From the Editors
WHY WRITE FICTION?
WHY READ FICTION?
WHY PUBLISH FICTION?
STORIES MUST BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK for themselves, but because this is our premier issue, we thought it made sense for us to present you, the reader, with some kind of rationale as to why we do what we do here at Night Train. At the intersection of reader and text and writer and publisher and choices made and choices forgotten, changes edited and reedited and argued over and dismissed and remade, there is a connection that we’re attempting to get to, a synapse suddenly firing: meaning.
Things we know: patterns of meaning repeat; people repeat themselves and stories endlessly replicate themselves like a gene gone wild, and through endless research of repetitions—readings of submissions—one hopes, like a geneticist, that one will find the strand—the meaning— that lends itself readily to understanding the genome. The challenge is that you cannot understand the meaning of any discovery or any story except by considering all its dependent parts—all the stories in the world, or all the stories you’ve been sent, if you’re an editor—the repeats of DNA and RNA, for geneticists, and how they lend themselves to the different aspects of personality and physical makeup. Will this person be blonde, green-eyed? Will those fingertips currently picking a nose ever discover that they were made to bend a guitar string to a perfect flatted fifth? Will the brown-haired, squalling baby’s fingertips be able to impart spin to the football that will someday spiral into the hands of a player not yet born? If or when that baby girl with the soft hands will first reach for a doll’s severed head and pitch it unerringly at her brother, someone, a parent or aunt or uncle will remark on it. In those random incidents—or in those sequences of DNA and RNA, for the geneticist—the parent, the child, the reader, the writer, can find meaning, can find something beyond themselves. And in every story, an editor ought to find meaning, and something else beyond—something mysterious.
As Harry Crews said of Larry Brown’s work, good—that is, meaningful— stories are “rather like some perfect object found lying in the wilderness,” waiting both to be seen for themselves, and for what they can help us to become through the meaning they provide, all the more mysterious because finding meaning is always a gift, a mystery. The geneticist doesn’t usually know how the gene works; only that it does. Stories as well belie explanation, mysteries of the highest order, words expected to bear the weight of reality
Every story in Night Train is meaningful in its own way. Some do not push the envelope of the form. Nor should we feel the need to redress them for that. As the geneticist who clings to every odd repetition as possibly meaningful, we should be grateful for every last drop of insight we can get in a world that so sorely lacks it. Compare what one might get from a story’s world—pleasure, beauty, meaning—to a world without the story. When the tai-fun threatens to overwhelm, the person clinging to the side of a rescue boat simply clings, thankful for what he or she has. There are stories here that do push at the parameters of what we have come to know as story, works that surf on the crest of the tai-fun, the biggest wave of all. We should be grateful to these stories for showing us what may come, but we know them for what they are only because of what has come before. The surfer we recognize only because the clinger exists.
We had hoped for stories whose insights were clear to us on some level. What you are about to read is that and much more—stories that slide like a blade up our backbones and lay bare in our brains deep fears we didn’t know we had, stories that leave us with the purest sense of felt life, the unshakable sense that, in this world this person should react and does react as we have been shown, and there can be no other way. This is why we write, why we read, and why we publish fiction. This is meaning— the surfer and clinger and geneticist and editor, together in the tai-fun, making our way as best we know how.
~ Rusty Barnes & Rod Siino - August, 2002
Harry Crews, often identified with Flannery O’Connor as the pater and materfamilias of the modern Southern Gothic. Author most recently of Celebration, and The Mulching of America, as well as Childhood: A Place, a quintessential memoir of the intersection of place and self. Crews has written several other novels, prominent among them Feast of Snakes and Scar Lover. See www.harrycrews.com for a repository of Crews information maintained by Damon Sauve.