Loading...

Announcing Our Next Title: “Fifteen Places You Meet Fifteen-Year-Old You,” by Mariana Samuda

Conium Press to publish Mariana Samuda’s chapbook next year!

We’re pleased to announce the next Conium Press single-author title. Currently scheduled for February 2021, we’ll be releasing Five Places You Meet Fifteen-Year-Old You, by Mariana Samuda.

This surreal story grapples with the fragility of memory, the ravages of chronic illness, plenty of youthful regrets, and unbridled hope for the future. It’s a strange and deeply moving trip into a narrator’s psyche while their fifteen-year-old self tags along — with the simultaneous curiosity and nonchalant sarcasm you might expect from a teenager.

As we move closer toward publication, look for a cover reveal, excerpted sneak peaks, and early review copies!

This will be our first standalone title of 2021. It could also be the only title, or it might have a friend soon (we’re still reading through other book- and chapbook-length submissions for the 2021 publishing cycle).

Join us in congratulating Mariana on this forthcoming release!

Image of author Mariana Samuda

Mariana Samuda is from Jamaica. She is a graduate of Chapman University’s MFA program. She has previously published work in Atticus Review, Moko Magazine, Headway Quarterly, and Hoot Review. 

Cassidy McCants is the 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Winner!

Cassidy McCants is the 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest winner!

The results are in. Emily Wortman-Wunder has finished deliberating, and we’re pleased to announce Cassidy McCants as the 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest winner for her piece “The Things I Took From Your House.” Cassidy’s piece will be published in The Conium Review: Vol. 9, and she’ll receive a $500 prize, contributor copies, and a copy of the judge’s book.

Cassidy McCants is a writer and editor from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She received her B.A. in creative writing from University of Arkansas and her M.F.A. in fiction writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she is Managing Editor of Nimrod International Journal. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Lascaux Review, Liars’ League NYC, Gravel, The Idle Class, Filling Station, Witch Craft Magazine, and other publications, and her stories have received honorable mentions from Glimmer Train Press.

This year’s finalists were Kelly Hill, Ploy Pirapokin, and Miranda Williams.

Here’s what Emily had to say about her choice:

Headshot of Cassidy McCants, the 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest winner

“All four finalists were good but this one stood out with the way its innovative form mirrored and reinforced its arc and helped to nudge out new corners of its characters. I loved this story’s sly and surprising voice, the way it skipped along in a wry wistful way and then plunged in the knife.”

–Emily Wortman-Wunder, contest judge & author of Not a Thing to Comfort You

“Hausfrau Dad,” by Yongsoo Park

Hausfrau Dad

Yongsoo Park

“Go ahead, Christopher. Reach out and grab your destiny,” said Jimmy, as the dozen guests, who had gathered to celebrate his son’s first birthday, oohed and aahed, eager to see which item the boy would pick to set the course for the rest of his life.

Jimmy thought the boy, who’d taken on only his and Grace’s best features, looked incredibly handsome in a traditional hanbok. The things one could buy on the Internet these days. A couple of clicks on a computer and a hanbok, sized perfectly for an average one-year-old boy, had appeared at their doorstep.

Guests shouted encouragements and offered commentary as Christopher’s hands wandered over the items in front of him: a toy stethoscope, a toy golf club, gold coins, a flute, a wooden spoon, a bundle of thread, and a calligraphy brush. A buffet of life trajectories spread out for all to see. Each item, a portent of what might be.

When Christopher’s hands moved toward the golf club, Mark, Jimmy’s good-natured brother-in-law, shouted, “Looks like there’s going to be an athlete in the family!”

Then, when Christopher’s hands moved toward the toy stethoscope, Jimmy grinned in anticipation. He had purposely set the stethoscope directly in front of the boy. He found it funny that he was behaving like the stereotypical Asian parent when his own parents had been so atypical. They’d never pushed him to be a doctor or lawyer. A part of him was grateful for this, but a part of him blamed them for not holding true to the stereotype. Had they crushed his dreams when they’d had the chance he might be a successful doctor or lawyer by now instead of the struggling writer and Hausfrau Dad he’d become.

