Fiction of All Stripes
One of the best things that a literary magazine can do in the contemporary lit culture is to invite any and all writers to submit. Some magazines tout their submission guidelines proudly, finding strength in shutting the door on styles or forms that are not good enough. When magazines disallow genre fiction or automatically reject submissions of a certain length, they potentially missing a trove of great writing.
So it's great to see a magazine like Thrice Fiction (yes, it is published thrice yearly) that is not only structured well, but also publishes a variety of quality fiction that was selected for the strength of its content alone. There are pieces in this issue that are only a paragraph long, but there are also multi-page stories. Having such a wide range of styles and forms allows the magazine to stay fresh with every turn of the page.
The first thing that catches the eye, however, is the cover art. This issue of Thrice had gorgeous front and back covers. Thrice's Art Director, David Simmer II, did a great job with the whole layout; the magazine, which is the shape and size of a commercial magazine (as opposed to a chapbook) is aesthetically pleasing in every way.
Within the journal, my favorite illustrations were the ones that accompanied James Claffey's trio of stories near the beginning of the issue. Simple, elegant design that does not detract or distract from the story, but merely complements it, is a sign of a great Art Director. The magazine also cleverly throws short poems into some of the illustrations; a very unconventional idea (as this is a fiction magazine) that works well.
Alas, some of the art does miss the mark, such as the piece associated with Susan Tepper’s “SNAKES & Other Lovers.” The art in this issue often works well, utilizing dark hues to accentuate the feel of the stories and poems. This piece, however, did little to enrich Tepper's story. Similarly, the companion artwork to David Ackley’s “Hellgate” felt melodramatic, potentially distracting from the literary work.
The contributor list for this issue is pretty wide-ranging. It includes writers with only minimal experience, as well as some who have a long list of publishing credits. The pieces that I enjoyed the most in this issue were those that were shorter in nature, often broken down into smaller (but usually related) stories. James Claffey's trio of short pieces about life in Ireland may be succinct, but they explode with powerful descriptions that float off the page and flood the reader's senses. Completely different in both style and subject, Jessica Maybury's "A Story Without Easy Phrases" cleverly includes phrases "crossed out" from the piece. Not edited out, per se, as these words are still in the story but are written in strikethrough text to add entirely new meaning to her short piece.
Many of these pieces also defy traditional story structures. In the short-and-sweet editorial at the beginning of the magazine, RW Spyszak explains the only guideline that Thrice has--"Make me want to show my friends what I found." This is why the magazine is chock full of all kinds of pieces, from longer stories in familiar forms to short fictions that are completely unclassifiable.
One of my favorite aspects of this issue was well-edited it was; the final story, “Mad Adelaide” by Danica Green, brings the whole volume full circle in a delightful manner. It hearkens back to the feeling of coldness found in James Claffey’s pieces at the beginning of the issue, and concludes the magazine in a satisfying way. It is not flawless by any means (it beats you over the head with its finality), but it fits precisely in the editing scheme of the issue.
A few of the stories seemed to emphasize language and style over narrative and character development. B.D. Fischer’s story “Rich Girls” and Darryl Price’s “Spy vs. Park” both fall into this category. The former is about a woman and her countless vices, the latter is a stream-of-consciousness bit about a man’s observations in a public park. Though I wasn't fully engaged by either piece, these works might appeal to readers who enjoy literary experimentation.
In fact, it is this stylistic diversity that makes Thrice such a compelling journal overall. I would definitely recommend Thrice to writers of all levels and all literary styles, as it’s a great place to learn about fresh styles of fiction as well as try out your own. If you’re considering places to submit something that doesn’t quite fit into other magazines’ guidelines, give Thrice a try. It is obvious the team puts in a lot of work finding the absolute best pieces from the slush pile, so every writer is guaranteed a fair chance. You won’t be automatically dropped for experimenting with your writing, you may even be more likely to be given an extra look.