There is no technical means of reproduction that, up to now, has managed to surpass the mirror and the dream. look at me, I said to the glass in a whisper, a breath.
Minna Zallman Proctor
The first three things that come to mind (in order of importance) when I hear the phrase artificial intelligence are: 1.) Enslaved replicants in a Philip K. Dick universe rising up against and squashing the human oppressor. 2.) Artificial limbs—especially extremities that can be controlled remotely by some kind of brain implant. 3.) Vacuum cleaners that sail around the house collecting dust while you are at work. A cosmology of non-stop thrills with profound implications for our human stamina and quite likely our salvation.
How that world of brilliance and machinery morphed into a collection of stories and poems about emotional posturing, defense mechanisms, protracted confessions, and a surprising bouquet of j’accuse themes and variations, is a mystery. Quite possibly, the act of reading in the midst of a technological frenzy forces reinterpretation of any futuristic utopia. Progress isn’t speed; it’s psychological acrobatics—the wherewithal to not only survive our moment of tenuous intelligence but to live and love creatively, to claw at the surfaces of technology.
It seems inevitable that when I think a theme is going to lead us to a lively, even playful issue (which is how I envisioned this issue turning out when we planned it last year), we end up in the pits of despair. I find this a rather despairing (though exquisite) issue. (Not even Jack Garrett’s playful romp “Happiness” warms the soul.) Though, you dear reader, might remind me that the funnest part of Philip K. Dick is his bleak, blighted vision of the world and the way he hid safely from all potential minglings of Man and Progress behind a forcefield of crazy. Those vacuums that clean for themselves are preposterous, extravagant, and kind of loveless. And that we have a greater need than ever before in human history for artificial limbs (the extremities in particular) because of the newfangled anti-personnel technologies of war and terror.
Ralph Baer, the man who invented the electronic game Simon (on our cover), is known as the Father of the Video Game. In addition to Simon, which was launched at Studio 54 (disco dystopia) in 1978, he invented the prototype for the joystick, known as the Brown Box—a multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. One of the 1967 prototypes that you can see in the archives of the National Museum of American History has a shotgun wired to the little brown melamine control. The punch plastic homemade label on that iteration is called “target practice.” I mention it because it is striking—and because drones (more advances in artificial intelligence) belong in the category of new-fangled war games and because video games for better or worse are the bridge between gadget and cultural watershed. I played Simon for hours when I was eight; it may have been one of my all time favorite Christmas presents. I love it as a symbol for this issue because it embodies the if:then algorithm of primitive computer language, as well as the mindless seduction of repeat-after-me, and the blinking lights and primary colors that represent the eternal hope of childrens toys. Simon is a perfect expression of futurism for our moment, redredyellowredbluegreenblueblue faster and faster bleeping and blinking into the abyss of time spent. It is an artificial intelligence indeed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Edmundo Paz Soldán
One Night Stand
Translated by Kirk Nesset
Navidad & Matanza
Translated by Will Vanderhyden
How To Become the Longest-Tenured Female Funeral Director in Longbend, Ohio
Nurse Clappy Gets His
Once December Comes
The New Widow
You Are My New God
Swing Revival/Stunt Double
Dead to You
Concerning the Prime and Proper Foundation of Blame
The Lowest Possible Limit of Perpetual Snow
“A Third Party Who Says Me”
Pat Robertson Transubstantiation Engines
A Poem Floating in a Bottle, via Email
Conversation with a Taxi Driver
Beginning of the Weekend
Translated by Zdravka Gugleta
Trash, Zishe Breitbart Impersonates Atlas Beside Flexing Schoolboys, Christ and Village Under the Snow
Bread & Circuses
Maggie MK Hess
Lines Composed an Hour and Ten Minutes by Interstate from South Orange, New Jersey, from a Title Written by a Student and Drawn at Random from a Hat, in Late August, 2011
Lucky 12 (Odegaard, and What Happened to Him in What Otherwise Would Have Been Another Lost Evening in Suburban New Jersey), an Overture
As If to a Partial Catalogue of First Glances
& Her Name—It Wasn’t “Euridyce,” of Course, Thought It May Have Rhymed Aslant with That, Though for the Life of Me I Can’t
“That the Soul Discharges Her Passions upon False Objects”
Becky Adnot-Haynes has published short fiction in journals such as Missouri Review, Indiana Review, West Branch, and Hobart, where her short story was the winner of the Buffalo Prize. Previously an editor for the Cincinnati Review, she lives in Cincinnati and works for the J. Peterman Company.
Mark Bibbins is the author of Sky Lounge, The Dance of No Hard Feelings, and the forthcoming They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full. He teaches writing at The New School, where he also co-founded LIT magazine. He lives in New York City.
Bruce Bond is the author of nine published books of poetry, most recently Choir of the Wells: A Tetralogy and The Visible. He also has two books forthcoming: The Other Sky and For the Lost Cathedral. He is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and poetry editor for American Literary Review.
Christopher Buckley’s Nineteenth book of poetry, Varieties of Religious Experience, was published this year, and his most recent book of creative nonfiction is the forthcoming Holy Days of Obligation. His poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, TriQuarterly, The New Yorker, and The Nation, among others. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA grants, a Fulbright, and four Pushcart Prizes.
Ben Bush is a Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Bookforum, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer, Poets & Writers, San Francisco Chronicle, Yeti, and Conversations with William T. Vollmann (University of Mississippi Press). Read his story “The Overseer” here.
