February 2019: Friends & Enemies

Inside This Edition

February is a month that is associated with intimacy, so for the theme of our February ’19 edition, we fittingly chose Friends & Enemies. We figure it doesn’t get much more intimate than the friends who uplift us, who know us better than we know ourselves, and the foes who keep track of us, waiting for us to fall.

Of course, it’s not always so black and white. The truth is that friendship and foedom can coexist in anyone, an idea that many of our stories—with their nuanced narratives and complicated characters—picked up on. Since this edition is our largest to date, with a total of thirty short stories and flash fiction pieces, we’re happy to report that our theme is covered from just about every angle you can think of (and a few that may surprise you).

Alameda Sunrise: The Field Guide to Rekindling Bromance by C.J. Prusi is the rare story that is sweet without ever be cloying, and offers up an uncommon take on male friendship: one that is soft, emotional, and perfectly sentimental. Complete with a critique of toxic masculinity, Field Guide will put a smile on your face and maybe make you want to check in with an old friend of your own.

Another must-read piece is the spectacularly off-kilter Grope by Ian Simsthe kind of quirky, distinctive tale that you won’t ever forget. Dripping in symbolism that is surprisingly unpretentious (and comedic), Grope is pure insanity—but we mean that as a compliment, as this is a covetous blend of artistic genius and madness.

Up next, we have The Haunting of Piedras Blancas by DC Diamondopolous, a gripping and beautifully-described story of woe. Let’s just say it’s appropriate that it has the word “haunting” in its title.

The trio of flash fiction reads written by Gabriel Orion McCulloch (beginning with A GIF Burned Into My Brain, then The Chair in the Coffee Shop, and finishing strong with On Being a Regular) are as offbeat and clever as they are snappy: none of them exceed 230 words, making them ideal for the busy reader.

The three stories written by Emma Linford, meanwhile, each share sleekly stylized writing, and dark, despairing imagery. Two of them—the jarring Psych! You Flinched and disquieting 5250—deal directly with mental illness in a bold, no-holds-barred fashion. They are frank but sympathetic, powerful but never preachy.

If you’re a Bay Area native, and especially if you’re a San Francisco local, don’t miss Signs of the Times by Kevin Alves, which is written in the style of a biblical tale (supposedly taken from “The Book of Google”) and deals with the gentrification of SF as brought on by the tech sector’s insidious dominance of the area. At once funny and stomach-churning in its accuracy, this is a story that will ring true to any long-time San Francisco resident suffering through outrageous rent spikes and the sanitization of their once-colorful city.

Sam Joyce’s K Bitches in Heat is a dark comedy that follows a man and one of the titular “k bitches” on their ill-fated quest for ketamine. There is no cow too sacred for slaughter in this tale, which unabashedly pokes fun at addicts and addiction—and yet, set against a bleak backdrop of drug-ravaged neighborhoods, K Bitches manages to deliver a covertly chilling tale of drug dependency veiled by biting humor.

Angela Woltman’s The Natalie-Broke-My-Heart Club is also a comedy with its own dark sensibility, about a group of men who form a bond over their love for—and obsession with—their shared ex-girlfriend, Natalie. Each man is stranger than the last, and the piece mines plenty of laughs from the characters’ bizarre quirks—not to mention the narrator, a self-loathing man and social chameleon, who gives The Natalie-Broke-My-Heart Club its own particular flavor of brooding, spiteful wit.

Then there’s the goofy Second Take by Sean Sanford. Reflecting on the peculiarities of being an identical twin, it’s filled with plenty of strange shenanigans. But Sanford—a long-time Defiant Scribe staff writer—knows exactly what he’s doing and orchestrates the piece like a master puppeteer, balancing out the absurdity with writing that can take your breath away. Second Take isn’t silliness for the sake of it, it’s silliness with a point: about siblings, finding your place in the world, and the shifting uncertainties of identity in general.

With thirty tales to read, we recommend you hide out from the February chill and meander through these tales at your leisure. There’s a lot to unpack—from backstabbing foes to the best of friends and all the gray areas in between, this edition is a doozy. But, just like your actual friends, it will be here for your entertainment whenever you need it most.