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March 2004

***UPDATE, MARCH 26th: Nathan Penton has signed on as music editor for the still-tentatively titled Unlikely 2.0, or perhaps Unlikely Mark II. (Opinions? write me.) Furthermore, my chapbook, which you must buy for fear of horrible consequences, is now buyable.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is it. After this issue, which I am finishing now, I will be revising Unlikely Stories from concept to execution, so thoroughly that it will not be the same site any more. This is the final issue of Unlikely Stories as you know it.

There are several reasons for this. When this site was producing great writing on a regular schedule (and this issue is filled with great writing, six weeks late), I was dedicating 30 hours a week to it. My own writing and print publication projects have made this level of time commitment impossible, and my efforts to get help have proven counterproductive (probably due to my own annoying behavior, but that's beside the point). When I started Unlikely Stories, I committed myself to publishing everything that genuinely moved me. The magazine has a dark edge because the site design invited dark writers (see, black is dark. get it?) and I tend to be more moved by dark writers, but I published any author that could produce three pieces that tugged at my heart. I just don't have the time anymore.

Furthermore, in 1998, this site was unique. My aesthetic is not uncommon, but was woefully underrepresented on the Internet, since most people with a dark aesthetic are slack loser bastards who can't be bothered to publish consistently, solicit well-known authors, or even act sane when the necessity arises. Almost six years later, though, there are now numerous other publishers doing what I once did, and doing it with a greater level of commitment than I am now. Why compete? Take the reins, guys. I'll do something else.

There are other reasons to move on. I have now experienced enough of the small press to conclusively say that it's a crock of shit. There are many wonderful people I met through the small press, and you know who you are, but you also know you're desperately outnumbered by the assholes. That brings us to the root of the problem: almost everyone in the small press thinks they're a wonderful person surrounded by assholes. Again, I have met people through this site I genuinely adore, but the community as a whole that caused us to meet is not worth the paper I wipe my ass with. I've written a chapbook on this very subject (if you don't know the irony is intentional, FUCK OFF), to be released by Vergin Press this month, 18 sexy unpublished poems for $2. You can e-mail me, and I'll e-mail you back when they're available. I'm also quitting because of all the damn self-promotion.

And, largely inspired by the poems of John Sweet (who might or might not approve of where his words took me), I have begun to change my ideas of what an artist's role is in society. There's nothing wrong with writing about one's self, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the main function of an artist is to analyze, and when necessary criticize, human society. Reflections on one's self and one's society often go hand in hand, but I'd like to emphasize the latter concept more, and create a site to reflect that. This goes with my final reason: Unlikely Stories no longer challenges me. If I've brought you something that you've enjoyed, I'm very glad. I hope that you will enjoy my next project. I do not need to keep doing something I can do by rote, however.

Please enjoy this issue. It's got a great deal of excellent work. Coming soon at this spot, you'll find something tentatively titled Unlikely 2.0: A Journal of Subversion (please feel free to e-mail me better ideas for a name). Unlikely 2.0 will be based around the belief that Western society is broken, that all aspects, including art, of Western society reflects this fact, and that we might be able to help this brokenness by loudly and frankly discussing the nature of the breakage. It will be based around the belief that ALL humans are the captains of their fate and masters of their soul (Henley), and that to interfere with another's fate or soul is the quintessence of criminal behavior. Those who believe in these two precepts are encouraged to read and submit to the journal to come, which will include essays on politics and culture, book reviews, fiction and creative non-fiction, poetry, visual art, short movies, and music. I will be editing the written word, and Robert LeSant will be editing visual art and film. I'm looking for a music editor, one that I have reason to believe will be reliable. Please don't send submissions or queries just yet. If you have outstanding submissions to Unlikely Stories, please drop me a line, and I'll either tell you they are under consideration for 2.0 or apologize profusely.

Now, I'm talking about reducing the amount of time I want to spend on the web, while simultaneously saying that I'm going to break into music, art, reviews and movies and expand the section of articles. Obviously, the new journal will be much more selective, both in terms of quality and subject matter. But it will continue to publish unknown artists alongside "bigger" names, although if I've learned anything in six years, it's how small a big name is.

