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Trunk Stories #1 & #2

Trunk Stories #1
Trunk Stories #2
Trunk Stories
Trunk Stories is a magazine of fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews that offers the reader some of the eccentric wonder of the 18th century cabinet of curiosities. With selections from notable writers of horror and speculative fiction, genre scholars, and exciting new talents, Trunk Stories is the place to look for the unique gems and strange fruits that have fallen between the cracks of traditional fiction magazines.

Trunk Stories

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Matthew Cheney

You may think it a myth, but more often than not, it's true: a writer has a trunk, a dusty, heavy, hardly-spoken-of piece of furniture that sits in a shadowy corner of the garret. It's a repository for the wretched orphans of imagination, the stories that no-one cares about -- stories tossed into a baggage compartment and destined, like prose poetry, never to reach the end of a line.

Hence, Trunk Stories, a magazine edited by William Smith, who has convinced some writers to go back into the shadows, open the trunk, and pull out something that deserves to have a home.

Smith calls Trunk Stories "a barely-annual 'zine", and that it is, the first issue having been released in November of 2003, the second in December 2004. It's a shame that Smith hasn't been able to publish it more often, because both issues have solid, and sometimes truly impressive, writing within them, and remarkably few pieces that should have remained in the trunk. This is a 'zine worth reading and subscribing to, a 'zine that deserves a larger audience. It is nearly as strong as somewhat better-known small press ventures such as Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Flytrap, and Electric Velocipede, but the fiction Smith has published can hold its own within that company (I'm not so sure about the poetry).

Trunk Stories does not seem to have any particular aesthetic axe to grind or edge to cut; it does not seem to be proselytizing for postmodernism or giving the slip to any particular stream -- there are traditional horror stories, weird surrealism, cyberpunky science fiction, and a few things in between. It's a good magazine to curl up on a couch with on a rainy day.

The first issue features stories by Kirsten Kaschock, Mark Bothum, Brett Alexander Savory, James Morris, and Erik T. Johnson; plus non-fiction by Veronica Schanoes and William Smith, and poetry by John Grey. All of the fiction has something to recommend it, though the most substantial and emotionally affecting is Kirsten Kaschock's "Any Other Name," a tale of a rogue geneticist and the use he makes of a vulnerable young woman. The story succeeds at being both shocking and touching, a difficult dance indeed, and probably the best story published in either issue of Trunk Stories so far.

The second issue dispenses with the non-fiction, which is a shame, because I thought Veronica Schanoes had some interesting things to say about childhood and fantasy via the lens of Diana Wynne Jones's Witch Week, and editor Smith's DVD reviews pointed me toward some movies I might otherwise have missed.

Issue two includes only four stories and a couple of poems (by Christina Sng and John Grey), but each story deserved publication, and the magazine feels more substantial with its four pieces of fiction than some anthologies do with three times the content. Nelson Stanley's "Pit Bull" is a hard-boiled horror story, somewhat predictable, but fun nonetheless for the verve with which Stanley plunges into familiar, pulpy territory. Mark A. Rayner's "The Monkey's Tail" (subtitled "As told by Marcel Duchamp the day after Charles Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget Field") is short, amusing, and somewhat baffling, and though it can't live up to its subtitle, it nonetheless contains pleasures and doesn't overstay its welcome. Eric Gardner's "Smash" begins as a kind of Catcher in the Rye for the cyber set and ends up being a story of obsession and dreams (in more ways than one), a story that mixes its metaphors in the alchemical potion of its protagonist's lost possibilities. The ending doesn't end up being entirely satisfying, and in some ways diminishes the significance of the rest of the story in nihilistic inevitability, but the journey to get to the end is one that is presented with skill. The second issue ends with an almost headache-inducing tale of time paradoxes by David Connerley Nahm, "Time in the Cupboard", which, if you like time paradox stories as much as I do, will probably have smiling even as you rub your temples.

Trunk Stories is a fine member of the 'zine world, a noble little endeavor that deserves the support of writers and readers. With luck, it will continue on and become something more than barely-annual, turning the neglected trunks in writers' garrets into boxes that would make Pandora proud.

Copyright © 2005 Matthew Cheney

Matthew Cheney teaches at the New Hampton School and has published in English Journal,, Ideomancer, and Locus, among other places. He writes regularly about science fiction on his weblog, The Mumpsimus.

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