Litro #145: Missed Connections – Letter from the Editor

litro145_coverDear Reader,

We welcome you back, after the summer break, with Litro #145- Missed Connections.

Before I get to this months theme, I am very pleased to announce Litro’s new Fiction Editor, Precious Williams. Her first book, a memoir called Precious, is published by Bloomsbury and was serialised in the Times. Precious’s story has also been featured on Sky News and BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and in the Guardian and Grazia. Educated at Oxford University and the London College of Printing (Postgrad Journalism), Precious began her writing career as a feature writer at the Independent on Sunday, before moving to New York as Contributing Editor for the Mail on Sunday’s Night & Day magazine. She has also written for the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, Glamour, Elle, the Financial Times Weekend and the Sunday Times.

Precious says of her role: As Litro’s Fiction Editor, I’m especially interested in hearing from emerging writers with fresh, unique voices. Stories (whether prose, spoken word, songs or films) should inspire, inquire, entertain, inform, provoke, seduce and connect.

And in this her inaugural issue, she has compiled a collection of stories, which I’m sure you will agree—inspire, entertain, inform, provoke, seduce and bring the ‘connect’ in the Missed Connection.

We open the issue with Annabel Banks’s Limitations, a story about a man who aspires to amend his disturbed, and disturbing, life trajectory via a date with a new love interest.

Alex Poppe takes us to East Jerusalem with Ras Al-Amud, a pregnant teenage girl in East Jerusalem gives birth to a new sense of strength and self-containment.

A Smile in the Dark, by Irehobhude O. Lyioha, takes us to Nigeria—where a young woman tries to catch the eye of a stranger in her favourite café as she longs for a lover who will truly see her.

In Divine Correspondance Jude Cook forces Stephen to consider what it means to be alive, following a series of near-death experiences. Nina Sabolik takes us to the Balkans The Chess Game a story that explores the relationship between the individual and society during an erotically charged chess game.

In Vicky Grut’s Basket, Andy is mesmerised but then—gradually—appalled, by Clarissa, a pretentious university friend who stumbles in and out of his life. We get transported back in time to 19th Century Benin with an extract from the novel Butterfly Fish, by a new rising literary star Irenosen Okojiewhere. A king’s wife is thrust into potentially dangerous territory after bumping into a handsome stranger late one night.

We end with a segment from a conversation by Litro Magazine’s Interviews Editor Mia Funk and the acclaimed writer and poet Claudia Rankine on her latest collection of Poems Citizen: An American Lyric inspired by a conversation she had with a poet who asked her: Can you remember a moment when you thought you were going about your day and you thought you were just interacting with somebody and suddenly racism […] created a breach that you had to step over or move away from the racist?

According to Martin Amis, “fiction is the only way to redeem the formlessness of life.”

I hope this issues collection of short stories brings some meaning to your thoughts, when you think about that Missed Connection!

Eric Akoto

Editor in Chief

Litro #144: Transgender Issue Letter from the editor

Litro #144: Transgender
Litro #144: Transgender

The Transgender Issue

Dear Reader,

Putting together a transgender edition of Litro has been a harder endeavour than you may imagine. Over the last five years, huge strides have been made towards better trans visibility and self-representation. In the US, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have spoken beautifully on the challenges faced by trans people, particularly trans women of colour, whilst Chelsea Manning, Laura Jane Grace and Caitlyn Jenner have all raised the profile of our community. In Britain, there are more newspaper articles and television programmes being produced from a trans perspective than ever more, as people recognise the damage done by the mainstream media and its sensationalistic, voyeuristic coverage of trans people and attempt to carve out some space for themselves.

Traditionally, trans writing has focused on autobiography and memoir – the only means by which the first transsexual people could explain themselves to a bewildered public – and then theory, which responded to attacks from feminist and conservative critics alike. I tried to secure an extract of a book by one the most influential 1990s theorists, Kate Bornstein, as her work had a huge effect on me when I read Gender Outlaw as a confused twenty-something, and led me to a long line of trans and queer authors whose ideas changed the way I thought about sex and gender – and not just my own. Sadly, I couldn’t, so I hope you are not too disappointed with one of my short stories, set in the 1990s, as a substitute.

There is very little ‘literary’ fiction by trans people. Excluded from ‘serious’ art as our identities have been dismissed as inauthentic, we have tended to prefer genre fiction, or to focus on activism, as the political situations for trans people worldwide have been so dismal. Where trans people have appeared in literary fiction, we have tended to be one-dimensional characters, ciphers for an author’s wider opinions about gender, used to make a narrative more ‘exotic’ or to give it a ‘twist’.

Here, I have tried to feature writers who identify as trans and/or queer, and write from such a position, although I am not certain that all of them do – just that they seem sensitive to the people and issues involved. As a voracious reader of fiction, I am delighted to showcase several short stories. The first is by writer/performer Jet Moon, who I encountered at the Transfabulous Festival of International Transgender Arts in 2008, which showed me a world of poetry, performance and playfulness that I’d never thought possible as a closeted teen, ten years earlier. I have also included a story by Sanam Amin, an author from Thailand whose subtle approach to the subject undercuts any preconceptions one may have about the nation’s kathoey or ‘third gender’ community, and a long piece by Barney Walsh, as well as flash fiction by Mark Brown.

There are also essays by Scott Esposito, who came out as trans in a stunning article about Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up and his own gender last year – in this issue I present another piece of his highly personal film criticism, this time on Pedro Almodóvar. Also included are a poetic text by artist Raju Rage about clothing, gender, race and identity, and musician, writer and activist CN Lester taking down the cliché of being ‘born in the wrong body’.

That seems an appropriate place to begin, so welcome to the transgender edition of Litro.

Litro #143: Detroit – Letter from the Editor

Litro #143: DetroitDear Reader,

Welcome to Litro #143, our Detroit issue.

In 2005, two French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffrel, put Detroit back on the global map for all the wrong reasons – with their book The Ruins of Detroit, a collection of photographs taken during the pairs seven week-long visit to Detroit between 2005 and 2009, the book provided a testimony of the dramatic destructive cost of American Capitalism.

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffrel, photographs captured the derelict remains of once great City-grand baroque theatres, hotels, ballrooms – venues which showcased the some of the greats- Duke Ellington in the 1930s; to the Eastown theatre, a place where home grown rock groups like Iggy and the Stoges, homed their craft before conquering the worlds music stages. The photographs also captured derelict remains of the city’s civic infrastructure: churches, schools, police stations, courthouses all abandoned by its fleeing work force. An exodus so extreme, that today the city’s residents total 700,000 from a population of an estimated 1.9 million in 1950.

