Posts Tagged Flash Fiction Online

Flash Fiction Online, St. Patrick’s Day special

“Lucky Clover”

“Lucky Clover” by Barbara A. Barnett; Artwork (C) 2008, R.W. Ware

Looks like we get a bonus story from Flash Fiction Online in March thanks to that lovable patron saint of Ireland. From the story’s title alone, one might have a suspicion of what’s to come, but the events themselves that unfold are rather surprising in both tone and content…

“Lucky Clover” by Barbara A. Barnett opens up to a, I assume, long-going battle between leprechauns and fairies. And poor clover-wielding Seamus is right in the middle of it. Sure, all the other leprechauns inherited great items of power and family history such as swords and rings to use to their fullest. All he has is his worries and four-leaf clover. Still, he knows there’s magic within the green plant, and it’s not the kind us oh-so-stupid humans believe in.

Well, I liked it, but I had a problem understanding Seamus’s doubt that his comrades would look down on him for using such an unheroic item like a four-leaf clover to do battle with the fairies. I mean, hey, it got the job done right. Other than that, applause must be given to Barnett for crafting a very short piece of flash fiction (meaning it isn’t yet another 999 word story that just barely makes the requirements) that has a world to it and a character to root for. The actual action of fairies swooping down on little tiny luckmen reminded me of the Eoin Colfer books where mystical creatures run amuck unknown to the world. Regardless, it’s a fun piece that succeeds in telling a succinct story of a battle (sort of) well won.

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10

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Flash Fiction Online, #4 March 2008

Back again, with another issue of Flash Fiction Online. No PDFs offered this time around, but that’s not a problem. The HTML versions work just as nicely. As usual, FFO is a nice e-zine. The flash fiction always makes for quick reading, and the layout and other stylistic decisions never get in the way. I do hope this ship keeps on sailing for many a months…

“Just Before Recess” by James Van Pelt is the story of a 3rd grade student and the sun he keeps hidden in his desk. How it came to be, how it yearns to fed, how it can be stopped altogether–these are questions Parker cannot answer. Unfortunately, his teacher, Mr. Earl, investigates the situation a little too closely.

It’s a fun piece of fiction, light-hearted and not, and the descriptions rang all too familiar for me. I can, for the life of me, remember sitting at those uncomfortable desks, keeping our books and pencils and note paper inside, as well as anything neat or gross found outside during recess. Those were the small things that you kept hidden, kept pushed back in the corner. Is a small sun more absurd than anything else? No, and it is this pulsing ball of light that keeps the story interesting even if its parturition goes unresolved. Very enjoyable, as well as innocently charming.

Rating: 9 anonymous stars out of 10

The narrative structure in “Downstream From Divorce: A Drama in Three Acts” by Glenn Lewis Gillette is something I think, or I’d like to think, Harlan Ellison would appreciate. It is a story of divorce told in three disassembled acts, mostly being of talking heads. Facts are revealed, questions are asked, and hearts are broken. It’s emotional and layered, but hard to absorb. I by no means hated it, but found myself hating the fact that I could not connect with it like I think a number of other readers could.

Rating: 7.5 anonymous stars out of 10

In “The Desert Cold” by David Tallerman, our nameless narrator tells us about the difference between the desert during the day and the desert during the night. Oddly enough, it is not the heat that can kill you, but the cold. Yet so long as one has water and a good guide they can survive the trek, and our talkative chap has both those items. Yet he is still afraid, and the reason why only becomes clear at the last sentence of the story.

There’s some lovely descriptions in the piece, which really help bring out the scenery. Since we can’t get to know our leading man, we must instead know our leading land. They say that Mother Nature is a bitch, and if that is so then the desert is her quietly creepy nephew lying in wait to steal some poor fool’s life. Not surprising, it’s a bleak tale, and does not shy away from the unhappy ending. I’d have liked for more though, and even though the protagonist admits that he is no philosopher it would’ve been nice for a bit more introspection on the why and how of his chilly findings.

Rating: 8 anonymous stars out of 10

Another solid issue for FFO, even if it only had one entry of flash fiction that I’d consider speculative. The other two were a bit more literary, still just as rewarding.

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Flash Fiction Online, #3 February 2008

We’re back with another issue of Flash Fiction Online, which is quickly becoming an excellent e-zine for the latest and greatest works of short prose.

“Souls of the Harvest” by Dave Hoing takes us into the farmlands, where a lonely old farmer, after receiving some bad news via a doctor’s visit, takes one more night to reflect on how, truly, without a doubt, he’s the richest of men. To say anything else could ruin the piece, which, from the looks of it, is shorter than the author’s accompanying bio. Still, the voice here is spectacular, and the tale being told is a profoundly touching one, economically assuring and deeply moving. Cheers to the FFO team for putting this one first in the current issue, for it absolutely stands above the rest.