Just then, Christopher’s hands settled on an item Jimmy had placed at the farthest edge of the table.

“He picked the calligraphy brush. That means he’ll grow up to be a scholar just like his father,” Jimmy’s mother shouted proudly like only a mother can do about a mediocre child.

Jimmy’s heart sank. It hadn’t even occurred to him to include the calligraphy brush on the menu for the day, but his dear mother had shown up with it and insisted on its inclusion.

“It’s tradition,” she’d reminded him. “You yourself picked this very brush on your first birthday.”

Tradition. With that single word, Jimmy’s mother had changed the course of Christopher’s destiny. As guests congratulated him, Jimmy forced himself to smile and told himself over and over that nothing is written in stone and a calligraphy brush didn’t have the power to determine a life. But he didn’t find himself very convincing.

About the Author

Yongsoo Park is the author of the novels Boy Genius and Las Cucarachas, the memoir Rated R Boy, and the essay collection The Art of Eating Bitter about his losing battle to give his children an analog childhood.

Virtual Reading: Web Features & “Fruit Rot” chapbook

Virtual Reading

Chapbook Launch & Recent Web Features

About the Virtual Event

When: August 15th, 2:00pm (PST)

Where: Zoom   ///   Cost: Free! 

The Conium Review recently re-launched its website. As the world grapples with COVID-19, the Internet’s ability to connect people is more important than ever. Our annual print edition is alive and well, but this virtual space offers a monthly compliment. Most web features post on the 15th of each month, showcasing a single author with a custom-designed, visually striking page for each story. The first two features are Jane Hammons’s “Creature Creator” and Gina Rose’s “Eight Thousand Dollars in 1981.” Yongsoo Park’s “Hausfrau Dad” goes live on August 15th.

Alongside the website’s re-launch, our managing editor also has a new chapbook, Fruit Rot, published by Etchings Press at the University of Indianapolis. Fruit Rot is a contemporary fable that involves magic fruit, comic books, and a few dead bodies along the way. It’s a whimsical and darkly funny read.

This virtual reading celebrates the both new site and our editor’s chapbook. We hope you can join us. Q&A will follow, plus some opportunities to receive free copies of The Conium Review and Fruit Rot.

About the Readers

James R. Gapinski

James R. Gapinski is the author of Fruit Rot (Etchings Press, 2020), Edge of the Known Bus Line (Etchings Press, 2018), and Messiah Tortoise (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018). His short fiction has appeared in Heavy Feather Review, Hobart, Juked, Monkeybicycle, Paper Darts, and other publications. He teaches for Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program, and he’s managing editor of The Conium Review.

 

“Gapinski has a natural ability to unveil the hidden darkness in life’s inescapable choices with gentleness and care . . . ” –Hillary Leftwich, author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock

“Gapinski skillfully illuminates the deep places where pain, fear and injustice live.” –Emily Koon, author of We Are Still Here

““Fruit Rot is a satire that complicates its subject rather than parodies it; a fable that shuns moralistic conclusions; a rumination on the hexed miracle of finally getting what you want.” –Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic Velocity

“Hallucinatory, savage, but ultimately hopeful, Edge of the Known Bus Line is a bloody bible for our times.” –Maryse Meijer, author of Northwood

“James R. Gapinski’s Messiah Tortoise is like a trip to a zoo after a pink cloud of nitrous has settled overhead. You’re elated, you’re having fun, and you’re in tune in a way that surprises you.” –Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You’re Hungry

“The dark, smart absurdity of James R. Gapinski’s writing jolts and delights in equal measure. Gapinski responds to today’s zigzag world with innovative form and gut-punching pathos.” –Ashley Farmer, author of The Women

 

 

Gina Rose

Gina Rose is an African American and Chinese American writer in Oakland, California. She attended Barnard College in New York City where she received the Howard M. Teichmann Writing Prize. Her work has been featured in Rigorous and Penultimate Peanut magazines.

