Tag Archives: flash fiction

A Good Read of Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

By Diane Williams

131 pages

McSweeney’s 

2016
‘Flash fiction’ can mean anything from a few clipped sentences to a few short paragraphs to a few brief pages, with narrative as the clearest literary line separating it from prose poetry. Flash fiction means there is still a story, no matter how short and sharp the arc may be. It could be the span of a life jammed into the tight jar of a paragraph, or the climax sliced from a larger backstory and spread out on its own, or a sprinkling of scenes. But the reader will still get some open and closure, implied or otherwise. The author will still work with imagery and rhetoric to suggest actions, ideas and consequences beyond the air-tight strictures.

The flash fiction of Diane Williams in Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine showcases all of these traits. But her stories somehow manage the weightier task of also being character-driven.

Many of these characters remain nameless, as if caught in tableau. Sometimes, Williams will peg an identity to them, but more for tone and colour than symbolism. Almost all are at a sudden point where they face a marked change in their lives. Some adapt as quickly as the word-count ends while others seem set to struggle far beyond the time it will take for the page to yellow. The reader may not know much about them, but will witness the import of their key moments and situations. This is flash fiction as the drama of epiphany.

“Specialist” presents the ultra-condensed ‘life-flashing-before-the-eyes’ of a very self-wrapped consciousness condemned to a fresh hell of external-awareness. “The Poet” evokes a surreal tragedy in two packed paragraphs. “Perform Small Tasks” is a mini-masterpiece of obfuscation, where drama is hidden behind a mind fussed with daily minutiae. “Girl With a Pencil” is a creation myth sketched with short strokes as the main character’s dark self-prophecy is shaped by a stark maternal presence.

Behind numerous facades (of forced passion, rigid consciousness, contrived fashion) everything is, of course, not fine. The thread that joins the stories is, in fact, threads coming unwound: relationships ending (or never quite weaving together), lives snipped short with unanswered questions and unresolved issues. The false declaration of the title, that sounds like a petulant child giving in with reluctant pout, melds with the overall, overwhelming effect of the relentless narratives. The substantial amount of character and drama that Williams packs into the book can overwhelm the reader, as the number of small tragedies add up to the emotional weight of an epic.

But, while brief, remain profound snapshots of life where things can change in a flash.

Snap to it.

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A Flash of Unbroken: A Journal of Prose

Unbroken: A Journal of Prose (Jan/Feb 2016 issue)

So simple and straightforward, but still substantial, Unbroken connects a rich read in brief stories, flips of imagery, and quick hits of literary vandalism. A mix of pictures and prose laid along short, sharp arcs of narrative and verse, with the concrete poured in-between. The collection seems to sort out its own internal rhythm: word into word; sentence through sentence; paragraph and paragraph. Or, you could just scatter them all over, and pick up each one on its own.

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A Read of Super Flash Fiction

Super Flash Fiction #1

Badd Words LLC

36 pages

 

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.

Click: http://www.superflashfiction.com/

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