It’s hasn’t even been a month since the presidential election of 2016. Reality feels more and more surreal every day, which is why I am grateful for the home Storyscape has created for exploring the boundaries of truth and untruth. In the real world, we have seen how lies become touted as fact, how easily malleable truth can be. We must be vigilant about the delineation of truth from falsehood, and be ready to spot the lies and call them out. But at Storyscape our mission is to play with and challenge the boundaries of truth and untruth, not because we believe truth is totally relative but because the author’s stance toward truth matters. We willingly enter the author’s invented world, temporarily, to inhabit another person’s perspective and increase our own empathy.
This election has brought attention to the many groups vulnerable to the dangerous rise in white supremacist rhetoric; therefore it is important to state that we continue to affirm our vision of fully inclusive publishing. We are honored to publish a selected folio of photographs of African American subjects by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. The cover image for Issue 17 shows its subject leaping, powerful and ghostlike, toward a possible America symbolized by the flag dangling above. But we’re not there yet, as some stories in this issue remind us. Racial tensions are explored in a story that dramatizes the relationship between black and white suburban neighbors in “White Maple,” by Alison Jaenicke. These tensions are echoed in encounters between Native American and Mennonite teenagers in “Revolutions,” by Savannah Johnston.
A few poems in Issue 17 respond directly to the election. Grant Clauser’s “First Steps” recalls his daughter taking her first steps as a toddler, and later taking first steps in a post-election protest. Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick’s “How I Am Not Like Donald Trump” responds to, and challenges, a poem of a similar title recently published in Rattle. And Joy Ladin, in “A Modest Proposal,” presents simple, yet necessary wisdom for the dangerous world we live in: “Let’s not kill or die today.”
For all the seriousness of this historical moment, stories with humor and pathos are necessary for our self-preservation. Read an awkward adolescent’s battle with acne in Greg Marshall’s “The Long-Term Effects of Acutane.” Empathize with a father fumbling into parenthood in “How to Take a Picture of a Toddler with a Canon Powershot SX60 HS,“ by Matthew Meade. Witness a Hitchcockian epidemic of mass bird deaths in Mike Nagel’s “Aflokalypse Now.” Read a true story that begins with the words “Here’s a fairy tale” (Neil Grayson’s “Orphie,” his first literary journal publication). And learn about the uncomfortable relationship between humans and machines in the poem “Your Cashier Today Was Self,” by David Ebenbach.
I will be turning to these stories and poems again and again to sustain me, and I invite you to do the same. In Joy Ladin’s ars poetica, “The Poem and Me,” she states: “I lay on the floor of the world / pieces of a toy / the poem began to play with.” May the joy of playing with words sustain us all in the years to come.