Category Archives: Hooray Fiction!

Did You Hear? Rhythm of Devotion

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

This track is so many things at once: a sonic collage of hip-hop, electronica, industrial, and 80’s synth pop. If you don’t like it, just wait a bit, and it’ll meander to a new place before too long. Having said that, it’s definitely got a driving theme that will stick in your head (or craw, depending on your tastes). Sisyphus is a collaboration of Son Lux, Serengeti, and Sufjan Stevens, out of Brooklyn. Brooklyn has been killing it lately with a ton of great new music.

- Brook Reeder

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New Quarterly Lit-Mag: The Intentional

intentional

I root for my generation the way some people root for sports teams, and there’s nothing I loathe more than trend pieces bemoaning some supposed Millennial flaw, so I’m excited to see a new lit-mag that does the opposite. The Intentional, a DC-based quarterly journal, publishes fiction, essays, poems, and art, focusing on Millennial contributors and topics.

Their third and current issue is organized around the theme of vulnerability, which, because we’re mostly in our twenties, pretty much just means “sex.” People of all ages have a lot to say about sex, of course, but the perspective here is definitely Millennial. What does moving in with your significant other mean as the cultural importance of marriage wanes and the economic incentives to split living costs wax? How do women who choose sex work feel about their jobs, both ethically and emotionally? This approach is epitomized by a short excerpt from Chelsea Martin’s new chapbook Even Though I Don’t Miss You, which explores romantic ambivalence in a Tumblr-ready tone: “I momentarily forgot that you were not just an appendage to me and I said, ‘Do you want to make an OkCupid account?'”

In a generationally uncharacteristic move, the Intentional‘s creators decided to make it print-only (though their website is functional and attractive enough for an online magazine). As much as I cherish the convenience of the Internet, I think they made the right choice putting it on paper. The magazine as a physical object is gorgeous, and its strongest material is visual art, including an intriguing comic strip by Saman Bemel-Benrud and paintings by Erick Jackson that “construct a world in which children rule, but…lacks the playfulness one might expect from such a theme.”

I only hope that next issue will channel the Millennial passion for diverse media representation and showcase the work of more writers and artists of color.

Lauren O’Neal is a freelance writer and editor working toward an MFA in creative writing in San Francisco. She has written for publications like Slate, the New Inquiry, and theRumpus, where she was formerly the assistant editor, and is currently on the editorial team at brand-new lit-mag Midnight Breakfast. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal.

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NEW HARRY POTTER STORY!!!

THERE’S A NEW HARRY POTTER STORY! IT’S SHORT!! HE’S OLD!!!

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READ IT AT POTTERMORE.COM.

-Michael Moats

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Ghost in Translation

Faces in the Crowd

The best revolutions turn an issue into a non-issue. The Summer of Love made a non-issue out of marijuana. The gay rights movement is making a non-issue out of who you choose to marry. Duchamp and Warhol and Gaga made non-issues out of representation, originality, and talent, respectively. The best revolutions are built on a shrug. They take what everyone else is anxious about and say: who cares.

Maybe that’s why Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli feels revolutionary. If you had to label it, you would call it a fictional text by a young Mexican-American woman about how identities get obscured and erased and replaced—especially the identities of women, writers, and immigrants. The book is about people becoming ghosts, and ghosts becoming people.

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Family Life by Akhil Sharma

family-life

FA review tag

Halfway through the twelve years it took Akhil Sharma to write Family Life, his editor, perfectly happy with the then-current draft, urged him to quit rewriting. The temptation must have been mighty; the long silence after Sharma’s promising debut, An Obedient Father, caused his name to be all but forgotten in literary circles, and the pressure to publish again was presumably immense. But the manuscript was not yet “doing what I wanted it to do,” says Sharma. “That book was dense with unhappiness, whereas I wanted a book that contained all the unhappiness but was also full of life.”

What sort of subject matter would require so many years of fine-tuning to achieve a balance between unhappiness and life? To give you an idea, here’s the basic arc of the story: Ajay Mishra is eight years old when his family moves from India to the USA. Ajay’s older brother Birju shows great academic promise, until a swimming accident leaves him permanently brain-damaged. There’s no hope of recovery or even improvement. Birju can no longer see, speak, feed himself, or bathe himself. All he can do is lie in a hospital bed, immobile, speechless, for the rest of his life.

