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Rebecca Fishow’s “How to Love a Black Hole” coming October, 2024!

How to Love a Black Hole, by Rebecca Fishow

Coming October 2024 from CONIUM

We’re pleased to announce the acquisition of Rebecca Fishow’s How to Love a Black Hole. This strange, formally inventive collection contains eighteen flashes and stories—a woman grows ears all over her body, a husband’s new bride drifts into the clouds, a garden yields a grotesque and bloody harvest. Throughout these and other uncanny stories, readers explore a kaleidoscope of love, desire, grief, and regret.

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Rebecca Fishow is a prose writer, creative writing instructor, and visual artist. Her story collection, The Trouble With Language (Trnsfr Books, 2020), won the 2019 Holland Prize for Fiction. Her fiction chapbook, The Opposite of Entropy, was published in 2018 by Proper Tales Press. Her work has appeared in Quarterly WestTin HouseJoylandThe Believer, LoggerSmokelong QuarterlyHobart, and other publications. She holds an MFA from Syracuse University, is pursing a PhD in literature and writing from The University of Illinois Chicago. She lives in Chicago with her husband, the linguist, Dan Goodhue. Learn more about Rebecca Fishow at her website.

Photograph of the author, Maria S. Picone.

Maria S. Picone’s new prose chapbook coming from CONIUM!

CONIUM’s next release will be This Tenuous Atmosphere
by Maria S. Picone / 수영

Slated for release in late 2023 or early 2024.

CONIUM’s next release will be This Tenuous Atmosphere, a linked series of surreal, speculative fictions from Maria S. Picone/수영. The book follows Asia, a Korean girl who becomes a hybrid spacecraft and goes to live among the ghost men and their culture of destructive capitalism in space. Asia never forgets her longing to return home and find her mother, but she is torn between loyalty to her port of origin and a desire to explore deep space.

Join our mailing list to get updates about this release and Conium Press news.

Maria S. Picone/수영 is a queer and neurodivergent Korean American adoptee who won Cream City Review’s 2020 Summer Poetry Prize and the first ever Louisa Solano Memorial Emerging Poet Award from Salamander. Her debut poetry chapbook, Adoptee Song, will be published by Muddy Ford Press in 2023. She has been published in Tahoma Literary ReviewVestal Review, Salamander, Orca Lit, Fractured Lit and more including Best Small Fictions 2021. Her work has been supported by The Juniper Institute, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, GrubStreet, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and Tin House Writers Workshop. She is Chestnut Review’s managing editor, Uncharted Mag’s associate editor, and assistant fiction editor at Foglifter as well as volunteering for other literary magazines and organizations as an editor, reader, and grant reviewer. She holds an MFA in fiction from Goddard College. Find out more at mariaspicone.com, Twitter @mspicone.

Photograph of the author, Maria S. Picone.

Sarah Gerard in conversation with James R. Gapinski

Sarah Gerard in conversation with James R. Gapinski

Celebrating the launch of Sarah Gerard’s The Butter House

5:00pm, Sunday, March 12th, 2023

Keys Lounge

533 NE Killingsworth St

Portland, OR 97211

About the Event

Join Conium Press at Keys Lounge in Portland, Oregon for a conversation between Sarah Gerard (author of True LoveSunshine State, and Binary Star) and James R. Gapinski (Conium Press editor & author of Edge of the Known Bus Line). We’ll talk about books, writing, cats, and quite possibly some gossip about our favorite reality TV shows. Don’t miss this intimate gathering to celebrate Sarah’s new chapbook.

This event is free and open to the public. Find us in the back room of Keys Lounge. Paperback and limited-edition hardcovers of The Butter House will be available for purchase. The venue serves beer, wine, cocktails, nonalcoholic beverages, and a wide assortment of food (a 20% gratuity is automatically added to all open tabs).

SARAH GERARD (she/they) is the author of the novels True Love (Harper, 2020) and Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio, 2015) and the essay collection Sunshine State (Harper, 2017). They are the recipient of a 2021 Lambda Literary Dr. James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Sarah’s short stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, T Magazine, Granta, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Vice, Electric Literature, and the anthologies We Can’t Help It If We’re From Florida, One Small Blow Against Encroaching Totalitarianism, Tampa Bay Noir, Erase the Patriarchy, and I Know What’s Best For You: Stories on Reproductive Freedom. Learn more about Sarah Gerard’s work on their website.

