It’s probably true to say that there is an unconscious aspect to everything we do. Yet the last thing I expected, when I launched into this editing project, was to be talking about it in my editorial note. But when faced with a huge pile (metaphorically speaking) of stories to choose from, those that kept drawing me in must have resonated there – in the intuitive realms of the mind – especially since so many of them were worthy of being published here.
The reasons for this fascination may lie in the language the pieces are made up of, or maybe the questions they pose. Or perhaps it is the mood they evoke or the pictures they draw that pulled me in. Surely that is what reading fiction is all about: an individual’s want to stay with the page. Of course, the million dollar question is whether others like what we write and, in the case of holding the reins as an editor, what we choose to publish.
As I worked my way into the heart of these stories, I realised just how experimental each is: occupying spaces rather than walking linear lines; shifting about the central theme of rumination; full of mood and sensorial responses. These stories dig around in the interior state, mining (to keep with the analogy) the terrain that must be explored when outer forces collide with the individual. A person in a place – as simple and complex as that may be – is always filled with important but normal stuff: the big and the small, the soft and the brutal. These stories are not so much about what happens to us as about what we go through when something does.
In Louise Spence’s story ‘To want to’, the hard truths about emerging from a violent relationship are detailed in discrete but poignant moments. These snapshots are the attempts of a woman to piece together what she remembers when looking back on a destructive time. They are about her attempt to reassemble herself while coping with a distorted view she feels the outside world has of her. She is caught up in looking back while trying to absorb what has taken place.
Likewise, in Alice Bishop’s story ‘Bloodwood’, the protagonist, May, is in the interesting and complex role of being her own observer. Unsure how she feels about what is going on in her relationship, yet very aware of her responses to it, this is an acute, wistful rendering of a day in May’s life. ‘Bloodwood’ is a beautifully drawn story about not quite being able to do what you know you should.
Sam Wieck’s contribution, ‘Message received’, centres on a character trying to manage his state of mind through a variety of situations: an outing with an ex-girlfriend, the procrastination of getting through a list of chores, the nerves that accompany new love. There is a sense of the immediate about Wieck’s portrait, which is both understated and touching at the same time.
‘The fox and the lift and the lillies’ is Patrick Holloway’s story of a boy searching to locate his emotions as his father is dying. This is an un-fussed telling of a child’s thought processes. It’s a story that builds gravitas as the boy skates about a hospital, half realising what is going on while half getting on with the business of being a boy.
All these stories are poetic in nature, which isn’t to say they are full of description or visual analogy. What is achieved, however, is the capturing of a moment, and the immersion in a reality that indicates, almost like a pebble thrown into still water, what is going on around the character as they wend about attempting to make sense of things.
While not so much resulting in any definitive outcomes, these accounts are, simply put, about getting through. It is the way these stories marry style with subject matter, tone with character, and presence with authenticity that carries them forward.