The Lotus Tree Literary Review, Autumn 2022 (issue #1)

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5 | A Word from the Editor


Introduction

Wow! Here we are again, dear reader, diving into the debut issue of another literary magazine from Starship Sloane Publishing and our first foray into exploring all literary genres and themes of art. It is my sincerest hope that this magazine, like the others, will add a further sprinkle of enrichment to human culture and bring some joy to your day. The older I get, the more important I find art and literature to be. Sometimes, they are the only things that make any sense to me at all. Perhaps because they don’t have to. The same was true when I was a young pup, so I guess I’ve gone full circle. Like everything, it would seem.

The ancient Greeks and Romans wrote of the mythical lotus tree, to be found somewhere in the Mediterranean. Homer describes it in the Odyssey. Ovid writes of it in Metamorphoses. One of many possible candidates for the lotus tree is the lilac persimmon, which has been cultivated since ancient times. To partake of its fruit was an untethering from the prosaic. Creative endeavor serves the same function. The lotus tree of lore may not exist beyond the gleaming shores of literature, but the creativity that is to be found in each and every one of us certainly does. Let us fly boldly then, let us soar as Icarus once did, as mad fools perhaps, to escape the suck of the mundane, on great, silver-shimmering wings of holy imagination, high into the golden-honeyed godflame of our blazing minds — sans the supreme bummer of plummeting into the sea and drowning.

This literary journal is dedicated to a long, but only partial list of characters inhabiting this amazing blue marble: the writer, the poet, the artist, the dreamer, the idealist, the visionary, the good, the unhinged, the punk rocker, the toper, the dazed, the bug eyed, the elucubrator, the moon lover, the snow witch, the blue-bellied lizard catcher, the green anole watcher, the ocean wizard, the firefly appreciator, the vodka and rainwater drinker, the Spanish Moss eater, the thunderstorm cheerer, the pluviophile, the sunset celebrator, the mirage chaser, the tree befriender, the hummingbird rescuer, the honeybee protector, the shower singer, the barefoot earther, the Tarantella dancer, the wind yawper, the coyote howler, the rattlesnake accompanist, the bird caller, the cloud gazer, the long starved and the shuffling broken who but still cultivate glimmering seeds of hope within thinned and graying souls.

Lots of exciting news to briefly communicate with you before we delve into the magnificent work that resides in this magazine, from the front cover to the back cover.

First of all, I am in the process of attempting to revive the legendary, thrice-Hugoed science fiction magazine Worlds of IF, so stay tuned for that!

I have found that precise expression and disciplined form sometimes out-measure inspiration.

T. O’Conor Sloane III, Doubleday editor

I was honored to be interviewed for the Fall issue of Star*Line by Jean-Paul L. Garnier, the very talented editor of that excellent magazine, published by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. The SFPA is a wonderful organization and an important resource for all science fiction and fantasy poetry writers — artists, too. Please check out the interview when you get the chance. In the interview, Jean-Paul asked me what I thought about the creation of new poetic forms. I answered the question and then dovetailed into talking about my aversion to any semblance of required poetic structure, in my own writing at least, being the nearly feral and wholly undisciplined beast that I am, stating that for me, inspiration is the only thing that matters. Not even a week later, I stumbled upon a conversation with my grandfather, T. O’Conor Sloane III, the Doubleday editor, in “The Poets’ Round Table: II” by Arthur MacGillivray, on page 381 of the Literature and Arts section in America: A Catholic Review of the Week (July 10, 1943, Vol. LXIX, No. 14), in which he stated a somewhat different perspective. This is what he said, “I have found that precise expression and disciplined form sometimes out-measure inspiration.”

We . . . believe that methodical experiment in expression does not usually make for orotund and overflowing poetic fervor.

T. O’Conor Sloane III, Doubleday editor, speaking on behalf of the Catholic Poetry Society of America, of which he was a New York City director

This gave me pause for thought and I basically agree, sometimes being the key word here. He then said, “We of the Catholic Poetry Society group believe that methodical experiment in expression does not usually make for orotund and overflowing poetic fervor.” First of all, that glorious writing makes me want to sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world (thank you for that as always, W. W.)! Secondly, I basically disagree, does not being the key words there. Now that is a conversation I would have dearly loved to have had with the distinguished gent over a Scotch and cigars. But that time, sadly, has passed far and distant overhead, like the faint exclamation of wild geese fading into the eternal blue.

Also, my interview with Duotrope is out and another that will appear in the November issue of Simultaneous Times Newsletter, presented by Space Cowboy Books. Jean-Paul is the editor of that publication as well, and the owner of Space Cowboy Books, an award-winning, brick-and-mortar bookstore that you can walk into, open a book and smell the pages! Imagine that.

