Dinosaur

How Jurassic Park Taught Me the Magic of Monster Stories, a Guest Post by Amy E. Casey

Dinosaur

At seven years old, I was dinosaur-obsessed. I watched educational dinosaur specials on VHS, and I knew all their names. I visited their bones and models at the Milwaukee Public Museum. I loved their gruesome display of a T-Rex eating a ceratopsian, guts and all. 

But I had never actually seen a dinosaur, you know, eat a person.

Not until one glorious summer night in 1993 when, in his infinite wisdom, my father decided to bring pint-sized, pigtailed me to see one of the first theatrical showings of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. The film was based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name.

The lights went down, and thrilling carnage ensued. I was transfixed, terrified, and fascinated. When we stopped at the gas station to fill up on our way home after the show, I was still shaking. I also begged to see the movie again as soon as possible. 

That summer, I wanted to be Dr. Ellie Sattler more than anything in life. Like my idol, I had an intense curiosity about the world around me. I wanted to touch it. I wanted to study it. But I also feared it and knew it could hurt me. Not only were my beloved cinematic velociraptors unbelievably awesome, they were also hideous and deadly. They were the manifestation of the unique awe that comes from an acknowledgement of human frailty. A shrieking animatronic memento mori, if you will. 

After Jurassic Park broke my brain, I developed an all-consuming love for creatures that I feared. In literature and film, I looked for them wherever I could. The monster could assume so many different forms, from killer sharks to city-smashing gorillas, to the mutants and aliens of science fiction. Monsters could even be humans who had become monstrous through their curiosity (like Dr. Jekyll or The Hulk) or through no fault of their own  (like Frankenstein’s monster or Grendel). Speaking skeletons and murderous squids danced in my daydreams. They still do. In my fiction, they always find their way forward. And I’m not alone. It delights me how every year I inevitably get a new infusion of monster-centric fiction to read and films to see. These genre titles are often billed as less serious literature, but I couldn’t disagree more.

When I think about monsters, I think about the magic of fear. As we learn to navigate the world, most of us stop looking for fairies beneath toadstools and give up on the hope that we might stumble into a portal to a fantasy realm. But fear is something that we all believe in.  It comes from outside of us and inside of us, no matter how old we get. That’s part of the human condition, and it’s an invisible wraith that haunts our worries. But when we can entertain fear in the form of a monster, it’s a terror laden with relief. 

The monster allows human imagination to give fear a shape. It’s a way to see threat in detail, with its teeth and beauty and power and scales. It demands a certain kind of reverence and reminds us that, yes, sometimes we have to reach our hands out to touch our fears on their terrible snouts. And while that can be frightening, it can also be life-affirming. Strangeness, self-discovery, transformation: these things require facing the demons that we all have. The only difference in a monster story is that they are actual demons. 

Not all monsters are bad, and that’s one of my favorite things about them. At the end of the story, as much as we cheer for the efforts to fire arrows at the monster or evade their snapping teeth, we really don’t want to see the monster die, because we know that the monster is a part of us, too. By othering it we deny that truth. 

We see the monster as the threat of the possible, the danger of the unknown. Sometimes monsters are monstrous merely because they are strange: bizarre, unnatural, unholy. Monster stories have the courage to ask, What happens when we meet our fears? Where does the real danger lie? What’s the real difference between the monster and ourselves? Whether organic, robotic, or supernatural, all monsters are interlopers, crossing into the field of human interaction without permission or sometimes even definition. 

To be human is to fear. To be a monster is to be the thing that is feared. At our most powerful and pure, we can recognize our own monstrosity and allow it to companion with virtue. The Romantics knew this well. For them, the most divine of emotions was sublimity–witnessing something peerless in beauty and unbounded force. It’s the reverence that compelled Shelley to write Frankenstein and play her part in the invention of science fiction.

That’s why, in one of the final frames of Jurassic Park, the scene that still pricks me with chills is this: as the humans get helicoptered to safety, the massive T-Rex raises her jaw and lets out a bone-rattling roar. With the manmade remnants of the Visitor’s Center crushed to smithereens around her, she emanates sheer joy in her power, and something strange happens. After hoping so fervently that the characters escape her deadly mouth for the majority of the film, we smile at her triumph. Yes, we think. Because somewhere deep down, we know that monsters deserve to be free.

