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

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flash Fiction For Sale

Out of curiosity, I did a search for "flash fiction" at a certain Humongous Online Bookstore and was surprised to find 116 titles, many with "Flash Fiction," "Very Short Fiction" or some such in the title. Some were alternate editions--older or e-Book editions--but a substantial number were unique. These included fiction collections and non-fiction (how to write flash fiction) books.

Only towards the very end of the list did I suspect that Humongous Online Bookstore was messing with me and would never declare the search at an end until I bought something. (No, War and Peace is not an extremely long flash story.)

Below are some of the titles. This isn't an endorsement. These appeared in the first page of the search. The first on the list is one of Flash Fiction Online editor Jake Freivald's favorites. (Okay, that sounded a little bit like an endorsement.)

  • The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field by Tara L Masih
  • Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories by Robert Shapard and James Thomas
  • Fifty-One Flash Fiction Stories by Louise Michelle
  • Thieves and Scoundrels: Absolute XPress Flash Fiction Challenge #3 by Pete 'Patch' Alberti, Krista D. Ball, James Beamon, and Jodi Cleghorn
  • Nano-Flash Fiction for (Humongous Online Bookstore's famous e-Book reader) by James Dillingham
  • A Brief History of Fables: From Aesop to Flash Fiction (Brief Histories) by Lee Rourke
  • Oh Baby: Flash Fictions and Prose Poetry by Kim Chinquee
  • Six Sentences by Robert McEvily
  • The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories: Flash Fiction from Contemporary China by Shouhua Qi
  • ....

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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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Friday, January 29, 2010

Radium Age Fiction

I stumbled upon this flash fiction contest for stories of 250 words or less, with the theme, troubled or troubling supermen, conducted by Hilobrow.com. Their contest is interesting, but I found their explanation of the theme, pre-golden-age supermen, or "Radium Age" fiction, as author Joshua Glenn called it, quite entertaining. Here is the contest theme:

Long before Alan Moore asked “Who will watch the Watchmen?” Radium-Age (1904-33) science fiction writers worried whether supermen would rescue us ordinary mortals — or try to dominate us.

The link in the quote above is to an earlier io9 article, which was the source of some of the Hilobrow article on pre-golden-age science fiction. The author provides ten SF novels published in the 1904-1933 period as examples, including some nicely retro book covers, including Poul Anderson's Brain Wave.

The Radium Age superman was superior in body and intellect, along several evolution-inspired lines of reasoning, including "greater capacity for action and freedom."

Aye, there’s the rub: for, as Nietzsche has Zarathustra predict, “Just as the ape to man is a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment, man shall be just that to [superman].”

Included in the article is a summary of the ten most influential novels of the Radium Age, with a synopsis of each, and the cover art. There is also a bibliography of related fiction from the period 1804 to 1937, under several sub-genre categories.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Flash: Enigma

I'm not participating in #fridayflash, but when I found this old story I thought I should post it -- but not for the usual reasons.

Friday Flash is supposed to be an encouraging activity, and I think that's a great thing for the community; but maybe there's something to be learned from stuff that's unpublishable, too. I wrote Enigma almost ten years ago, before I was writing anything seriously, and it shows. Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible, but it's not something I would publish now if it were submitted to me, and I'm not going to submit it anywhere else, either.

So let's use it as a good example of bad flash: Eviscerate it. Tell me all the things that are wrong with it. I have my own thoughts, too, but I'll hold off on them until the Friday Flash community has had a shot at it first. Then, in the January issue of Flash Fiction Online, I'll collect all the comments up and publish the results in a “worst practices” article.

by Jake Freivald

Please. “You can’t expect me to believe that.”

“I’m not kidding.” Colm didn't look up from his specimen. “Once we discovered that the objects contained complex but highly regular patterns, we had to entertain the possibility that they were artifacts, and that the patterns encoded some sort of language. And they do. Constructing the reader took longer than deciphering the code.”

Ariel wasn’t impressed. “Everybody knows that when computers are told to take a data set and match every possible pattern, they sometimes alias patterns that weren’t the intent of the set creator. People analyzed Shinglee’s so-called 'discoveries' for a decade before she let on that she derived the data from housing rubble.”

Colm scowled. “Shinglee deliberately selected a data set with a high incidence of regular patterns, and then she only published its most regular subset. She was intentionally and artificially trying to fool computers into finding things that weren’t there in order to prove the superiority of mind over machine. In short, she was a smart-ass. What she did wasn’t science. What I have done is science, and I’m telling you that these little artifacts incorporate such sophisticated information encoding techniques that they must have been built by an intelligent life form. There’s no way around it.”

“Okay, let’s say you’re right. What does your wonderfully scientific analysis say they encode?”

“It’s very, very clever. It uses a self-referential language that describes its own distributed computing system, the sensors that cover its chassis, its pervasive materials distribution system, everything – including, mind you, the description system.” He paused. “It’s a brilliant way of ensuring that an unknown but sufficiently advanced culture could recognize the artifacts as the craft of an advanced civilization. Much better than our attempts. They distributed a physical object that manifests an encoded language that describes both the object and its description. No-one can fail to interpret correctly.”

