combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 03 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2005

Parthian Shot
a fleeting editorial dart inviting chase

The Good Fight

"The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum."
by Adlai E. Stevenson (19 Jan 1962)
"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate."
by Hubert H. Humphrey (6 Jun 1965)

We are assured, contrary to modern measures and popular appraisals, that "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." [Ecclesiastes 9:11]; and so our sure and steady hand stays the course in these troubled times.

On the mass media battleground, where good and bad vie for audience shares, strategists allege that imitation, if not mutation, is the surest guarantee of success, which trophy is always convertible to monetary factors. Publishing victory, they contend, has all the characteristics of a virulent cancer. Winning the culture war is merely a byproduct of diminution and devaluation. The business axioms, corrupted from the ultimate lessons of war and religion, pander to selfish attainments and temporary achievements ... buy low, sell high and go with the flow are not meliorative challenges for anyone: reader, writer, or editor. So we persist as just another niche publication, occupying a suitable but essentially meaningless place out of the averred mainstream.

Our staff consists of persons who do not punch a time clock nor calculate the exchange value for every aspect of their out of the fast lane lives. We have made every effort to integrate our career skills and private interests, to admix our professions and avocations, such that we do not become the one-dimensional beings [Herbert Marcuse (1964)] promoted by the military industrial complex [D.D. Eisenhower (1961)]. We cherish the oddments of history and the variants of creativity, and believe that this social experiment called America still offers the best potential for the whole being greater than the sum of its parts [F.S. Perls (1962)].

Publishing, as a dynamic microcosm, is an arena where peoples can meet equally and interact respectfully, without absorption or dilution. A forum potentially preserves, prevents, prepares, and promotes whatever society esteems, from harmony and unity to contention and dissension. Expressed in another context, but applicable to the realm of publishing, it could be said that a magazine is the "Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!" [Matthew Arnold (1865)]. To pervert its nascent possibilities into a biased bullyrag or sensational yellow dog is worse than cruel ... it's stupid! And our progeny shall rue our profligacy.

A magazine is no more a commercial product than a ship or plane or tank is an aggregation of disparate parts functionally coalesced. Not only is there a ghost in the machine [A. Koestler (1967)], but there's a soul in its extensible existence. A magazine is more than an artful assemblage of processed paper and colorful inks, or of mysterious pulses and esoteric amalgams, subject to the vagaries of entropy, from pulp rot and CD erosion to insectival predation and bacterial obliteration. In fact, the impermanence of writing, from weathered glyphs to corroded engravings, is the best argument for communication being the intrinsic essence of publishing. The word is not sacred, only its message ... so when the meaning is understood, the words are no longer necessary.

On the same principle, it has been argued since Plato that once good is known, and once evil is shown, that war and its weapons of destruction will no longer be needed. And, for the very same reasons that people continue to prepare defenses, writings are preserved for the edification of the ignorant ... since that portion of ancient wisdom which is introduced to the unknowing is as if newly created!

We man the barricades of our publishing fortress, our editorial redoubt, defending the agora for civilized expression. We are no longer in uniform, standing guard on the frontlines of freedom, but some of our authors are. We are not accredited journalists reporting the latest atrocity from some remote locale, because we are oriented to a longer and wider view. Our mandate is neither patriotism nor pacifism, but rather is a quest for genuine relevance, for authentic meaning in the most extreme of human conflict situations. We perform these unglamorous chores not because we are scarred and marred and unfitted for conventional duties, and not because we are tantalized and fascinated and fixated by the remnants of battle, but because we are committed to indubitable truth. No one who has ever been besmirched and betrayed in combat will ever again consent to any falsehood as a sufficient excuse for anything! ... not national pride nor sovereign interest nor global amity. A lie is not worth the blood of a single soldier; but honor and justice and love ....

The publisher may lead the magazine like an intrepid commander, but the editor is more akin to an imperturbable Top Kick who gets everything coordinated so as to assemble, on time and fully equipped, wherever the vision thing charges. Like soldiers, writers are woefully underpaid for their essential contributions, so they are placated with prestige. They report for duty in all conditions, and sometimes extra training or more gear is a necessary preliminary to their dispatch. Like every unit in the military, some troops are reporting for the first time, and others are veterans ... some with complaints carried along with every transfer, and others with suggestions from other organizations. Sometimes discipline problems must be reassigned to another Top Kick editor in hopes that better performance can be elicited. Sometimes the soldier is good but working at the wrong objective. And sometimes, for the good of the service, the writer must be discharged. As my old Drill Sergeant said: "Anyone who can't become a soldier gets thrown out to become a civilian!".

Not everyone is suited to be a soldier, or a writer. A writer must build himself up, with technique and knowledge and fortitude, so that he doesn't quit the first time he hears shots fired in anger, so he doesn't malinger over his first minor wound, and so he doesn't become combat ineffective when assailed by a ruthless opponent! With loins girded, we try to ensure that every author is good to go, and we try to make the arena a fair and level playing field, but every once in awhile, we have to rake the sand. It is a battle worth fighting.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
II Timothy 4:7 Bible

by Ed Staff