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Limiters by Christopher Stoddard

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FA review tag

Now here is a story of how we cannot heal, of how hurt endures—how these staggering losses, hallmarks of desolations, cannot be purified, sanctified, or cast away. For this very reason, Christopher Stoddard’s second novel Limiters, published earlier this year by the newly established Itna Press, is a corrective to traditional narratives of suffering and debauchery, which all too often end in platitudes about redemption, personal triumph, and painfully gained yet worthwhile insights into the self. In Limiters, the scars last. For narrator Kyle Mason, the pain doesn’t cease but it does change shape and develop agency. By the time he’s a man it’s all he knows: pain is the home he never had.

Divided into two sections—“Family Rave,” which is set in 1998 when Kyle is 16 and wandering the industrial wastelands of New England, and “Death to Organize,” which is set in New York City in 2008—Limiters is a split novel: it tells the tale of a wayward, injured youth and follows up with the ramifications a decade later. The split is jarring; you turn the page and ten years have passed. The likable, troubled teen is now a wrecked, desperate adult. “I’m a serial killer who’s lost his edge,” Kyle says early in the second section, “a sociopath who’s turned his hatred inward and mutilates his own mind rather than other people’s faces or bodies.”

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Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Ebooks

Lady Liberty

Life’s a bitch.

In the New York Times, Tony Horwitz spills the details of his ill-fated attempt to publish an original work of long-form journalism in digital format.

After receiving an advance and using all of it to cover his travel expenses, Horwitz learned that his publisher — a nimble young company with grand ambitions for digital publishing — was giving up and going  home. Horwitz was able to find a new publisher, Byliner. They specialize in publishing original ebooks, and (I can say this, right?) about a year ago, I very nearly took a full-time job with them. Although Byliner did almost nothing to promote Horwitz’s story after publishing it, it still managed to top the Kindle Singles bestseller list — with a meager 700 or 800 copies sold — at which point Byliner made the dubious decision to stop selling it on Amazon altogether.

Writers of the world, we feel your pain. Publishing online is rough, especially if you want to earn money while doing it. But we’ve done it. Here at Fiction Advocate, with a volunteer staff of three people, we have published original works of long-form journalism in digital format, and we have done it well. When we published “The Real Holden Caulfield” by Michael Moats, it was excerpted in The Awl, The Rumpus, and Berfois, and praised online by The New Yorker, Readers Digest, Andrew Sullivan, Three Quarks Daily, Bookslut, Bookforum, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and The Second Pass. Craziest of all, the ebook was profitable from day one, thanks to the fact that we don’t pay ourselves, so any income is pure profit. We’re still giving Michael Moats his royalties. It’s not enough to live on, but it’s money that he continues to earn fairly and reliably and transparently.

Don’t get suckered by flashy start-ups who think they’ve cracked the code of digital publishing.

Trust the little guys, like us, who do it for love.

We’re open for submissions of fiction, non-fiction, and criticism.

FICTIONADVOCATE at GMAIL dot COM

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Sugar Crystals

Crystal Eaters

FA review tag

Bitmaps and knit blankets both are based around grids, and the graphics that defined early video games look to a modern viewer as sharing a primitivism with folk art. Their geometric designs dictate that pixel art of an animal resembles a depiction that could occur in a woven tapestry. Shane Jones’ novel Crystal Eaters tells the tale of a village whose simplistic belief system is understandable in video game terms: Their folklore assigns every living thing a number, a crystal count, and this image of hexagonal crystal, imagined interlocking, is the engine on which the book builds its everything. Crystals are life, and while every living thing’s number diminishes to zero and death, they are also a material thing, findable outside the body, capable of being mined. In this form, colored yellow and red, they fuel the village’s economy, either melted into an energy source or traded as trinkets. The crystal can be understood as energy, and the book’s world, like our universe, can be understood in terms of math.

The employment of such language – of crystals, energy, and math, in terms almost interchangeable- can be understood as “drug talk.” Even within the book’s mythological confines, there is an idea understood as a myth, that black crystals, if found, can be used to extend life. In practice, the black crystals are a hallucinogen, the ingestion of which detours the story’s forward progress through time and space to shuffle its chosen images into something non-Euclidean, although they also give whichever character is using them the impression that they are being made healthy. But a momentary feeling of infinity only lasts so long, and the clock keeps ticking, in numbered chapters counting down from forty, foretelling mortality in form. By the time the reader learns that forty is the number every dog is born with, the first dog they’ve met is already dead.

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