Rating: 9 anonymous stars out of 10

I’d outright claim the dialogue to be somewhat stilted in “Apologies All Around” by Jeff Soesbe if it weren’t, in fact, mostly given by a robot. The doorbell rings, and Winston Sinclair (sounds like the name of a richly-endowed Simpsons character, eh?) assumes it to be a sales bot at the door, trying to make some money. But he is put off to discover the robot is there for another reason altogether: to apologize. The story is mostly talking heads, with a lot of information being squeezed out wherever Soesbe can manage it. At times, it came close to removing me from the piece, but as I read on and on it became clear that a solid mystery was about to unfold. The ending lacked a certain punch though, as if, suddenly Sinclair now realizing he’d fumbled his words was going to put things right by…building a…robot (!). Eh. The buildup was there, and the idea of accepting apologies via giving them was fun, but the story just didn’t resolve as strongly as it started.

Rating: 7.5 anonymous stars out of 10

“Masquerade at Well Country Camp” by Ann Pino does what flash fiction should ultimately always do: tell a complete story. Which is a tough thing to do when words are limited and each one needs to count immensely. Pino sets a scene that somehow, somehow, reminded me of a distilled concentration camp on the verge of dying out. Plus, there’s clowns. And strong, likable characters. As well as a unique bit of slang. The plot is not action-heavy, but rather emotionally draining. We watch these people attend this party, knowing what pain they suffer, not knowing why though, and all throughout we’re forced to wonder. I like that, vague as it is, and yet there is a fist full of closure at the end, which helps to wrap up a very solid issue of Flash Fiction Online.

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10

Looking forward to the next one…

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Flash Fiction Online, #2 January 2008

Flash Fiction Online is a new site that pays pro rates for flash fiction. You know, stories under a thousand words. I myself enjoy shorter stories though do admit some can be pretty stupid or just rely too heavily on a pun or ironic twist at the end that doesn’t ultimately make the piece of story. Well, let’s take a look…

“The Materialist” by Eric Garcia starts with a doctor waking up to discover himself on fire. A predicament, for sure. Once that problem is dealt with, a new one surfaces. He finds his entire body covered in a weird solution. The story’s quite dark, and has a nastiness to it that is much appreciated. The doctor begins…er, creating pieces of silver and platinum, selling his wares and living a dream. I enjoyed it and thought it was a well-accomplished story that balanced horror and humor effectively.

Rating: 8 anonymous stars out of 10

“James Brown is Alive and Doing Laundry in South Lake Tahoe” by Stefanie Freele has the sort of title that gets under my skin. It is trying too hard, revealing far too much before the journey can even begin. Anyways, for all that, Freele offers up a frenetic tale about a man named Stu and his Family of Four. Stu’s driving to South Lake Tahoe, and along the way we get glimspes into his family’s life (yup, even Beebop the dog’s). Amazingly, this is done very well. I think the quickness of the prose, the no-lingering-here aura surrounding ‘graphs and sentences alike made everything go so smooth. Though I can’t say I got the ending or the inclusion of James Brown here. Maybe I missed something along the ride…

Rating: 7.5 anonymous stars out of 10

In “The Human Clockwork” by Beth Wodzinski, a Sundial Woman nabs the Human Clockwork’s spot in the park, stealing his thunder. People come and flock to the woman telling time with her shadow. Jealousy will soon rear its ugly head. This is a weird story, but weird in a good way. It has all the makings of a steampunk story, with clockwork obviously being a heavy theme, and the absurdness is what makes it special. Wodzinski paces the piece well, and by the end had me rooting for love and redemption all the same.

Rating: 8 anonymous stars out of 10

More stories need to open with a squirrel in a bar. I’m just saying. “Speed Dating and Spirit Guides” by Rod M. Santos deals with speed-dating. Joseph Ahanu can see totems–animal-esque spirt guides–and for the girls he’ll soon meet, this ability will come in handy sooner than he expected. A fun story, with some jokes and splashes of humor. Unlike Garcia’s, the jokes relied on pop culture and timing. The idea of animal spirit guides isn’t really too far from Philip Pullman’s daemons, but mixed with modern bits of socializing it is workable.

Rating: 7.5 anonymous stars out of 10

I decided not to read the classic flash fiction, “Mold of the Earth” by Boleslaw Prus, simply because, right now, I’m only interested in what is being written recently and what is being published in 2008. 

Flash fiction is tough stuff. And one thousand words isn’t very much at all. Why, this little blog post here is almost 600 words. Now imagine all this plus 400 more words and that it had to be a story, a coherent one with characters and a plot and some sort of conflict/resolution. I can say this about Flash Fiction Online: they are publishing original speculative fiction that pushes the edge. Some are better than others, but for the most part everything is worth a read. And the black-and-white illustrations accompany each piece are nice additions.

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