We are now 8 months into this pandemic, and one of the only silver linings is that the internet is keeping us all connected from home. As a writer, I feel more in touch with the writing community than I was before the pandemic started because I’ve been spending so much time on Twitter. Following literary journals and other writing accounts that are producing interesting, insightful, and delightful work is one of the main ways I distract myself from doomscrolling. If you have not tried it, I suggest you do so. I keep a list of literary journals on my personal Twitter account here, and whenever I want to clear my mind but still read things online, I visit the literary world version of Twitter which feels a little bit like the sheltered bubble of a quirky college town.
In the past few months, many people have started new online literary ventures despite the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds us (or maybe because of it). Not all of these new journals are online publications, of course. I contributed to a new print magazine in my city, The Alameda Murmur, which I found out after I saw the flyers that the founder of the lit mag posted around the city while I was out for a walk this past spring. I was so eager for connection to my local writing community that I apparently was one of the first people to email the editor with my submission.
This month I wanted to highlight some newer online literary journals that have made their debut since we all began to hunker down. These promising venues will hopefully outlast the crisis that spurred their creation. In my experience, submitting to new journals can be more exciting and interactive than trying your luck at journals with more established reputations. Your odds might be better at the newer journals too— even if they don’t come with the prestige associated with well-known journals. Who knows? You might be in one of their early issues, after which they might develop an esteemed reputation as the years pass.
This was one of the first online journals that sprung up in response to quarantine. It was founded by writers in the Columbia MFA program, although I don’t think it has any official connection to the university. Since it started last spring, it has already published 14 issues! Going forward, they are dialing back to releasing issues on a monthly basis instead of twice a month. No Contact’s focus is on work that deals with interiority, and they accept poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction with a word limit of 1200 words.
Three pieces I enjoyed from the most recent issue, Issue 14 include, “We are All Orphans” by Calthy Ulrich, a flash fiction that puzzles over the significance of a potato peeler and its relationship with motherhood, “Matt’s Basement” by Leonora Desar about a couple moving into one of their parent’s basements, a situation many Gen Z’ers and Millennials can relate to right now, and “Masterclass Testimonials” by Tyler Barton which delightfully lists all the absurd ways you can pay men to mansplain things to you.
Hexagon is journal focused on speculative fiction based in Canada. They publish fiction and poetry that fall under the umbrella genre of science fiction and fantasy. They are a semiprozine, which means they do pay a small honorarium to authors. In their most recent issue, Issue #2, I particularly enjoyed the stories, “Memories Taste Best When Marinated in Sadness” by Feng Gooi and “The Last Trophy of Hunter Hammerson” by L Chan. Gooi’s story takes place in a futuristic world in which the rich sip on the memories of poor, suffering wretches, and the main character is the person who collects and distills these memories. The mystery of the story really kept me enthralled. Chan’s story is written in the form of a lofty magazine profile, in which the narrator is a journalist interviewing a famous monster hunter. The asides from the editor made me chuckle.
Since discovering Hexagon, I have submitted to them twice, and while both times my work hasn’t been chosen, I have appreciated the editor’s thoughtful suggestions about where else I could send my submission. From his rejection emails alone I have discovered two more literary journals that I might feature on this blog at some point. Hexagon’s next issue actually comes out on Dec 1, so be sure to check it out.
Crow and Cross Keys is another speculative fiction focused journal that is interested in dark and strange work. I’ve noticed most of the pieces I’ve read on their site have a gothic vibe, lots of solitary, creepy musings. They accept poems, stories, and flash fiction.
Two alluring pieces that I enjoyed from their site are “Stitches” by Samuel Best, and “Rust Belt’s Taxonomy of Ghosts” by Jessie Lynn McMains. At first I thought Best’s piece was nonfiction— it feels both startlingly direct and secretive at the same time, and its speculative aspect is very subtle. McMain’s poem is a list poem, and like the best list poems it spirals into something quite different than what it originally seems.
The Wondrous Real Magazine’s pieces bridge the uncanny valley of reality and whimsy. They publish fiction and poetry that show the intersections of magic and the mundane. They have only published one issue so far, but I am looking forward to their future issues. I was drawn to the poem, “When I Google: Is There a Patron Saint of Suicides” by Joan Kwon Glass because of its mixture of the very troubling issue of suicide with the absurdity of trying to get a straight answer from google. I also liked “The Sea Lions” by Dan Schwartz, which is about visiting the zoo with your child in a world that has just hints of terrifying magic in it.
The journals I highlighted in this post are focused on speculative fiction or fiction that focuses inwards, perhaps a reflection of how writers and editors have been coping with this pandemic, by escaping to unreality or by turning to self-contemplation. However, in this post I was only able to cover about half of the new journals I discovered. In December, I will post about more pandemic-born magazines. Until then, happy reading.