Colm at his worst. Overconfident, pedantic, boring. “Has the funding dried up yet?”
He took a collection container off of a shelf, inspected it, put it down. “There are quite a few very important people who are interested in our research,” he said. He took another container down, inspected it, put it next to the first. “But you’re right, it has been at enormous cost. The biggest fear is that we’ll use up all of the artifacts before learning enough about them. We’ve destroyed half of them during the decoding process, and some people are trying to get us to preserve a few until we invent a less consumptive analysis mechanism.”

“And you?”

“I think that no one will ever again study them as closely as we’re studying them now. Storing them away is tantamount to giving up on the investigation altogether. We have the public interest and we have the funding. We need results, or both of those will dry up. Can we possibly say that we have time to waste?”

He raised the front part of his body so that only half of his sixty short, metallic legs remained on the floor. He stretched for the gloves on his highest shelf, brought them down, and put one on each of his two gleaming metallic claws. "To avoid contaminating them, not to protect me," he said, and moved to the specimen jar.
The artifacts activated at his approach, making little warbles as he unscrewed the top and thrust his right claw deep inside. One of them moved rapidly between his claw and the other artifacts. Ariel, fascinated despite herself, stood up on her hind legs to get a better view, balancing against the wall with a few legs and her right claw.

“This one appears to be a decoy,” Colm said. “It always interferes with collection. Its noise patterns are loud and fairly regular, so I’m saving it in the hopes that a breakthrough on the physical code will help me get resources for a detailed sonic analysis.” He pushed the decoy aside and took one of the other specimens.

As he walked away, the rest of the artifacts collapsed back into a neutral state. The only exception was the decoy, which was shouting: “The people of Earth will come for us, and they will not stand for this!”
That's it. Tear it apart in the comments section.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. In other words, you can copy and paste it, post it, change it, make a two-hour long movie out of it, or anything else you'd like to do with it as long as you attribute the original story to me. Thanks.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Reading of Jay Lake's "Golden Pepper"

Jay Lake was scheduled to be at Orycon this year, during which time he was going to have a reading of his own material. Instead, he was recovering from surgery for treatment of cancer. We, and all his fans, friends, and family, wish him the best.

Jeff Soesbe, David Levine, and Mary Robinette Kowal took his slot and did readings for him. They're available at Mary Robinette's blog. One of the stories is "Golden Pepper", which was originally published here in February of this year. (Coincidentally, Jeff's "Apologies All Around" was published here exactly one year earlier.)

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SFRevu Review of Flash Fiction Online

SFRevu has a review of the October 2009 Flash Fiction Online edition. The FFO October edition will be here until the November issue is published; then it will be here.

Here is what review Sam Tamaino had to say about "Death Babies," one of the flash fiction stories in that addition:

"Death Babies" by S. Craig Renfroe, Jr is a chilling tale about a town besieged by what they call death babies. Death babies appear after someone has been dead and buried. They look much like regular babies except they have leathery skin. If you show one any affection, it will latch on to you and never let go, as one woman finds out. A well-done little nasty for Halloween!

Sam also reviewed these publications:

  • Abyss & Apex Issue 32: 4th Quarter 2009
  • Interzone - Issue #224
  • Jim Baen's Universe October 2009
  • Kaleidotrope – Issue 7 - October 2009
  • New Genre - Summer 2009 - Volume i Number VI
  • The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction December 2009

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Halloween Flash Fiction and Graphic Contest: Fantasy Magazine

Fantasy Magazine now has a short window open for Halloween-themed flash fiction stories that are inspired by a graphic, such as a drawing or photograph that is available for publication. The graphic does not have to be the author's own work; it can come from archives of public domain images, for example. The submission window opened Oct. 1 and will remain open through Oct. 16.

Here are the details of Fantasy Magazine's 2009 Halloween Flash Fiction and Graphic Contest.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

333-Word Flash Fiction

The origin of 333-word short short fiction is unclear, but it may have come into existence because such a story would fit into three iPhone screens. Here is an iPhone app that will download up to 333-word stories from TripleQuick Fiction. The app includes a form for uploading submissions for publication. TripleQuick Fiction is associated with featherproof books, a Chicago-based indie print publisher. (This story by way of Publishers Weekly.)

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

SFRevu.com Review of Flash Fiction Online

SFRevu's short fiction reviewer, Sam Tomaino, has reviewed the July 2009 issue of FFO, which should have this link after the August issue is published; otherwise, it is the current issue.

This issue had a theme of love. Sam had a favorable impression of the stories. This seemed to be his favorite:

T.C. Powell’s "Through the Window" is centered on Maggie, who is sitting with two friends, discussing the infidelities and other faults of men they’ve know. She is watching something outside and decides to take action. Not any genre content here, but a very good story!

Sam also reviews the latest editions of Abyss & Apex, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Asimov's Science Fiction, Interzone, Jupiter XXV: Erinome, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Space and Time, and Talebones.

