The seven writers I’ve chosen for this section are, to me, strikingly different in the way they approach their fiction, and each produces exquisite and unique work. You have no reason to believe this, of course, and I don’t blame you: no one trusts a barking anthologist, beating his chest over the specialness and artistic diversity of his enterprise. But to boost this claim, I want to offer one-sentence credos written by each of the contributors, and it will show you in shorthand what drives them, what they believe is possible in writing, and how they distill their practice (especially when they know that their sentences will be published without attribution, which is how I got them to cough up these mottos in the first place). I have not listed these credos to avoid the introducer’s task of classifying and describing the writing that you’ll read. Or not so much. But since as a reader I frequently skip those parts and get right to the stories, I thought I could let the words of the contributors—enigmatic, direct, shy, sincere, and crazy as they might be—direct you toward this small sample of stunning fiction that it’s been my pleasure to select:
1. I believe that writing is the highest resolution medium.
2. I struggle with the difference between what I pledge to myself and what I do finally; or, what I sometimes call my falseness; but when I say after all I’m not being false for wanting to be a certain way, that I just have high goals, I will have to agree that no one else around is false either and say for myself that I have the perpetual condition of falling short.
3. I endeavor, word by word, sentence by sentence, to write myself an adult-sized, customized uterus in which I and invited guests may duck, buck, and float.
4. (I write because) I am interested in dark and stormy nights, syntax and moments of delicate, major humiliation.
5. I ogle, grope, and weep; always in that order.
6. I don’t trust fiction with no sense of humor and I know I’m writing it when everything adds just so; I know I’m closer when I’m left holding extra parts—parts I know I need even though the thing runs fine without them.
7. I will be a lion for my own cause.
Ben Marcus is the author of three books of fiction: Notable American Women, The Father Costume, and The Age of Wire and String. His anthology, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, was published in 2004. His fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, The Believer, among others. He has received many awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Award, three Pushcart Prizes, a fellowship from the Howard Foundation, and a Whiting Writer’s Award. For several years, he was the fiction editor of Fence.