I have to admit that there is something special about a first magazine issue. It is a new name, which awakens curiosity, a promise made to the reader and a venue for writers. Most of all it’s a new beginning, which hints towards the full potential of an idea, while remaining open to ideas and generally flexible.
“Survival by Storytelling” has the task to represent the younger generation of writers, who with given time will break through in their chosen genres and take the vacated spots in the fiction world. I have to admit that this is an interesting concept and will certainly arouse curiosity, but there is still a long way to go until the magic formula is found. As with every beginning there is an amount of uncertainty involved and it shows in the direction and focus of the issue itself.
Amidst the 114 pages the reader finds twelve stories and since the focus of the magazine is on the writers’ age rather than genre the genre myriad strays from literary to weird to dystopian and fantasy with topics ranging from personal tragedy and drama to the comical. Basically there are morsels for every taste.
“Chrysalis” by Josh Roberts opens the issue and has left a standing impression. Roberts has set out to explore what can happen when high school love goes wrong and when the scars the first break up never heal. Beautifully written and smartly engineered the story pushes into the spotlight people I believe do live and breathe, emotionally handicapped, because someone has swallowed their hearts early on.
Other strong stories in this issue include “Memoirs of a Torn Page” by Divya Mohan, which employs a rather complex plot built upon well handled flashbacks. The emotional integrity and the tragic bitterness linger, although slightly overkilled with the winded prose. Then there is “Honor Roll Bound” by Emerald Du, which I resonated completely, since the pressure on students at any academic level is crushing.
As far as literature in general goes I am drawn towards the serious, tragic and dramatic hence these stories resonated more with me, since they made me feel the most. However there’s much fun to be had with “The Birth of ‘Sweet Fish’” by Chris Chapman, which is weird and yet funny in a caricaturesque undertones. “Invisibility” by Kelsey Ray adds more gravity to the popular vampires.
However there are certainly entries I didn’t enjoy such as “Row 7”, which confused me and I managed not to finish. The same fate followed “The Bus Stop”, which failed to engage me and took too long to go anywhere. “One Last Look” went about a topic in the most obvious manner, which rendered it uninviting and the short one page entries left me wondering what had transpired.
For starters the cover art rocked me and is sure to be noticeable, though I am not sure it did anything to reflect anything that I encountered inside the issue. I expected an emphasis on the genre fiction reading, but got more contemporary. The interior is barren, but then again SBS is still in its early stages, so as issues progress more will be improved upon.
I enjoyed the non-fiction content, especially “Economies of Scale” by T.M. Hunter, which is a really informative and useful information for anybody with the inkling of establishing a web zine on their own. “Six Tips for Writing Memorable Characters” is more controversial for me since I do have a different character building strategy, but then again I agree on several on at most the half of the advice given. It’s both useful for new writers and insightful to readers, who have wondered how writers do what they do.
Although I dabble with free verse I can’t say that I enjoy poetry, so the amount included here didn’t exactly work with me in style or thematic, but certainly can cater to those, who enjoy experimental verse work. The interview with author Paul Genesse, although informative I felt was too concentrated on the author’s work, which although the purpose after a certain degree and number of questions aimed at a series becomes tedious, especially for the people, who have no idea what the author’s work is still about.
At the end of the day:
“Survival by Storytelling” is certainly fresh. It has youthful imperfection and energy. More importantly these are the walking steps into the industry of what might be successful short story writers, novelists, editors or any other sort of person connected with the industry. Yes, it is rough around the edges, raw and adjusting its skin, but I think that if the magazine prevails, it will gain momentum.