As a writer, I’ve found a calling in my fascination with fear. I owe much of it to 1993, dinosaurs made of metal and rubber, and the vision of genre writers everywhere who know how much we will always need their monsters.

Before I Had the Word cover

New Poetry Collection by Brooke Sahni Coming Soon!

Before I Had the Word cover
Before I Had the Word by Brooke Sahni (Texas A&M University Press, forthcoming 2021)

We are excited to share that past contributor Brooke Sahni has a book coming out this November! Before I Had the Word is a poetry collection that explores the confluences of religion and culture in the world. In the poems, Brooke draws on her backgrounds in Sikhism and Judaism to challenge our notions of the self and the divine. Nature, sexuality, and the body, plus the secular and mundane worlds, are thoughtfully questioned.

Before I Had the Word invites us to consider what is essential and what is sacred: language, the body, pleasure, faith. It invites us to consider who we are, how we inhabit ourselves, how words – “words that give and words that take away” – shape our experience. There are poems in this book that are etched in me now. Poems I’ll return to again and again. Poems I’ll teach. Poems I’ll share with my own daughter. This book is a gift.

Maggie Smith, Author of Keep Moving

Before I Had the Word is the 2020 winner of the X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize and is available for pre-order from Texas A&M University Press. Brooke contributed to our Issue 24 and is also the author of the poetry collection Divining. To learn more about Brooke, visit her website or Instagram. Congratulations, Brooke!

Knausgaard books

Reading Knausgaard: The Face and Its Inscription, a Guest Post by Derek JG Williams

Knausgaard books

Then, I wanted to know what it was like to be nowhere. I had always lived somewhere before, rooted to cities by work, school, friends, family, and relationships. I wanted to be adrift. 

I moved to Ohio to begin a doctoral program in English. I wanted to lose myself in the unfamiliar familiarity of books and find freedom in whatever that could mean. That fall in Ohio found me jumping through countless bureaucratic and administrative hoops, which would be a key component of my time there. I resisted and resented the impositions. My non-obedience opened up a class-shaped hole in my schedule; it was too late for me to fill it with another course. I resolved to cram it with books. On a whim, I began Book One of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s series, My Struggle, which had only recently been translated into English. 

In the first pages of that first book, read during my first semester of study, young Karl, age eight, watches the news on TV. He watches a segment about a fishing boat that has sunk: I stare at the surface of the sea…and suddenly the outline of a face emerges. I don’t know how long it stays there…The moment the face disappears I get up to find someone I can tell. The boy seeks verification of his experience: proof, and the communion that’ll follow. His family refuses to satisfy his need; they don’t entertain his vision, which is akin to seeing a face in the clouds or the man on the moon. 

But of course the face existed. He saw it. I just wanted to find out if they could see what I had seen. To write is to confirm our sight, while forcing others to look to us—at us—even as we stay hidden beneath the water. As I sit at my desk writing, the waves swallow what once formed on the surface; the afterimage remains, along with the impression it made. Knausgaard wrote five more books to go along with the first. All of them are of a piece. They are, according to him, one novel. Following their publication, everyone looked at him, to him.

I moved to a rural university town in Ohio without ever seeing it. When I arrived, it certainly felt like nowhere, but I felt compelled, drawn to the place by that exact quality. Was it an act of faith, or the result of a lack for it? I didn’t need to tour rentals to figure out which to choose—I didn’t care about any of that. I didn’t need to see the place I would live. I wanted to not want anything. I didn’t succeed.

Almost four years have passed since then. I finished reading Book Six of My Struggle on the balcony of my apartment overseas, thousands of miles from where I began the first. It took me these years to read all 3,600 pages of the novel. 

When I was sixteen, I thought life was without end, the number of people in it inexhaustible…The people who had been there then would become even more important, infinitely significant in as much as they had not only been shaping my perception of who I was, had not only been the people through which my own face emerged and became visible, but embodied the very understanding of how this particular life turned out the way it did.

