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Editors Desk

Editors’ Letter

by Nell Beck and Sam Schuman | Editors Desk | Spring 2021

Image by Katie Frevert

In which Sam and Nell say goodbye and hello.


As a collegiate publication, Wilder Voice operates within a set of nonnegotiable time constraints: the 15-week semester, the two-semester academic year, the four-year bachelor’s degree. These limits are helpful, providing a ready-made arc to our work and dictating the steady tempo at which it advances. They’re also, well, limiting. There’s only so much that can be done in a single semester, and with a collective memory that rarely extends beyond half a decade, inconsistency over time is practically baked in. But limits breed creativity; inconsistency is just a synonym for experimentation. (And besides, there’s no motivator quite like a hard deadline.)

Like last semester, the magazine you’re holding in your hands (or, more likely, reading online) took form against a backdrop of specific, coronavirus-imposed restrictions: the abbreviated academic term, the class of 2023’s conspicuous absence from campus, and a student body burnt out by over a year of Zoom-based learning. The rules might be new and different (and worse), but they’re differences of degree rather than of kind. This issue, like any other, is where the ideal rubs against the real. It’s a collective attempt to wring meaning out of, and instill meaning within, transience. A good story is a good anchor: it’s something to hold onto.

***

In the spirit of finding opportunity (and continuity) within limits, we used this semester to expand our website by digitizing previous editions of WV. You can now view any piece published from fall 2017 onward here at wildervoicemag.com. Plumbing Wilder Voice’s recent past has been an instructive experience. We saw names move up the editorial masthead from semester to semester as a generation of Obies shared important reported stories and wrote through perennial and perennially urgent concerns—gender and identity, personal history, family narratives and their multivalent meanings, political activism and performance—with clarity and precision. The pieces differ in focus, from the history of Mercy Hospital to the founding of the ’Sco, from exploring death as exemplified by a beloved family cat to a series of meditations on the body. What ties them together is a willingness to engage and reengage with big questions and established narratives, to examine what’s been received and endeavor to understand it in a new light—or perhaps rethink it wholesale.

To further this commitment to complexity, we’ve encouraged our contributors in this issue to write longer and deeper, giving their voices more breathing room on the page in order to grapple with events and ideas in all of their intricacies. Lila Templin describes their disillusionment with Oberlin’s culture of wealth and the ways that students conceal their class privilege (“Unequal Footing”). Lilyanna D’Amato returns to her favorite children’s books and relearns to see the world in a new way (“The World from Below”). And Jemma Johnson-Shoucair explores hubris in the second Star Wars prequel and the groundbreaking technology behind it (“The Lucas Effect”). As always, their work is presented alongside striking student artwork, including Vincent Zhu’s photo series Cracked and a series of collages from Katie Frevert.

“The Lucas Effect” is one of two essays appearing in this issue under the heading “Diagnoses.” In this new department, writers articulate and interrogate problems of their choosing, exploring the “why” beyond the “what.” It’s not a space for crankiness so much as a space for synthesis through criticism; the intention is not simply to dunk on vexing phenomena, but to understand them.

As the spring semester comes to a close and we enter a summer of optimism and uncertainty, negotiating limits will remain a pressing task. After an unconventional but rewarding year serving as Wilder Voice’s EICs, we are excited to hand off the first-ever summer installment of Wilder Voice to our incoming Senior Staff: Alexander Saint Franqui, Dorothy Levine, Clara Rosarius, and Fiona Warnick. Their talents have already helped shape the magazine, and we are confident that they will continue to make Wilder Voice a home for Oberlin’s talented body of writers and artists.

—Nell Beck and Sam Schuman
Editors-in-Chief, Wilder Voice

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Editors Desk

Editors’ Letter

by Nell Beck and Sam Schuman | Editors Desk | Fall 2020

Image by Leah Rosenthal

Welcome to the 30th issue of Wilder Voice.


When we began planning this issue in June, we faced far more unknowns than knowns. Oberlin had yet to announce its three-semester schedule for the academic year, and staff turnover left us with a Wilder Voice crew of just three, to say nothing of the broader world-historic events occuring around us. We knew that our work would continue, but the form that that traditionally print-forward work would take was far from assured.

We decided to embrace these disruptions by looking backwards to Wilder Voice’s institutional past as we imagined how the magazine would operate differently this year. We set to work on a brand-new website to accommodate Oberlin’s mandated shift to online publication, and we began to reach out to former Wilder Voice editors to get a sense of what the magazine has meant to Oberlin’s community of writers and readers throughout its history. In September, we celebrated the launch of wildervoicemag.com. And with the new site, we began a new web-exclusive interview series, “Institutional Memory,” which explores the magazine’s past through conversations with former staff members.

We also modified our editorial process to give every piece we publish an even greater level of attention and care, and updated our style guide to make it more inclusive and up to date—adding in obligatory rules for pandemic-related terms like “Zooming,” for instance. This Editors’ Letter is itself a new addition to the magazine, a chance for us to tell you directly why we’re excited about this semester’s iteration of Wilder Voice.

All of these changes have been made so that we might better pursue Wilder Voice’s primary goal: providing Oberlin students with a space for true stories. And this issue marks some of the magazine’s most intimate pieces yet: Fiona Warnick dives deep into her personal relationship with shopping malls and the gender politics they imply (“Me, The Mall, And I”); Mary Brody discusses living in a house with three visual artists and speaks with her roommates about their work (“Visual Processes”); and Aniella Day shares a moving account of the death of her brother, who would have graduated from Oberlin this spring (“AIDEN”).

***

It feels trite, at this point, to invoke the coronavirus pandemic in a note of this kind, but it feels equally dishonest to ignore it. It’s simply a fact of Oberlin life, one we tacitly acknowledged every day this fall as we attended masked meetings in large rooms and did our level best to stay present and focused over Zoom calls. None of the works you’ll find in this issue take COVID-19 as their direct subject, but none of them elide it, either. They remind us that although the pandemic remains foundational to our daily lives, the way that it is experienced is far from monolithic.

Now, as always, stories are unfolding, and they deserve to be shared. As the coronavirus has narrowed public life considerably, those stories have only become more personal. To say that they are stronger for it would be to impose a specious silver lining on a global tragedy which has, at press time, killed over 1.5 million people—many of them already marginalized. But, in the midst of the bizarre social circumstance we are enduring, telling stories remains as meaningful as ever.

So welcome to the 30th issue of Wilder Voice. We hope that the time you spend here will be as rewarding for you as it has been for us.

—Nell Beck and Sam Schuman
Editors-in-Chief, Wilder Voice