Issue Eighteen

a free short fiction magazine – home of open literature featuring

The Jungle by Josephine Bruni, Answering Zeus by William Kraemer, Way To Go Donald by N Quentin Woolf & London Short Story prize winner Oh No!, A Bank Robbery! Fuck! by Foye McCarthyDCb2tdCUIAQ7eFJ

I have a special dealer who keeps my Open Pen fix topped up. I’ll be waiting a while for Issue Nineteen but not too bothered as Issue Eighteen has been floating in my bag for those advantageous, peaceful moments to pause. Open Pen editor Sean Preston gives guest editorial duties to author of The Many, Wyl Menmuir. He starts off proceedings with much heart and passion on the political landscape that currently floods our psyches with that uneasy feeling and the distorted reflections one has been forced to endure of late. “We need fiction that reveals us deeper truths than those of which the news is capable” He sees the strength and conscious changing power of writing stories “Writing is about the closest thing we have to telepathy” There are plenty of stories around when we need to escape and even more to help us connect again in these complex times.  If I am looking for the latter, I know I can find it inside the the pages of Open Pen.

It took a park bench in the sun to hold me still enough to finally finish The Jungle by Josephine Bruni in one hit. Previous attempts where stifled by life’s regular interruptions, trying to find solitude at work, being distracted by a lit up android. My imagination well whetted – I think I read the intro six times – each page brought one deeper and deeper into the mind of Subhashini and her stoner enhanced neurosis and love of African Violets. So absorbed, she has become a creator, a little god in her world of black velvet, notched wavy flowers and purpley edges with “leaves perfectly heart shaped like a love song“. An offer of stronger genes in her family from Violets from outta space via an offer from an online chat room changes her world. Josephine writes with exquisite pace and empathy, that lets the reader enter her world of obsession and devotion.

William Kraemer has come up with a hoot of a fiction about a guy who makes up the titles of fake books for movie sets. These empty tomes are his triumph, a meditative fantasy world of amazing possibilities. Pensive Gout by Louis Cardel and A Thousand And One Inches Of Twine by Elissa Dal Santos a couple of favourites.

Way To Go Donald talks of the connection with the POTUS and potentially dying in a fairground accident. It is an uncanny metaphor, having myself escaped from a broken seat belt on the wild mouse unscathed, I get his drift. The only thing you can do is white knuckle it, and consider what might have happened later and how on earth it got clearance to be there in the first place. Part of the furniture at Open Pen, N Quentin Woolf’s pieces are always a mind blast.

Taking the finale of yet another wonderful issue is London Short Story Prize winner’s brilliantly funny Oh No! A Bank Robbery! Fuck! by Foye McCarthy. An Irish kid named Sean loves stories about people who shoot each other. The high expectations and literary selections of his mother are being quashed by the “pew, pew, pew, pew, tshhh” books he wants to write. This delves into another fantasy that gets caught up in a real life adventure, giving him the plot and ending he so desires, gaining answers of the warm and fuzzy variety. Much fun inside his fevered thought processes.

Look out for Issue Nineteen which should be out any tick and at a stockist near you (UK residents have the best chance) or subscribe via Open Pen



Open Pen Reviews

Open Pen Anthology

I’d heard of Open Pen Magazine a few years ago. A quality lit mag free to punters and available at selected shops and venues around London. I was curious. So after convincing a friend to traipse around some haunts and see what he could find, nab and send me a copy, I discovered the rumours to be true. This is high calibre short fiction in my hands. This is a publication I regularly wanted. But woe is me Downunder, not an easy ask. Though joy of joys, I discovered that Open Pen Magazine has brought together their finest pieces over five years into an anthology.