To understand how Detroit has become the symbol of the American urban crisis an understanding of its history is needed, I won’t claim to fully cover this here, and writers such as Thomas J Sugrue, in The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in postwar Detroit is a good starting point for a more in-depth historical coverage.
Detroit the Motor City, in the 20th Century was the capital of America’s most important industry- car manufacturing- the city was a global beacon of modernity and the symbol of American power, capitalism and the labour force that built it. “You can see here, as it is impossible to do in a more varied and complex city, the whole structure of an industrial society.” Wrote essayist Edmund Wilson, reporting on his visit to Detroit in the 1930s.

Out of the 125 car manufacturing companies born out of Detroit in the early 20th Century, Ford lead the pack of the back with the Model T, a car manufactured on what was the time a revolutionary production line – that boasted a 90,000 plus strong labour force – made up of predominantly skilled immigrant artisans from the shipyards of Scotland, England as well as Mexico, Lebanon and African- Americans from the city’s then growing population of southern migrants.

Detroit’s downfall is multifaceted lead by the collapse of the American Motor Industry a downfall starting in the 1950’s- reaching a crisis point in the 1960’s and 1970’s, due mainly to a burgeoning domestic market’s demands for cheaper foreign imports and the global rise in oil prices – to the poor management of underlying racial tensions in Detroit – culminating in some of the largest racial riots – scene in America. By the climax of the American Motor industries downfall-Detroit is now America’s most racially polarized city- a result of a hostilities between the city’s white and African- American working population, which had been masked during the City’s prosperity. The city was not equipped to handle the pool of African Americans brought to man the many production lines. In 1940, Ford Motors was one of the largest employers of African Americans in the United States. This shift in Detroit’s demographic is scene by many scholars as the spark for the many racial tensions that would blow up into one of the bloodiest riots in America’s history. As a result of the city’s racial polarization in the 1940’s 200,000 African- American residents were cramped into some 60 square blocks on the East Side, mostly living under poor sanitary conditions. Ironically, this ghetto was called paradise Valley.

The summer of 1943, would see race riots across America, riots had already erupted in Los Angeles, including Mobile, Alabama, and Beaumont Texas. Detroit’s own riots would begin in a amusement park known as Belle Isle, Starting with several incidents during the evening of June 20th, 1943 – from multiple fights fights amongst teenagers of both races- to a fight erupting at the bridge which lead back to the mainland – between some 200 African Americans and white sailors – soon a crowd of 5,000 white residents gathered at the mainland entrance to the bridge ready to attack black vacationers wishing to cross. By midnight, an understaffed police force attempted to manage the situation, but the rioting had already spread too far into the city.
The then Mayor, Mayor Edward J. Jeffries, having waited until late evening to ask for help from federal troops to quell the fighting – it took the arrival of some 6,000 federal troops to result in a truce between the city’s warring factions. Under armed occupation, Detroit came to a virtual standstill- streets were deserted, schools closed and Governor Harry Francis Kelly had closed all places of public amusement.

The riots saw Twenty-five black residents and nine white residents killed. The number injured, counting the police, approached 700 while the cost to damaged property amounted to some $2 million. The German- controlled Vichy radio broadcasted that the riots revealed “the internal disorganization of a weak nation, torn by social injustice, regional disputes, the violence of an irritated proletariat, and gangstersim of a capitalistic police” echoing some of what Edward Wilson had spoke of in the 1930’s, he described capitalism as “a precarious economic system the condition for whose success is that [its members] must profit by swindling their customers and cutting one another’s throats”.

Detroit formally emerged from bankruptcy in December of 2014 after about 18 months, bringing to a close the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. But the road to full recovery will be long. Once a great American metropolis, Detroit is still struggling with a costly pension system, continuing emptying of neighbourhoods, crime, insufficient city services and immense blight.

There is hope for this once great city to rise again and rebuild itself. Within these pages, fiction comes from; Dorene O’Brien in her story Way Past Taggin’, which takes us inside the sub-culture of Detroit’s graffiti artists, as a promising artist is sucked into a petty territorial dispute, with a fatal outcome. Following that, Patricia Abbott uses Belle Isle as her backdrop to her dark and gruesome story in: On Belle Isle. A budding photographer, obsessed with photographing images of dead corpses, gets her wish after a chance encounter with an artist, resulting in a gruesome invitation for her to photograph a corpse recently washed to shore. To get to the corpse she must go through a gauntlet of Detroit’s criminal underbelly.

Amy Kaherl, one of the founding members of Detroit Soup. Writes about her Detroit and the work being carried by the charity. Amy is one of the many young entrepreneurs in Detroit providing engaging platforms for Detroit locals to help re-build itself. We feature a Q&A with Detroit photographer, Amy Sacka, and find out about her projects “Lost and Found in Detroit”. A photo series that began as a 365-day photo essay, where she literally took a photo a day … a story that after reaching its 365th day is now extended to “The next 500 days”, having moved to Detroit from Seattle and now a Detroit homeowner. We feel this may run for a while yet.

We end with Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award winner Kathe Koja, who considers Detroit’s new status as a city in limbo; The Limbo District highlights what this might mean for its inhabitants. Despite the abandonment and decay, The Limbo District ends appropriately on a note of hope.

Litro #142: Mexico – Foreword

Litro #142: Mexico
Litro #142: Mexico

The Power of Words

When I met Eric Akoto, a few months back, I did it through words. A letter received at the Embassy and replied the same way. From the very beginning it was fairly easy to be on the same page and within a blink of an eye we were talking words rather than writing them; words about the English and Spanish languages, about literature as an effective way to build bridges of understanding amid peoples and countries. They were words about authors and their work, British and Mexican, past and present; authors that represent the best of their cultures. So when he pointed at the possibility of dedicating a Litro Magazine edition to Mexico and its literature, both of our eyes sparkled; just like words do in novels, essays and poems.

As the Ambassador of Mexico to the Court of St James´s, and as a writer, I fully acknowledge the important role literature plays both in Britain and Mexico; a relevance perfectly reflected by this wonderful Litro Magazine edition dedicated to celebrating and sharing Mexico’s literary creativeness with British readers, editors and writers.

During the last few months, while preparing this edition of Litro, I had the opportunity to exchange points of view with poets and novelists, as well as young writers, about Mexico’s main literary assets and renewed creative vitality, about literature’s links to politics and diplomacy. For many years, diplomatic life has been linked to literature. Great Mexican minds like Alfonso Reyes, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, and Sergio Pitol fostered brilliant diplomatic liaisons between Mexico and the rest of the world, based on our country’s imaginative power and rich culture.

Throughout 2015, as we celebrate the ‘Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom’ and ‘Year of the United Kingdom in Mexico’, literature will again be at the forefront of our efforts to strengthen the ties between Mexico and Britain. On the one hand, Mexican publishing will be showcased at the London Book Fair. On the other hand, the United Kingdom will be the guest of honour at the Guadalajara Book Fair, the world’s largest Spanish language book fair and the second largest globally. As the famous campaign says, “literature is – definitely – great”.

