You Start It, We Finish It

Dia’s Editor Letter is not a punk gospel so much as a gallop down memory lane…

Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel by Dia VanGunten
Art by Katy Somerville

You Start It, We Finish It

When my father was a baby boom baby in Ohio, he developed an intense fascination with the Old West. He promised his grandma Elsie an adventure. When she said she was too old for all that, he said she could snooze during the long journey – in the back of the covered wagon.

It ended up being an old school bus and the snoozer was me, but he wasn’t far off. 

Dad and his Grand-dad – a rugged rough pair of VG Outlaws

Mom had the same romantic inclinations, so she headed west. They eventually converged. He wooed her by stealing her knitting basket. It wasn’t long before I joined the story. I was born in the New Mexico mountains.

We moved into one of those mountains: an open mouth cave on the cliff face that overlooked the La Madera dunes. Dad laid a pine floor and installed a wood-burning stove, but we had to move back to the ground when I became mobile (sooner than expected. Oops.

When we moved to Canjilon, memory kicked in.

My first memory that I can date was my 2nd birthday: in the dirt floor kitchen, Mom had a candle, a waxy 2. I didn’t understand numbers yet or birthdays and when she broke it down for me, I left my body. I hovered in the rafters and watched the back of my own head.

Awww. Baby’s my first existential crisis. 

In pink gingham, amid the hedonism
Mom & Dad

Cows lived there before and after. 

In the winter, we were snowed in. In the spring, ice melted into the river and we had to drive over river rocks, though a rushing current. That was tricky.

Horseback was easier.

I learned to ride by age two. She was an old mare and my parents trusted her implicitly.

I rode bareback, no saddle, no reins, and naked like Lady Godiva. 

I put the bare on the bareback!

I called everyone in search of the Lady Godiva photos, to no avail, but my cousins sent some cool pics from their visit. Everyone rode this very good horse.

Coyotes howled in the mountains, one of them coming so far as our porch; to this day, I’ve never shaken the energy that passed between us. I was frightened but calm.

Dad stepped behind me: “He’s more scared of you than you are of him.”

In my mind, it’s mixed up with another troubled creature that showed up on that porch in the wee hours: a barefoot woman in a white nightgown against a backdrop of snow. I thought she was a ghost. I startled. We didn’t have neighbors. In between houses, there were miles of rocky terrain, icy fields,  a maze of barbed wire and ankle breaker cattle guards.

Mom took her in and Dad built a fire.

They tried to save her frostbitten toes.

She was able to keep a few of them.  

I learned to drive in those winding mountains while Dad shot at mailboxes from the passenger window of his steely blue corvette, my sisters smooshed in the cargo hold. He was drunk so I had to rely on Jim Morrison for driving instructions during my debut lesson.

No matter where we are, the west is in us.

Dad, decades later in Tucson, Arizona

I still love horses.

And yet, despite all of this, I would never have come up with this Wild West issue all on my lonesome. This was Katy at her finest. It tickles me that while she was growing up in Oz, dreaming about American cowboys, I was hugging stuffed koalas and writing letters to the Australian Consulate to tell him all about an elaborate fantasy where I was a glamorous grown up, riding on horseback through the outback while wearing a leather hat. The guy was kind enough to send a handwritten reply – and a giant box of books about the aboriginals. 

I later found that leather hat – which friends dubbed my Paddington Bear hat. I wore it all through college but I never took it to Australia. I’ve never been. And yet, I have this friend, collaborator and co-editor in Katy Somerville. Thank goodness! Wild West has been amazing. I must admit, I had my doubts. I wasn’t sure if it would be sufficiently “Cream Scene.” I imagined our submissions box flooded with crusty cowboys and hard-boiled western fiction.

I wept when we received How to Make Love to a Saguaro Cactus because I knew we’d be Creamy.


I soon cried many OMFG tears over this issue because the quality of the art and writing we received was next level. We began to realize that not only was Wild West gonna be OK, and very Cream Scene, but the magazine itself is growing into something special. We are becoming a marvelous and magnetic ecosystem of weird.

Soon, we had poems about cowboys in tighty-whities and shadow box murders and bolo tie fashion features. We had embroidery and textiles, with essays from unique and feminist POVs. There were so many new names, doing stunning work. The sparse existentialism of Matt Bechtold, the dysfunctional family dynamics of Dan McGuire, and the aching poem about the lamb by Katie Stollmack. The interview with Luis Jazz-Minero, a Spanish musician – The Masked Man – reminded us that the Wild West belongs to everyone, not just Americans. We even wrangled Chillsubs into a campfire chat in Literary Outlaws: An Interview with Chill Subs.

Several columnists put western spins to their usual columns – Jacklyn Henry’s Transfeminine: Cowboy Edition took us to the desert on a moonlit night and Audio Astrology (LE Francis Sept. 2023) left us starry-eyed.

Our featured artists were absolutely EPIC. 

Thank you to those who rode out with writing and stayed with us for the whole journey –  Isalu Ishii, Cara Crum, Michael Pajon and Motel Gemini. Our authors were so lucky for your illustrative support in this collaborative way. (It’s truly “the dream” for this writer.) 

Thank you, B. Shawn Cox, David Edward Johnson, Shad Clark and Claudio Parentela.

Thank you to illustrators, Katy Somerville, Sean Kirkpatrick, Ingrid M. Calderón Collins , Irina Tall, Jesse Davis Karshner and so many more. I stopped doing these kinds of mentions because I always leave people out. It’s impossible to list all of my favorites when there’s so many talented people in every single issue and, by the end, I’m just a blown dandelion. 

You all blow my mind.

You make Cream Scene. This issue convinced me that we can do any theme and you weirdos will run with it. It’s so marvelously fun. We love you guys. We really do.

Katy, please lasso us in whatever direction you want us to go. You bring the magic! 



About the Author

Dia VanGunten explores overlaps between genres, between poetry and prose, between the real and the magical. She is the creator of the rhizomatic series Pink Zombie Rose.

Major Arcana, a PZR collection of stories & comics, is illustrated by Beppi. To be released by Q, a graphic imprint of Querencia Press.

Dia is the founder of Cream Scene Carnival and the OG carnie.

About The Artist

Katy Somerville was beamed into existence on a Monday night in the mid-eighties by stars, glitter, and a glorious Italian woman from a long line of very strong women. In the present timeline, she likes to drink coffee, pat any animal that will engage with her, make collages, and spend time laughing and finding moments of joy wherever she can with her partner and her goofy, lanky dog.

Katy is Cream Scene co-editor & Art Director

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