This is from early in Book Six, in which the author tries to close the loop around the years of his life depicted in the pages of the novel. In the last book, he writes about the wild success of the first in the series. The response of readers, of the public, feeds into his writing. 

Youth hides the lines that are manifest in the face, revealing the life that’s been lived: success, failure, and criticism are all parts of it. People intimately and vaguely involved in that life are part of it too. Perhaps the slow revelation of the face, its emergence, is more acute for the writer. I see what Knausgaard saw: the face and its lines. The other result is the novel, and words, which unlock time, heaving us outside it. That’s why we read, and why I write. 

Abrade—yes. That’s the word. That’s what time does. We try to tie a bow and close the loop around time, our lives, but the text frays and unwinds it.

I recently began to experience tinnitus. For me, it’s a distant high-pitched ringing in my ears. For others, the sound is different, like a roar or drone. My experience is the literal effect of time; the aftermath of the life I’ve lived. I only notice it in the morning or evening, when it’s most quiet. I can hear it now, and I can pinpoint some of the concerts that damaged my hearing, all those years ago. The noise from then is still with me. No one else can hear it.


A note from SR: before you go, check out Derek’s contribution to Issue 22.

Please Hold cover

Guest Post: Martha Zweig Reviews “Please Hold” by Muriel Nelson

Please Hold by Muriel Nelson, Encircle Publications, 2021

Praise be to Encircle Publications for selecting my friend Muriel Nelson’s Please Hold as the winner of their 11th annual chapbook competition. Any and all lovers of poetry currently suffering frustration, blahs, even despair, over lineated topical prosaics may take heart. These twenty-five poems bind together actual poetry: musical-magic words. Deployed from within the courteous, indefatigably sunny suburban disposition I remember from my own childhood, they flick quirts & quips of vocabulary at the thorniest issues in Christianity’s crown: the suffering and death of innocents, ripping as usual through the here and now, while a good-enough god’s vital creation flourishes, for instance, its novel & ingeniously variable virus. Nelson (sometimes assisted by a stone-faced sidekick gargoyle) rubs dry sticks together, flint-striking among them worrisome sparks of prayer over nature, beloveds and the commons, such as they (and we) may seem-or-not to get along these days. Or ever? Organ of vox humana, ”That ultra-low purr,/ is it your scary business? Your pleasure?” (God Deafness).

Nelson’s work, full of noises and mouth feel, craves and rewards reading aloud: “words like worms wriggle out” (A Few Words from a Haystack with Facehole); “gold leaf down brown water, brown spot down gold leaf” (Up to You) as “radios amplify hubbubs” (Nap). “Rather than dazzle, please mail juncos”, a speaker requests. (You There). “Sanctus,” via violin, “rises/ over orange machines and trills through diesel” (Hold Sway). Wanton, irresistible frolicking language made of everyday diction we already know by heart.

Anxieties addressed in addition to pandemic include other illnesses and infirmities, clear air turbulence in aviation (Nelson’s own son the pilot at risk); hair overgrowing unruly in lockdown, nearby Mt. St. Helens’ volcanic eruption and forest fires, plus whatever else may fill in any of our blanks. Why is our local nit picked of the universe such a mess-in-plain-sight? Because this world of oops is God’s mirror-image shattered in a truck mishap. (Nap) Image-recognitions like this, more persuasive and quicker-to-the-pinch than rational proofs, are why/how we get to make sense of things, even as sense may go on to make and unmake the best efforts of artists, fans and rationalists. Because seeing is believing, the gardener –reluctantly conceding that god obviously prefers weeds– can’t really mind. Don’t look there. Look over here instead.

More ‘Notes’ than just one on hummingbird arithmetic would be nice:  Vox humana, gargoyle, worm moon, clear air turbulence, retrograde, ankyloglossia,  A440. I do like reading notes before I begin a book, getting that initial feel for what’s in store. And, what with everything zapping all around the world’s diverisities all the time, a particular writer’s cultural tropes are not so much common knowledge as used to be.  