Literature has always been part of this longstanding relationship across the Atlantic Ocean since both countries first established diplomatic ties back in 1825. Octavio Paz, our Literature Nobel laureate, spent a year in Cambridge while Carlos Fuentes lived for over two decades in London. Through the carefully curated pages of this Litro Magazine edition you will find what lies ahead. Brilliant young novelists, playwrights and poets who represent the future of Mexico and that will undoubtedly become the new bridges that connect both of our countries through the power and beauty of their written words.

Diego Gómez-Pickering
Ambassador of Mexico to the Court of Saint James
Guest Translator
March 2015

Litro #142: Mexico – Letter from the Editor

litro142_cover_bannerDear Reader,

When I say or write the word Mexico, I always think that the word itself is an enchantment. It sounds beautiful, looks striking on the page and always makes me feel I should salute or kneel. The word represents the country perfectly, as Mexico has produced some of the world’s great art and literature and continues to do so.

This special Mexican issue of Litro Magazine speaks to the many voices writing on Mexico in different languages and forms. For some reason, playwrights and screenwriters are so rarely included in literary magazines. Here, however, we include a short dialogue by leading playwright Ximena Escalante. This edition also showcases Chloe Aridjis, a Mexican writer who writes in English. Aridjis, like myself and others such as DBC Pierre or the screenwriter and director Rodrigo Garcia, is a part of a tradition that can claim the English language inside a Mexican context.

Litro #142: Mexico also represents Mexico’s indigenous world thanks to a poem by Natalia Toledo, who writes in both Spanish and Zapotec, her mother tongue. Aline Davidoff’s piece on The Herrera-Harfuch Art Collection honours the unique bond that painters and writers have always had in Mexico. This is the very first time an article on the unique collection has appeared in print.

As a former President of PEN Mexico during the time when the killing of journalists began to escalate, and as the author of a novel on stolen girls, I care about the lost and disappeared voices of Mexico. Therefore, this issue contains an unpublished poem – unknown even in Spanish – written by Samuel Noyola, whose work was admired by many poets including Octavio Paz. Noyola disappeared in 2007 and it is presumed that he died homeless on the streets of Mexico City. The poet and journalist Alicia Quiñones gave me this poem. The cover photograph by Miguel Calderon of a vulture on a highway sign that spells Acapulco was chosen for Litro before the recent violent events in Mexico’s State of Guerrero. Now it feels prophetic.

There is such a great wealth of talent among the emerging writers in Mexico that it is hard to decipher and recognize the voices that will take a place in the canon; but here we include the works of poet Sara Uribe and fiction writer Daniel Krauze to represent the younger, newer voices emerging in Mexico.

Lastly, while it is obviously impossible for a small selection of this kind to represent the diverse voices writing in Mexico today, it is interesting to note that, months after the selection for these pages was made, two writers were awarded important literary prizes. Alvaro Enrigue was given the Elena Poniatowska Prize, and Luis Miguel Aguilar was awarded the Ramón López Velarde Prize for poetic excellence.

Jennifer Clement
Guest Editor
Mexico City, 2015

Litro #141: Myths & Legends – Letter from the Editor

141_cover_bannerDear Reader,

There’s something timeless about the best stories. While societies grow and history marches forever onwards, human nature hasn’t changed much over the centuries. It’s little wonder that we’re still fascinated by tales of Odysseus and Penelope, Odin and Loki. They may be immortal, but the gods of myth and legend are often just as human as you and I.

Litro #141 – Myths & Legends – pulls out its crystal ball and scries the fate of these ancient gods in the modern world. We have contemporary takes on the tales of Ancient Greece, Northern European myths influencing the here and now, and even a folkloric monster from the Philippines. What they all have in common is that they explore one of the most timeless literary traditions of all, bringing gods and monsters to life in the 21st century – and maybe creating a few new myths of their own.

Sam Mills opens the issue with Andromeda, a retelling of one of the most enduring Greek myths. Steeped in tradition and yet shockingly modern, it’s a story that sets out our stall for this issue. The heroes and monsters of legend have never looked more relevant. It’s followed by Louise Palfreyman’s Calypso in Therapy, which projects a Greek immortal into today’s medical system. Funny and sad in equal measure, her tale resonates across the centuries. The same can be said of Armel Dagorn’s On a Ship Bound for Crete, a slice of flash fiction that questions exactly who the monsters were in Ancient Greece.

With The Tikbalang we start to move in a different direction, as Bethany W. Pope mines Philippine mythology for a truly unique – and disturbing – monster. Then Ruth Brandt transports us to Iceland with Petrification, a modern romance that is constantly overshadowed by the stark landscape it takes place in – and the local legend of a family of petrified trolls. In our final short story, Francoise Harvey’s Fimbulwinter, two ostracized children find comfort in a book of Viking legends. Her story stands testament to the timeless power of myths and legends to inspire us – and to the power of books.

In this issue we also have a travel piece from Andrea Calabretta, Land of Fire and Ice, as she uncovers a rich tradition of storytelling in Iceland. And finally we have an interview with Hari Kunzru, author of Gods Without Men and Transmission, in which he discusses how ancient coyote myths found their way into his work, the modern mythology of UFO culture, and the multimedia future of the novel.

If Litro #141 shows us anything, it’s that the oldest of stories are just as relevant today as they were centuries ago. From Ancient Greece to the snowy wastes of Iceland, modern culture has its roots firmly planted in the myths and legends that seeded our imagination. Maybe there really are immortals after all.

Dan Coxon


Litro #140: Diaries – Letter from the Editor

litro140_diaries_coverDear Reader,

The New Year is traditionally a time for looking forward. We plan and reprioritise, making resolutions and setting our course for the year ahead. Those of us who keep a diary are literally opening the first page of a new book. The next year sits blank, waiting for us to fill it.

Litro #140 – Diaries – looks both backwards and forwards as it considers the uses that diaries and journals are put to, and the secrets they can share. They open a window onto the past in Shashi Tharoor’s Trying to Discover India, a story that explores the truth behind Christopher Columbus’s voyage of discovery. Columbus is in the process of being recontextualised by historians, and Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) recently referred to him as a “butcher/rapist/genocide” in a widely read tweet – there’s no better time to read Tharoor’s alternate version of his story. Claire Thurlow also explores the uses of the diary to the modern historian, in her short essay Much Bothered with Buffalo. She delves into the diaries and journals of the women who travelled America’s emigrant trails, and finds their stories candidly preserved in paper and ink.