Yongsoo Park

Yongsoo Park is the author of the novels Boy Genius and Las Cucarachas, the memoir Rated R Boy, and the essay collection The Art of Eating Bitter about his losing battle to give his children an analog childhood.

“In Boy Genius, Park has created a unique hero, one who is every bit as memorable as Alexander Portnoy, Augie March or Ignatius Reilly.” –Willard Manus, Lively Arts

“Park is clever and caustic in depicting America’s treatment of its minority underclass. . .” Kirkus Reviews

“Park’s affable and low-key style belies not only an incredible courage but weaves a steady-tempoed music that recapitulates a past that I was certain was lost forever. Park’s books are the mirror and lens I have been seeking my whole reading life–and ones I have not yet encountered elsewhere.” –Eugene Lim, author of Dear Cyborgs

“In Las Cucarachas, Park does more than showcase a harsh perspective of life in 1980s New York City. He offers readers an unflinching and unique perspective on the dark side of our contemporary society while retaining a subtle hope for some sort of begrudging multicultural harmony.” –Hirsh Sawhney, The Brooklyn Rail

“Park’s Rated R Boy belongs in the tradition of the classic Korean American writers like Younghill Kang and Richard Kim, who were the literary voices of their generations of immigrants. Like Kang and Kim, Park’s narrative is nostalgic, critical, tragic, and poignant by turns, evoking vital aspects of the Korean American experience not seen in the mainstream of ethnic literature.” –Heinz Insu Fenkl, author of Memories of My Ghost Brother

 

“Eight Thousand Dollars in 1981,”by Gina Rose

Eight Thousand Dollars in 1981

Gina Rose

They came to my door and it was very late. They were knocking. But I had barely fallen asleep. They didn’t know this about me. They didn’t know I was a night owl. I don’t remember asking them to please come inside, but I might have. They flashed their badges in my face. They said:

Do you have a camera?

A camera. A…what?

Now they are flashing their lights outside the house. Through the double pane windows. I bought the house in 1981 for eight thousand dollars. Good house. Never gave me a lick of trouble. Only thing is the four way stop outside that people tend to glide through. I never had an accident myself, but I’ve lived through a few of them.

The Browns, I told them. The Browns. They have a camera.

The Browns live across the street. South side of the street. Kitty katty korner to me.

That’s the Browns…

Now they are writing in their notebooks. Tiny pads of paper made for a Barbie doll-sized human of a being. 

We need to check the tapes.

The what?

The footage. See if there’s any footage of the footage. The footage we’re looking for.

I just remember, I say. I just remembered. I do have a camera. I do, in fact, have a camera.

They want to know where and I tell them. Or show them.

Now it’s several days later and I’m sitting across a desk.

We want to thank you for your cooperation, Mr. White. Yours is the only home surveillance camera that caught the footage.

The footage of the footage?

Of the killing. The hit and run. Fifteen years old. That poor boy…

I crumple a little in my chair across the desk from the person. It has to be a sign, I think. It has to be a sign. Why me? Why my camera? Why couldn’t it have been the Browns? Now I must live with the memory of this moment forever. It will forever belong to my truth and it’s something I never asked for. It has to be a sign. Why me?

They came to my door and it was very late. They were knocking. But I had barely fallen asleep. They were knocking and knocking. They came to my door and it was very late. I don’t remember asking them inside. They were knocking and at first I didn’t hear them. Knocking and knocking and knocking. And I couldn’t hear them at first. I don’t remember asking them to please come inside, but maybe I did. They were knocking. And it was very late. They were knocking and knocking and knocking. And when I finally heard them in this life, they were gone.

