June 2017: Vanity & The Societal Fixation on Beauty

Inside This Edition

The month of June means the beginning of summer, and the beginning of summer means a lot of things, but to some, it’s interchangeable with the oft-dreaded “bikini season.” In honor of this divisive occasion, the theme of our June issue is vanity and the societal fixation on beauty. So put down that handheld mirror and hairbrush, and buckle up for some stories that challenge, dissect, and otherwise comment on standards of beauty—and the lengths we go to achieve them.

The first piece of this edition is Zachary Amendt’s No Love Lost. It’s the sort of story that all scribes aspire to write: beautifully-written, expertly-paced, and transportive, taking readers into Seattle and into the lives of characters that feel startlingly real. Its insights are subtle, offering a sly peek at the human condition, and it’s a seemingly effortless piece of writing—smooth as butter and just as rich. It’s an easy read that goes down fast and well, the kind of story you can read over and over again yet never tire of.

Following that, there’s She’s Fine by Anna Rose, a swift piece of writing that deals with the beauty-focused environment of high school, and offers a raw look at colorism. It’s a short piece, but the characters—and the writing—are full of depth, nuanced and striking, and Rose’s handling of the intersection of beauty and race is gracefully executed.

Aaron Elias’s That Moonlight Smile is a haunting tale, highlighted by superb, stunning writing. The plot is well-considered, and engrossing from start to finish—a true page-turner. It’s easy to get lost in this story’s world, and mesmerized by its captivating characters, a fascinating crew led by Lily, a geisha who’s deeply conflicted over the morality of the situation she finds herself in. The ending is chilling and heartbreaking, and overall, the piece is everything that a great story should be.

Next up is Althea by Melanie Keegan, a compelling snapshot of the life of a woman who’s struggling with her choices, as she’s haunted by an eating disorder and working as an escort in Las Vegas. It’s carefully etched with the dark undertones of desperation and dissatisfaction, but the sadness of the subject matter is made easy to swallow—and accessible—through Keegan’s lovely writing.

The Ash’s Echo by Sean Sanford is his fifth piece for us, and perhaps his best yet. It’s a stunning story about revisiting the past, but unlike other stories in its genre, its version of the past is not clouded by rose-colored nostalgia and sentimentality. Different emotions are focused on, instead: thoughts and feelings that are palpable, wide-ranging and often bittersweet—just like the past itself. The imagery imbues the story with a pretty delicacy, while the characters and storyline make it soar.

Nick Nelson’s His Love Story Stinks, meanwhile, is an inventive new kind of flash fiction piece, or “smoke post,” intended to be read quickly and without fuss. No matter how short your attention span is, you’re sure to be able to finish this hassle-free piece (which clocks in at just 173 words). More importantly, you’re sure to enjoy it, as its humor and fun, poetical writing make it worth the read.

Beautification by Zofia is a story about one woman’s long, brutal journey to be beautiful, with an ending that will haunt you. My Dragons by Киара, on the other hand, is a story that personifies such complex concepts and feelings as love, depression and innocence—among others—in a very unique, memorable way. It’s about hope, and battling one’s demons—or, in this case, dragons—and winning. Meanwhile, Invisible Girls Are the Prettiest is a searing overview of the dangers of socially-constructed beauty ideals, and the fraught road to attaining conventional good looks.

The recent Fyre Fest disaster is slickly satirized in Ja Rule Set My House on Fyre, a biting short story that succinctly summarizes the disaster with a witty first-person account by Jim McCambridge; Fey Wright’s Lonely & Looking is the woeful tale of a young girl who feels stuck on the sidelines of beauty and romance, watching the world pass her by as a mere unsightly observer.

Monster Eyes by Erin Carini is a creepy story of waking up in another life—with another wife. It’s a suspenseful and delightfully strange piece that builds to all kinds of scares. And finally, we have Soryn Silpram’s Beauty in a Bottle, an eerie short story about a woman who discovers a skin product that transforms her… but also ends up unraveling her.

Though some of these stories may be beauty-obsessed, they are definitely not vapid or superficial. So whether you’re hanging out by the swimming pool, relaxing on the beach, or hiding inside your home next to the air conditioner and waiting for summer to end, we hope you’ll find these splashy stories to be a great read. (And maybe keep them in mind the next time you’re stressing over that bikini.)