Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Online Fiction Review: a Review of an Online Flash Fiction Magazine

I'm thinking of something like the paper-printed magazine the North American Review, which was founded in 1815 and is "the nation's longest-lived literary magazine and among its most distinguished."

Thomas Jefferson was one of  NAR's early subscribers; I am one of Flash Fiction Online's early subscribers.

(And now, I suppose, it's time to get down to business.)

Flash Fiction Online casts a dignified shadow on the virtual literary world, publishing 2-3 new stories a month in addition to commentary and/or "classic flash," short fiction by our venerable predecessors, now out of copyright. 

Quality is an item Flash Fiction Online must focus on, since it has cast aside the concept of quantity. Longevity is also a fragile term for the internet; Flash Fiction Online has been around since 2008, not quite as long as the North American Review.

Published monthly, the "front page" features six sections: the "In This Issue" in the upper right hand corner, and the hooks of the other five features. The arrangement works well, once I realized the logic. On the left is a sidebar for navigation to previous issues, and "about" section, and other traditional pages.

From the "About Us" page:
At a high level, our goals are pretty simple.
  • To serve flash fiction readers and writers with a professional, sustainable market for flash fiction stories.
  • To promote the general population's reading of great short stories in general and of great flash fiction in particular.
That implies a variety of sub-goals:
  • Provide fiction readers with accessible, interesting flash stories that have a plot, characterization, and, to the extent possible, setting.
  • Meet the SFWA requirements for being a pro market: 1000+ consistent subscribers, $.05 / word, non-vanity press, and consistent publishing for a year.
  • Provide fiction writers, and especially flash writers, with links and information about writing.
  • Promote the short story form to a general audience.
  • Provide new writers with an additional shot at professional publication.
Magazine staff are from the United States: a retired commercial nuclear power industry guy, a father (8 kids from the same wife), former elementary school teacher, and software engineer. Slush readers are journalistic, tree-hugging, car-pooling, dermagraphic artistic (think tattoo), Utahan Wyomingistic fantasists--the usual mix.

I found the flash fiction story in the August 2010 issue, "Is, Not Mighta Been," by Dave Hoing, a very powerful story.
"Some folks see the hand of the Lord in happenings that nothing but dumb chance. They say He separate people or bring them together by His own plan. Well, I say God don’t bother Hisself with our daily affairs, so if you see a man in a place you don’t expect, then that just one of them things. Ain’t no beam of light breaking through the clouds or angels singing hallelujah. Just is, is all."
An "Author Page" lists some of the zine's writers; it has a formal look with photos of just the authors' eyes--cool concept. The magazine also hosts a flash forum that is fairly active, judging from the number of topics and posts. There is a useful arrangement of posts: for readers, for writers, for art, and a place to introduce yourself or add something "general."

If you like to sip and savor your fiction, try Flash Fiction Online. As a writer, if you can write "a complete story in one thousand or fewer words," then submit. Remember, though: Stories have characters. Stories have plots. Stories have settings. (And this magazine is looking.)

Along with all our venerable predecessors.

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Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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