The second half of this issue looks forward to days to come, with While He Sleeps by Ariel Dawn, a poetic piece of flash fiction that tries to imagine the subconscious communication between the pages of a diary and those written about within. Then James Mitchell opens the pages of a journal written in our dystopian future, in What Good Looks Like. Mitchell’s predictions for the direction our schools are taking feel eerily prescient, and should act as a timely warning. Finally, we chat with cult hero Chuck Palahniuk about the themes behind his bestselling novel Diary, his current love of sequels – and his plans for Fight Club 2. If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of Tyler Durden, you won’t want to miss this interview.

As for us, we’re also starting to plan our year ahead. 2015 marks Litro’s tenth year in print, and we have some exciting dates marked in our diaries already. We have the IGGY & Litro Young Writers’ Prize awards presentation taking place at a special event in London’s iconic Shard building this April. Also in April, we’ll be publishing our Mexico issue, celebrating the “Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom” and “Year of the United Kingdom in Mexico” – including some very special events at the London Book Fair. Then, as spring turns into summer, we’ll be launching our very first Litro anthology, a collection of the best stories to have passed through our pages during the last ten years. The book is being published in partnership with Kingston University Press, and includes stories by Nikesh Shukla, Chloe Aridjis, Anthony Doerr, Jenn Ashworth, Kate Williams, and many, many others. Start clearing space on your bookshelf now.

It’s little wonder that we still need diaries to organise our days, and to record our memories. If anyone stumbles across my diary in years to come, they’ll be certain of one thing: 2015 was a pretty good year.

Dan Coxon


Litro #139: No Such Luck – Letter from the Editor

litro139_nosuchluck_singleDear Reader,

We all know the whims of lady luck. Looking back on 2014, most of us will have had our fair share of lucky breaks – and plenty of bad luck too. Here at Litro, we’ve had lots to be grateful for in the last year: the launch of our American website, our three events at the Latitude Festival in the summer, the publication of our ebook anthology Transatlantic in the US, and, of course, all the wonderful writing that has passed through our pages and our website. But none of these came without their share of misfortunes and problems to be overcome. Nothing worthwhile ever does.

Litro #139 – No Such Luck – explores stories of failure, loss, disappointment, and some very, very bad luck. Here we have tales of failed relationships, homelessness, death and despair. And yet, somehow, there are still a few bright sparks of hope among the hardship and ill fortune. After all, every writer knows that it takes more than a little bad luck to break the human spirit.

We’re excited to have David Rose opening this issue with At Colonus, a broadside aimed at Boris Johnson’s recent campaign to eliminate rough sleeping. David’s Posthumous Stories is one of the best collections we’ve seen in recent years, and his contribution displays a masterful touch. What better way to follow it than with Simon Holloway’s Mosquitoes, a character study examining what it means to be left behind after your other half passes on.

Matthew Di Paoli offers a lighter interlude in The Cleaning Lady, a story of childhood obsession, stray dogs and oversized underwear. Then Kelly Creighton revisits an old lover – and a classic The Vaccines track – in Teenage Icon, unpicking the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Following that, Dominic Stevenson remembers the fallen of World War One, and the victims of the current economic crisis, with his poems I Was There and Bonfire Night Beneath the Stars.

Reece Choules tackles parental grief in Seen and Not Seen, as his narrator withdraws from life following a personal tragedy. Then tragedy is faced full-on in No Angels by Michelle Bracken, as she attempts to answer the question that has haunted mankind for millennia: what happens after death? In our last story, Lucy Durneen picks apart a failed affair in Wild Gestures, a piece that was highly commended in this year’s Manchester Fiction Prize. It’s easy to see why, as Lucy handles her tale of failed romance with grace, wit and imagination. Failure has never looked so colourful.

Finally, we talk to Colin Barrett, author of the critically acclaimed short story collection Young Skins. Colin has won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award – plus he’s recently been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. We chat with him about his writing, his roots, and the importance of luck.

As 2015 looms large ahead, we have plenty to look forward to. We’ll be turning our gaze towards Mexico in the spring, while our Myths & Legends issue, due in March, will include the winner of this year’s IGGY & Litro Young Writers’ Prize. Throw in some unmissable live events, as well as some exciting news on the publication of our anthology in the UK, and 2015 is already full of promise. Let’s hope our luck stays good.

Dan Coxon


Litro #138: Horror – Letter from the Editor

litroissue138_horror_singleDear Reader,

Welcome to Litro #138, our Horror issue. Within these pages we have some unique visions of what makes our skin crawl: hauntings and mythological deities, mad scientists and weirdly creepy trips to the cinema. What brings them together is the authors’ desire to make us scream. (If you want an example of how horror bleeds into the crime genre too, then be sure to check out our latest Book Club read – the dark and grisly Barcelona Shadows, by Marc Pastor.)

We’re thrilled to have a new piece from Toby Litt as this issue’s opener, a troubling short story called There was this boy I met at a party, years back. With its unexpected ending and distinctive voice it gives a truly modern flavour to the traditional haunting. Then acclaimed American author Richard Thomas takes us on a trip worthy of The Twilight Zone in Little Red Wagon, a touching (but disturbing) tale, with a twist in the end that reframes the entire story. Pete Segall’s Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? is similarly surreal but unsettling, as a trip to the cinema takes a sinister turn. Warning: you may never be able to eat peanut M&Ms again.

Krishan Coupland tackles slightly more traditional horror fare, although his unique vision gives 2001 an allegorical depth that you won’t often find in the genre. His simple revenge tale gets deeply weird and disturbing when Skylark and the Bug take to the skies. That’s followed by Sheila Armstrong’s Badhbh, a collision between ancient evil and modern civilisation with an intriguing folkloric angle. Then we close with a story by one of the emerging stars of the horror genre, Adam Nevill, whose dark imagination conjures up The Ancestors. Of all the stories in this issue, this is the one you’ll want to read with all the lights on.

Finally, we talk to Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author of the eerily thrilling Southern Reach Trilogy. Anyone who’s read VanderMeer’s books will tell you that he has a truly unique take on the familiar horror tropes, and his recent trilogy contains some of the most unsettling scenes in modern literature. We’re also excited to have illustrations from two talented artists – Dan Henk and Jethro Lentle – so watch out for their artwork as you read.

We hope you enjoy Litro’s walk on the dark side. We dare you to read this issue alone, with the lights down low, as a storm rages outside and a branch tap-tap-taps at the window. Turning the page has never been so fraught with peril.

Dan Coxon


Litro #137: Future Fashions – Letter from the Editor

litroissue137_futurefashions_singleDear Reader,

For the last hundred years, we have been constantly imagining – and reimagining – our destiny. Science fiction writers and directors have projected mankind into the future through new worlds, new cityscapes – and, of course, new fashions. The fashion industry has always looked to the future for inspiration, so it’s no surprise that designers have often been involved in creating these sci-fi visions. Jean-Paul Gaultier, Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin have all lent their visual style to the imagined societies we have seen on film. From Barbarella’s intergalactic beachwear to Katniss Everdeen’s combustible evening gown, fashion shapes the way we view mankind’s future.

