Announcing the theme for Volume 4, Issue No. 4: “Technophobia.” Give us your hashtag noir, your algorithms gone awry, your disinformation dystopias, your marketing monstrosities. Got a the-universe-is-a neuron-and-we-are-merely-synapses fantasia? Send it. We want your elegiac missives to the maverick bot you Twittercided. We crave your HTML sonnets coded in paranoia. From AI gone rogue, to parallel social media universes, we want your technologies of fear. Submissions opening April 1st, and closing July 4th, 2021. Submit your darkest digital delights!
Submissions for issue 4.2 (“Labyrinths,” 4.1.2021) are now open! In the mythical story, King Minos of Crete commissioned Daedalus to create a structure to contain the Minotaur, to hide its existence from the world. Crete demanded “tributes” from other nations to feed the Minotaur. Theseus, one of the Princes of Athens, was one of these tributes. However, Ariadne fell in love with him and assisted him in navigating the labyrinth with her Golden Thread, enabling him to kill the Minotaur. The Labyrinth today is frequently used to evoke the Jungian concept of the “collective unconscious,” with the Minotaur at the center being symbolic of the shadow self. Theseus must cling to the thread in order to stave off the deadliest effect of the labyrinth: disorientation. Marie von Franz writes of the connection between the labyrinth and the subconscious: “The maze of strange passages, chambers, and unlocked exits in the cellar recalls the old Egyptian representation of the underworld, which is a well-known symbol of the unconscious with its abilities. It also shows how one is ‘open’ to other influences in one’s unconscious shadow side and how uncanny and alien elements can break in.” Here the Minotaur represents our repressed, dark, or perhaps evil aspect. For our “Labyrinths” issue, we are seeking work that interrogates the Shadow Self, that blurs the line between good and evil, work that confronts what really makes a monster.
Click here to submit!
Coffin Bell is seeking a third short story editor. Read 10-15 short stories per week, and vote yes or no for first round. Ideal candidate will be familiar with Coffin Bell‘s aesthetic and past publications, and be a reader and / or writer of dark literature. To apply, please send your resume / CV with relevant experience to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a paragraph including your favorite Coffin Bell short story and why you think you’d be a great fit. Please use “APPLICATION: SHORT STORY EDITOR” for the subject line. This is an unpaid, volunteer appointment. We are accepting applications until November 14, 2020.
Reviewed by Aaron Sommers
The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (August 8, 2018)
“I’m rarely wrong in matters of narration, “ -F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1936.
Fitzgerald’s self-assessment is both generous and accurate. But despite a meteoric debut novel and a prodigious volume of short stories, his torrid personal life continues to fascinate the American public as much as—and in some cases, more than—his fiction ever did.
His courtship and marriage to Zelda Sayre in 1920, the year the manuscript of This Side of Paradise was accepted for publication, has been well-documented by scholars and gossip columnists alike. The couple’s private struggles became public fodder during the Jazz Age, and their subsequent descent into ruin has been a treasure trove for academics, readers and commentators since Fitzgerald’s untimely death in 1941.
Fulbright scholar and cultural historian Kimball Taylor judiciously pours through a variety of letters, stories and interviews in The Gatsby Affair, but she avoids any unnecessary commentary. Her interest here is clear: the 1924, when the Fitzgerald’s sojourned to the French Riviera. Upon their arrival in June, the author secludes himself and adheres to a strict writing schedule, toiling on his then-untitled novel, forbidding any interruptions or—per his policy—sexual intercourse. The two initially quarrel over the arrangements, but Zelda gradually respects the conditions necessary for her husbands’ work. Still, the arrangement proves lonely for her. Perpetually restless and curious, she explores the seaside, practices her French in local bistros during the day, and dances in the casinos at night.
Enter a French aviator named Eduardo Jozan, a man Kimball describes as, “square-jawed, athletic and muscular,” who catches the eye of Zelda. The two strike up a friendship and meet regularly in public. Rumors swirl and accusations fly until the Fitzgeralds pack up and leave for New York City at the end of the summer. The friendship—be it platonic, romantic or otherwise—was certainly a source of tension for Fitzgerald, and whether or not it is consummated is a question dwarfed by the enormity of his jealousy and doubt.
It’s easy for us to see parallels between Gatsby’s Tom Buchanan and the real-life Jozan. Both oozed machismo—a trait Fitzgerald found fascinating and repellant—and both were uneducated opportunists. They stood as direct contrasts to the fragile, sensitive, poetic disposition Fitzgerald embodied and—at varying times in his life—often resented.
Kimball makes a good case for the tension this episode placed on an already strained marriage. Zelda is at once enchanting, intense and domineering, while her husband is forever mercurial and distant. Fueled by alcohol and a need for attention, the couples exploits are well-known, however, little is made of the fact that ten years later, the two not only remained married, but profounder in love.
Fitzgerald’s quote above pertains to a story Zelda sent him during her stay at a psychiatric hospital (from Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald). Although deep in debt, alone and unwell, Scott read her work closely and provided honest feedback.
Kimball hints at, but never explicitly acknowledges any infidelity. In all likelihood, while Zelda found a valued confidante during her husband’s long working hours, his lack of artistic sensibility made any deeper connection unlikely. Likewise, Scott’s relationship with Sheila Graham—the young columnist he met in Hollywood in 1939—wasn’t surreptitious nor salacious, but timely.
There were no secrets between the Fitzgeralds. Between a man of letters and a woman who spoke her mind, they left no room for them. With that in mind, The Gatsby Affair provides an insightful and eminently readable account of this sliver of time in their fractured lives.
Aaron Sommers is a writer and teacher. His short stories have been published by The Emerson Review, Berkeley Fiction Review and The Olive Tree Review, among others. You can read more about him over at www.aaronsommers.com or follow him via Twitter (if that’s your thing) @aaronsommers. He lives in New Hampshire, with his wife and two daughters, in a house set deep in the woods and on the more inaccessible side of a mountain.
Submissions open May 28, 2020 for Volume 3, Issue No. 4, themed “Mythopoeia,” and close at 12AM EST on August 1, 2020.
Joseph Campbell noted that modern society has outgrown the classical myths, and that new myths must be created. However, Campbell also asserted that modern society is changing too rapidly to be completely described by one overarching mythology, and therefore today’s myths must be created at a later time. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “the sun shines today also … Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.”
Myth explains, myth personifies, myth illuminates. Myth is humankind’s attempt to explain existence to itself.
But myth is also falsehood. Myth is fiction, a narrative created to characterize an event or phenomenon. Some might even rebut Campbell’s claim and posit that modern myth is not only extant, but very well and good in modern society.
While we are reading all types of mythic work for this issue, we are particularly interested in political myth and its role in the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic.