Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flash Fiction in the Market

Duotrope.com is a great place to research fiction publications of interest to you. You may find many publications of which you were unaware. Duotrope's fiction home/search page has a database of about 2825 publications at present. You can search with various filters, such as genre, theme, length, media, pay scale and others.

I decided to search the database for various genres, with the length set to flash. The result is shown in the table below. Adding up the various genres may not be useful since many publications publish multiple genres. This doesn't guarantee that all publications found have ever or ever will publish flash fiction, but at least they are not officially opposed to it.

Flash Fiction Publications by Genre
All genres 1158
Mainstream 382
Experimental 267
Fantasy 176
Science Fiction 169
Horror 162
Magical Realism/Surrealism 123
Cross Genre/Slipstream 119
Mystery 57
Crime/Suspense 40
Action/Adventure 30
Erotica 23
Romance 16

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nebula, Stoker and Saturn Ballots/Awards

The writing awards season has begun with three prestigious ballots or awards:

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has named their short list for the 2009 Nebula Awards. Their categories include short story, novel, novelette, novella, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. John Scalzi has two nominations, for the novella and young adult science fiction and fantasy categories.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) has announced their ballot for the 2009 Stoker Award nominees. They include categories for superior achievement in a novel, first novel, long fiction, short fiction, anthology, collection, nonfiction and poetry.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (Academy) has announced their finalists for the 35th annual Saturn Awards. Here are the Saturn Award nominations and the Saturn Award winners (link will eventually change). The Dark Knight won five awards. Iron Man won the best science fiction film. This award has numerous categories, including films, directors, writers, actors, music and others.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jay Lake's Novel-Publishing Time Line

By way of PW's Genreville blog is writing machine Jay Lake's novel publishing time line, from his perspective and the publisher's perspective.

I have a problem with this Jay:

Months 1-2 — I draft a book.
Months 3-4 — I redraft the book.

We're talking a full-length novel, right? Not a flash novel? Here's my time line:

Months 1-2: It were a dork and starmy night.
Months 3-4: It was a dark and stormy night.
Months 5-6: Try to come up with an idea....

I also have a problem with this:

Month 11 — Agent issues acceptance check to me, less commission.

What agent? Sigh.

Jay illustrates well why it takes so long for a novel to go from the first peck on the Royal to a bookseller putting the book on the wrong shelf. He also explains why he doesn't self-publish, even though some argue that he could make more money going that path. It's a good read.

Go here to see Jay Lake's Flash Fiction Online story.

Bonus via Kathy: British UFOs! (CNN covered it but The Guardian didn't. Hmmm.)

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Death Knell To FTL Space Travel?

According to this The Register article, faster-than-light travel has another obstacle besides relativity: the lowly hydrogen atom. Since that article is quite brief, this post will be all the more brief. As a craft approaches light speed, it compresses what would ordinarily be the sparse hydrogen in space, resulting in incredibly high voltages...more than 1000 times the lethal dose of ionizing radiation. (That's bad.) As the author points out, they'll think of something. SF authors will, for sure.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Cultural Shift? Plagiarism vs. Remixing

Here is an interesting story about a 17-year-old uber-author in Germany who is successful while withstanding a charge of plagiarism...but she calls it mixing.

Some background: (re)mixing has many contexts. In music, it is the mixing of sound tracts into an alternative form of the work. In literature, the most obvious meaning is that used in the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, in which others may "remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms." A publisher of one of Yours Truly's stories used the non-commercial form of this license for their anthology.

According to this NYT story, 17-year-old German author Helene Hegemann has a staged play and a script for a theatrically distributed movie to her credit, and now a well-selling novel (5th in Spiegel's best-seller list). However, someone pointed out that pieces of her novel, sometimes page-length) were lifted with little change from other works. Naturally a controversy arose. But even an important literary prize staff has overlooked this problem with her work and are still considering it. They apparently felt that the story was new and important enough, even with the copied passages, to justify continued consideration. The author says she did not plagiarize. She mixed. This is what people do now in the world of the always-connected Internet.

Is she right? Has the standard of plagiarism irrevocably changed or shifted?

For more on this story, see the NYT article, entitled, "Author, 17, Says It's 'Mixing,' Not Plagiarism."

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Take a Black Hole Tour

Science fiction writers for various media like black holes. They solve many story issues (while creating some thorny theoretical ones). If you enjoy reading or writing such inventions, you might appreciate this post.