My eldest daughter is now writing for The Battalion, the student newspaper of Texas A&M University and its 73,000-plus students (everything’s bigger in Texas), in College Station. She is a far better writer than I ever will be, and she might even get a paycheck for her journalism! The newspaper is over 125-years old and in 2008 and 2019, won the National Pacemaker Award, which is considered the Pulitzer Prize of college journalism. She’s already written articles on the university’s choir program (of which she is a member), a side-to-side opinion piece about federal student loan forgiveness, affordable housing options, Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy for governor of Texas that coincided with his visit to the campus, issues related to the massive student enrollment of Texas A&M, and the voyage to adulthood. The newspaper appears in print and online. I’m very proud of her. Thank goodness she and her sister take after their mother.

[Some of the style manuals, including the one I use (Chicago), say not to italicize “the” in the title of a newspaper even when it is part of the name. I don’t care for this rule and think it lacking in both aesthetic value and accuracy. I do a house-mix style, I suppose, especially as it pertains to poetry titles.]

Lots of other stuff going on at Starship HQ, big projects underway and in the works, all of which will materialize when the time is right. Enough said on that front for the time being as I’ve been endeavoring to keep my editorials a bit shorter (cue the snark).

[Quick aside: Not very long ago, an acquaintance who knows nothing at all of my writing and publishing endeavors stated that I was looking more and more like Hemingway each time he saw me (my beard had reasserted its right to an expansive and commodious expression). I found his comment to be most entertaining, but vaguely disconcerting.]

In This Remarkable Debut Issue

I will begin with the gorgeous front cover art. Special thanks to Hollywood icon Richard Grieco, for the magnificent photograph. What an absolute vibe!

Jumping to the splendid back cover art, special thanks to contemporary artist Dave Vescio for the beautiful art piece of a most splendid and masterful splash of paint.

Poetry, stories, art, essays, interviews. You’ll find it all in this literary journal.

Contributing Editor Joshua St. Claire led an inspired cohort of dangerously creative poets in crafting a brilliant renku, “Quantum Entanglement,” that I am very, very excited about. Just stellar work! I don’t mind saying that when I read this magnificent renku, I almost teared up. It wasn’t only that it was all so beautifully, exceptionally written. So much so that it positively floored me. It wasn’t only that Joshua did such a wonderful job leading this very demanding creative collaboration. It was that everyone who participated felt inspired to do so. None of these poets had to do this or even had anything much to gain from it. They did it purely because they love poetry. I have come to view inspiration as a form of proof that the universe loves us — and I’d say we need all the proof that we can get! Perhaps more than ever, art and literature are so very important to the human spirit and to our civilization. Poets, thank you for your dedication and teamwork in producing a genuine masterpiece of poetic beauty, it is a most delightful manifestation of the human imagination. The energy emitted by this renku into the great cosmic ether slows the doomsday clock. This renku has been a very special project. An excellent write-up by Joshua on the form and the process is to be found on page six.

The internationally acclaimed, award-winning writer Zdravka Evtimova presents readers with a disturbing and utterly dystopian view of a high-tech future in her chilling SF short story, “The Horn.”

In “Freight Elevator,” Jerome Berglund’s short story with a title that is an instant classic, you will gradually gain altitude, word by word, made weightless by a uniquely structured logophilia, ever upwards into a delightful state of literary vertigo.

Poet Laureate of Anaheim, Wendy Van Camp provides wonderful insight into the process of writing creatively, incorporating the wisdom of the legendary, Hugo Award-winning, science fiction writer James Gunn with whom she workshopped. As well, Wendy’s poem about her grandfather fleeing from another invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a timely and sobering reminder that history repeats itself. The poem also ties in nicely with the Noam Chomsky interview about the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Interestingly, a few of the poems and pieces in this magazine involve reflections on war. This was not intentional, beyond the Noam Chomsky piece, it just arose organically. Which, again, I find to be most interesting. As is always the case, the energy of big events permeates the ether/aether/luminiferous ether, that theoretical universal substance believed by some, historically, to act as the medium for transmission of electromagnetic waves, thoughts, emotion, powers of prophesy, etc. Or maybe it’s just our shared humanity bubbling up to the surface. The human psyche showing that we actually care about something beyond our cubicle — self-imposed or otherwise.

I was once a political science major at the University of Washington in Seattle, and although I now generally stay as far away from politics as I can, I delved into it a bit for this issue, as political thought and discourse land squarely within the intended, nonfiction scope of this all-genres magazine.

With the war still raging in Ukraine, I found Noam Chomsky’s knowledgeable examination of the political backstory to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to be most timely and thought provoking. I am not espousing any particular political perspective here, simply presenting an interesting piece of political thought and commentary.

Special thanks to Noam Chomsky for granting me permission to reprint this piece and special thanks to Tom Engelhardt, the editor of Tom Dispatch, for being my most cordial point of contact and for allowing me to also reprint his excellent editorial introducing Noam’s piece, which originally appeared in the Tom Dispatch.

