Introducing

Introducing “A Birth in the Woods” by Kevin Wilson

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I read a lot of short fiction. I like most of it just fine. Someone’s marriage is in peril. Someone’s job is in peril. Something is said at dinner that sends all of the protagonist’s regrets and mistakes and losses bubbling up to the surface. The story ends and I’m more or less satisfied; I’ve been taken on a short trip into the lives of others by a competent and caring writer, someone acutely aware of life’s precious intricacies, someone with an eye for the things worth seeing, but that are so often overlooked.

But then I close the book or the journal and the story becomes nothing more than that generic three sentence summary I gave in the previous paragraph. The story is gone.

Kevin Wilson’s “A Birth in the Woods,” originally published in Ecotone 6.2, is no such piece of short fiction. It lingers. It demands your attention from the first line—“He had been warned that there would be blood”—and continues to demand it long after the final period.

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Introducing “The Ranger Queen of Sulphur” by Stephanie Soileau

Stephanie Soileau’s “The Ranger Queen of Sulphur” is a masterful exploration of the traps we see and unwittingly set for ourselves when we accept too many limitations.

I grew up in a small decaying town, and I know the feeling of being trapped, the sense of having no options, that can prevail in these areas. Stephanie Soileau’s “The Ranger Queen of Sulphur” is set in one of these towns—Sulphur, Louisiana—and tells the story of Deana, a young woman in her mid-twenties who has eschewed self-improvement all her life and is now trapped in a low-paying, exploitative job she hates. Never one to hope for herself, Deana fixates on helping her brother, Jonathan, overcome his obesity.

The language of the piece is simple and straightforward, perfectly capturing Deana’s thoughts, and the bleak, hopeless atmosphere, without sacrificing art or lyricism. The sentences have a quiet rhythm, forlorn and practical, yet musical. Each scene too is well-drawn, giving a sense of completeness and desolation.

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Introducing “The Year of Silence” by Kevin Brockmeier

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I am a person who has spent a good deal of time in loud, crowded cities all over the world, and an almost equal amount of time in rural areas where the silence is sometimes so heavy that breathing it in feels almost like smoke. I have always had a complicated relationship with sound; I am easily distracted and prefer silence, but I can’t go more than a few months without needing to clear my head in the all-consuming noise of a big city. When it’s winter, or when I visit friends and family in quiet rural areas, my skin starts to itch after a day or two of quiet.

For this reason, the premise of Kevin Brockmeier’s knockout story “The Year of Silence”—in which a normal, unnamed city begins to fall intermittently, inexplicably silent, then becomes a city its surprisingly contented residents work together to keep silent—was intoxicating to me on a personal, nostalgic level as well as a literary one. It is precisely the kind of strange, conceptual, lyric story that I as a reader am always searching for in literary magazines.

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Ecotone and Lookout staff introduce our favorite stories from Astoria to Zion

With the forthcoming March 2014 publication of Astoria to Zion, Ecotone celebrates ten years of publication. During that time the magazine has established itself as a preeminent venue for original short fiction from both recognized and emerging writers. More than twenty stories from the first sixteen issues have been reprinted or noted in the Best American, New Stories from the South, Pushcart, and PEN/O. Henry series.

Over the next few months, leading up to the best of Ecotone publication, we’ll celebrate by introducing a favorite story from the anthology. Watch for new entries by Lookout and Ecotone staff members each Wednesday, and as always, follow our blog for other updates.