Fiction Magazine Showcases the Innovative and Bold
Thrice Fiction was started in 2011 by editor RW Spryszak and Art Director David Simmer as an alternative magazine featuring stories and art. As the name makes amply clear, Thrice Fiction publishes three editions every year. However, the dalliance with clarity and plain speak all but ends with the name, because this journal is all about alternate fiction, particularly the form benders that reside in the narrow alleys between prose and poetry and short and flash fiction.
There are several unique features about Thrice, the most significant being the editorial vision. In an interview with Cervena Barva Press, editor RW Spryszak says, “Thrice goes on two tracks…One track has a bit of 'kink' in the rail. It’s rather oddball so to speak…The second track is simply damn good writing.”
While nearly every journal claims an unbiased selection process, Thrice takes it the whole way by entirely disregarding writers’ bios and cover letters during submissions. Spryszak says, “We don’t care who you are or what you’ve done or where you have been published. We're happy to just let the work speak for itself.”
Another feature that stands out is the emphasis on look and feel and format. Art is a strong second pillar for Thrice. Every selected story is paired with an artist who provides visuals for the piece. It comes in three online formats, PDF, eBook and Kindle which can be downloaded for free. Alternatively, printed copies are available for $13.40.
The current issue, their seventeenth, is a generous one with twenty-five stories, mostly flash fiction with a few longer, full-length stories. Fueled by the “incongruities of 2016 America,” this issue aims to be esoteric rather than incongruous. The penchant for kink is abundantly evident across stories. As Spryszark says in his note, “We don’t much like experiments…We prefer full blown laboratory monsters already realized and about to smother you with their big green hands.” Some pieces are so gripping, they arrest the reader from the first line, with style, plot and clarity, and don’t let go till the last. Some read like a dream, where the words hang together enchantingly but meaning plays peek-a-boo, at times peeping from behind lines and at other times showing up on the second read. And then there are those that stubbornly hold back meaning and no amount of re-reading, googling, pushing or shoving at the words seems to coax it out.
“Ties that bind” by Shoshauna Shy is a pithy snapshot that captures the biases of filial bonds in all their ironic, unjust and hurtful colors. “Lady of the snow” by Jonathan Louis Duckworth is a poignant story about a man whose wife ails from an inexplicable and untreatable long bout of fever. He entertains her with a fairy tale with a happy ending, powerfully conveying his own love, despair and hope for her life and their companionship.
Jon Sindell’s “Bios From A Twentieth Century European Lit Reading” imagines a literary reading with Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett and George Orwell, set in the 21st century. It is a witty, modern-day account of their bios, such as “Franz Kafka woke up from a bad night’s sleep and discovered that he had turned into a loathsome bug,” and “Samuel Beckett is running late for some reason. But we’ll wait.” It is brought to life with a selfie of these five heavyweights together, posted on Camus’s Instagram account.
“La Guarida del Pulpo” by James Claffey is one of those form benders that defy definition. It is a short, lyrical account of what must be a dream, of the narrator being trapped underwater by a pulpo, an octopus. “Whether this was a waking dream or not, I couldn’t care, because it was in the darkness of two inkish eyes that I found the truth. Suspended in the water, I let its suckered eight limbs rove and pull at me in a frenzy that stirred this primal place I’d not know before.”
“The Gift” by Marilyn Morgan is a piece that will bring nods from those who like to read. It is a fantastical description of the power of a good book. “The book began to grow, expand until it covered the whole kitchen table. A lake growing wider and deeper, running off the edges of the table and spreading across the floor.”
And then there some pieces that are abstruse, even opaque. Reading them feels a bit like walking barefoot in a dark, cluttered attic, groping for the light switch. “The Pinterest Terrorists” by Estlin Agnew, “Sunset in Pa’tong” by Geoffrey Miller and “Something for Pondscum” by C. Allen Harrison are some of them. There are others.
Indeed, Sprzsark himself admits that, “I…still don’t get a few of these [submissions] myself. I can’t imagine what the artists went through this time.” In striving to be esoteric, parts of this issue teeter dangerously close to the edge of obscurity. Considering that this collection was influenced by his worries about the political shenanigans in America in August, well before the election results foisted themselves upon the world, one cannot help but wonder what monsters the next issue will bring.
The selection policy of letting the work speak for itself, regardless of the authors’ bios, produces a line-up of both established, heavy-weight writers as well as those who are making their initial forays into writing.
In addition to writers, the issue features the work of seven artists and photographers whose artwork appears throughout the journal, adding a visual dimension to the stories. Most vivid amongst the artwork is Cesar Valitierra’s colourful and chilling rendering of a man trapped in the tentacles of an octopus that appears on the front and back cover as well as the story “La Guarida del Pulpo.” Curated by Lead Artist and Art Director David Simmer, each art piece is unique in style and although these is no common theme, the variety and freshness is feast for the eyes. However, reading through a list of profiles referenced to the artwork by page number makes it difficult to visually connect the artists with their work and also requires a lot of scrolling up and down. Having the artist’s label and bio at the bottom of each artwork would make for easier associations.
Thrice Fiction has specific reading periods that are mentioned on their website. For this year, they read during April, August and December. Since it is a fairly narrow window, writers would do well to make note of the dates for next year and prepare submissions accordingly. They accept simultaneous submissions and do not pay. While they do not publish poetry, they are open to any kind of short fiction under 5,000 words. Spryszark says, “That thing you wanted to try and never knew where to send? Here. Right here.” His primary advice remains “get me early or lose me.”
This year it is also publishing two independent titles, a short novel called Our Dolphin by Joel Allegretti and a collection from Lorri Jackson.
Overall, the reading experience can go from invigorating to liberating to frustrating, depending on one’s appetite for the abstract, but it rarely gets boring. Thrice Fiction is a great platform for writers to share fiction that is innovative, bold and different.