Friday, August 30, 2013

Review of Star*Line April 2013

Star*Line is the quarterly journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA).  I found four poems within that were particularly worthy of note.  However, before I review those fine pieces, I feel compelled to present a short editorial on the journal's editorial, published under the heading "Wyrms & Wormholes."

The topic chosen by editor F. J. Bergmann is "Quality Control."  She starts with some comments on the number of nominations for Rhysling Awards and the participation (or lack thereof) of the SFPA membership at large in the process.  She goes on to discuss the possible reasons for the perceived gender bias in the poems chosen for publication in the magazine.  She points out that this phenomenon, while real in a certain sense, is accidental--the ratio of submissions received from men versus women is two to one.

Then Bergmann comes up with a real shocker.  I actually had to pick my jaw up off the floor and have it surgically reattached.  I quote:

"Unlike many other journals whose rejection letters invariably include the phrase 'We receive many more wonderful poems than we can publish,' Star*Line does NOT receive as many excellent submissions as I would like--or could make space for."  (emphasis not added)

Perhaps this is no wonder!  While it may be a true statement, what an insult it is to the many poets, myself included, who submitted or who might contemplate submitting to her magazine!  She goes on:

"I actively work to counteract this status by frequently urging other poets to submit, not only via personal contact, but by posts on websites, listservs, and blogs."

Wow!  As a fellow poetry magazine editor, I have the following advice for my counterpart at Star*Line:

YOUR MAGAZINE WOULD NOT EXIST BUT FOR THE FINE AND ASPIRING POETS WHO CHOOSE TO SUBMIT THEIR WORK FOR YOUR KIND CONSIDERATION.

Reject the work that does not meet your standards, by all means, but for heaven's sake don't announce that you have been rejecting poems in spite of the fact that you have more than enough space to print them.  Also, instead of spending the considerable time and effort it must take to recruit submissions, perhaps taking a little time to suggest edits and rewrites to the near misses might be in order.  In this way, you might encourage poets to improve themselves, and thereby improve and increase your number of submissions.  You may even "salvage" enough poems to fill your empty space.  After all, you can't spell "editor" without "edit."

Well, I'm glad THAT is off my chest.  Moving on...

"Interpose:  A Love Poem" by Scott T. Hutchison is a masterpiece of avenging demon literature and imagination.  Its theme is universal and compelling--the deeply seated human need to have the power to crush enemies and protect loved ones, even if the enemy is Death himself.  We are probably hard-wired to have traumatic memories flow into our moments of rancor and rage from our subconscious.  Mr. Hutchison captures this primitive compulsion with a relentless, resounding roar.

"Keeping Company" by Jarod K. Anderson beautifully captures the magical moment for which all science fiction fans yearn--that of first contact.  The fear, the confusion, the awkwardness, and the beginnings of understanding are all there.

"Special Delivery from the Unnamed Quadrant" by Jason Matthews brought back memories of the first time that I picked up The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Douglas Adams would have loved this one.

"Lusus Naturae" by Albert W. Grohmann is a thoughtful commentary on the monstrosity that communication technology has become, presented in the form of a rhyming sonnet.  Recently, my wife, who wears an ear bug so frequently that I have taken to referring to it as "the borg," had to exchange her cellphone for a new one.  She later lamented that the hour that she had to spend without the device left her somewhat dazed and irritated.  Then I read her Mr. Grohmann's poem--it had the desired effect.

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