'Believing In The Future Of These Voices': American Short Fiction's New Issue Celebrates Emerging Black Writers
The Austin-based literary magazine American Short Fiction has been around for thirty years, and periodically puts out an ‘Emerging Writers’ issue, comprising new short works from promising but not yet well-known authors. Their latest issue (number 72) is one such edition, and for the first time it focuses on celebrating emerging Black writers.
American Short Fiction asked author Danielle Evans, whose novella and story collection The Office of Historical Corrections was released to acclaim last year, to guest edit the new issue. “I’m usually a ‘contributing editor’ for the magazine, which is a very fancy title for meaning I just send them stories that I come across and for people who I think are promising writers, I encourage them to submit to the magazine,” Evans says. “But this time I got to actually pick the work for the issue, so it’s exciting.
“We had a conversation this summer about what the emerging writers issue would look like,” Evans continues. “The editors had already picked a few stories for it and realized they’d picked several stories by Black writers and thought that maybe we should just make the entire emerging writers issue focused on new Black voices.”
Evans was excited to help share those voices but also determined to do so in a way that was authentic. “We had a conversation about that,” she says. “Because this summer was intense. People were asking Black writers for a lot of work, and there were ways in which that request could feel performative or exploitative. [But] I felt good about it coming from this magazine, which has consistently published a lot of exciting voices. But I wanted to think a lot about how we would frame it.”
There was no shortage of quality material for issue 72, Evans says. “The work that camein, it was sort of very targeted and very exciting,” she says. “It’s a slightly longer-than-usual issue, in part because we couldn’t… cut the work down.”
For Rebecca Markovits, one of the longtime editors of American Short Fiction, the only real issue raised by making this issue extra long was that it also made the issue extra heavy. “It’s shipping where the extra weight always comes back to get you,” she says with a laugh. “I have a longstanding debate with the U.S. Postal Service about what constitutes a ‘flat.’ That’s where I’m hoping they’re still on my side on this one.”
One of the stories featured is by Austin writer Rickey Fayne — his first published story, ‘Spare the Rod,’ is the lead story in the issue. “I still kind of don’t believe [he hasn’t been published before],” Evans says in amazenent. “Like I’m waiting to find out that he has some secret career, published under another name. Because it’s just so good and so confident that I just can’t believe it’s someone’s first published story.”
“One of the really great pieces of writing in this issue is actually [Danielle’s] editor’s note,” Markovits says. “It’s a very beautiful note about the moment and about the collection. [She] said something in it about how an emerging writers issue, by definition, believes in the future. And I think that was such a beautiful way of putting it, and that’s so true. And I hope what people take away when they read the issue is just a sense of optimism and excitement about the great work that lies in store from these authors.”
“I think that part of the work of believing in the future is both believing in the future of the arts and believing in the future of these voices. And also believing in the kind of spaces we can make dshowcased and hopefully get excited about these voices” Evans says. “You know, I don’t think that art alone can save us, but I do think it can make us believe in a world that is worth fighting for. And so, if in sort of times of trouble this issue helps people develop more of that faith, I hope it does that do.”