By way of SlashDot, New Scientist is reporting a simulation published in the American Journal of Physics of what the sky would look like if you entered a black hole. (Warning: do not try this at home; serious bodily injury may result from approaching or falling into a black hole.) The simulation uses actual star data (100,000+ stars). The authors of the American Journal of Physics article (and apparently of the simulation) are Thomas Müller and Daniel Weiskopf at the University of Stuttgart (Universität Stuttgart).

The short New Scientist article includes a video of a simulation run (and then gives options for other related videos). If you are more adventurous or interested, you can download the simulation and simulation data files and run/tweak it yourself. They have a Windows executable and Linux source files.

Here is the New Scientist article and video about a black hole simulator that uses star data. Here is the University of Stuttgart black hole simulator for Windows and Linux.

Ad: Injured falling into a black hole? Call 555-555-5555 to learn about your legal rights. Blackheart & Blackheart, Personal Injury Lawyers.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Writing Novels vs. Working at McDonalds

Here's a short humor piece from The Rumpus about the so-called business of writing novels. Because the piece is so short, I won't say much. Suffice it to say that writing novels for a non-living is only slightly better than working for McDonalds.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Annie Animation Awards

ASIFA-Hollywood is the Los Angeles chapter of The International Animated Film Society, which is

dedicated to the advancement of the art of animation. We sponsor screenings and seminars; host the Annie Awards- animation's highest honor; preserve films in danger of being lost to time, support animation education and journalism; and maintain an archive, library and museum of animation in Burbank, CA.

The Annie Awards has announced their finalists in the 37th Annual Annie Awards. That link also includes the nominees for that award. Speculative fiction has done fairly well in the motion picture arts awards, such as the Oscars Awards, and now in animated features and other productions. Of course, there is some overlap in these awards. Here is a selection of the recipients:

  • Best animated feature: Up - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Best home entertainment production: Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder — The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
  • Best animated short subject: Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5 - ShadowMachine
  • Best animate television production: Prep and Landing - ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Best animated television production for children: The Penguins of Madagascar - Nickelodeon and Dreamworks Animation
  • Writing in a Television Production: Daniel Chun - "The Simpsons: Treehous of Horro XX" - Gracie Films
  • Writing in a Feature Production: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach - "Fantiastic Mr. Fox" - 20th Century Fox

Go here for a complete list of the 37th annual Annie nominations and awards recipients.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You Can Die of a Broken Heart or Boredom

In two unrelated stories, you can die of a broken heart and die from boredom. The boredom connection to death was discovered statistically by University College London. Subjects (civil servants) claiming to be bored were 37 percent more likely to die by the end of the study period.

The boredom mode of death seems less tragic than the broken heart syndrome, described below. Boredom can be cured at work by letting civil servants visit Flash Fiction Online at least twice daily. Flash Fiction can save your life! (The less literary civil servants could watch snippets of English football (flash soccer for Americans.)

The broken heart syndrome is most likely associated with the loss of a loved one or physical trauma. It's not connected with coronary artery disease. Heavily grieving people sometimes suffer a burst of adrenaline that "overwhelms" the heart. The symptoms somewhat mimic a heart attack, but the syndrome differs in an interesting way. As a Japanese researcher discovered, the adrenaline shock deforms the left ventricle, disrupting its ability to function. It takes the shape of a vase-like device, the researcher noted, used by Japanese to trap octopi.

I'm sure some enterprising mystery writer can use these modes of death in a sinister way. Could a fatally boring lecturer be charged with...never mind.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Dan Brown's Next Inspiration?

Perhaps the next Angels and Demons-type movie, based on a Dan Brown novel, or the next National Treasure-type Disney movie, written by too many to mention, will be inspired by this interesting little article in National Geographic: Lost Roman Codex Fragments Found in Book Binding.

According to the article, it was the practice in the sixteenth century to strengthen the binding of new books from scraps of old paper. One collector bought some interesting two-inch square scraps and loaned them to scholars at University College London.

"But a few of the phrases matched passages in the Justinian Code, compiled in the sixth century, leading the team to conclude that the unfamiliar sections were from a source text: the Codex Gregorianus."

Codex Gregorianus (Gregorian Code) is a set of compilations of antique Roman law, including those of Hadrian and earlier law.

I wouldn't be surprised to see this motif show up in a Dan Brown type of book. Perhaps one of Flash Fiction Online's past or future writers (or an inspired reader) will beat the big boys to the punch with a much more economical flash fiction story.

For more interesting details about this find, go to the full National Geographic article on lost Roman law codices.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tikatok is a print-on-demand web site for kids, now owned by Barnes & Noble. The site has easy templates for creating a book with text and pictures. For those looking for help finding an idea, Tikatok has some "worlds" (StorySparks), to help generate ideas, such as animals and bugs, holidays and vacations, princesses and fairy tales, and school and family. They're also associated with Build-a-Bear, so children can write stories for that setting (although Build-A-Bear owns the copyright to those stories).

Children will need parents to set up the accounts for parent and child, and decide if the site is safe. From other sources, I believe (but am not certain), that parents will be notified by email of their children's actions. Once a book is created, it can be published in hardbound (starts at $18), softbound (starts at $15) and PDF formats ($3).

The web site could be more open with information. "Starts at $18" for hardcover books refers to additional costs, depending on the page count. The additional cost is not explained, except, presumably, once you start the publishing phase. There's little information about the control that the parent has on the process. One would hope that Barnes & Noble has or will vet this service closely.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

#FridayFlash: To Catch A Terrorist

Welcome Friday Flashers! I hope you like this little 368-word ditty.

Damn. Blake had landed in the right building, but not far enough back in time. It was only minutes before Ahmed the Ghost’s suitcase bomb had blown, spreading radioactive contaminants and neurotoxins throughout the Ondrusek Weapons Facility.

And someone had just slammed the door at the end of the hallway.

Blake sprinted pell-mell into the door. Pain exploded through his right shoulder and head, but the door jamb gave way. Blake stumbled – and saw himself standing at a console.

“Hold this switch,” the other Blake said.

Blake’s vision blurred and refocused. “I have to catch the Ghost,” he said.

“You’re hurt, and you’re not thinking,” the other Blake said. “Which is why our first attempt to catch him failed. He was disguised as Brennan, and we missed it. Now come here.”

Blake tried to absorb the information. “Brennan, now?” That brought the Ghost’s known disguises to six. Blake started to shake his head, but stopped when pain pierced his neck. “How could we come back? The temporal spread was getting wide when I first jumped. A second jump–”

“Come here,” the other Blake said. “I jumped less than ten minutes after they pulled me out. Worth the risk.” He jerked his head. “Hold this switch. It’s the detonator. Don’t let it flip. I’ll get him.”

Blake’s mouth tasted of blood and tin as he moved to the console. Maybe they could have done it in ten minutes. The spread would be wider, but with a little more power he might have had a fifty-fifty shot at surviving the jump. He pressed his left hand into the switch. “Okay. I have it.”

The other Blake released it and raced to a ladder that was anchored to a wall in the corner, leading to a circular opening in the ceiling. “Don’t move until I get back.”

The pain in Blake’s arm was blinding. He tried not to shudder and asked, “Do we make it?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” the other Blake called. He pulled himself through the opening. Blake heard a slam, followed by a click-spin and the sound of footsteps.

Damn, Blake thought. His shoulder throbbed. In ten minutes, my arm won’t be well enough to climb a ladder.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

SFWA Weighs In On Amazon-Macmillan Battle

FFO covered the Amazon-Macmillan distribution battle. At issue is the price that Amazon wants to charge for eBook versions of new publications. Amazon wanted to charge $9.99. Macmillan thought that was too low. This precipitated a battle in which a new sales model was invoked by Macmillan and "Buy" buttons for Macmillan volumes on Amazon were yanked.

Here are the issues:

  • Macmillan thought the eBook price was predatory and would hurt their print book business.
  • Amazon sees eBooks as a loss leader to drive traffic.
  • Authors want to sell their books and make a living.
  • Buyers want cheap books.

That's not a simple set of issues to solve to everyone's satisfaction. Now, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA.org) has considered the issues (with their members' best interests in mind, presumably) and weighed in on the Amazon-Macmillan battle, supporting Macmillan's case through appeal and through the replacement of Amazon.com links on SFWA's website for their members' books with links to other vendors.