Editor Sean Preston has chosen well. This is brilliant lit with an ease you can dip in and out of. Though once you start it is hard to stop. I went the chronological route and dug into two stories by Will Ashon. You can tell Ashon has a gift of getting inside the heads of others. A perfect writers empathy, imagination, compassion and experience shows throughout these pieces. The first with D.E.A. (Minor). Travis is a music journalist. Old school, battered as a school satchel. Travis’ career is dissolving inside a changing world, his powers of press dwindling if not vanished. A case of mistaken identity and unfortunate events questions his decency after a life of extreme love and hate, lives raised or ruined in ink. Then there is Dawn Into Night. Another strangers bed, and many questions she wants herself to answer.

Interspersed throughout are some exquisite micro fiction by some exceptional micro masters. An anthology on their own, too short and too clever to describe in words less than the length of themselves. Punchy and smart lines, poetic cleansers on love, ghosts and the human condition. Lots of light hearts as well.

Peter Higgins piece Smoking In The Library had me in smiles with insights into an illustrators M.O and The Gloves. A passionate, real and confessional moment.  Spotting a homeless man on his ride to work everyday, a compulsion to help has worried him. Questions arise about his reaction. His own prejudices getting in the way of this conflicted Samaritan. Darren Lee’s The Grudge Elephant is a stand out piece for me. Tense and clever psychological analogies and a surreal air make this one of my favourite short stories in this collection. Then there is Mickey Awful. Name and nature, this story plays out before your eyes. He is so horrible and likeable at the same time, an antihero for the kitchen sink set that I couldn’t take a breath from. Cjs6aZzUYAAbGd9Love In The Time Of Ketamine, mind altering as a sport, insanity borders perfectly expressed by Xanthi Barker. Dialogue that reads like an eavesdropper. This style continues into Baby Faces. This story drifts with a dreamlike melancholy, not sure if this scenario is sci-fi or timeless, a myriad of other stories spread tendrils through my mind. Ben Byrne’s beautifully written Waiting For A Hurricane & Low Tide At English Kills won’t let the truth spoil a good fantasy or fantasy spoil the truth. I adored Lazylegs. Two lives simultaneously told, it swirls in and out of itself like a string of DNA, Kate Smalley Ellis’s stories are bliss. Then there’s Ian Green’s Haar. “A sea-mist thicker than any fog that would roll in with the tide and swallow the world” A story you read by lamplight and chill, his other piece Laika with a tissue close by. Annabel and Sadie are a mother and daughter with a rather shattered relationship. Rehab and tears lead to a plan to get Annabel back into herself. Pure Fields is a beautiful dappled light of a story to get lost in and swoon. There is something I really dig about Anna Harvey’s writing. A kind of Bronte in a council flat, full of lessons and good outcomes, unlike the horror of Max Sydney Smith. Now I understand the placement of things, a good editors eyes for contrast. The Boy Who Bit His Nails more metaphor than real, is a sharp and stinging tale of nerves. Onto The Heart Of Sunday Morning a colourful thesis of drugs and love, a twilight zone of the middle classes. If, Then by Jo Gatford goes through the nuances of a relationship falling apart perfectly. Her second piece Take Off Your Shoes lures a mysterious juju and this writer definitely has me following. Nearing the end of a book that has really grabbed you from the start is always one of mixed feelings, anticipating the twists, the bang of cymbals, finishing something you want to go on forever.

What style has been chosen to finish this wonderful collection of writers. It really has been an eclectic bunch. Tadhg Muller’s In Lieu Of A Memoir is the elixir for all these writers frustrations and torment of being accepted. A perfectly structured vent of fantastical proportions. His sprinkles of OZ a secret pleasure of mine. We enter forests to seek the mystery there and James Kings’ magical story of a boy and The Giant Tree turns back time and we become immersed once again in the warmth of fable. The madness of suburbia shines in Wildlife Nuisance. Mat Woolfenden has created a character who is quite bonkers and a terror with an air rifle. Mat also has the last hurrah with The Crass Gang. You can’t beat an explosive ending and Mat comes out swingin’. I hope the phenomenon that is Open Pen continues. Spread the word, support the people who give these wonderful writers a place to share their work. Submissions to Open Pen are found here

Get your copy of Open Pen Anthology via their website.

Open Pen Reviews