About the Author

Gina Rose is an African American and Chinese American writer in Oakland, California. She attended Barnard College in New York City where she received the Howard M. Teichmann Writing Prize. Her work has been featured in Rigorous and Penultimate Peanut magazines.

Editorial Note

This piece was selected during a special “(Re)new” themed call for submissions. The theme was curated by our managing editor, James R. Gapinski. The theme celebrates The Conium Review‘s new website and James’s new title, Fruit Rot, released on July 15th from Etchings Press at the University of Indianapolis.

The Conium Review stands with #BlackLivesMatter

CONIUM stands with #BlackLivesMatter

Dearest readers & writers,

The Conium Review stands with #BlackLivesMatter.

But that statement alone is not enough. Here’s what we’re doing to show our support:

  • Submissions for our next print edition have re-opened for Black writers. We want to read your stories.
  • All others who want to submit to the print edition must upload proof of a donation to support racial justice. If you’re unsure where to donate, our guidelines include a list of options.
  • Our next free call for book and chapbook submissions will be open exclusively to Black writers. I’m working on guidelines for this. Stay tuned.
  • I also encourage Black writers to join our staff. We like innovative and weird fiction. If that’s your idea of a good time, please reach out. Just be aware, all positions are volunteer (whenever there’s money, it goes to Conium authors rather than editors).

This is also not enough. But it’s a start.

Sincerely,
James R. Gapinski
Managing Editor, The Conium Review

“Creature Creator,” by Jane Hammons

Creature Creator

Jane Hammons

Elsa removed the bas-relief from the incubator in the hen house and placed it on the worktable. From malleable clay, she formed her creatures, adding barbs to the tail of one, a saber tooth to the snout of another. She webbed the wings of one in flight, reconsidered the head of the barb-tailed beast and made it fleshier, more sympathetic. To the one at the top of the tableau she added breasts. Then she carried the sculpture across the backyard and into her kitchen where she hid it in the oven.

Mariah, her youngest, was eager to mix a batch of birthday punch for Selena. An addict for years, Selena had been in and out of rehabs, on and off speed, coke, junk. No one had expected her to make it to thirty. Conceived under icy February clouds, Selena’s birthday fell on a harvest moon. Her father was transient, a wanderer taking a shortcut across Elsa’s fallow field. She devoured him. None of her daughters shared a father. Mariah’s, the singer, had been most tender.

Barbara, her eldest, disavowed the birthday rituals as pagan. The product of Elsa’s high-school-sweetheart-marriage, Barbara was prudish, embarrassed by her mother. Ordinarily, Elsa wouldn’t insist that Barbara attend. But for Selena’s landmark birthday, she enlisted the help of shy but strong Lulu, the child she made with a polygamous gambler.

Elsa set out utensils for Mariah. The one who mixed the punch could add ingredients, but the elements Elsa brought up from her cellar were essential.

Bone of father. Elsa scooped the powdery substance from a canister into a brown paper bag.

Blood of mother. Into a tin measuring cup, she poured thick red syrup from a green bottle.

Birth of child. Once she had wrested the honeycomb from the milk bucket where it was stored, Elsa scraped the goo that clung to it into a bell jar.

She placed the ingredients on the kitchen counter then climbed the stairs to her attic bedroom. She undressed and nestled into the bedclothes. Month after month, year after year, birthday celebrations took more and more out of her.

When she woke, Elsa looked out the attic window. The sky prepared to display the harvest moon that would rise over the field of dried corn stalks where sheep and geese grazed.

Lulu trudged into view. Her prey, trapped in a large burlap sack, fought her as she dragged it up the footpath. Without dressing, Elsa flew down the stairs to help. By the time she reached the backyard, the contents of the sack had burst. Barbara looked away from her mother whose naked body was burnished a rosy hue by the setting sun.

“Good work.” Elsa took Lulu’s arm and followed Barbara into the kitchen where Mariah finished pouring the punch from the mixing bowl into the earthenware crock. Elsa untied the apron from around her youngest daughter’s slender waist and tied it around her own thick one. “Where’s the birthday girl?” she asked.