JAMES R. GAPINSKI (they/them) is the author of the novella Edge of the Known Bus Line (Etchings Press; University of Indianapolis, 2018)—named to Kirkus Reviews‘ Best Books of 2018, and a finalist for the 2019 Montaigne Medal. They are also the author of three chapbooks: The Last Dinosaurs of Portland (Bottlecap Press, 2021), Fruit Rot (Etchings; U Indy, 2020), and Messiah Tortoise (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018). Their short fiction has appeared in The Collapsar, Juked, Monkeybicycle, Paper Darts, Psychopomp, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. James teaches for Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program and edits for Conium Press. Learn more about James R. Gapinski’s work on their website.

About the Book

The Butter House follows a woman who moves from New York to a Florida bungalow with her boyfriend. She navigates contradictory landscapes of love and possession, nature and built-environment, empathy and sympathy. She becomes a surrogate caretaker for a colony of feral cats. She grows a garden. She interrogates what it means to care for somebody or something. This is a delicate story, but it chooses deliberate moments to scratch and bite with the ferocity of a territorial alley cat.

Advance Praise

“Sarah Gerard writes beautifully and precisely about the visceral, secretive feline landscape, and the possibilities that emerge when this world intersects with the human realm—challenging the couple at the center of The Butter House to renegotiate their relationship to care and what it means to feel at home.” —Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

The Butter House incisively considers the simultaneous care and cruelty of pet ownership, and Gerard is masterful in writing into all the nooks and crannies of a relationship. It’s the tale cat people deserve.” —Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, author of Helen House

“With precise and lush details, Gerard captures a sense of life’s fragility amid new possibilities. The author’s fans are in for a treat.” —Publishers Weekly

Book cover for Sarah Gerard's "The Butter House"

AWP 2023 Offsite Reading: Sarah Gerard’s “The Butter House”

AWP 2023 Offsite Launch Event & Reading

Sarah Gerard’s The Butter House

6:30pm, Friday, March 10th, 2023

About the Event

Join us in Seattle for an intimate cat-themed launch event for Sarah Gerard’s new chapbook, The Butter House. Sarah will be reading an excerpt and signing copies. Paperbacks ($12.00) and limited-edition hardcovers ($20.00) will be available for purchase during the event. The cafe also offers wine, beer, coffee, tea, snacks, and merchandise for sale.

NEKO Cat Cafe in downtown Seattle is a 13-minute (0.5 mile) walk from the Convention Center, or a 6-minute ride on the #49 bus. NEKO is a sanctuary for rescue cats. Through relationships with area shelters, the cafe showcases hard-to-adopt cats in this unique cafe setting. With the exception of a few permanent residents, most cats at NEKO are adoptable. Please contact editors@coniumreview.com if you have accessibility needs that may require accommodations.

Pre-order a limited-edition hardcover,

and claim your spot in the cat room!

This main cafe area is free and open to the public. We will be reading and signing in this public space, and all are welcome. However, the cat room has limited capacity and controlled access. This ensures the cats have a safe environment without overstimulation or unnecessary stress. We have reserved time in the cat room for those who are interested. We’re holding these spaces for people who pre-order the limited-edition hardcover version of Sarah’s chapbook. The cost of the hardcover is $20. Copies are will not be mailed; you can expect the book to be ready and waiting for you at the event (along with several kitties).

Sarah Gerard will be reading and signing books at 6:30pm. Choose 6:00pm if you’d like to access the cat room before the reading. Choose 7:00pm if you’d like to spend time with the kitties afterward. Before entering the cat room, NEKO will ask you to sign a liability waiver.

About the Book

The Butter House follows a woman who moves from New York to a Florida bungalow with her boyfriend. She navigates contradictory landscapes of love and possession, nature and built-environment, empathy and sympathy. She becomes a surrogate caretaker for a colony of feral cats. She grows a garden. She interrogates what it means to care for somebody or something. This is a delicate story, but it chooses deliberate moments to scratch and bite with the ferocity of a territorial alley cat.

About the Author

Sarah Gerard (she/they) is the author of the novels True Love (Harper, 2020) and Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio, 2015) and the essay collection Sunshine State (Harper, 2017). They are the recipient of a 2021 Lambda Literary Dr. James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Sarah’s short stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, T Magazine, Granta, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Vice, Electric Literature, and the anthologies We Can’t Help It If We’re From Florida, One Small Blow Against Encroaching Totalitarianism, Tampa Bay Noir, Erase the Patriarchy, and I Know What’s Best For You: Stories on Reproductive Freedom.