As London Fashion Week brings the clothes of tomorrow to the catwalk, Litro #137 also puts science fiction’s Future Fashions in the spotlight. We celebrate some of the iconic designs of the last fifty years, and imagine where the fashion industry might end up in the near (or distant) future. We open with Imagining the Future by Claire Smith of the British Film Institute, examining the influence that costume design has had on science fiction films, from Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902) to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Kubrick’s masterpiece will be re-released to cinemas in a new digital transfer this November, as part of the BFI’s epic science fiction season, Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder – don’t miss out on this transcendent slice of future design.

Ian Sales explores many of the same themes in his story The Spaceman and the Moon Girl, taking us back to a time when mankind looked to the stars for inspiration. The worlds of science and fashion collided during the 1969 moon landings, as that era’s designers took their inspiration from NASA’s ambitious space program. Ivor W. Hartmann beams us into the far future with Catwalk, examining the toll the fashion industry takes from its models; then Tosin Coker unveils a world in which clothes have become more than simple garments, in her novel extract The Path. Ryan van Winkle imagines a future in which nudity is the new haute couture, in his poem that was joy she said, a modern take on the Emperor’s new clothes. This is followed by a short travelogue from the future, From Sri Lanka… With Love, by fashion designer Walé Oyéjidé, before Efe Tokunbo explores similar territory in Baby Lon and Imp9000 go to Market. Tokunbo’s story is a hi-tech shopping trip in which individuality – and freedom – come with a price tag.

Finally, we chat with acclaimed biographer Ian Kelly about his latest project, working side-by-side with designer Vivienne Westwood on her much-anticipated biography. There are few fashion designers as iconic as Westwood, and Kelly was given unprecedented access to her friends, her family – and Vivienne herself – as he researched her remarkable life story. For anyone who has an interest in fashion, punk, or simply the British cultural icons of the last fifty years, this is a book you won’t want to miss.

As the world’s models take to London’s catwalks this September, wearing many of the designs and the fabrics that we will see around us for the next few years, I can’t help humming lines from Lady Gaga’s ‘Fashion’: “There’s a life on Mars / Where the couture is beyond, beyond / Fashion”. From space age fabrics to dazzling near-future designs, fashion has always had one foot planted at the furthest reaches of the human imagination. The Space Race may have stalled, but our designers continue to reach for the stars.

Dan Coxon


Litro #136: Music – Letter from the Editor

litroissue136_music_singleDear Readers,

What is there to say about the intangible art that is music? Well according to our trusted Wikipedia, “Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch, rhythm, and dynamics,” but we know that’s only half the story. There is an unspoken inner connection between music and the spirit. Music, said Arnold Bennett, is “a language which the soul alone understands but which the soul can never translate.” Richter described music as “the poetry of the air.” Tolstoy called it “the shorthand of emotion.” Words are the language of the mind but music is the language of the soul.

Litro 136 – Music – opens with an interview with bestselling author Jonathan Coe, whose work has often been notable for its exploration of the intersection between music and literature. Coe is also a musician, and it’s an interest that shows in his written work. As he says in his interview, “If the most beautiful tune in the world was set to the blandest and stupidest words, it wouldn’t bother me very much”.

In When Time Slows DownRab Ferguson explores the hold that music can have over us, and the connections that it makes with the key moments in our lives. There can be something magical in the way it controls and moves us. Then Sean Beaudoin dissects the lifespan of the aspiring musician in Steve-O in Seven Movements, as he follows his protagonist from anarchic teenage rebellion to an altogether milder middle age. Beaudoin has rock credentials of his own, as the author of Young Adult rock novel Wise Young Fool. His reimagining of the rock’n’roll lifestyle rings eerily true.

Babak Ganjei’s cartoon Twenty-One Years Since Nevermind provides the heart of the issue, as he illustrates the ongoing influence of one of the most celebrated rock bands of all time. Then Thomas Kearnes turns the spotlight on Hannah Montana in Miley Cyrus Ruined My Sex Life. In MAAM – Mothers Against Allowing Miley – Kearnes has created a movement that sounds so realistic it might even already exist. Finally, we have Werner Herzog Gets Shot by Neil Schiller, in which a young music journalist unexpectedly returns to his Germanic roots, thanks to the music of an undiscovered band.

If there’s one thing these stories have in common, it’s the power of music to connect and transport, whether it is being listened to or performed. There is nothing more powerful or more seductive than music and as a singer, producer and DJ, the joy that music brings is something that I have devoted my life to.

Kele Okereke

Guest Editor

Litro #135: Somewhere Between The Borders – Letter from the Editor

litroissue135_somewherebetweenborders_singleDear Reader,

Here at Litro, we believe that emerging writers are just as important as the old vanguard – in fact, they’re often more important. Literature is constantly in a state of flux, adapting to social changes, new technologies, even the latest reality TV show. Books are – and always have been – part of a larger cultural conversation, one that isn’t destined to end any time soon. Each generation finds new ways to express itself, new challenges to overcome.

It’s for this reason that we started Litro Represents, our bespoke agency dedicated to discovering and nurturing new talent. It’s also why we run the IGGY and Litro Young Writers’ Prize each year, for writers aged 13-18. And it’s why we’ve dedicated Litro 135 to writers under the age of 35, whose voices are just starting to be heard in the literary arena. The stories here also have a theme in common – a foreignness, a sense of travel – but nothing binds them together as much as their novelty. These are writers who are just starting out on their journey.

The issue opens with a special introduction by Rory MacLean, the seasoned writer of such bestsellers as Under the Dragon and Berlin: Imagine a City. Rory has travelled more than most, and his insights into writing – and the importance of stepping over the border – act as a blueprint for the voices that follow. Aspiring writers could do a lot worse than to follow his advice “to trust strangers, to watch the sky, to follow my nose and to make a lot of notes.”

In ‘Til God, Polis Loizou writes about his Cypriot home, presenting a story set against the backdrop of a real life miracle. Next, Alona Ferber describes a lonely sojourn overseas in her story Berlin, October 29 – and the unlikely relationship that grows out of it. Then William Pittam looks back over Three Years in Arkansas, putting his own experiences as a stranger in a strange land under the microscope, examining the discoveries and the frustrations of repatriation. Sohini Basak watches the world from an apartment window in Suddenly the Garden, before Martin MacInnes takes us To the Border in a triptych of ill-fated journeys.