“Here I am.” Selena stood at the top of the stairs. Over one arm, like a broken wing, hung a yellow baby dress. Over the other, a red padded snowsuit bulged, soft and muscular. Atop her head a blue bonnet. Around her legs, Selena had pulled petticoats, and tutus, layering her tight black jeans with clothing from her childhood. She slid down the banister. “Let’s begin.”

Elsa poured the punch and passed the cups.

“Fabulous concoction, Mariah,” said Selena.

“The best.” Elsa was satisfied Mariah could carry on the family tradition.

“Present me, present me.” Selena demanded her gifts.

Mariah handed Selena a small glass teardrop hanging from a thin wire. “I blew it myself.”

“Fantastic!” Selena pulled out one of the studs in her earlobe and replaced it with the drop of Mariah’s breath.

She looked next to Lulu who had no gift. Capturing Barbara had taken all her time and energy. She thrust the torn burlap sack at her sister.

“Exquisite.” Selena tied it around her waist.

Reluctant to admit she was present against her will, Barbara ripped pages from her Bible and threw them at Selena. They fell like autumn leaves around her.

“Marvelous.” Selena gathered them and tucked them into her burlap waistband.

“And now this.” Elsa took the bas-relief from the oven. “It hasn’t been fired yet, so it can become whatever you want it to be.”

Selena dug into the moist clay. She carried the first piece, the bountiful breasted mammal to Elsa. The animal with the wings went to Mariah, the saber-tooth snout to Lulu, the handsome barbed-tailed creature to Barbara. The spiny-plated creature she recognized as her own.

Mariah smeared the clay like a mudpack over her arms. She rustled her delicate wings, eager to try them. Rejuvenated by the punch Lulu stabbed vigorously at the table with her saber-tooth snout. Barbara stuffed her mouth with clay and slapped her long, barbed tail upon the floor. Selena rattled the plates along her spine.

Elsa applied the clay breasts to her withered ones. Together the family trundled and gnashed out the door and into the fields, where they chased the geese, teased the cows, butted the sheep and shook the trees. The stars fled into the black sky. The moon glowed.

Night became day. The beasts molted their wings and barbs, plates and snouts. Barely conscious, the creatures sought the softest parts their mother. Suckling and chewing, they slept. Elsa hoped what remained of her when they woke would not frighten them. Bone, cartilage, gut, hair. It needed to be collected and stored in the cellar. One might deny what she’d experienced, believe it a dream, another forget. But she was confident that at least one daughter would nurture and recreate the mothers she carried within her.

About the Author

Jane Hammons taught writing at UC Berkeley for thirty years before moving to Austin, Texas, where she writes, takes photographs and frequently listens to live music. Her fiction has appeared in Akashic Books (online Mondays Are Murders); Alaska Quarterly Review; Contrary Magazine; Southwestern American Literature and Tupelo Quartery. She is a Citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Editorial Note

This piece was selected during a special “(Re)new” themed call for submissions. The theme was curated by our managing editor, James R. Gapinski. The theme celebrates The Conium Review‘s new website and James’s forthcoming title, Fruit Rot, due out on July 15th from Etchings Press at the University of Indianapolis.

Our 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest opens soon!

The Conium Review‘s seventh annual Innovaive Short Fiction opens on May 1st! The winner receives $500, publication in our print edition, five copies of the issue, and a copy of the judge’s book. The entry fee is $15. Full guidelines are available here.

We’re pleased to welcome Emily Wortman-Wunder as this year’s judge. She won our 2018 contest, judged by Maryse Meijer. Since then, Emily has released her award-winning short story collection, Not a Thing to Comfort You, through the University of Iowa Press. Her fiction and essays have won also appeared in NimrodThe North American Review, and The Atlantic.

Send us your weirdest and wildest fictions.