Book cover for Sarah Gerard's "The Butter House"

Sarah Gerard’s THE BUTTER HOUSE coming in 2023!

Coming in 2023 from Conium Press

The Butter House, by Sarah Gerard

Launch party at AWP Seattle in March, 2023.

Join our mailing list to get updates about this release and Conium Press news.

In early 2023, Conium Press is releasing The Butter House, a new chapbook from Sarah Gerard. This story follows a woman who moves from New York to a Florida bungalow with her boyfriend. She navigates contradictory landscapes of love and possession, nature and built-environment, empathy and sympathy. She becomes a surrogate caretaker for a colony of feral cats. She grows a garden. She interrogates what it means to care for somebody or something. This is a delicate story, but it chooses deliberate moments to scratch and bite with the ferocity of a territorial alley cat.

Sarah Gerard is the author of the novels True Love and Binary Star and the essay collection Sunshine State. They are the recipient of a 2021 Lambda Literary Dr. James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Sarah’s short stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, T Magazine, Granta, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Vice, Electric Literature, and the anthologies We Can’t Help It If We’re From Florida, One Small Blow Against Encroaching Totalitarianism, Tampa Bay Noir, Erase the Patriarchy, and I Know What’s Best For You: Stories on Reproductive Freedom. Learn more about Sarah Gerard’s work on their website.

Photograph of author Sarah Gerard

Advance Praise for The Butter House

“A couple moves into the titular Butter House, and soon find themselves mired in the project of cat care. Sarah Gerard writes beautifully and precisely about the visceral, secretive feline landscape, and the possibilities that emerge when this world intersects with the human realm—challenging the couple at the center of The Butter House to renegotiate their relationship to care and what it means to feel at home.”

—Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel and I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

The Butter House is like a lithe and seductive feline, sinking its uncut claws into you. Sarah Gerard’s prose is quiet and contemplative and then chaotic in bursts, also not unlike a cat. The Butter House incisively considers the simultaneous care and cruelty of pet ownership, and Gerard is masterful in writing into all the nooks and crannies of a relationship. It’s the tale cat people deserve.”

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, author of Helen House

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Conium is on break (but we’ve got exciting plans ahead)

CONIUM is taking a break.

But this isn’t the end. Here’s a peak at what comes next.

Dear Readers & Writers,

Conium is taking a break. The ebb and flow of a regularly published periodical is grueling. As managing editor, I haven’t had a real break in a while. But this isn’t the end. After a decade of publishing, it’s time to breathe, reflect, and take Conium to new places.

Looking ahead, I want to dedicate Conium to more standalone, single-author titles. I also want to spend time workshopping and interrogating those titles, moving through richer editorial conversations on every project. This is what I love most about editing, and I want to be more hands-on with each book Conium produces. Of course, that takes time. In our normal submission cycle, time is a luxury. A hiatus lets me catch up and plan ahead.

While there will not be a new issue of The Conium Review in 2022, there are other projects in the pipeline. I’m working on editorial notes for some potential chapbooks, including one from a Lambda Award winning author. I’m also rereading the entire back catalog of The Conium Review with the goal of curating a retrospective anthology. These projects aren’t finalized yet, but it provides a glimpse into some possibilities.

I see 2022 as a year without many new Conium Press titles—maybe even zero. However, this is the quiet before the storm. This year gives time and space for me to recommit to the work. I’m excited to plan the next phase of Conium, and I hope to announce a couple new books for 2023 soon. To stay informed about future projects, please subscribe to the newsletter. In the meantime, thanks for reading, writing, and supporting small presses.

Sincerely,
James R. Gapinski
Managing Editor

Ted Hayden wins the 2021 Innovative Short Fiction Contest!

Ted Hayden wins the 2021 Innovative Short Fiction Contest!

Elle Nash has chosen Ted Hayden’s “The Sky Saw” us as the 2021 Innovative Short Fiction Contest winner! Ted’s piece will be published in The Conium Review: Vol. 10. He’ll also receive $500, contributor copies, and a copy of Elle Nash’s latest book, Nudes.

Ted Hayden‘s stories have appeared in literary publications including “Newfound Journal” and genre publications including “Nature: Futures.” Read more of his work at tedhaydenstories.com.

This year’s finalists were Alexandra BlogierAimee Herman, Kaleena MadrugaJerome NewsonK. W. Oxnard, and Pascale Potvin.