I have also included a reprint of a proposal for education reform in Argentina, written by Frank Thomas Smith and colleagues. Having taught high school social studies for a very long time, I think that this piece provides an interesting perspective, pertinent to the public education systems of nations throughout the world and reflects what is happening in this country currently, with the ever-increasing popularity of the charter school movement, and especially of private charters. In this country, at least, education and any of the various attempts at its reform are probably as much about politics as they are about education, which always adds an interesting dimension to this topic.

Special thanks to Frank Thomas Smith for granting me permission to reprint this piece, which originally appeared in the Southern Cross Review, a literary journal located in Argentina, of which Frank is the editor. About two decades ago, he published my first story, “King of the Condors,” in that very fine journal. Thank you, Frank!

Pursuant to educational matters, I have included a piece reflecting my own two cents on the state of the public education system in this good country of ours. It’s cynical and depressing but it’s how I view this very political and very public issue right now. Every facet of which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Many years ago, I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Rosalía Arteaga, who made history when she became the 39th President of Ecuador, the first woman to hold that position. Having already made history as the first woman elected to the vice presidency of that small and magnificent South American nation. When the incumbent president was removed from power, an extraordinary political battle for presidential succession ensued, with Dr. Arteaga briefly assuming the presidency. The events that transpired were riveting and made international headlines. The political insights that Dr. Arteaga provides in the interview are profound, reflecting genuinely hard-won wisdom.

Special thanks to Ana Montero de Cardoso for having arranged the interview with her friend, Dr. Arteaga, and to Ximena Cardoso-Sloane for having translated the interview from English to Spanish and then back again. My ‘command’ of the Spanish language would likely have precipitated an international incident! Monolingualism is a modern form of barbarism.

Some of the questions were directly informed by my reading of Niccolò Machiavelli’s exceptional political treatise, The Prince, a political handbook for neophyte rulers, written for Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino. The events surrounding Dr. Arteaga’s succession to the presidency and quick removal thereafter through the machinations of an opposing and fervently machista political-party bloc combined with a lack of clear constitutional guidance in the matter are worthy of any book or screenplay involving palace intrigue and high-stakes national politics.

The writing of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson had seared itself into my brain when I was in college the first time around. Later, when I was majoring in political science, I continued to be amazed that political reporting and commentary could be so damned entertaining. Gonzo journalism was hard truth, or at least hard perspective, shot out of the cannon of a clown circus. I loved it. My own political writing was drier than Elven lembas bread, but I saw a direction that I could go in and I saw possibilities that I had not seen before. In the Arteaga interview, I tried a new approach: framing my questions from a literary perspective. Consciously or not, I suppose that I can thank Thompson for providing the catalyst to trying something different than what I thought to be the de rigueur way to do things, although I did not emulate his outlandish style of writing, at that time at least.

Jean-Paul L. Garnier, the editor and owner of Space Cowboy Books (both a publisher of books and a bookstore), the fanzine/newsletter Simultaneous Times and the Hugo Award long list-nominated semiprozine Simultaneous Times podcast, and the SFPA’s Star*Line magazine, interviews Hugo Award winner, Cora Buhlert. This is a must-read interview — and they’re all must-read interviews in this magazine, by Jove!

The interview with artist Ronan Cahill provides a brilliant and fascinating look into the mind of an artist and the creative process like few I’ve ever read. It is an honest and remarkably rich narrative of an artist whose life is powerfully driven and defined by the creative process. It is compelling reading. I enjoyed his comprehensive treatment of digital art very much. He addressed squarely what had in fact been one of my own reservations in the matter, initially. Namely, where’s the paint? Don’t you need real paint to make real art? Of course not. The art is real regardless of the medium being used.

There are many wonderful interviews in this issue, including one with the poet Billy Barnum, a direct descendant of P. T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman on Earth.” What?! Yes. Go figure!

No GPS device necessary when reading the fascinating essay, “Our Place on the Map of the Universe” by esteemed French cosmographer Daniel Pomarède, co-discoverer of the Laniakea Supercluster, the Dipole Repeller, the Cold Spot Repeller, and the South Pole Wall. This is a special reprint from the debut issue of The Space Cadet Science Fiction Review. Daniel’s brilliant love of science and cosmic discovery, and his heartfelt hopes for the future of humanity are genuinely inspiring. My grandfather once met with oceanographer Jacques Cousteau in Paris while his editor at Doubleday. I hope to visit with Daniel there one day as well, to discuss the cosmos and his vision of human destiny.

But that’s just the start of your sojourn in these eclectic, inspired pages! There is so much of interest to be explored in this journal. Dive into a sparkling lagoon of deep and expansive thought, uncommon ideas, boundless creativity, and vibrant art! Enjoy your literary swim. I’ll see you in the sun, on the far and gleaming shores.

Credit: Carol Lee Photography

Yours truly,

Justin

Justin T. O’Conor Sloane, Editor

November 5, 2022