The issues listed above are represented in the many public comments attending SWFA's article.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Review of Flash Fiction Online

Sam Tamiano at SFRevu has reviewed Flash Fiction Online's January 2010 edition. He liked "Caltrops" by Tim Pratt and "Hungry" by Tree Reisner. He seemed to especially like Ken Pisani's "Last Bites":

"Last Bites" by Ken Pisani takes place at a funeral parlor and begins with a boy biting off his dead uncle's nose and saying it tastes like chocolate. Soon, it becomes apparent that all the deceased are edible and tasty. This was an absolutely delicious story with a very amusing ending.

The staff at Flash Fiction Online had quite a lively discussion about that story. All three stories plus Bruce Holland Rogers' writing column can be seen here.

Sam has more reviews of speculative fiction magazines, including:

  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact
  • Apex Magazine
  • Asimov's Science Fiction
  • Black Static
  • Electric Velocipede
  • Encounters Magazine (first issue)
  • Interzone
  • Jupiter
  • Realms (first issue)

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar Nominations--Speculative Fiction

Go to the Oscars site for the full list of Oscar nominations for 2010 (82nd Academy Awards). Perusing the list, you'll find these speculative fiction films (including mysteries) considered for an Academy Award (some categories omitted):

Animated feature film

  • “Coraline” Henry Selick
  • “Fantastic Mr. Fox” Wes Anderson
  • “The Princess and the Frog” John Musker and Ron Clements
  • “The Secret of Kells” Tomm Moore
  • “Up” Pete Docter

Art direction

  • “Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
  • “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
  • “Sherlock Holmes” Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer


  • “Avatar” Mauro Fiore
  • “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” Bruno Delbonnel


  • "Avatar" James Cameron

Film editing

  • “Avatar” Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
  • “District 9” Julian Clarke

Music (Original Score)

  • “Avatar” James Horner
  • “Fantastic Mr. Fox” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Sherlock Holmes” Hans Zimmer
  • “Up” Michael Giacchino

Best Film

  • “Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
  • “District 9” Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
  • “Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer

Writing (adapted screenplay)

  • “District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Writing (original screenplay)

  • “Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

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Muscular Macmillan Wrestles Amazon on eBook Pricing

I've let this story percolate for a while until it took a direction: the publishers' fight with Amazon over eBook pricing. Amazon has been selling eBooks of newly released books for $9.99, which some publishers consider predatory and which undermines their print book sales.

This story has been covered extensively, which is not surprising. SFWA now has a nice article summarizing this issue following Macmillan's muscular move to control its products' pricing on Amazon. Macmillan changed its terms of sale from the wholesale model, in which resellers buy at a discount and sale at any price they wish, to an agency model, in which the reseller takes a commission from the sales. Under the latter arrangement, Amazon would have to sell new Macmillan titles in eBook form at prices starting at just under $13 USD. Amazon responded by yanking the "Buy" button from Macmillan books, but later recanted. It did not go unnoticed that this decision was made in the shadow of Apple's acceptance of the agency model for its new Apple iPad.

Here is SFWA's article on Macmillan vs. Amazon by Victoria Strauss.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Literary Magazines on Life Support

Mother Jones has an impassioned article by the editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, Mr. Ted Genoways, about the herding of America's stable of (usually) university-hosted literary magazines into postmodernism's most distant pasture...or off to the glue factory.

The author gives a 1930s heyday example of then Connecticut governor-elect and editor of Yale Review, Wilbur Cross, who continued editing the magazine while in office, publishing Aldous Huxley, Sherwood Anderson, Maxim Gorky, John Maynard Keynes, and Thomas Mann. All he had to do was "get up early" to handle the 500 submission the magazine received each year.

That bit of trivia is the springboard to the problem. Mr. Genoways' magazine now receives 15,000 submissions per year. The fault belongs to the economy, the evaporation of short fiction from mainstream periodicals, and most interestingly, writers. Most of those time-soaking 15,000 stories were submitted by authors insufficiently skilled to write at the level needed to sustain interest in literary magazines. Says Mr. Genoways:

You may be a precious snowflake, but if you can't express your individuality in sterling prose, I don't want to read about it.

(Snork.) In other words, it's better (and more economical) to receive 100 gems in the mail than 10,000 stones. Authors have become gutless, afraid to write about big issues. Says Mr. Genoways:

Stop being so damned dainty and polite. Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ's sake, write something we might want to read.

Go here to read, "The Death of Fiction?" Take note also of the many comments following the story, including some responses by Mr. Galoways.

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