Astoria to Zion: An Ecotone Anthology
Monday April 7, 2014
The Center for Fiction, Ecotone magazine, and its sister imprint Lookout Books celebrated the release of Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade. Contributors David Means, Maggie Shipstead, and Douglas Watson read from their stories in the anthology and joined in a conversation about writing in a digital age, based on Ben Fountain’s foreword to the collection.
The post-reading conversation focused on how technology affects writing and literature—and the short story in particular. How important is the concept of place in an age when our physical location is largely irrelevant as long as we’re within cord’s length of a power source and range of Wi-Fi? Are digital resources essential to conduct and organize research? How do Twitter and Facebook influence our thinking and writing processes? Do they help us reach readers, or is social media a distraction? As Ben Fountain writes, “In the end we have to return to our bodies, to the not-virtual and non-digital, to the funk, gunk, and friction of the natural world. More than ever, we need an understanding of place, because we’re wandering so far.”
About Astoria to Zion (Lookout Books)
With the publication of this anthology, Lookout Books makes a permanent home for the vital work of Ecotone regular contributors Steve Almond, Rick Bass, Edith Pearlman, Ron Rash, Bill Roorbach, and Brad Watson, along with rising talents Lauren Groff, Ben Stroud, and Kevin Wilson, among others. In keeping with the magazine’s mission to reimagine place, the collection explores transitional zones, the spaces where we are most threatened and alive. From a city fallen silent to a doomed nineteenth-century ship, from a startling birth in the woods to the bog burial of an adored archaeologist, from the loop of hair in a drowned trader’s locket to the sanctity of pointy boots in a war zone, these stories make beautiful noise of our most fundamental human longings.
"Astoria to Zion is a dazzling literary showcase of veterans and new voices that offers all that readers have come to expect from Ecotone. While conjuring and exploring wildly varied places, this collection stakes out a stellar one of its own."
— Jill McCorkle, Life After Life: A Novel
Ecotone, founded in 2005 and published at UNC Wilmington, is a semiannual journal that seeks to reimagine place. Each issue brings together the literary and the scientific, the personal and the biological, the urban and the rural. An ecotone is a transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities, containing the characteristic species of each. It is therefore a place of danger or opportunity, a testing ground. We embrace and celebrate these ecotones by breaking out of the pen of the purely literary and wandering freely among the disciplines.
In his introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2008, Salman Rushdie called Ecotone one of a handful of journals on which “the health of the American short story depends.” Now at the close of an award-winning first decade, the magazine has established itself as a preeminent venue for original short fiction from both recognized and emerging writers, with more than twenty stories from sixteen issues reprinted or noted in the Best American, New Stories from the South, Pushcart, and PEN/O. Henry series. With the publication
David Means is the author of The Secret Goldfish, The Spot, and Assorted Fire Events, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope: All-Story, McSweeney’s, The Best American Short Stories, and The Best American Mysteries. He lives in Nyack, New York, and teaches at Vassar College.
Maggie Shipstead is the author of Seating Arrangements, which was a Flaherty-Dunnan Prize finalist and won the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Her writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the New Republic, VQR, Ecotone, Tin House, and The Best American Short Stories. Her second novel, Astonish Me, comes out in April.
Douglas Watson is the author of a book of stories, The Era of Not Quite, winner of the BOA Editions Short Fiction Prize. His new novel, A Moody Fellow Finds Love and Then Dies, is due out April 1 from Outpost19. He lives in New York City.