Super Flash Fiction #1
Badd Words LLC
A little snappy. Slightly edgy. Popping with colour. Crackling with a bit of wit. But is a periodical that centres on literary outliers such as comics, graphic novels, pulp and light scifi/fantasy capable of carrying much gravitas?
Promising “fresh flash fiction and stand alone illustrations with a comic-book-genre edge”, the short, short stories within Super Flash Fiction deliver thematically: there are superheroes, supervillains and much mayhem. But prying familiar storylines from their tight-fitting genre moulds and compressing them down to 500 words or less can also force the material into a new, stronger form (especially when enemies to good literary taste such as excessive dialogue, action and indulgent metaphysical ruminations are stripped off). In that sense, the fiction in Super Flash Fiction is occasionally as liberating to the material as the heroes are to the thankful citizenry – and the stories are also able to make their points while snaring the twitchy attention-span of an internet-age readership.
In “All Smiles”, for instance, James L McGee evokes a simple meditation on the shaping power of mass media as a child witnesses the first confrontation of supervillain and superhero ( “the Butcher and “the Guardian”) via tv newscast. Here, an impressionable consciousness gains its knowledge of morality through the camera, rather than traditional dogma. T. Fox Dunham’s “Another Hen” is a mini-crime drama driven by an almost lyrical cadence as the story – packed with detail, meaning and – progresses towards its punchline resolution. “Variable Invincibility” by Matt Betts uses the superhero motif to take a darkly humourous look at the inevitability of aging and how growing old impacts that much more harshly on those who deny its effects. “Shoes” by Bruce L. Priddy reveals the everyday concerns of an off-duty character whose Flash-like superpowers still require mundane tasks like clothes shopping.
In a few cases, brevity fails to produce much additional wonder. Some attempts simply compress the action story down in size without expanding the meaning or symbolism, or just sound more like a briefing note.
Ultimately, you can only push, pull and prod at the superhero genre structure so many times with the flash fiction format (and there are several here that concentrate on the literary equivalent of pulling the mask off the hero) before it falls flat. However, enough of these stories use the format in a skillfully ironic manner, and with enough real humour, to serve the more common end of examining the (non-super) human condition.
And all in the time it takes you to load a new webpage.