Creating the Unknowable Future: The Birth of Duende

by Amy Cain

This past summer I spent a lot of time playing Minecraft with a seven-year-old. For those unfamiliar, it’s a game that situates the player in a 3D world where virtually anything can be constructed out of large, textured cubes. In general, I loathe video games and do what I can to keep my nanny charge, Bruno, from playing them (despite the fact that it would make me a terrible nanny, I also think video games are just boring). But Minecraft is entirely different.

There are a variety of modes to the game; Bruno and I always choose the creative mode and set our world to "peaceful." This means that the only point of playing is to create. Naturally, as a person who spends most of my free time creating and/or cultivating, I am delighted by this. There is an excitement associated with building something out of nothing, with realizing ideas, and it's like nothing else.

Recently, I read an essay by Javier Marías called “Seven Reasons Not to Write Novels and Only One Reason to Write Them.” Use your imagination and you can probably guess at some of his reasons not to write novels—but Marías's only reason in support of writing gave me the shivers because it gets at the very excitement I’m talking about. He writes, “[Fiction] offers us a possible future reality. And although it has nothing to do with personal immortality, it means that for every novelist there is the possibility—infinitesimal, but still a possibility—that what he is writing is both shaping and might even become the future he will never see.”

It is, perhaps, a stretch to extend this idea to the playing of Minecraft, but it’s certainly not a stretch to apply it to the creation of Duende. Over the past year, BFA students at Goddard College have been working tirelessly on Duende; together, we imagined this journal into existence. Together, we voted on potential names, design choices, and literary allegiances. Together, we decided it was vital that this journal be a true representation of the U.S. literary ecosystem, and we committed to intentionally reaching-out to underrepresented groups in the hopes of creating the literary future we want to see.

There are thousands of fledgling literary journals in the world. Harkening back, for a moment, to Marías's observations about novel-writing, he says, “There are too many of them. … It is, then, a commonplace activity, one that is, in theory, within the grasp of anyone who learned to write at school.” The same thing can be said about literary journals. Making them is not hard, and with the internet as a tool (long live net neutrality!), just about anybody with access to a computer, a working knowledge of Wordpress and a little extra time can do it.

But as we, the Duende editors, made choices about which writers and artists to include in our inaugural issue (and we had SO many wonderful submissions that it was difficult to choose), we understood that the poems, stories, visual art pieces, and collaborations were going to reflect not only our mission, but the unknowable future. We are incredibly pleased with the writers and artists who appear in this first issue. They deserve to be here, and we feel honored to have been even the smallest stepping stone in their journey through the literary landscape; their pride is our pride.

In the end, playing Minecraft probably won’t change the shape of the world around me, but an attitude of possibility will. That’s why, in deciding which voices must be heard, which ideas are important, we are, right now, taking part in a discussion that is both happening and hasn’t happened yet. This is the magic inherent to creation. We make something. We put it into the world. And we have no idea at all what will develop next.