Here’s what the contest judge had to say about Ted’s winning story:

“‘The Sky Saw Us’ moves cinematically between two narrators at once. The story follows Cassie and Arturo through a new kind of apocalypse: one in which our worst selves are reflected back to us, quite literally, through a new sky full of mirrors. Humans become their own enemies. What is most tense about the story, however, is the relationship between love and loss, friendship and desire, and the blurred lines between our person who strangely becomes infected by the falling sky and what this infection contains within: all the moments that make up a life, how we relate to each other. In ‘The Sky Saw Us,’ all the loss of one’s life becomes stored inside the body, where one reflects on it forever.”

–Elle Nash, contest judge & author of Nudes

“All the Things I Do Not Fear,” by Hattie Jean Hayes

All The Things I Do Not Fear

Hattie Jean Hayes

Carnival food

Elephant ear ferns

Characters from the book/film Matilda

Ghosts

Sharks

Clowns

Snakes

Heights

Train rides

7/11 roller grill food

Having a baby

Green beans

String beans (are these different?)

Robots taking over the world

Scooby Doo, anymore

The Beach Boys

A pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them

Getting fat

Stubbing my toe on the sidewalk outside an art gallery

Stephen King or his books

Embarrassment

Regret

Wanting

Being late for my bus and having to run after it

Paper cuts

Cockroaches

Bees/wasps/hornets/fire ants

A broken arm

Public speaking

Karaoke

Kittens

Dogs Toronto International Film Festival

Somebody loving me who isn’t supposed to love me

Getting drunk on a weeknight

Bridges

The Domino’s delivery man, anymore

The graveyard (cemetery? are these different?) on 21st Street

The bird lady

Sitting up all night with you when you find out—

About the Author

Hattie Jean Hayes is originally from a small town in Missouri. Now, she lives in New York, where she is a comedian and writer.

“Escaping Purgatory,” by Lucy Zhang

Escaping Purgatory

Lucy Zhang

I.

The problem with the room was not that there was no exit, but that there was one—it seemed to lead back to the same room, the same walls on which still life paintings of apples and skulls hung, the same half-empty glass of red wine on the counter, the same four vintage chairs surrounding a table, and this bothered the boy who knew only the logical order of things: an exit cannot be an exit if it does not lead to a way out, and maybe he did exit the room and arrive at an identical-looking room—wormhole theory, surely.

II.

Because you are deaf, you cannot tell when someone creeps up behind you. You can only wait until they tap you on the shoulder after which you’ll turn and look surprised even though you are never really surprised because you’ve been trained to expect these intrusions into your physical space. Because you are deaf, you don’t like to speak because the words embodied by your monotone, guttural voice twist people’s faces into grimaces, but you make a good listener, attentive and quiet, not really listening but lip-reading, constantly searching for meaning you’ve missed when your eyes dart around, trying to pick up on shifts in this space-time continuum.

III.

They used to play Shogi together. The boy would always be memorizing checkmate strategies from a book he carried everywhere—to school where he read it behind the cover of a propped-up textbook, to the girl’s birthday party where he sat on the couch next to a pile of guests’ jackets. The girl would approach him, one hand clutching a stuffed bunny, the other waving to get his attention and look towards the group of kids painting birdhouses with acrylics, wondering if he’d like to join. He’d push her hand away and glare at pages of board layouts and kanji, unwilling to make eye contact. Then she’d sit next to him and read along, and no one else would bother them—because of course, the girl who couldn’t hear had nothing to say, and the boy who refused to take part had no say.

IV.

It is just you two. Him, pacing back and forth, trying to find a clue even though he has already scoured the place, every hidden corner, every unturned surface, every box of cards dumped onto the floor to search for secret messages—mostly empty decks save for a King and Queen.

V.

The girl could swim freestyle for a straight hour in the recreation center’s pool. She could tread water long enough to withstand waves crashing over her head. Except not that one time when the waves plunged and surged without rest, choking her with saltwater, and she flailed her arms, breaking the water surface in increasingly short bursts, but she stayed silent, her voice buried beneath sand and silt. She could only hope someone would see.

VI.

Do you regret reaching for my hand? You sign. But he doesn’t know sign language. You tap his shoulder and mimic mouth shapes you have committed to memory, try to conceptualize inflection and tone so you sound more normal, less mutilated. “No,” he says.

VII.