The sheer antic fun of Nelson’s wordplay, nimble, precise and outlandish enough never to get caught out in bourgeois complacency, wins us over and wins. Goofy poem “Hug,” for instance, declares its own title a word too ugly to be tolerated, and so (um, ‘embrace’?) substitutes (why not?) “waffle,” enumerating the latter’s superior fluff and sugary qualities and ending up (neverminding stiffly-posed ancestor portraits) in the very waffle that created us descendants.  Or, “A woman with a hole in her brain the size of a lemon says”/ I find repetition soothing. Really?” The poem’s skeptical speaker attempts a few irritatant repetitions in rebuttal, but soon concedes the issue utterly. 

Atheist Zweig engages these glories in awe for quite a while, as the music tickles and soothes. Gradually, though, an inner Richard Wilbur begins to notice the gigantic absence here of any human (and systemic) depravity in the world. If we can’t blame God (busy puttering light and music among the weeds), who gets held to account, and how? One poem, after ee cummings, seems to indict Mister Death, but this, sez I, is mere Manichaean heresy: did superpower Death create Itself? “Second Story Window” acknowledges a “God, who contours love with dark // who forsakes even Christ,” yet ends beguiled hearing bells and a shadow singing. In these poems music and wit (soothing, satisfying) never accuse. “Nap” comes closest: “God of great pain, lone, // self-bombing, bloody-crossed God… whom no one hugs, you untouchable, sharp, broken One.” Christianity, though, is obliged to address deliberate human sin— which the crucified god, (as we’re told by numerous authorities), forgives in advance and for all time. Wow! Thanks a bunch! Let’s sin again, maybe more so this time! Did I miss the parts where the moneybaggers get bounced out of the temple and barred from the heavenly kingdom even as some lumpy beast slicks through the needle’s eye?

Approaching the end, Please Hold arrives at “doting,” three times: a word I resist because doting is foolish. Am I supposed to be foolish for having indulged in delight among these poems? Must I, must other readers and Nelson herself, commit to holy foolery for Jesus and Saint Paul? After some research I reread “A woman with a hole in her brain the size of a lemon says” –increasingly my favorite. We cultured folk know perfectly well that art and all its witness entail willing suspension of disbelief; likely you and I can entertain Holy Foolishness without becoming wholly foolish. My atheistic smarts briefly snooze right over there, safe-&-sound.

Revisit the commodious mischief of this robocroon title, perpetrated, surely, by the gargoyle sidekick: Your prayer is very important to us. Our only-one god is busy hearing other supplicants and will respond to you in the order of your prayer received. You are currently number four trillion and eighty-two, please hold, or pray again later. (music) Organ, please hold that vox humana note. Dike against the sea, please hold; my place in the soup line; wall against the dark hordes, shutters against the storm, please hold. Hug me a little longer, (urgently/politely) don’t let go. Endure, don’t disintegrate, don’t die. And so on, let me count the ways. Please Hold your horses, your fire, your tongue, that thought, this book.


Please Hold, poems by Muriel Nelson, Encircle Publications, 2021, 28 pp.

EJ Levy author photo

Keeping Alive a Feminist and Transgender Icon


Congratulations are in order for past contributor E.J. Levy, whose newest book, The Cape Doctor, was released this summer. E.J. was kind enough to send us her own description of the book, found below.


I’m delighted to have had my debut novel, The Cape Doctor, out from Little Brown on June 15th, after nearly a decade of work. The book is inspired by the life of Dr. James Miranda Barry–born Margaret Ann Bulkley circa 1795 in Cork, Ireland–a brilliant, irascible, dandified, army surgeon who advocated for the rights of the marginalized and was the first person known to perform a successful caesarian in Africa; Barry was caught in a sodomy scandal with the aristocratic governor of Cape Town (then the Cape Colony) in 1824, and eventually rose to the level of Inspector General, only to be discovered after death to have been “a perfect female” and to have carried a pregnancy late to term.

In the 150 years since Barry died, the doctor has been celebrated as both a feminist icon (as the first female-born person to receive a medical degree in the UK, 50 years before Elizabeth Garrett Anderson would, and 35 years before Elizabeth Blackwell would earn her degree in the US) and more recently as a trans icon. Both are valid interpretations in my view. I agree with biographer Jeremy Dronfield (author of Dr. James Barry: A Woman Ahead of Her Time) who has said that he sees validity in both a feminist and a trans reading of Barry’s life, but he rejects any effort to impose one interpretation to the exclusion of the other or to present one as definitive. Mine is one reading of a richly ambiguous historical record of the fascinating and courageous life of Margaret Bulkley and James Barry. In writing the book, I was aiming for something like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando–in which the protagonist changes sex over centuries–but I think I’ve ended up with something closer to Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield.