Finally, we talk to Monisha Rajesh, author of Around India in 80 Trains, and one of the most exciting new voices to have emerged on the travel writing scene. She discusses her work and the experience of returning to her Indian ‘homeland’, only to discover that it was no longer a home at all.

If literature is an ongoing conversation, then these are the newest voices to join the discussion, the freshest faces at the table. Our current Litro Book Club summer read is The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson, a debutant whose work would feel just as at home in this issue. In our interview with him, Ben told us that “I would advise anyone to travel and live overseas… It changes the way people think about themselves and the world.” It’s no coincidence that his novel is set in Berlin, the same as Rory MacLean’s latest book – and Alona Ferber’s story collected in this issue. The German capital knows all too well the importance of stepping over borders, of knocking at the gates of history.

If the past belongs to the established pillars of the literary world, then the future is the domain of writers as yet unheard. We’ll meet you somewhere over the border.

Dan Coxon


Litro #134: Augmented Reality – Letter From The Editor

litroissue134_augmentedreality_singleDear Reader,

Sometimes the future approaches at frightening speeds. It feels like only yesterday that we were wowed by the birth of the iPhone – now we’re living with gesture recognition for our gaming consoles, voice recognition in our cars, even iris recognition at some airports. Systems like Google Glass and Oculus Rift are breaking down the boundaries between the online world and the physical world – between fantasy and reality. It turns out that the key to the door of perception comes not from mind-altering drugs, but in the shape of a microchip. At times modern life feels like a Philip K. Dick novel.

Litro #134 is our Augmented Reality issue, dedicated to mapping out the new technological landscape and exploring reality’s unpatrolled borders. We open with an interview with Bruce Sterling, one of the visionaries who has reported on – and imagined – this erosion between our world and the virtual. If you’re at all uncertain about the impact augmented reality will have, or even what it means, then let Sterling be your guide. He also voices concerns over the collection of data by Google and the resulting loss of personal privacy – a theme that Litro will be exploring at a series of live events at the Latitude Festival this July.

In Cascade, Iain Robinson imagines the logical future for technologies like Google Glass. Then Eveline Pye explores the no man’s land between technology and art in her poems Augmented Reality and Imaginary Numbers. Pye has made a career out of the poetry of mathematics, and her poems in this issue prove that even the most frightening new tech can be incorporated into the human experience. Following that, we have Looking Glass House, an exclusive extract from Jake Fior’s forthcoming retelling of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel. Watch out for some exclusive footnotes hidden in the illustrations, as Alice takes us through the looking glass… Next, Peter Vilbig takes us for a walk through a surreal and vivid version of the world as we know it in Pathway, reimagining our existence through a Technicolor lens.

Our last two pieces offer an examination of the changes technology is bringing to the English language. In Loud and Clear Thomas Darby deconstructs a simple, three-letter text message, and suggests what we can – or cannot – read between the lines. Then, finally, we consider the impact of social media on modern fiction with James Miller’s essay Micro-Narratives of the Everyday. As we spend an increasing amount of time communicating with each other via status updates and 140-character tweets, the way in which we tell stories is evolving. Even the technology we use to read is in a state of flux, as e-readers and apps replace physical ink-and-paper books. Miller will also be taking part in our Latitude Festival events, discussing the impact of social media on modern privacy – keep an eye out for announcements over the coming weeks.

The stories, poems and essays we have collected here will give you a small insight into what the future might hold, and the ways in which augmented reality is slowly seeping through into our everyday world. But technology is elusive and unpredictable. Google Glass may be making the headlines today, but we’re already hearing about the EyeBorg Eyecam, a prosthetic eye that streams live video from the wearer’s perspective to a computer or smartphone. Reality just got a whole lot weirder.

Dan Coxon


Litro #133: Shakespeare – Letter From The Editor

litro133_shakespeare_singleDear Reader,

As someone who’s rapidly approaching forty, I know a little about milestone birthdays. They come with peer pressure, and reminiscence – and ziggurats of cake.

But none of us come close to the 450 years Shakespeare is celebrating this April. What do you buy someone who’s already Britain’s greatest cultural hero? Maybe a little celebrity love. Benedict Cumberbatch just announced that he’ll be playing Hamlet this summer, and over the last few years everyone from James MacEvoy to Jude Law has been breathing life into the Bard’s words.

But perhaps all this celebrity glamour is blinding us to the real issue: does Shakespeare speak to our minorities? Is Othello all he has to offer for Britain’s new multicultural landscape? Should we pay attention to the celebrities flocking to play his great heroes – or the men and women who take on the smaller roles, who toil behind the scenes to keep Shakespeare’s words alive for today’s audiences?

We’ve put together Litro #133, an issue devoted to The Bard, as a special gift for his 450th birthday – and to shine the spotlight into some dimly lit corners. Our curtain rises on Ben Crystal – renowned Shakespeare producer, actor and author – as he shares Year of the Prince, a contemplation of what it means to play the greatest stage role of all time: Hamlet. Just like every great actor, Ben makes us laugh, and cry, and keeps us rooted to our seats until they bring the curtain down. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to stand in the spotlight and read those immortal words – “To be or not to be” – this is the answer.

Ben’s Hamlet is a tough act to follow, but England’s writers are up to the task. David McGrath uses Hamlet’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as an inspirational springboard, applying them to one of London’s most notorious neighborhoods: Soho. Then Jenn Ashworth brings King Lear up to date with Doted, a short story that proves (if there was ever any doubt) that Shakespeare’s themes are just as relevant now as they were four centuries ago.

No celebration of The Bard’s work would be complete without a few lines of verse, so Andrew Pidoux does the honours with Shakespeare’s Words, a poetic rumination on the legacy he left behind – not in the bricks of Stratford, or the over-familiar portraits, but in the words he etched into our cultural foundations. That’s followed by Pauline Kiernan’s Getting Rid of Ovid, a colourful exploration of Shakespeare’s own inspirations, and the debt he owed to the great Roman poet. Finally, we talk to Marina Fiorato about her latest novel, Beatrice and Benedick, and the changes in attitudes towards ethnic minorities that the last four centuries have brought.

It’s hard to measure the effect that any single writer, or artist, has on our culture as a whole. There is no formula to quantify artistic influence, no iPhone app to weigh the complex interactions of art and artists through the ages. But one thing is clear: 450 years after Shakespeare’s birth, it’s hard to imagine British literature – or theatre, or cinema – without that distinctive bald-headed silhouette whispering prompts from the wings.

Dan Coxon


Litro #132: The Fairer Sex – Letter From The Editor

litro132_women_singleDear Reader,

On 8 March, thousands of events will be held across the world to help inspire women and celebrate their achievements. International Women’s Day has been held on the same date since 1913, the year that Emily Davison attempted to throw a ‘Votes for Women’ banner over the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. Since then much has changed, and for many the focus has moved away from the negatives, instead honouring the positive achievements of women around the world – women like Major Priscilla Azevedo, who graces our cover and is interviewed by Bruce Douglas in this issue.

