When Michael Chabon guest edited Issue 10 of Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (www.mcsweeneys.net/books) a decade ago, he wrote that he was conducting a unique experiment “in the hope that some kind of matter-antimatter explosion would occur.” Alongside stories by a cast of familiar literary names, Chabon folded in a selection of work by authors more commonly found in the adventure, science fiction, or thriller sections of the bookstore—an act of curatorial prowess that exemplified a burgeoning trend of literary magazines publishing genre writing in their pages. Since this “Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales” issue came out in 2002, McSweeney’s, founded by Dave Eggers in San Francisco in 1998, has continued to bring the highbrow and the fantastic together. The current edition, Issue 40, features stories by a variety of genre-busting authors, such as Neil Gaiman and Etgar Keret. “We always aim for innovation,” says associate editor Chelsea Hogue. “Fresh content with an intriguing concept is our target.” Submissions are accepted by mail and online through Submittable.
“Not all popular genres are meant to blow up,” wrote science fiction author Gary K. Wolfe in Conjunctions (www.conjunctions.com) the same year McSweeney’s 10 was released, “but the fantastic genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy have been unstable literary isotopes virtually since their evolution into identifiable literary modes.” The issue of Conjunctions in which these words appeared, titled “The New Wave Fabulists” and guest edited by popular horror writer Peter Straub, presented readers with innovative storytelling by a spectrum of authors—Gaiman, Jonathan Lethem, and Kelly Link among them—whose work is informed by the more speculative genres. The biannual magazine, launched in 1981 at Bard College by current editor Bradford Morrow, has made a name for itself by publishing innovative writing; other issues have been titled “The New Gothic” and “Fables, Yarns, Fairy Tales.” The latest issue, number 58, focuses on the theme of obsession and includes a story by slipstream author Jonathan Carroll, otherworldly poems by Martine Bellen and Karen Donovan, and experimental historical fiction by Shena McAuliffe. Submissions of prose and poetry are accepted year-round via postal mail.
Directly inspired by Conjunctions, David Memmott, publisher of the speculative fiction press Wordcraft of Oregon, last year established Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism (www.wordcraftoforegon.com/pd.html), which is “dedicated to developing an understanding of and appreciation for fabulist literature.” The second issue of the annual, titled “Valuable Estrangements,” will hit newsstands in October and include fiction by Gail Griffin and Christopher Linforth and poetry by David Axelrod and Mathias Svalina. The open-submission period runs from January 1 to March 31, during which poetry and fiction may be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unsatisfied at seeing fairy tales “marginalized into special issues of journals, or published only as an exception,” fiction writer Kate Bernheimer founded the literary annual Fairy Tale Review (www.fairytalereview.com) in 2005. On newsstands now, the Grey Issue (each volume is named for a color, echoing Victorian-era author Andrew Lang’s classic fairy-tale books) is guest edited by novelist Alissa Nutting and contains fiction by Matt Bell, Laura van den Berg, and Kevin Sampsell, among others. The Yellow Issue, guest edited by Lily Hoang, will be released at the end of the year. The reading period for 2012 has closed, but e-mail submissions will be accepted for the tenth-anniversary issue in 2013. Visit the website for details.
Unstuck (www.unstuckbooks.org), an annual journal launched last December in Austin, Texas, was created by a group of editors looking to introduce science fiction writing to a literary readership, and vice versa—or, in the words of executive editor Matt Williamson, “to trick readers from both camps into falling in love with fiction that they might have assumed they’d dislike.” Unstuck’s first issue features fiction by Arthur Bradford, Lindsay Hunter, and Joe Meno, and a second issue is due out in November. (To subsidize that second issue, this summer the magazine is launching a Kickstarter campaign.) Fiction submissions will be accepted via Submittable as of later this summer.
Travis Kurowski is completing a book on the literary magazine, due out from Atticus Books in 2013. His website is traviskurowski.com.