OK. I didn't expect to get weepy while writing that. Fortunately, wine corrects all emotional difficulties. Let me tell you what we've got. We've got the latest installment in A Sardine on Vacation, continuing the dialogue on social pets. We've got a hilarious article by Norman A. Rubin on penis-enlargement spam. Both articles are available from the main page, and both authors will be featured at Unlikely 2.0.

We're closing with 42 writers of fiction and poetry, 19 of whom are new to the halls of unlikeliness. Let's start by welcoming Randall Karlen Rogers, an old Beat editor and excellent swimmer, who brings eight improbable poems: Imagine, Morphine and Straight Alcohol, Fucker's got tits, Cheese box head, Blind, Snakebite!, Mystic's Last Dance, and PiPs. Please to be meeting Jennifer Skerrett, who presents six poems about losing that which she held dear: Why am I Here, DNR – Do Not Resuscitate, You are a gift I hold too tightly, jealousy, Stay Forever, and Invisible.

Meet Jai Truesdale, who calls herself geekslutnerdgirl. I do not know if any of those words apply with accuracy, but I'm sure they're all good things. Check out her five poems: carnival adoration, the taste you left to form, i got five, traces, and the way it just goes. Welcome George Anderson, who brings four bizarre poems with tongue firmly planted in cheek (among other places): The…, Dr Katz Psychiatrist, Phlegmatica, and pride & prejudice. Meet David Hill, whose wild sense of humor will delight, right before he slams into solemnity. Check out his four poems, Glad, Announcement, A quick lesson in English tenses, and Adonis's Abdomen. Check out erratically-employed Britta Kallevang, whose beautiful images seem at once random and careful, and her four poems: there was the strangest noise, the end of it comes, someone has touched the moon, and i am the sun and the cause. Meet Adam Case, who mixes desperation and racism to bring us something comical and odd. Read his four poems, Court Ordered 100 Hours, The Summer I Attended a Native American Literature Course And My Brother Lost a Wife, Calvary Hill Review, and Kitty's: Girls, Girls, Girls. And introducing Michael Ceraolo, who brings four poems with a social and historical perspective on this America place: Education Bureaucrats (6), Literary Bureaucrats (2), Starting Points (2), and American Canto IV.

On the fiction side, we're heavy on the comedy and light on the sanity this month. Meet Clint Venezuela, and follow his character, John Dumbfuck, through four increasingly confusing adventures: The Crusty-Looking Man on the Bus, Christina Aguilera Ate My Left Testicle, mybrainhurts, and Andy Kaufman's Nostrils. You'll delight to the semi-random lunacy of Michael Fowler, who presents three short stories: The Inflatable Restroom, The Tragedy of the 1-5-0, and The Fax Rabbit. Check out Keith Berry, who brings the dark comedy of deeply disturbed people with his three stories: Another Saturday, Editorials Concerning the Collapse of Society, and The Listener. Or, for a more serious note, check out the three short stories of Tala Bar, who brings three tales of primitive societies and species: The Snake Man, The Woman and the Hunters, and Venus. And check out Gabriel Ricard, who brings us three tales of human emotions stretched to the breaking point: Ride Forward!, Day One, and Evolution of the Young.

More poetry? We got it! Introducing Kristen Day, who shares three poems about what happens when tortured words and crazy people hang out. Check out Sharing the Love, boxing the curves, and Normal, Crazy, and St. Peter's Girlfriend. Say hello to Rania Zada, who with quick and unpredictable lines skewers that which we call human interaction. She brings three poems: Fool-Shoot, Look Here, Goddammit, and Common Currency. Please greet Christopher Kuhn, who is not writing about what you think he's writing about when he writes the poems Fuck TV, Resolution, and Masturbating Terrorist. Meet R. Paul Craig, who brings us three poems of horror and abuse: The Person, Dad, and The Leap. Say hello to Jessica Brand, who writes about an Unlikely Stories contributor who isn't me, so why should I care? Oh, and the poems are good: Prison, Beer with a friend, and My ex-boyfriend and I still meet. And be sure to check out Jason Van Blaricom, who talks about the university life with three poems: Bring 'Em Down, $3.04 and Bully.