A few months ago a seven-year old girl became a surprise viral hit on the Internet with her letter to the executives at Lego. In her letter, Charlotte Benjamin berated the toy manufacturers for promoting outdated gender stereotypes: in her words, “all the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and had no jobs,” while the boys “went on adventures, worked, saved people… even swam with sharks”. Emily Davison never experienced the Internet, and she wouldn’t have known what Lego was – but Charlotte’s complaint would have sounded all too familiar.

This Women’s Issue of Litro may be themed ‘The Fairer Sex’, but the women portrayed here do a lot more than “sit at home, go to the beach, and shop.” In Vanessa Veselka’s Just Before Elena the narrator is desperately coming to terms with impending motherhood, an emotional journey that has her finding religion on the back of a taco truck. Maia Jenkins – winner of this year’s GQ Norman Mailer Student Writing Prize – glances back at her own childhood, and the biology classes that defined her early relationships with boys. Then Erica Plouffe Lazure’s The Silent P takes a humorous glance at the battle between the sexes via a chance encounter outside the Men’s Room.

It’s in Bruce Douglas’s Pacification and its Discontents that we see how far modern women have come, as he interviews Major Priscilla Azevedo, the commander of Rio de Janeiro’s first Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP) and the first Brazilian to win an International Women of Courage Award. Denise Muir explores the sexual politics of Barbie dolls in her translation of Mari Accardi’s The Grass is Even Greener… (L’erba del vicino), then Sonia Lambert takes us back to the Suffragette struggles with Smashing, set during the controversial window-smashing campaign of 1912. Finally, we chat to Louise Welsh, author of The Cutting Room and A Lovely Way to Burn, about strong female characters and the dominance of women in the crime genre.

Emily Davison might not recognise the housewives and princesses in the Lego catalogues, but I like to think that she’d feel a comradeship with the many of the women depicted between these pages – including Major Priscilla Azevedo herself. After all, they swim with sharks.

Dan Coxon


Litro #131: Family – Letter From The Editor

litro131_family_singleDear Reader,

The festive season is upon us again: a month of tinsel, baubles, fake Santa beards and contrived TV specials. Whatever you’re celebrating this year – Christmas, Hanukkah or Thanksgiving – the winter is a time to turn back to our hearths, to gather our loved ones about us and remember the bonds of family. If that also involves consuming uncomfortable quantities of food and drink, then all the better. They say that blood is thicker than water – as winter pulls its shroud around us, our blood runs thicker than ever.

In this month’s submissions, the focus is firmly on the bloodier side of family ties. Family isn’t always a comforting safety net to fall back on – it can be an unwelcome duty too, even a doorway to neglect. As the year draws to a close there’s an aura of loss that surrounds many of these stories. This is a collection of familial failures and tearful farewells. That it also contains nuggets of warmth and affection shows just how tangled the family bond can be.

In Laura McKenna’s Cable the narrator is forced to reconsider her mental image of her younger brother, when he springs a surprise on her during a walking holiday. Jesmyn Ward’s Baby Love takes a darker path, allowing us a glimpse into the impoverished rural areas of America, and the harsh realities of the families that live there. Ward is a previous National Book Award winner, and her story is a study in economy and atmosphere. Rebecca Swirsky’s Hotline to Almighty is similarly bleak, but leavened with humour and insight, as it examines the fractured familial relationships in the wake of a child’s death.

In Last Great Blizzard, David Ford traces the lines of damage and regret between a mother and daughter, as two winter storms grip New York during the early Sixties and the Nineties. Theresa Coulter’s Safe Keeping is a short literary prayer for her brother’s health, a plea that’s as earnest and heartbreaking as it is funny. Then Holly Corfield Carr explores the helplessness surrounding parental illness in and one last time, from the heart, a story that finds its own unique poetry in the “scribbles of wire filaments” that keep their mother alive. Finally, we chat to Matt Haig, author of The Radleys and The Humans, about the importance of family in his work and in his life.

Personally, I’ll be spending this winter surrounded by a new family. This is my first issue as Magazine Editor, and I thank Andrew Lloyd-Jones for his wonderful work in the role over the last few years. As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, I sit around the fire with my new Litro brothers and sisters, and we raise a glass to your good health. May the festive season bring everything that you want. We’ll see you in 2014.

Dan Coxon


Litro #130: Dystopia – Letter From The Editor

litro130_dystopia_singleDear Reader,

It’s been a fairly grim month of reading here in Litro’s Ivory Towers. But in a good way! We’ve toured cash-strapped theocracies and corporate caliphates, corrupt monarchies and primitive anarchies—and a galaxy of other dark worlds besides. But all have one thing in common—they’re not futures we’re look forward to. So what is it about dystopian fiction that fascinates us so much? What prompts our imaginations to gawk at the wreckage of speculative futures?

Naturally, it’s entirely possible that dystopian fiction reflect the fears of the times—and given today’s world of state-sponsored surveillance, religious fundamentalism, economic disparity, and overpopulation (I’m just flicking through the headlines, here), perhaps it’s not surprising this was a popular theme.

So in some ways, dystopias aren’t too much of an imaginative stretch. If you’re trying to predict the future, your best bet would have to be on things going wrong. You could even argue we’re living in a dystopia right now. Maybe we’re always living in a dystopia, or at least degrees of dystopia—the failure of a past’s promising, even utopian, vision—which is why they seem endlessly relevant, in all their scope and variety. We’re simply steeling ourselves for the shape of things to come.

This month’s stories deal with a number of different future societies—and in different stages of deterioration. Some, like David Simpson’s deliberately endless Eternal Vigilance, are set in a world in which the characters are immersed in a system they accept, though as readers, we can see the darkness that lies ahead. Other worlds, like the very familiar setting of The Beasts Below by Jade Moulds, show characters entirely at the mercy of the changes going on around them—at odds with a society they can no longer understand. In Katie Lumsden’s A Survivor, we meet a character whose world is reduced to the most essential truth in the wake of nuclear disaster, enduring a very personal dystopia.

By the time we reach Staircase by Reece Choules, we are witness to a lost society—one in which memories have become currency. This world has long since failed—it has become a black hole of a society, gradually consuming itself.

But a dystopia does not necessarily imply an end. In some worlds, we find characters fighting back—Enter the Hacienda by Guy Lucas offers us a character struggling to understand his environment, trying to engage with it, and acting according to his beliefs. And perhaps most optimistically, Xenia Taiga’s wonderfully imaginative vision of Dress World hints at a brighter future, a ray of hope cutting through the dystopian clouds.

