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    Introduction: SF Special Issue

    by Jeff Gundy

    Growing up on the Illinois prairie, I read pretty much anything I could find. My little school had small grade school and high school libraries, and the church had an even smaller one, both of which I ransacked. Every once in a while there was a book fair, and Scholastic Books sent around order forms that had me pleading with my parents for this or that paperback. (I found one of those books, titled Beyond Belief, on my shelves as I wrote this introduction.

    I read mysteries, sports stories, general novels, all sorts of things, but my favorite reading was ...

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    Excerpt from "Monster Portraits"

    by Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar

    The Perfect Traveler

    There is a perfect traveler. He has been running for millennia, light and tireless. In every joint of his body he wears the sign of the wind.

    He is the forward march. Small sleds and stars disappear in his wake. Of those he brushes in passing it is said: "At least she didn't suffer."

    Children dream of riding upon his horns, or of stealing his spittle from the museum: those great gouts of metal flung down from the sky.

    I am lucky to have a job and friends. Yet I long for the perfect traveler's ...

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    Interview with Tobias Buckell

    by Tobias Buckell

    NOTE: I posed these questions to Tobias Buckell in July 2018 via email, and he answered shortly thereafter. We have known each other well since Toby came to visit Bluffton as a prospective student a good many years ago, so in some cases I more or less how he would answer, but sometimes I was surprised, and often I learned things I hadn't known, even after all these years.

    Jeff Gundy: How did you find your way to Bluffton? Did you know anything about Mennonites before you arrived? What was your college experience among Mennonites (and others, of course ...

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    A Case for Mennonite Horror

    by André Swartley

    One day a man named John came up with an idea that he wanted to turn into story. Here it is: a ruling corporate class uses commercial materialism to create a society of perpetually unsatisfied and self-centered consumers, while maintaining entire populations of invisible laborers in perpetual servitude.

    Now, as a story, this thing's got problems. There's no main character, no setting, and no real hook. The central conflict is vague, overly grand, and full of clichés (never mind that they're true). Even worse for us as a Mennonite audience, we have heard it all before. Jesus ...

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    Excerpt from "The Wretched Afterlife of Odetta Koop"

    by André Swartley

    Lazarus Beachy dies on the last day of September. The miniature forest of elm trees surrounding his friend Grover Solomon Yoder's house—a three-story monolith that old timers in New Canaan, Iowa still refer to as "the Academy"—succumbed to Dutch elm disease in the preceding summer. Their bare branches writhe at the sky in crooked fans, gray and dead as stone. Lazarus thinks they look like props in an old horror movie, and Grover Solomon has to take his word for it. Horror movies are as forbidden in the Yoder household as Laz's deck of burlesque playing cards ...

  • 0 read more Excerpt from "Gonzalo Vega and the Portal Down Below"

    Excerpt from "Gonzalo Vega and the Portal Down Below"

    by Stephen Beachy

    Gonzalo's encounter with Alex had left him feeling muddled. George was quiet as he drove them deeper into Chula Vista. Lost within himself. It was almost evening by the time they were within walking distance of the border. The data wall shimmered.

    You know what you're doing here? asked George.

    It's the easiest place to get out, said Gonzalo.

    But the hardest place to get into Mexico.

    Getting in won't be an issue.

    You say so, said George.

    You have any tips for getting out? I have a day pass to get into the Liminal Zone ...

  • 0 read more Excerpt from "They Speak of Houses"

    Excerpt from "They Speak of Houses"

    by Jessica Penner

    Context: A winter storm shrouds the county surrounding Ulysses, Kansas with ice. Hywel Groening sees an unfinished mosaic of blue stones in the back pasture just as the sun begins to set. When he and his sister, Sophie, find a letter written in German after their father dies, they ask their Oma Abiah for an explanation. They learn that their great-grandfather, Georg Groening, returned to Ulysses after a twenty-year prison sentence. The following sections of the novel share Georg's discovery of the mosaic and why he was in prison.


    October, 1898

    Georg was well into his eleventh year of ...

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    Wild Geese (Excerpt from "Requiem")

    by Chad Gusler

    The material substance which governs terrestrial life acts as agent likewise in the celestial.

    Tertullian

    I wore my yellow scuba mask when they baptized me in a pond full of cow shit. It was the only way I'd do it. Dad agreed to it, though he laughed at me. Mom told him to knock it off or I'd never get baptized. Was that what he wanted? No, it wasn't.

    I was fourteen and had spent the early part of the summer preparing. I read verses from the Bible. I prayed lots of prayers, some rote, most ...

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    The Last Djinn

    by Keith Miller

    He wasn't supposed to go down to the end of the alley—the abandoned houses there were unstable, his uncle said. But it was an escape from all the shouting and cigarette smoke. He liked to take a stick and poke through the heaps of tins and papers. Once he found a nest of baby ferrets, once a broken watch, once a half-eaten picture book.

    He kept his favorite trinkets in a hole in the wall, sealing it with a brick. He'd take them out and sit on an upturned can and make rows of bottle caps and buttons ...

  • 0 read more Fiction, Theory, Memoir: Sofia Samatar’s “Request for an Extension on the Clarity”

    Fiction, Theory, Memoir: Sofia Samatar’s “Request for an Extension on the Clarity”

    by Daniel Shank Cruz

    I cannot get Sofia Samatar's short story collection Tender out of my head. I first read it in June 2017 and immediately decided that I would include it in my Fall 2017 African American Literature course and that I would write about it. I have done so in a personal essay and in the Epilogue to my forthcoming book, but I still cannot stop thinking about it.[1]

    Samatar and I have become friends over the past few years, and it is enjoyable trying to discover where she puts herself in her fiction. There are autobiographical elements everywhere in ...

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