An online journal devoted to brevity and where genre isn’t important. The work that appears in concīs shows up first on the homepage and then is later compiled into a seasonal issue. One thing is for certain: concīs proves that length matters not when it comes to quality and the Spring 2017 seasonal issue bears this out.
A number of the pieces I was drawn to had to deal with war and fighting, and people in foreign countries. One of those pieces was called “A Memory of the First Battle” by Xujun Eberlein. This story, ultimately, is about the devastating emotional effects of war. Its tone is suitably somber and the specific details of the narrator’s experience during the Cultural Revolution in China are quite harrowing. There’s a critique of the U.S. meddling in foreign affairs going on here as well as a cultural critique about the general glamorizing of war through movies; of the gap between how war is represented and what actually happens. The point is driven home hard with the no-nonsense closing line.
Another striking piece about the psychological consequences of war is “Soldier Child” by Robert Milner. The piece is barely more than a paragraph long but operates successfully as a character study in miniature. The descriptions of the titular child are stark and grim, exactly what you’d expect; wounded knee and shoeless, a look of bleakness and desperation. The piece ends on a chilling note: “The way he stares back, his eyes black as the holes of gun barrels. The way he doesn’t blink.” It’s a vivid snapshot of an awful truth about the world: war corrupts even the most innocent of people.
A piece I really enjoyed that wasn’t dealing with the subject matter of war was Dylan Krieger’s “infanticide in outer space,” a flash piece about the narrator reconciling their upbringing. Told in colorful language, the piece is blistering and angry and chock-full of choice sentences, like the opening salvo for instance, “[ . . . ] because the concept of heaven renders us all bygone astronauts.” I particularly enjoyed this line: “precedes the need to give myself over to the elements and then, in turn, retreat, tape together my cheeks and terrorize the moon’s sleep with the memory of my confessor banishing me to the basement floor.” The narrator likens the neglect they’ve felt—as a child, and perhaps, carrying on into adulthood—to that of being relegated to such earthly insignificance that outer space becomes a place to vent. Krieger evokes the sense of helpless frustration that makes one want to lash out at someone effectively.
“Good Fellows” by Mark Budman is a fun, entertaining snapshot of a life lived dangerously. This is probably my favorite piece in this issue because I’m a film buff and love a good film hat-tip (the story title being a riff off of Scorsese’s Goodfellas). A good story is supposed to start in the middle of the action and “Good Fellows” does that in spades, with the opening line: “They told me to leave town and take the Russian with me.” The narrator and the Russian woman—who had a “penchant for pearl strings and ring tattoos on her fingers and toes”—are being pursued by what appears to be some Russian mobsters in black limos, and “ten guys with AK-47s.” The two protagonists are holed up in a house, armed with handguns and a sense of the inevitable: it’s clear that they’re not going to make it through this. But they don’t seem to care as the Russian woman says, “I hope they brought caviar.” The story is as crazy-sounding as I just described. There’s an excitement to this piece that shows in every word and every line. We get enough information about character and place to make this piece work, despite the incredibly short length. This is definitely a story I’d recommend to anyone that likes their short fiction spiked with style.
There’s much to recommend in this issue of concīs—here is just an introduction—and one would be hard-pressed not to find something to their liking.