And perhaps that’s ultimately why dystopias are so popular in the creative imagination. The grim view of the road ahead is as much a warning sign as a forecast. Every dystopia is effectively a call to action—not because we think this is the way the world is headed, but because we want to make sure it isn’t.

On a personal note, after a year in the post I’ll be stepping aside as Magazine Fiction Editor to concentrate on my own writing—but I’ll be continuing as Contributing Editor of Litro, developing some exciting plans we have here in the USA. It’s been a blast—thanks, guys!

Andrew Lloyd-Jones



Litro #129: Brazil – Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

We come back to writing from Brazil this year for a moment of betweenness. The World Cup is a year away. The Pope’s July visit came in the wake of the biggest demonstrations in Brazil for twenty years. Granta’s Best of Young Brazilian Novelists list made a splash last year, then sank from view. It’s time for Litro to see where Brazilian writing is at. With the president, culture minister and head of the literary academy all women, yet a persistently machista culture and no sign of change, we really have to ask the women.

We open with a story by Luisa Geisler in which football is the last thing on the narrator’s mind. The tone slides towards the surreal and horrifyingly funny in short pieces by Juliana Frank, Ana Paula Maia and Miriam Mambrini. In Maia’s longer story, ‘Unruly Roger’, ideas of measure versus immoderacy run riot in this distorted mirror to Brazilian society.

There is no shortage of anxiety, even frenzy, behind front doors in this collection, particularly among women who live in tension between different levels of society or between generations. Yet, more contemplative notes are struck by Paloma Vidal and by our three poets. Lastly, in ‘Coexistence’, Carola Saavedra dramatises a woman’s encounter with her own, stubborn fictional creation.

I hope you enjoy them all. Tell us what you think.

Sophie Lewis

Contributing Editor,
Rio de Janeiro

Litro #128: Youth – Letter from the Editor

litro128_youth_singleI have a two-year-old nephew, and he’s already somewhat disappointed with the world. He stands in front of televisions and microwaves and ovens, jabbing at the screens and doors with his little fingers, expecting something to happen. And there’s a good reason for that. It’s because he has grown up in a world with iPads and smart phones and VTech Learning Tablets, so to him, touchscreen technology is just a given. I’d actually feel sorry for him if it wasn’t so funny to watch.

The stories in this month’s Litro all, in some respects, deal with the adjustments we make when we’re growing up. They are filled with on the one hand with excitement and hope and dreams, but on the other, doubt, disappointment, and the revelation of a more mundane life ahead. The characters in these stories are between two spaces – in a liminal world of change, some just entering that stage, some closer to the edge.

The young Narrator of Gianna De Persiis Vona’s Disco Dave is literally speechless as she attempts to make sense of the adult world she’s fast growing up in; and while on the face of it, Tara Campbell’s How to Eat a Hot Dog is a witty take on childhood habits, I think its humor masks something darker – a sense of helpless inevitability. C Haigh MacNeil’s story, How To Be, is a beautifully quiet portrait of a young girl on the cusp of adulthood – whilst on holiday with her parents she finds herself pulled between two lives, only comfortable when she’s somewhere in between, floating between the waves. By way of contrast, in The Gypsum Paths, by David Mohan, a young man is driven to create his own space, free from the confines of the bikes trails he finds himself stuck on, as though the physical escape will somehow help him discover himself. Nick Kocz’s Golem Dust sees a young couple apparently creating something fantastic in the playground – though there is the suggestion that a far less magical future lies ahead; while in Faith and Flight by Tom Weller, an altar boy tries to convince his parents that he has witnessed a miracle, finding it a harder task than he had imagined. Finally, we bring you Shaun McMichael’s The Deepest Lake in All the World, the story of a young woman who finds herself lost in all senses of the word while on a road trip. And it’s this story that offers more in the way of light at the end of the tunnel – a knowledge that for all the expectations and limitations of this world, you are always your own person, and there is always more to discover.

 So I hope my nephew isn’t too disappointed when he grows up. Because there will be countless other experiences and people and discoveries to surprise and delight him. And if I could just stop laughing, I’d tell him that.

Andrew Lloyd-Jones



Litro #127: Victoriana – Letter from the Editor

litro127_victoriana_singeDear Reader,

Once again I find myself in a most absorbing, and, I confess, somewhat indulgent state of contemplation. I am fortunate indeed in my position! And so I sit at my desk and look out my window, with rooftops and water-towers and chimneys and spires and the assorted aerial architecture of the city as my companion. This day is a fine one indeed, and I fancy my spirits are lifted even more by the sun as it beats down on millionaire and pauper alike. The weather is perhaps the only natural democracy! I wonder what our politicians would have to say about that. Much bluster, I should think.

But in truth, Dear Reader, I have much better company than this city in these few tales you now hold in your hand. Stories are a force of nature too, perhaps – much like the wind, and the rain, and the sun. Wherever you might find yourself reading these words, whether on a bus, or a park bench, in your club, or in the scullery, you and I share in the ideas contained herein, ideas that nestle in our minds and give rise to thought, and the comforting knowledge of the existence of a Great Art in the world, one that we may all be a part of. It is a most fascinating subject of enquiry.

Take, for example, Ms. Eva Holland’s Life in Two Dimensions. A jewel of a narrative, as precisely and elegantly delineated as the narrator’s betrothed – a love story, but in Ms. Holland’s capable hands, something quite, quite different. Or the traditional house-tale, with which we are most familiar, but which Ms. Jane Roberts uses to most ingenious ends in The House Rules – suggesting that we, perhaps, are prisoners of our own imagination. Yes! Even you, Dear Reader! A most provoking conceit indeed!

And if you find that amusing, you must surely enjoy Mr. John Keating’s To The Reader – a story for you if ever there were one! Mr. Keating’s imagination takes us – dare I say it – to a place beyond the very pages you now hold in your hand. But perhaps you prefer a calmer, more soothing form of fiction? A gossipy, scandalous story, as one might find in The Cheltenham Looker-On. I’m afraid you will be most disappointed, in that case! For Mr. Steven Mace’s sinister The Legacy of Steeple Hill will give you no comfort, with its spectral presences and sleepless nights.

But we leave you, at least, with a tale of great pathos, and one from which a lesser periodical might shy away – Mr. Sam Carter’s Gammon and Spinach. For who would dare suggest the Great Novelist Himself were anything other than a saint? Well we do, Dear Reader. We do!

But I fear I have kept you too long. I do so yearn to discuss these tales with you some day. Will we ever meet, Dear Reader? I hope so, very much. But in the meantime, will you write? I would be most delighted to hear your thoughts on these stories, as well as any other matters you might care to discuss.

Yours truly, until our next number,

Andrew Lloyd-Jones