Folks, I'm just getting warmed up.

I've always preferred to deal with those contributors who come back month after month, rather than those fly-by poets who are simply looking to increase their list of credits. Really, I only want to deal with those poets who can touch their noses with their tongues. But when that's not possible, I like to deal with the likes of Simon Perchik, who brings us six more of his quiet, explosive poems: and the long march calling home the dead, you bark as if a knock, all the pieces must be found, make, the rain is slower at airports, i breathe across and the sun, and at night you can tell the stones. Or perhaps T. S. Ross, who brings us six poems of cats, corpses, and 9/11: at first you were, My mother is dead, Voice of Twain: A Broken Haiku, I first met Death when I was three, That morning, and Voice of Jay, Recollection in the : #1. And welcome back the incomparable Scott C. Holstad, with his dark tales of psychosis, back after too long an absence with five poems: arrest, poems, The Words, The Hell of it All, and Friendly Offer.

Brent M. Parker is back, with his odd take on whatever the hell it is a poem is supposed to be. He brings five pieces: The Insatiable Poet, Sound Off, Soliloquy of a Malfunctioning Coke Machine, Walking the Line (The Spine) of Loneliness, and F R E E D O M Fountain. K. R. Copeland, who still has the coolest bio photo at Unlikely and could probably kick your ass, presents four poems: Fear of the Rabbit, Not a Dream; But Life, Should I Marry a Cannibal, and Combo Platter. Welcome back Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal, who continues to bring us compelling tales from the psych ward (he claims he works there). Check out his four poems: One More Try Crow Songs, Face in the Sun, and Stay Clean. America's favorite dirty boy, Shane Allison, chimes in with four poems: Derriere, With, Thin Skin, and Her. Karl Koweski, that multi-talented voice of blue-collar America, comes through with four poems: the one minute manager, the daisy chain of marital doom, Sackless Jack Saves Christmas for the Carmelite Kids, and how did they know to preserve Abraham Lincoln's birthplace but destroy mine. And welcome back R. C. Edrington, that multi-talented voice of hobo America, who also brings four poems: Dumbass Artist, Cutter, Ghosts of Hollywood, and Sick Fucks.

We haven't heard from Lisa Marie Zaran in a while, but she's talking now, with three poems on Arizona and beauty: Paperback Days, Concealment, and There I Was. The delightful and often confusing John Bryan ups the ante with three painful pieces: the maze, BBC affects fx, and (economy of madness) receiving an email from favoured girl & re: in Dhampiric form. Linda Rosenkrans is back. I've always felt she should spell her last name with a Z. Anyway, she brings three poems on the inebriation of herself and others: Opiates, Unconscious, and Lush on Lewers St.. And Andrey Kneller, that disturbingly young master of rhyme, returns with three pieces: Resolution, I've Lost You…, and The Pianist.

Is fiction your bag? Do you even have a bag? Peer into the bag of Susan B. Townsend, who brings three short stories of liberation, identity, and the failure to find both: Prove It, The Lie, and A Time to Speak. Or check out Rob Rosen's latest offerings, one of which is brilliantly serious and the other of which is his typically brilliantly comical, but, by some bizarre twist of fate that I do not understand, both cast a heterosexual in the main role. Enjoy Ten Minutes and Counting and The Krispy Kreme Dream Team. Welcome back that old mystic Rich Logsdon, who brings Lori's Song, the companion piece to last year's Confession of a Dark Saint. Because Lori's Song is rather long, you can read it in the standard HTML format, or as a PDF. Then move on to Robert Levin, who brings the hilarious and improbable short fiction, When Pacino's Hot, I'm Hot. Brian Downes, the only Unlikely Stories contributor who is not rolling as I type this, gives a bit of crime fiction with Gnome. And Kaganof helps us wrap things up with Kelly's Next Lover, an apathetic tale of sex and apathy (see, mom, I told you sheets could be like that). If you somehow manage to get through all that, you can attempt to amuse yourself with five of my new pieces.