I spend a lot of my time looking around the web at flash fiction, reading stories and articles about what’s trending in the form. You’d expect that. And here’s what I’ve learned: no one can agree on flash fiction.
Depending on who you ask, it’s a story less than 300 words. Or 1,000. Or 3,000. its subset, microfiction (remember that word, more microfiction is coming to No Extra Words) is defined as stories under 300 words. Or 100. Or 50. You can enter a 10 word short story contest, and that’s flash fiction, or you can submit to a contest for stories less than 1,500 words and that is also flash fiction.
The history is also a puzzle. Everyone seems to agree it goes back a ways, but when it started to be called flash fiction or when it became popular in modern times also varies depending on who you ask. Which I guess makes sense if you can’t define it.
What seems pretty obvious is this: whatever it is, there’s more of it all the time and people are talking about it. It seems flash fiction fits into the 21st century Internet culture well. I’ve seen articles promoting flash fiction “book” clubs and a lot of fiction blogs and podcasts have a weekly or monthly flash fiction feature. In May I launched my Twitter account right in the middle of the Twitter Fiction Festival, which was a total blast and couldn’t have existed in a previous time.
I launched a flash fiction podcast for a couple of reasons: I like the form and had some stories I wanted to share, and there weren’t that many flash fiction podcasts out there. There are a couple linked to flash fiction journals, but if you search for flash fiction in the Podcasts section of iTunes right now, No Extra Words will be among the first results. Now, I am proud of what we are doing here (Get the Podcast and see for yourself,) but this show is one month old and has four episodes; the fact that it appears in the first four search results means there are not a lot of other options. That’s a good thing. No one wants to try to push themselves into an already crowded space. But it’s also lonely. I am out there seeing what other flash fiction blogs there are that I could appear on and talk about this exciting form of storytelling. The answer? Not many, and a lot that existed are now defunct. Is that just how things go in the 21st century? Or was there a flash fiction wave and it’s over now?
I don’t have the answers to that, but I can say that building community is slow when no one does what you do. That said, I still feel there is a space for this show out there in the universe of fiction blogs, podcasts, and endless Web sites. There’s also something to be said for getting to make up your own rules: if no one can agree on what flash fiction is than I decide, at least for the purposes of this podcast, and by casting a wide net we are getting back some pretty interesting stories.
What do you all think? Is flash fiction emerging? Or just a flash in the pan?
Happy reading and happy writing,