Interest in Embark continues to rise, and I continue to be pleased and impressed by the quality of the many submissions we receive. In this issue we’re featuring ten writers from places as distant from each other as California and Tangier, who bring to life a thrilling range of characters: missionaries in the 1930s, troubled teens of today, a café owner in 1980s LA, the hardened survivors of the next ice age.
While reading the submissions, we strive to judge each on its own merits, without regard to the other openings that may be included in the issue. But part of the fun as an editor, once all the decisions have been made, is to look at the group of ten openings and see the coincidental connections among them. This issue boasts several: two stories take place in China, though in separate eras; two brothers disappear; two very different dogs offer comfort to their human friends.
As I was pondering what thread might unite not just some but all of them—what universal theme of fiction might be displayed in this particular group of disparate stories—I realized how many of them included characters who are lost, abandoned, or running out of options: a failed musician returning in desperation to the mining town where he grew up; a depressed academic who learns that she must leave her house in less than a week; a young Nebraskan farmer bidding farewell to his entire family. It’s not surprising that many of these stories about dislocation feature teenagers; no time in life produces so many feelings of isolation, confusion, and despair. But as every grown-up knows—and as several of these stories show—adults can be plagued with the same sense of invisibility in an uncaring world. I believe that one of fiction’s roles is to shine a spotlight on these forgotten figures, to illuminate their struggles as they seek that elusive dream, a secure and satisfying way to live.
In these ten novel openings you will find many engaging, surprising examples of this literary archetype. I hope you enjoy the first steps of their varied journeys as much as I did.
— Ursula DeYoung, Founding Editor
Table of Contents
FIERCE COUNTRY – Jane Deon
WE EAT THIS GOLD – Chris Drew
SIDE OF THE ROAD – Margaret Fieland
THE LIFE OF HUAI LI – Peter W. Fong
SCRAPPLE – Siân Griffiths
Lǐ – RIGHT CONDUCT, PROPRIETY – 礼 – Jen Kunka
* YOUR ACTUAL LIFE MAY VARY – Linda Lenhoff
SUN, MOON, STARS – William Reichard
L.A. WINTER – Anna Scotti
GHOST FINGERS – Dallas Woodburn