I have changed Barry’s name to be clear that mine is a work of fiction. But it has felt at times more like a seance. I first learned of Barry on a trip to Cape Town; as we traveled around the city and into the countryside, I felt a little possessed by that spirit, as if Dr. Barry was whispering in my ear; I’m delighted that others have a chance to hear that same voice now. 

I’m gratified that Booklist has given The Cape Doctor a Starred Review, calling it “Remarkable…Absolutely superb… beautifully written…In sum, an unforgettable work of art that deserves raves.” The book was also named among Barnes & Noble’s “Best 100 Books of Summer” and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

I hope The Cape Doctor helps bring wider attention to and awareness of the remarkable life of both Margaret and James.


The Cape Doctor is published by Little Brown and available for purchase from Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Google Play, and Amazon.

E.J. was interviewed by SR about her story collection Love, In Theory in Issue 16. Keep up with what else E.J. is up to on her website and Twitter.

Internship Opportunities for ASU Undergraduates Spring 2022

Superstition Review

Internship Opportunities with Superstition Review 

Are you an ASU student interested in creative writing, publishing, marketing, social networking, blogging, or advertising? Do you wish you could get marketable job skills while earning college credit? Do you like to have a little fun while you learn?

Then an internship with Superstition Review is right for you.

Superstition Review is the online literary magazine produced by creative writing and web design students at Arizona State University. Founded in 2008, the mission of the journal is to promote contemporary art and literature by providing a free, easy-to-navigate, high quality online publication that features work by established and emerging artists and authors from all over the world.

We publish two issues a year with art, fiction, interviews, nonfiction, and poetry. We also enjoy honoring all members of our Superstition Review family by maintaining a strong year-round community of editors, submitters, contributors, and readers on our blog and social networks.

Trainees

Trainees will register for a 3 credit-hour ENG 394 course. The course will offer a study of the field of literary magazines.

Upon successful completion of ENG 394, trainees will enroll in ENG 484 and become active interns with the magazine.

  • All work is done completely online.
  • We welcome interns from all fields.
  • The internship is not available to ASU Online students.
  • Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

What Interns Say:

Trish provided valuable experience in my field of interest that is not offered anywhere else. This class has been a huge eye-opener for me and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work in the publishing and editing industry before graduating.

The skills I learned have given me a huge amount of confidence as I begin my search for a job, and I’m so glad this course was available.

Trish is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and very trusting of her students. Although all the work for SR goes through her, she allows for students to take control and engage in the work fully. Thanks for the wonderful experience!

Trish is extremely personable and is great at making people feel welcomed and she listens very well to her students.

Trish is extremely accessible and welcoming. I felt very comfortable coming to her with questions. I feel I got a great internship experience that will help me post graduation.

Read more about us on our social networks:

        

Anna B Sutton author photo (Credit Jasper & Fern)

“Savage Flower” Doesn’t Shy Away From Heavy Themes


Summer 2021 was a fruitful season for our past contributors! We’re back to announce another contributor’s new book: Anna B. Sutton’s poetry collection Savage Flower. Anna’s debut book includes “Postpartum,” which was featured in Issue 13. Savage Flower, winner of the 2019 St. Lawrence Book Award, centers on women in the American South. Reproductive rights, gender, religion, oppression, and family are just some of the timely and weighty topics brought up.

Make no mistake: the poems in Savage Flower will break you open with their beauty, with their unflinching ability to turn and keep the gaze on the moments of life so painful we try not to look at them: death and abandonment, injury and loss. Through Sutton’s work, we see the world as a continual process of loss and gain, of departure and return, in which “like prayer, waves fall back against the earth.” But these poems break you in a way that heals you, that continuously reminds you that despite its deaths and losses, this world still “[a] thing of beauty that / blossoms even as it withers.”