In a recent post, we mentioned SFRevu's review of recent speculative fiction books.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Ralan Adds Flashzines and Twitterzines Categories

Ralan.com is a site that's useful to readers and writers for finding literary magazines of interest and learning their status (such as story submission status or publishing status) and long-term or short-term publishing themes.

The familiar user interface seems to be in a transition, but two new categories have appeared of interest to fans of flash and shorter fiction: flashzines and twitterzines. FlashFictionOnline.com is in the flashzine section, of course. The sections will probably expand since they've just been added in the last day or two. Other sections include Pro, Semi-Pro, paying, 4theLuv, book, anthologies and others. These categories overlap. For example, FlashFictionOnline.com pays pro rates, but because Ralan also separates publications by size, FFO is now in the Flashzine section. This may cause some confusion regarding pay rates, but I think this organization has more advantages than disadvantages. It certainly is a boon to flash fiction fans. (I suppose they could put links from the pay-rate categories to the size-of-publication categories.)

Since the site is in transition, I've only linked to the Ralan home page.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Million Writers Award Finalists

The Million Writers Award for online fiction, sponsored by storySouth magazine now has its ten finalists here where you may vote. FFO reported the long list of stories earlier, and the amusing side issue of some flash fiction sneaking into the contest. This contest is has both speculative and literary stories.

In the current issue of Flash Fiction Online is Descent, a story by Bryan S. Wang. Bryan has an honorable mention in the award this year (in the long list) with another of his stories, Flyaway Dreams.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Million Writers Award (Flash Stories Sneaked In)

Here is an interesting and longish list of the best online short stories and magazines published in 2008. (Scroll down below what looks like the end of the article to see the nominees.)

This award is administered by storySouth, a respected literary magazine. The ten story finalists will be named in May.

The Status of Flash Fiction in the Award: The rules stated that the stories must be more than 1000 word long--which the editor knew would and had caused grumbling--so Flash Fiction Online had little chance of placing a story. However, a few flash stories from other publications sneaked in under the editor's nose, but he took the news philosophically:

...My first instinct was to kick out these stories. However, the simply [sic] truth is they are good stories, so what the hell, let's list them....

Here is his whole statement on this matter.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Flash Fiction Story Hugo-Nominated

Mary Robinette Kowal stopped by yesterday's post, reminding us that her Hugo-nominated story in the Best Short Story category is a flash fiction piece of 970 words. So I thought it worth repeating here. Good luck, Mary. (And you too, Mike.)

Um, this is difficult. Let me do some calculations...Mary's story is a flash fiction piece. Mike already has five Hugos and he published a story here at FFO, but Mary posted here and knows about this blog. Hmmm. Mention Mary first and Mike second, parenthetically. Whatever you do, don't forget to delete this calculation or Jake will be furious and get a real bloggist.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Million Writers Award Nominations Open

Nominations for online stories published in 2008 are now open for the storySouth Million Writers Award. This award is determined by the votes of readers rather than a small panel. The award is fashioned to increase exposure to Internet-based publications.

Unfortunately, the only FlashFictionOnline.com and other flash stories qualified by the rules for this award are those whose length happens to be exactly 1000 words. That length is the minimum for the award and the maximum for an FFO story. If they want to make the award inclusive for flash fiction, perhaps they should lower the minimum to 800 words. That's not a huge change to the rules, yet opens up a fairly large body of flash fiction. I suspect that many 1100-1500 word stories that were crunched to fit the flash fiction market were improved.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Aphoristic Flash Fiction

Here is a new genre of flash fiction, a piece by writer/bloggist Nancy Jane Moore written as a series of aphorisms. She says:

"I’m always writing down great quotations and aphorisms that I find, so I couldn’t resist the temptation to write a story consisting entirely of aphorisms."

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Amazon.com Comment Flash

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Writing Flash Fiction

Monday, December 1, 2008

Flash Fiction Online story wins First Annual Micro Award!

Congratulations to Bruce Holland Rogers for winning the First Annual Micro Award with his story, "Reconstruction Work"!

We published this story in our very first issue, barely making the Micro Award deadline. It has also been noted on cnn.com -- which is, I think, only the second reference to Bruce on CNN (the other being a book review).

Robert Laughlin is the brainpower and administrator behind the Micro Awards. George Keithley and Clark Brown were judges for the first award; the second award will be judged by Stefanie Freele, Benjamin J. Biesek, and Len Fulton. (Remember Stefanie? She wrote the (now Pushcart-nominated) "James Brown is Alive and Doing Laundry in South Lake Tahoe" in our January issue -- the month after Bruce published his award-winning story.)

Congratulations to Bruce, and many thanks to Robert Laughlin and the rest of the Micro Award judges!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Extinction Events

Many writers of speculative fiction, and their readers, love catastrophes. No catastrophe is too great: spaceships breaking apart with human bodies and engine parts gyring away into the blackness of space, viruses let loose in a hospital, super-storms converging on a doomed city.

Perhaps the most succinct expression of catastrophe is an extinction event, the end of human life--or all life--on a planet. Here is a scholarly look at extinction events: Reducing the Risk of Human Extinction, Jason G. Matheny, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). Use this article to plan your next novel, or if a reader, to vet the science of a novel you're reading.

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