I used to be fiction editor for Etchings, and I remain in awe of my friends Sabina Hopfer and Christopher Lappas for setting up and sticking at their Ilura Press venture, so this is not a review. As ever, the new Etchings – emphasising its Melbourne roots, it is now :etchingsmelb – looks stunning. Adam Elliot’s still from Max & Mary adorns the cover but I felt a little as though I was looking at myself, bashing away on a typewriter, dressed in my daytime daggy clothes, goggle-eyed with concentration. Inside, Janelle Moran interviews Elliot. It’s a fascinating piece, showing Elliot’s almost frightening commitment to his slow and expensive claymation mode of storytelling – although Moran’s evident admiration for Elliot shines a little too brightly in her commentary.
The big highlight for me was Kylie Ladd’s marvellous memoir of her Christian teenage years, ‘Losing My Religion’, in which love of God and lust for boys gets all muddled up. It’s clear-eyed, honest, funny, generous and it manages to probe the reasons why we grab hold of faith without belittling anybody’s sincerely held beliefs.
As always with Etchings, there is heaps of short fiction. One of the characteristics of many ‘little magazines’ is a drift towards more non-fiction and less fiction. Although this sometimes works (Overland gets it about right, I think, given its political focus), in general most little mags could use more fiction more of the time, and I think (remembering my bias) Etchings deserves kudos for this. My favourite piece in this issue is Simonne Michelle-Wells’s ‘Catching the Drops’, about the after effects of a medical procedure on a young woman: it should be disturbing but it’s weirdly uplifting. I also liked Emma Ashmere’s ‘The Violin’, about how to deal with a yucky violinist, and ‘Amelia Schmidt’s ‘It could have been any party’, about an unusual game of spin the bottle.