Okla Elliott has published non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations in Indiana Review, International Poetry Review, New Letters, A Public Space, and The Southeast Review, among others. He has written a book of short fiction, From the Crooked Timber; three poetry chapbooks; and the forthcoming novel, The Doors You Mark Are Your Own, coauthored with Raul Clement. Elliott is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois, where he works in the fields of comparative literature and trauma studies.
Jack Garrett lives in Los Angeles. He has been a country radio DJ in the southwest and performed off-off-Broadway in New York. His stories have appeared in The New Orleans Review, The Portland Review, The Santa Monica Review, and Quarter After Eight. He is also a voice actor.
Jesse Goolsby is the author of the novel I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them. His award-winning fiction has been published recently in Narrative Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, and the Sycamore Review. He serves as fiction editor for the journal War, Literature & the Arts. He currently lives and writes in Tallahassee, Florida. His work has been featured in TLR The Rogue Idea. Read his story, “They Skin the Dead” here.
Zdravka Gugleta’s translations of Australian poets into Serbian have appeared in Serbian literary magazines. She is currently preparing a volume of Kevin Hart’s selected poetry in Serbian.
Stefania Heim is the author of the poetry collection A Table That Goes On for Miles, winner of the Gatewood Prize and forthcoming this winter from Switchback Books. She is completing a PhD in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, writing a dissertation on Susan Howe, Muriel Rukeyser, and the scholar’s art.
Maggie MK Hess lives and writes in Seattle. She serves as poetry editor of the Los Angeles Review. Her poems have appeared recently in FIELD, Painted Bride Quarterly, Pleiades, and others. She is working on a first book of poetry, organizes The Unauthorized Readings, and writes the humor blog Dear Mr. Postman.
Carlos Labbé, one of Granta’s “Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists,” was born in Chile and is the author of six novels, including Navidad & Matanza and Locuela, and a collection of short stories. In addition to his writings he is a musician, and has released three albums. He is a co-editor at Sangria, a publishing house based in Santiago and Brooklyn, where he translates and runs workshops. He also writes literary essays.
Carol LaHines’ fiction has appeared in The Nebraska Review, the North Atlantic Review, the Sycamore Review, Permafrost, redivider, and Fence. An excerpt from her novella, Resonance, was a finalist for the 2012 David Nathan Meyerson fiction prize and the New Letters short story award.
Karyna McGlynn is the author of I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl, win- ner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize, as well as three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Fence, Salt Hill, Columbia Poetry Review, Subtropics, and Court Green, among others. She is pursuing her PhD in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Houston, where she is the managing editor of Gulf Coast. She curates the Houston Indie Book Fest and the Gulf Coast Reading Series.
John McManus is the author of four books of fiction: Stop Breakin Down, Born on a Train, Bitter Milk, and his latest story collection, Fox Tooth Heart, forthcoming from Sarabande Books in November 2015. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, McSweeney’s, American Short Fiction, The Oxford American, The Literary Review, and Harvard Review, among other journals and anthologies. He is the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award, Creative Capital Literature grant, and a Fulbright Scholar grant. He grew up in East Tennessee and lives in Virginia, where he teaches in the MFA creative writing program at Old Dominion University. His beautiful story was featured on Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading.
Joseph Modugno attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Gansu, China and backpacked through Asia. Currently, he is a student in the MFA Program in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. His fiction has appeared in Forge Journal and The Literary Review.
David Moolten is a physician who lives, writes, and practices in Philadelphia. His most recent book, Primitive Mood, won the T.S. Eliot Prize from Truman State.
Kirk Nesset is author of the novels Paradise Road and Mr. Agreeable, as well as Saint X (poetry), Alphabet of the World (translation), and The Stories Of Raymond Carver (nonfiction). His work has appeared in The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere. He teaches at Allegheny College, and is writer in residence at Black Forest Writing Seminars in Freiburg, Germany.
Milan Orlić is a distinguished Serbian poet, prose writer, and essayist whose award-winning work has been translated into over fifteen languages. He is editor-in-chief of two journals, Sveske and Sveske ArtTech, and of the publishing house Mali Nemo in Pancevo.
Walter Robinson is a pediatrician specializing in lung disease. He will complete an MFA in Writing and Literature at the Bennington Writing Seminars in June 2014.
Charles Simic is a poet, essayist, and translator. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Prize, and a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2007 Simic was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate. His New and Selected Poems: 1962–2012 was published in March 2013.
Edmundo Paz Soldán has written fourteen works of fiction, including La materia del deseo, El delirio de Turing, Rio fugitive, and Billie Ruth. He is also an essayist, journalist, and translator, and co-author (with Alberto Fuguet) of Se habla español, an anthology of new Latin American fiction. He has received Bolivia’s National Book Award, the Juan Rulfo Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and teaches at Cornell University. His work has been translated into eleven languages.
Mark Svenvold plays guitar whenever he can and probably when he should be doing something else. He lives in New York City and teaches at Seton Hall University.
Will Vanderhyden is a translator of Spanish and Latin American fiction. He has translated fiction by Carlos Labbé, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Juan Marsé, Rafael Sanchez Ferlosio, and Elvio Gandolfo. His translation of Carlos Labbé’s Navidad & Matanza will be published in April 2014.