitchhiker in Amanda Yskamp’s “Hitch” seeks it by running away.
Radovana Jágriková’s “Becky in Vanilla” and Tom Startup’s “The Child Snatchers of Estacruz” (also our first-ever piece of historical fiction) explore the dark territory of child abduction, where characters seek to renew life through the fetishisation of youth. Finally, in a structurally inventive piece, Uschi Gatward plays with the idea of evolving identity in “Biography”.
My own interpretation of the theme has occurred largely off the page during the last six months, while tending its living embodiment alongside the issue. My infant daughter’s coos, gurgles and cries – including the daybreak screams punctuating the writing of this introduction – have provided a fitting soundtrack during the editing phase but, for your sake, I wish you a rather more peaceful reading experience.
Cover art by Anita Salemink. To sign up for a subscription or order a copy of the “New Life” issue, please go to https://shooterlitmag.com/subscriptions.