Sometimes an issue takes on a mind of its own, and, this issue, that mind seemed set on surprise, on reversal and subversion. (Is it maybe that we are powerless to act and think without at least some regard for what is going on in the world around us? I think, reader, this may help to account for it.) Spoiler alert: Here there are homes, rooms, windows, jungles, wastelands, neighborhoods, hotels, swimming pools, people (of course), pages, and reports that are not what they seem. Take heart—knowing you're in for a surprise won't ruin the surprise(s).
Perhaps, though, "surprise" has too much of the taste of the gimmick, the O. Henrian (the Shyamalanian!) ending, the "twist." Once the surprise has been spoiled, we think, the rest of the experience goes sour with it. Perhaps, in some cases. But surprise also shows us that we don't—can't—know everything, and that what we do know, we know incompletely, imperfectly, through a glass darkly. Surprise is a thrilling sensation, often jarring, sometimes unpleasant: the snake in the grass, the blind corner, the jump-scare. Our bodies react, chemically, by urging us to act (and this seems—doesn't it?—like a moment for action). We are, I think, humbled, made human or at least returned to that state, by surprise. It is a little monstrous to meet someone who says, to everything, "I knew it was coming. I knew that would happen. I knew it." Though we don't all crave surprise, it might be that we all need it.
And anyway there are pleasant surprises, too. Here, at The Collagist, we've had a few lately, and we're not only talking about the fictions, poems, essays, and reviews you'll find in this issue. There is, for example, the news that C. Dale Young's "Precatio simplex" (Issue 85) will be included in the next Best American Poetry, and that Kina M. Viola's essay, "Skin Cells" (Issue 73) was selected for this year's Best of the Net, and that Kaveh Akbar's "This Could've Been Yours If You Wanted It: The Mountains" (Issue 81) was a finalist for Best of the Net. That doesn't begin to touch on all of the things our contributors are up to, of course, many of which, I'm sure, will be surprises even to us. We hope there are pleasant surprises in store for you, too, reader.
Thanks so much for stopping by,