E D I T O R ' S N O T E
And so Oyster Boy Review enters the 21st century. At this juncture, it lies even beyond pretense for us to haul out a tired old script about our mission here. The quality of writing in these pages has appreciated over the years, hopefully to a point where it is no longer necessary or appropriate to pad issues with noisy, self-congratulatory editor's notes. This time around, we thought an icebreaker would be more appropriate, an informal introduction to the magazine and the individuals who pour into it their time, energy, and love.
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At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, let me start by suggesting that no other publication of this scale operates, as this one does, unbeholden to a single source of significant outside funding. OBR relies not on donations, grants, or advertising to do what it does. Ultimately, it is produced to the financial detriment of its founder, publisher, and fiction editor Damon Sauve. He started the magazine six years ago in Gainesville, Florida, as a modest, kitchen-sink affair, doing all the manuscript soliciting, editing, and production himself. Cribbing paper and commandeering photocopiers where he could, and eventually fronting the cash to printers when it became necessary, Damon started this up like so many other "zines." Though they can crop up overnight like mushrooms in a well-manured field, few zines have shown the longevity this one has enjoyed. Through six years and 12 issues, it has endured. NEA grants and private philanthropy be damned, Damon has continued to produce the magazine entirely on its own terms. Despite Jobian setbacks, Oyster Boy Review's sole loyalty remains to its writers and the readers deserving of them.
OBR's first issues attempted to help provocative young writers find, as Milton put it, "fit audience, though few." In those days, Harry Crews' fiction writing workshops at the University of Florida served as the focal point that brought together many of the personalities who would eventually find their way into the magazine's pages either as producers or contributors. As a mentor, Harry kicked loose stones that are still setting off avalanches of creativity. A quick look back will verify that Harry's shadow fell heavily upon Oyster Boy Review its first few yearsless so now. It has since branched out. It throws a shadow of its own, we think.
Since Damon would have none of it anyway, I'll not attempt to extol his virtues as they are due. He works at a San Francisco Internet company after moving here from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he was a graduate student and town rowdy of note. This magazine is perhaps the one thing in his life to which he has never adulterated his devotion. It is his labor of love, and his love of labor alone that puts something to read on these pages. Those efforts recently paid off when Charlotte Morgan's short story, "What I Eat," which appeared in OBR9, was included in The Pushcart Prize 2000: Best of the Small Presses. Morgan's story helped push OBR to the next stage of its development and has been an exciting motivating force for its producers. Congratulations, Charlotte, and thank you.
After making a pilgrimage with him years ago to Skywinding Farm, the publisher Jonathan Williams's estate in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina, Jeffery Beam still remains foremost in my mind of individuals deserving sainthood. OBR's poetry editor since 1996, Jeffrey is an accomplished poet in his own right, having published some half dozen volumes of his verse. In his work, the natural world is viewed with a naturalist's acuity, but without the perverse desire of the taxonomist to classify wildlife into cut-and-dry concepts. The natural world retains its otherness in Jeffery's imagination; monsters still run wild through the wilderness, and God may still be sought there. Jeffery is, arguably, also one of the country's foremost queer poets and a regular contributor to the Lambda Book Report.
Former Gainesville resident Craig Nelson is himself a writer of poetryhis poems appeared in this magazine back when it still had its training wheels on four years ago. Since then, his participation in the magazine has grown into the station he holds now as OBR's editor of online fiction submissions. As you can discover for yourself in OBR4, when Craig is on, every word he puts down is solid enough to hang your hat on. I distinctly remember feeling, after I read his work for the first time, like someone had broken every bone in my body without my realizing it. It took me a moment to remember how to move again. Craig's ability rearrange your organs with words makes him a perfect addition to Oyster Boy Review. He knows when a writer is hitting it, and knows when he can't hit for shit. Like anyone who has dined on his own heart, he doesn't need to answer to anyone, which is why we're so pleased to have him on our side. Nelson's impact will become increasingly apparent in forthcoming issues; they promise to be the magazine's finest.
OBR's most recent addition is Mai Hoang, a resident of Oakland, California, whose journalism has appeared in The Washington Post and The International Herald-Tribune. Mai's contributions vary as needed from giving production support, overseeing distribution, fielding submissions, assigning book reviews, and copyediting. As Oyster Boy Review has grown from a zine to a Pushcart Prize-winning publication, the logistics of producing it have grown to a scale insurmountable for any one person. As someone whose love of the written word rivals everyone's here, Mai is an ideal person to bring aboard and we hope she makes herself at home.
Oyster Boy's contributing editorial staff includes Kevin McGowin, Lucy Harrison, and myselfall of us loosely threaded to this operation through the Crews workshops I mentioned earlier. Kevin's history is long and wild enough to eclipse everyone else mentioned herein, so I'm sorry, Kevin, but I'm going to keep this brief. Besides, Kevin will garner wider praise yet for his poetry . . . Suffice it to say that the man is a smash-and-grab artist whose cultural brow spasms unpredictably from high to low. One minute he comes off as a metalhead cretin, the next he's rattling off Scripture or setting you straight on Dylan Thomas. An incurable roué, a dandified bete noire, a modern-day Peter O'Toole who makes everyone in a room look positively sick with mediocrity and lack of élan (I've seen it happen). Not surprisingly, his work has appeared in 10 of the last 12 issuesmore often than any other contributor. In addition, Kevin is an assistant professor of literature at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Another frequent contributor, Lucy Harrison's fiction and book reviews have appeared in seven of the last 12 OBRs. Two of her stories won eScene's Best of the Net fiction award in 1996 and 1997. After completing her graduate studies at the University of Florida, she was briefly an academic librarian and now divides her time working for a technology firm in Tallahassee and working toward the completion of her first novel. Time permitting, Lucy adds to OBR's expanding supplement of fiction, poetry, and music reviews.
Regarding myself, I'd rather say nothing at all, but since I've exercised the upper hand here by speaking for everyone else, it's only fair that I offer a few words on my behalf. A year ago I was a graduate student of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I found it did not suit me. I yearned to breathe other than the dank, loamy airs of the South in which I'd spent my entire life, really. Also it became difficult keeping my nose in my books studying Southern literature and critical cant while the Internet boom passed me by. Feeling like I was missing out on what one commentator referred to as the largest landgrab in history made giving into the temptation of abandoning my studies insuperable. I gave in, I gave up. What can I say? Things change.
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One thing that has not changed is my friendship with Damon and my allegiance to this magazine. I still help out on occasion, though now I follow it more closely as a reader than as a producer. I find it helps keep me grounded; it upholds my commitment to good writing as something more than casual and dilettantish. But more than that, working on the magazine has kept me in the loop with everyone involved despite the miles and in some cases years that have separated us. I guess, more than anything, I just like the company.
San Francisco, March 2000