Kia ora koutou,
When Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, coined the phrase ‘alternative facts’ in January this year it felt, at least within my own echo-chamber, as if she’d flicked a collective emotional switch.
You know those times when everything’s been going wrong in your life, or you’ve been sobbing for ages, and then something happens – perhaps tiny – but so affecting, so ridiculous, so much too much, that you shift gears and laugh hysterically? That’s what it felt like, but on a society-wide level. We mocked those two words as a kind of release – temporarily distancing ourselves from the parlous state of the world. At the same time, they heightened our concerns – sales of 1984 apparently jumped by 9,500%.
Like an emotional Swiss Army knife – able to pull forth fear, anger, misery and laughter – ‘alternative facts’ seemed the perfect theme for 4th Floor 2017. Of course, you could say writers deal in alternative facts all the time. When we sent the call for submissions, I wondered if we’d get anything that explored the theme head on.
We did. Jane Blaikie, Justine Kingdon, Rachel Kleinsman, and Judith Lofley have given us powerful, heartfelt political works. Erin Donohue challenges us to think deeply about perception and reality. Janet Colson, Marlon Moala-Knox, and Maggie Rainey-Smith explore the ways memories and histories become unreliable. Helen Vivienne Fletcher and Lesley Watkins look at turning deliberately from reality. And battles, along with the truths they bury, are explored in poems by Mary Cresswell and Sue Jamieson.
An anarchic playfulness, maybe coming from that place where hysterical laughter lives, suffuses many pieces. Among them are stories by Olivia Aroha Giles, Wesley Hollis, Mary Little and Laura Peckyno. Every piece in 4th Floor moves or delights me in a different way, and there are too many to detail here.
Last year, editor Lynn Davidson introduced a craft section to 4th Floor, and this year, we continue her initiative. Jackson Nieuwland and I have interviewed five exciting writers about their practice, each conversation jumping off from that ambiguous phrase: ‘right and wrong’.
In keeping with the spirit of laughter, mockery and play, the 4th Floor team decided our contributors’ biographical notes would become a giant game of true or false, and many authors were happy to help. I think I love some of these bios as much as the main works.
Maybe you’ve also seen that 4th Floor offered up another game – one with a more serious purpose. In the lead up to our launch, we ran a Giving Game on social media. Giving Games, where people gather to choose a charity to donate to, were popularised by the Effective Altruism movement. In our version, we made a poll and invited the public to vote for one of three fantastic truth-and-justice-oriented organisations. We divided a pot of $500 between those organisations, according to vote percentages.
As we all deal with accelerating climate change, inhumane inequality and the ongoing threats of war and violence. I think writers, editors, publishers – and others in the literary industry – have a responsibility to take public stands for whatever we believe is right, whenever we possibly can. I’m excited to be a part of a publication where everyone is doing that.
I hope you enjoy your travels through this issue.
First – thank you so much to all the writers who submitted work. The world needs you, and without you there is no publishing industry.
Thank you, Mary-Jane Duffy, for your thoughtful support and guidance throughout this project.
Thank you, Claire Mabey and Andrew Laking from LitCrawl, for your hard work on the launch and for organising the zine’s printing.
Thank you, Bob Peckyno, for all your time making the AR mini Trump!
Thank you to everyone who helped out with our Giving Game, including Marianne Elliott from ActionStation; Joy Gribben and Laura Goodall from Royal Society Te Apārangi; and Grace Marshall and Sarah Satterthwaite from Forest & Bird (and their awesome kids club – KCC).
Lastly, and very especially, thank you to Helen Heath, Whitireia’s awesome Publishing Programme tutor, and to the stars from the 4th Floor publishing team:
Project managers – Hayley Chrisp and Sucheta Raj
Editors – Gemma Billingham, Margot Sorensen and Hayley Chrisp
Production – Laura Peckyno, Rosalie Elliffe and Erin Donohue
Marketing and Publicity – Sammy Chorley and Sucheta Raj
Proofreaders – Emily Goldthorpe and Thomas Sutherland
It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with each and every one of you.