Online Mag Showcases Magical Realism (Though Lacks Diversity)
Longshot Island is a small venue for short fiction. Though I was not able to ascertain, either from the latest digital issue or from the website, when this publication was launched, there are only a few stories available to read on both platforms, which lead me to believe this is a new endeavor for editors Elias Gasparis and Garrett Odulio. I was lead also to believe, both from the contributor bios and from the fictions themselves, that the contributors to Longshot Island are in the formative stages of their writing careers, though not, as I had first assumed, in formative stages of life in general.
The stories contained in November’s digital issue, titled “Face Forward,” have a penchant for the uncanny, for the dark and fantastical. They are stories obsessed with performance, violence, lust, pain, and suffering. With one single exception, all stories published in Longshot Island’s digital for-purchase issue and online, are written by men.
Stephanie Buosi, the magazine’s sole female author, writes in her bio that she prefers the “absurd, fantastical, and horrific.” Interestingly, though, hers was one of the more poignant of the stories featured in this issue. “Wax Memories” is about an unusual theft—the protagonist’s deceased grandmother, from a funeral home. Though the story’s ending is nearly as morbid as its beginning, this story has heart. It turns on empathy and mutual grief. It highlights relationships and contains a flicker of hope in healing.
Benjamin Logan Miller’s “Rageaholic,” Nick Yates' “The Afghan and the Rifleman,” and E.N. Heim’s “Halab, Oh Halab” are also stories that, despite their dark centers, retain a nucleus of human emotion and empathy. Yates' “Rifleman” is particularly gut-wrenching, but ultimately redemptive, hinging on compassion and restoration, after the physical and mental brutalities of war.
The fantastical, as mentioned, features strongly in this issue. Nearly half of the issue dabbles in magical realism or fantasy. Dhaval Nayi’s “Wanderland” and Andrew J. Lucas’ “Cragclimber” are both set in otherworldly places. "Wanderland" plays with post-apocalyptic, though somewhat vague, references to the political climate of late 2016 and ends strangely, on a wry note, as if to say “back to work.” "Cragclimbers" is pure fantasy, featuring goblins, skeletons, zombies, and humans posturing side by side, obsessed with conquest and, of course, irresistible hidden treasure.
M. H. Vesseur’s story “New Grasses” fits the magical realism bill most closely. It focuses on one man’s lustful obsession with a younger married woman who seems to possess magical abilities to restore a natural calm and order to her environment. The protagonist fetishizes these powers and, proxy for the author, perhaps, also seems to fetishize the fictional Marusaki’s Asian ethnicity. Perhaps this is ungenerous. Notwithstanding, the photo that the editors included with this story does, in fact, feature a young Asian girl. I found this to be an unfortunate aspect of this narrative.
This issue of Longshot Island made a brave effort. Several of the stories lacked originality, grace, and tact, though a few offered real human insight and compassion. For example of the former, Lucas’ “Cragclimber” recycled too many video-game fantasy stereotypes, while Vesseur’s “New Grasses” paints his female character, Marusaki in what this reader felt to be a tactlessly stereotypical one-dimensionality. While several stories, especially Nayi’s “Wanderland” were imaginative, they lacked mature prose construction. But the most strident flaw in this publication, I believe, is that the stories, notwithstanding the single female voice, were very male-centric and trafficked in very patriarchal constructs of reality. Themes like rage and aggression in Miller’s “Rageaholic,” conquest and emasculation in Yates' “Rifleman,” and most distasteful, the white male penchant for exoticizing the Asian female body in Vesseur’s “New Grasses” make this issue too complicit in patriarchal modes. In future issues, I would like to see the editors make a more concerted effort to include a wider range of experiences, a wider range of voices.