Electric Flash Fiction

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By Lyle Rosdahl In lieu of a flash fiction story this week, I’m writing some thoughts about the form and then including a list of books and magazines as introductory material or further reading. Flash fiction is a slippery animal and for that reason it doesn’t really make a good pet. It’s too wild and electric. But it’s a form that I love dearly for that very reason. I guess I should say that it has the potential, more than other prose forms. I guess I should also say that I use the term “fiction” loosely (as in a piece of writing that has not historically taken place as such) instead of the structural rigidity many people use to define the term. Many people view flash fiction as simply a pared down story, but that sells the form short, so to speak. Because of its brevity flash fiction can experiment with and manipulate structure more readily than longer forms, for example. So throw out the beginning, middle and end. Toss away the the introduction, rising action, climax and denouement. Try writing something circular or zig-zaggy.  See if you can find the line between prose poetry and flash fiction (without reverting to structure). I like this gray area. It’s like a murky pond that is suddenly illuminated by the flash of an electric eel. Here are some books and magazines for those of you would would like to know more about the form. I’ve linked to the San Antonio Public Library when books are available there, otherwise I’ve linked to Amazon: Books:
  • Sudden Fiction (1983) edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas. This is the first real compilation of very short stories. It’s an excellent place to start.
  • Sudden Fiction International (1989) edited by Robert Shapard, James Thomas and Charles Baxter. An excellent an collection of international stories, which show the cultural possibilities of the form.
  • Flash Fiction (1992) edited by Tom Hazuka, Denise Thomas and James Thomas.  Another 72 very short stories.
  • Sudden Fiction (Continued) (1996) edited again by Robert Shapard and James Thomas.
  • Micro Fiction (1996) edited by Jerome Stern. For those of you who like nice neat little word count categories, these stories are shorter than those in the sudden or flash books.
  • Flash Fiction Forward (2006) edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas.
  • PP/FF: An Anthology (2006) edited by Peter Conners. This is an excellent anthology of work showcasing the versatility of the form as it “seesaws” between PP (prose poem) and FF (flash fiction).
  • New Sudden Fiction (2007) edited by, who else? Robert Shapard and James Thomas.
  • Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America (2010) edited by Robert Shapard, James Thomas, Ray Gonzales and Luisa Valenzuela. The most recent in the Sudden Fiction series focuses on the Latino voice in this form.
  • 6S (Vol. 1). Half a dozen books of six sentence stories from the highly regarded Six Sentences (see below). The third volume from a year ago is edited by the great Lydia Davis.
  • Hint Fiction (2010) edited by Robert Swartwood and published by Norton. Stories of 25 words or fewer.
  • The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field (2009) edited by Tara L. Masih. Included here are a myriad chapters that consider aspects of flash fiction. Chapters include Contemporary and Historical Roots of Flash Fiction, Poetry versus Prose and an excellent appendix of further reading.
  • Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (2010) edited by Gary McDowell and F. DAniel Rzicznek. The prose poem companion to the Rose Metal Flash Fiction Guide above. Chapters here speak more to the “poetic” nature of the prose poem.
  • Palm-of-the-Hand Stories (2006) by Yasunari Kawabata. A beautiful collection of short-shorts that took Kawabata his entire life to compile. Perhaps my favorite term for the form.
  • Novels in Three Lines (2007) by Felix Feneon. A series of fantastic stories, often darkly humorous of events in the news. They tell a complete story in three lines.
Magazines: A site that I facilitate and participate in also uses the short prose form. Postcard Fiction Collaborative is a collective of writers who respond monthly to a photo posted by an individual in the group or a guest writer. Check it out if you have a minute. March’s post was just published yesterday. If anyone knows any other great sites or books or magazines about short prose, leave it in the comment section below. Come up with a great new name for the form that you think captures it perfectly. As always, I’m looking for fresh flash fiction. Send in your work to flashfiction@sacurrent.com.

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Lyle Rosdahl is a writer who lives in San Antonio. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.

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