Plot Magazine 8

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Review copyright 1997, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

Plot Magazine # 8 is the latest issue of an excellent semiprozine dedicated to helping beginning writers get into print. (My short story "The Stirge" was published in the second issue of this magazine, and I've subscribed ever since). As usual, the stories are excellent -- proof that small press does not have to equal second-rate. I particularly enjoyed the two new twists on the King Arthur tradition -- "A Socratic Pacifist in King Arthur's Court" and "Grail." The latter in particular took certain elements of the Arthurian tradition and took a totally new look at them.

"Tree of Sorrows" is an interesting retelling of the old Russian parable of the man who felt that his cross was too heavy, and who was offered his choice of anyone else's cross to bear, only to discover that his was just right after all. And the opening scene on the bridge made me think of It's a Wonderful Life, one of my favorite movies. And of course all the other stories were fascinating. Just because I've singled out a few for praise should not be taken as a denigration of any of the others.

Last, but by no means least, I liked the Post Mortem, the final editorial column. One of the things I really like about this magazine is how the editors give encouragement to beginners, giving them specific criticisms in their rejections and even suggestions for rewriting rather than flat rejections. It's not easy to be a beginner in a society which has retracted permission to be a beginner and scorns our early efforts. We are now expected to jump straight to levels that only a few decades ago were considered the heights of mastery, with almost no encouragement on the way. Most editors are too busy with the business of running their magazines to guide beginning writers the way such greats as John Campbell once did, which makes it even harder to get up to that "barely good enough" which was considered excellent in the 30's and 40's. Plot is one of the few magazines in the business that still offers some of that encouragement to new writers who might otherwise give up.

Review posted January 1, 1999

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