A stuffed rabbit sat on the rock, its ear stained with dirt and chlorophyll, its pink vest and bow tie frayed at the ends. A Shogi tactics book rested beside it, corners of its pages bent and torn. Their colors clashed against the grey, muted stones and rotting flowers.

VIII.

You’ve lost count of how many times you two have gone through an exit. You’ve stopped trying to pick up on changes in furniture orientation and playing this Waldo-less version of Where’s Waldo. You just follow now.

IX.

He tells you his theories: the singularity of a black hole, a split-second time capsule in a wormhole, a new state of quantum consciousness, a side effect of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. He wants to know your thoughts.

About the Author

Lucy Zhang is a writer, software engineer, and anime fan. Her work has appeared in Back Patio, Maudlin House, Parentheses Journal, Gone Lawn, and elsewhere. She can be found at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.

“The Mathematics of Fire,” by Cassidy McCants

The Mathematics of Fire

Cassidy McCants

Some people push your buttons, pull your strings. Some touch your surfaces, sketch your lines. Some are your mirrors; some see right through you.

The latter, I can tell you, are not there for your comfort. I can tell you this because Annie is one of them. Annie always saw me. And it burned, her attention. Her sight.

Annie is a seer. A seer who sears. Fire.

I am private. Inward. I am the water that puts out the fire.

Doesn’t it burn to be seen?

Annie, what I would do to let you burn me a little longer, a little more. Annie, can you hear me? I don’t want to label you, to put you in a little box: fire.

But I did, once. I put Annie in a little box. For therapy. She was haunting my dreams, infecting my reality. Her depth, her vision of me. I loved her because she didn’t believe the things I said. She saw the things I did. Some people are so easily fooled. Not her.

See is tied to seat, sit, I have heard. Those who see do so from their thrones. They’re situated just right. I envy these people. It’s taken me long enough to see a glimpse of even just myself.

Let’s entertain the idea, though, just once more, that Annie is fire and I am water. Does it check out?

Annie: Fire. She was always good at math. Do firefighters use math? Does the fire itself?

Me: Interested in math. I tried to explain to her my idea about how math is more flexible than they say; that is, there are many ways to solve a math problem.

If there are 3 wildfires per week in this country, and each fire encounters 2 bodies of water, you might multiply 3 by 52 by 2 or 52 by 6 for the collision count. Or 156 by 2. 312 fire/water encounters. If there are 3 wildfires per week and each fire contains carbon dioxide, water vapor, oxygen, and nitrogen, you might figure there are 4 gasses times 52 weeks times 3 fires. Or maybe you simply multiply 12 by 52. 624 gasses.

But not really, of course. Still there are only the four gasses showing up again and again. I prefer to multiply the smallest quantity (the bodies of water, in example one) by the largest (the weeks) by the one in the middle (the fires). There are many ways to get your answer; it all depends on whether or not you want to start with minutia.

While Annie appreciated my enthusiasm here, she saw beyond my explanation, down to what really mattered: I cannot be happy with just one way. Oh, Selina, she’d say. Like a mother. Like a friend.

For therapy, I had to put Annie in a cozy little box in my mind so thoughts of her couldn’t burn me anymore. I gave her pillows, blankets. A diffuser with calming oils, scents to make her linger there. And now this is where she lives. This was necessary because I couldn’t stop replaying the scene in which she burnt me the last time: Selina, you don’t know who you are. Selina, I’m exhausted trying to show you yourself. All that emotional labor.

But she was right. I did not cry. I’ve kept in all that liquid. All that water, all the electrolytes, the proteins (there are four: lysozyme, lactoferrin, tear-specific lipocalins (TSLs), and S-IgA), the lipids, the mucins. I hold it all within me now, because I am learning what I am. I am composed of tears I will not cry for her. Because I am water. I contain myself. I am made up of 206 bones. At least 640 muscles (three types: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal). And a memory that now houses a box with Annie inside it, tucked away, out of sight and soon mind. And I am working on counting all that’s inside me. I am yearning to count.

About the Author

Cassidy McCants is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She received her BA in creative writing from University of Arkansas and her MFA in fiction writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s the creator/editor of Apple in the Dark and is an associate editor for Nimrod 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. She’s a 2020 Artist Inc. fellow.

Editorial Note

Cassidy McCants won our 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest with her story, “The Things I Took From Your House.” Cassidy’s winning story will be published in our next print edition, The Conium Review: Vol. 9. If you enjoyed this story, look for her prize-winning piece in-print later this month.