Emma Bolden, Author of House Is an Enigma

Savage Flower is available for purchase from Black Lawrence Press and Anna kindly mentions SR in the acknowledgements. Learn lots more about Anna and her work on her website and Twitter. Congratulations, Anna!

The Thicket cover

Kasey Jueds Leaves No Stones Unturned


We are excited to share that past contributor Kasey Jueds is releasing a poetry collection, The Thicket, this November. Jueds’ poem “The Tool Shed” was featured in Issue 25. She is also the author of the poetry collection Keeper.

As its name suggests, The Thicket evokes themes of the natural world and poems often center on the less-prominent aspects of nature. Unique to this collection, the reader contends with an undefined force: it may be self, God, both, neither. Advance praise describes The Thicket as timely, serene, and observant.

Long after finishing The Thicket, I felt rocked inside its motion, a music made of wind and river current, blood, breath and wingbeat. In poem after poem Jueds leads us across the natural world, turned fabular by lavishly lyric detail, to passages unseen, through which deer spotted one moment vanish the next. The Thicket is a true beauty of a book, fully awake to the many spells of our existence.

Kathy Fagan, author of Sycamore

The Thicket will be available in November, 2021, from University of Pittsburgh Press. You can pre-order the collection from Pitt or Bookshop. Find more from Kasey on her website and Twitter. Congratulations, Kasey!

Contributor Update, Paul Luikart

Contributor Update, Paul Luikart


We’re so excited to share that past contributor Paul Luikart has published a new book! The Museum of Heartache, a short story collection, debuted this week from Pski’s Porch Publishing.

Paul Luikart earns his spot on the shortlist of writers who can sink you right into the skin of a character in only a few lines. This collection of stories, some almost poetry, captures moments in his characters’ lives when they aren’t just down and out but squeezed in the vice of their circumstances, whether peculiar or mundane. In their shoes, you’ll grapple with what it means to be fully human and come out the other side changed.

Audrey Keown, Author of the Ivy Nichols Mysteries

The book includes Paul’s story “Blessed Assurance,” originally published by Superstition Review in Issue 22. That story touches on the reality of things we may never expect to encounter, framed by the binaries of heaven and hell, alive and dead. It’s an honest and intense glimpse into a life the narrator wanted to escape. Yet we leave the story hopeful. To read “Blessed Assurance,” click here.

The Museum of Heartache is available on Amazon and more information can be found on the Pski’s Porch website. Check out Paul on Twitter.

Contributor Update, Marieken Cochius

Contributor Update, Marieken Cochius

Frequency #51, by Marieken Cochius
Frequency #51, by Marieken Cochius, 2021. Inks on paper 22 x 30 in.

We are pleased to share that past contributor Marieken Cochius’s art will be on show this fall at the Lockwood Gallery in Kingston, New York! The exhibit, One Thing Leads to Another, features the contemporary, abstractionist work of Marieken and four others: Karlos Carcamo, Meg Hitchcock, Matthew Langley, and Greg Slick. Pieces from Marieken’s recent “Frequencies” series, such as the one seen above, will be on display, some for the first time. These layered ink on paper drawings capture transient moments in nature and their innate energy. The effect is enchanting.

[Marieken Cochius’s] work is continually evolving formally while consistently and skillfully expressing a passion for the beauty, mystery, and meaningfulness of the natural world. A visit to her website will reveal many variations on the art of abstraction in media that include oil painting, sculpture, and works on paper. There is nevertheless a consistency in her visual language that runs through its many dialects. She’s after a certain kind of energy that can’t be easily captured and held; it can only be experienced and communicated directly. The pieces in this show are records of awakening realized over time and can be seen as a call to the viewer to share a revelatory experience. … A tapestry of these visual moments gradually weaves itself together into a whole. Without specific identifiable imagery to grasp onto Cochius invites us to join in the conscious emergence of the cosmos.

Carl Van Brunt Beacon, The Lockwood Gallery

One Thing Leads to Another runs September 4th until October 3rd. For more information, visit the Lockwood Gallery website. To view Marieken’s art in Issue 25, click here. And don’t forget to check out Marieken’s website and social media: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Saatchi Art.