Magazine Spotlight: The Journal of Unlikely Entomology

Some things about TheJournal of Unlikely Entomology:

The Journal of Unlikely Entomology is a magazine devoted to stories about bugs. At least, that’s the magazine’s surface level purpose. As their website claims, within its pages you will find stories that are not just about bugs but are also about “the limits of what it means to be human.” I can’t really say it better myself. Which is why I didn’t try.

The Journal of Unlikely Entomology publishes two issues a year, in May and November, though it also publishes mini-issues during the year. Thus far, they have seven issues for your perusal, available for free reading online at the website or available for download – donations encouraged.

The Journal of Unlikely Entomology is delightfully absurd. The whole endeavor is sponsored by a character named Sir Reginald F. Grump XXIII, whose silhouette looms on every page of the website as well as on the front cover of the magazine.

Issue 5, published in May of this year, 2013, signals the start of the journal’s third year. If you’re interested in checking out this magazine, I highly recommend downloading a PDF of an issue, as there are absurdist touches within that are not available via the website only, such as one page “intentionally left infested with ants.” The magazine also includes a buggy drawing for each story. I particularly enjoyed Athina Saloniti’s terrifying The Hive in which a beehive is filled with human bodies curled into balls and Rasa Dilyte’s watercolor, Bug.

Issue 5 contains seven stories:

  • Jeanette’s Feast” by Michelle Ann King, in which a man, Gavin, struggles to raise his daughter by himself, especially since his daughter is capable of eating an entire buffet full of desserts in a very small amount of time. Her eating habits are consuming all of his money, and his mother, a completely unsympathetic character, demands that the father break her of this habit or move out of her house, which puts him in a bind as he doesn’t have the money to pay for his own housing. Gavin also does not want to force his daughter to kick her eating habit; teenagers need growing food, right? A sweet and sour story in which the bug appears late and serves as a catalyst.
  • The Lonely Barricade at Dawn” by Jesse William Olson, which tells the story of an invasion of earth by bug-like aliens through about eight different voices, and does so effortlessly. By the end of the story, I was pleasantly surprised by where I had ended up. What the story lacks in originality of premise – there isn’t much difference in the actual story of this alien takeover as in other stories with alien takeovers – it makes up for in structure.
  • Ecdysis” by Nicole Cipri is an escape story about a little girl in a world newly plagued by locusts that devour crops and cats and people, too. The little girl is mistreated by the uncle who is raising her on his farm. I feel genuinely sorry for her character, and genuinely want her to succeed as she attempts to save her cat and kittens from the oncoming swarm. But, then again, who wouldn’t root for a little girl trying to save kittens? Still, the ending is chilling and unexpected.
  • The Space Between” by Lew Andrada is the most original of all the stories. Bug-like aliens have come to earth to take us over and failed; they’ve been allowed, however, to live amongst us, though they are discriminated against. This story is about two of them, Rozan and his previous captain, Senith, who work on a farm. Senith misses his wife and is saving to send a letter home to her, while the farmer is annoyed that his own wife wastes their food on the aliens by serving them the same meals as she serves him. A bittersweet story about the trials and tribulations of marriage. And failure.
  • B.” by Nicola Belte. In this story, which I would categorize as horror with a twist, a man who has lost the woman he loves, his “Queen,” picks up women in bars and takes them home to meet his “hive.” Although the details are fuzzy – I’m still not how exactly the man thinks he will bring his love back – the writing is crisp and to-the-point.
  • Spiders, Centipedes, & Holes” by Cat Rambo is a short, smart piece about language, bugs, and, it seems, seeing the world through different points-of-view.
  • The bug element in “Silent Drops of Crimson andGold Rain” by Pam L. Wallace is secondary to the story of a woman grieving the loss of her sister. Their relationship is portrayed realistically and poignantly, though by the end of the story I felt I knew the dead sister better than the living one. Still, an effective chronicle of sisterly love and letting go.

 

The highlights of the issue were, for me, “Jeanette’s Feast,” “The Lonely Barricade at Dawn,” and, surprisingly, “B.” Though it must be said that I didn’t dislike any of the stories in this issue; each had something to offer, some element that I remembered vividly after closing the PDF. This magazine is worth a look for lovers of bugs, lovers of the absurd, and lovers of stories.
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