A yard overrun by chickens. The New York City subway system. Identical twins on every street corner. A greenhouse. The Oregonian wilderness. The suburban backyard.
Setting constitutes the very backbone of fiction. It is often the unnoticed and subtle layer that can often make or break a story, allowing the writing to transcend the page or fall into dreadful mediocrity. Setting creates the illusion of reality within a story. It is the grounding element, the place where the story will play out and the characters find themselves tested or rested or both. It is the table on which the pieces of life are played.
The goal of Mason’s Road is to incorporate pieces that use the various elements of writing craft to an exemplary degree. Voice was the highlight of our inaugural issue; the pieces we received utilized unique and skillful uses of different points of view, character dialects and thought patterns, and a sense of characterization that extended well beyond the final words of the story.
For our second issue of Mason’s Road, we continued our mission to publish the best fiction possible as well as to try and find the pieces that best incorporated our theme of setting. Strong locations and an emphasis on place and time were among the options available to us to choose and judge these pieces.
Among those we received, we had a number that stood out, including:
- “The Subway Chronicles,” which utilizes the New York City Subway system as an interconnected puzzle that engulfs the child hero of the story and forces him to face his own fears as well as the perils of the outside world
- “Underground” brings the drama back to the suburban backyards of our youth and a narrator searching for heaven with the aid of his shovel
- Magical realism takes a new turn with “Kudzu,” about a tight-knit farming family that has their world turned upside down with a death in the family
- Sparse description and spare dialogue give “The Recycler” a post-modern edge with its desolate landscape and tension-filled action
- An Ohio city that holds an annual identical twin festival becomes the focus of “Twinsburg” and the issues that a singular identity can have on a group of people
- A grim, frigid Oregon landscape becomes the focus of “A Way in the Wilderness” and the lengths some people go to tame nature as they see it
These were the stories that grabbed us as readers, demanded our attention, and made us experience the world as the characters viewed it. They were the ones that made us sit up and examine our own surroundings and picture the drama that unfolds between the known and the unknown, the wild and the urban, the setting and the stage. We hope you enjoy them.
Nick Knittel & Chris Belden