Today there are forces trying their hardest to divide us. In the face of that, art in its many forms can give voice to our concerns, hopes, fears, anxieties—and joys. Art can provide solace. It can spur engagement. It can increase understanding. It can help us feel less alone. We have a common language, the language of story. In a way, it all comes down to stories: whether they’re told through words or visually or otherwise, stories remind us of our humanity. And anything that can remind us of that essential quality we all share is crucial, in my view. It may seem strange to think we could forget our humanity, but of course we know from history that it’s possible.
We can’t let it happen. We can’t make it through whatever is coming without each other. Thomas Paine described the need for community in the context of building a house:
Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed…
My hope is that Scoundrel Time will be a more-than-“tolerable” dwelling, that you will come here and find works that help you to feel understood and to understand others, works that reflect your experience or illuminate the experiences of others, works that help you get through the night.
What You’ll Find in the Journal
I encourage you to read Mark Svenvold’s and Karen Bender’s thoughtful introductions to the poetry and fiction you’ll find here, in general, and specifically what you might find in this, the “inaugural” set of works. I’m not calling it an “issue” exactly, because our model will be a bit different. We will publish new poetry and essays approximately weekly, new fiction approximately every other week, and new humor and visual art as it comes to us. See, for instance, the occasional series of photographs by artist Erica Baum. Our fiction includes short shorts by Paul Lisicky and Ben Greenman, and stories by Carolyn Ferrell, David Ulin, and Tracy O’Neill. In poetry, you’ll find work by Daisy Fried, Regie Cabico, Bob Holman, Terese Svoboda, and many more; plus a Featured Portfolio: “American Patriot,” conversations between poet Jim Daniels and photographer Charlee Brodsky about the meaning of patriotism, including an interview about their collaboration-in-progress. Because Karen and Mark are too modest to mention it themselves, I want to note that their terrific work also appears in the journal; please look for it.
We are actively interested in publishing humor, especially because tyrants hate it when people laugh at them. See, for instance, an update of traditional proverbs, our first humor piece, by Philip Hoover. In essays, we address the problem of humor in this political climate (Tony Eprile); Caligula (Valerie Block); asylum (Peter Trachtenberg); how to reassure oneself with stories (Caroline Leavitt); and how, last spring, Timothy Denevi had a feeling something very, very bad was going to happen.
Despots and demagogues are a global threat, and, as such, our goal over the long term is to present a global set of voices. To that end, we offer Dispatches, or brief essays on the personal impact of events. For instance, Tony Mochama writes from Kenya about watching the American election; Carole Burns writes from Wales in the aftermath of the Brexit vote; and, with a different focus, Dana Sachs writes from Athens, Greece, about a family of Syrian refugees; Julie Upshur helps a young boy who is having a seizure; and Rachel Leon watches her children cope.
Please visit our Actions page, edited by Jodi Paloni, which is updated more frequently than any other page with recommendations for actions related to the concerns of artists and writers, but also of concern in the wider world. Check out the “Indivisible Guide” and other guidelines and advice regarding the most effective actions. Jodi will also call attention to relevant essays and other works that she finds around the web.
Mikhail Iossel, our publisher, provided the original impetus and concept for this publication, and spurred us on with his passion for making a difference and reaching out to artists around the globe. We are lucky and grateful to have the most dedicated team of editors, readers, and staff—all volunteers!—and talented contributors who have all donated their work for this effort. Everyone has worked hard and tirelessly to make this happen. Please visit our staff page and our contributor page to learn more about them. A special thank you to Will Amato for the many long hours spent putting together our website.
Scoundrel Time takes its name from a Lillian Hellman memoir of the HUAC years. A cautionary note.
If we all stand up, we can support each other.
Note: We are now open to fiction and poetry submissions via Submittable. Please see our guidelines for details. To query us about humor, essays/dispatches, and art, please send a note to our general mailbox.
Scoundrel Time is a 501(c)(3) organization. We accept and encourage your tax-deductible donations.