Welcome to the first offering of Story|Houston, a new journal featuring narratives by emerging writers and illustrations by emerging artists. As we prepared to launch the magazine, originally the brainchild of Farris Shenaq and David Monroe, we considered a number of taglines or catchphrases that would elaborate our aesthetic. America’s Fourth Largest Online Literary Magazine received serious consideration, though our legal department raised questions about the veracity of that claim. Literary Sprawl had its supporters but suggested a laissez-faire approach to editing—and, as the writers in the inaugural issue will tell you, anything does not go. There were other references to Houston’s endless summers and humidity, the air conditioning we use year round, our fascination with fossil fuel and good food, our disregard for old money, city zoning, and pretension. Straight Montrose celebrated the easy-going, organic diversity of a big, Texas, Southern, coastal, multiethnic city, with a lesbian mayor and great restaurants. Long may it wave.
For now, we are content with our journal title, a juxtaposition that brings together this century’s most interesting place—inclusive, open, entrepreneurial—AND the world’s oldest profession. Among the fiction selected for publication in this issue is “Uncle Dixon,” a piquant story that is, as the first line suggests, “about you.” John A. McDermott represents the mess of erotic love by eliciting the raw, violent spontaneity of deep East Texas and its geographical reflection across the Sabine. We enjoyed Amechi Ngwe’s charming “Lunch with Dostoyevsky,” which hearkened for some of us to Don Barthelme’s “At the Tolstoy Museum.” Elizabeth Davies’s “The Wigmaker and the Thief” just won the Undergraduate Creative Writing Fellowship awarded annually by Gulf Coast. We thought the Davies story also evoked a strong sense of place, quite different from the landscape of “Uncle Dixon” or “Dostoevsky.” Finally, “May Day” is a previously unpublished short story by Robert Phillips, a celebrated Houston poet and author of over 30 books. In an authentic, if acquired, Houston voice, Mr. Phillips recalls the glory days of two high school legends in the midst of a reunion.
We’d like to give a special thanks to artists Matthew Boelsche and Jessica Fuquay for providing us with their wonderful illustrations for our cover and each of the stories. We hope you enjoy them. Lastly, if you would like to support our literary adventure as well as the work of emerging writers, please donate below.
THANKS TO ALL, AND GOOD READING!
John A. McDermott
“Everyone slinks off at some point, a wary glance over the shoulder, the right-left-right check of the soul, the clammy hands on the doorknob, on the wheel, on the money in the pocket.”
“…after another long silence I make a comment about the weather being warm for this time of year. Dostoyevsky’s response touches on the nature of love, the devil, and doctors, and is too deep for me to comprehend.”
“But no matter how beautiful they were, how birdlike their necks, how slender their wrists and tender their eyes, all he could see them for was their hair.”
“…she likes to stay home and drink. When does she start? Noon at the latest. And eat. She really likes to eat. Which is how I came to meet her again, after all these years.”
Robert Phillips is a prolific author and poet, as well as the former Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. His honors include a 1996 Enron Teaching Excellence Award, a Pushcart Prize, an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, a New York State Council on the Arts CAPS Grant in Poetry, MacDowell Colony and Yaddo Fellowships, a National Public Radio Syndicated Fiction Project Award, a Syracuse University Arents Pioneer Medal, and Texas Institute of Letters membership. In 1998 he was named a John and Rebecca Moores Scholar at the University of Houston.