Friday 25 April 2014

Flash Fiction: Poseidon's Child

You found me there; you caught me there; you pulled me from there. You did not throw me back.

My home, I want to return to my home, but you set sail for yours. You steer against directionless winds, shield your face from the sudden storm, wonder at waves risen from a still sea. We are thrown about the deck as we are tossed between walls of water.

Your children, you think of your children, fear for their future.

My father does the same. I am from the sea, of the sea. My father will embrace you to reclaim me.

"Poseidon's Child" first appeared in The Delinquent. More background here.

Sunday 13 April 2014

It's All About the Flash

Come on down to the Shakespeare tomorrow evening (Monday 14th April) to hear the flash edition of BristolCon Fringe, with me, Louise Gethin, Jonathan L Howard, Pauline Masurel, Cheryl Morgan, Justin Newland, Jonathan Pinnock and Pete Sutton. Eight readers, each with a word budget of around 1000 words to spend on entertaining you with speculative fiction in flash-sized portions.

Art by Claire Hutt
Last month I came across the Visual Verse site. Each month a picture is posted and writers are asked to submit prose or poetry inspired by the image with the constraint that the piece falls between 50 and 500 words and is written in under an hour. My contribution, "The Door Closes", allowed me to try out a slightly different narrative style, using a script form for dialogue. I've been delighted with the feedback, which included a couple of comments from Denise Nestor, the artist responsible for the prompt image: "Strangely close to the story I had in mind when I made this drawing." "I love how you ended it. Dark and mysterious, just as fairy tales should be."

I also wrote a piece about flash fiction, "Flash Finish", that appeared as a guest post on Pete Sutton's Bristol Book Blog. One of the most overlooked joys of flash fiction is the feeling of completion — being half-finished doesn't even come close (or halfway) to what you feel when you've finished something. Flash fiction allows you to have that experience — and learn from the act of completion — more often than from longer forms of fiction.

With nearly 400 submissions, judging this year's NFFD micro-fiction competition was always going to be tough. The tales may be short, but you still have to read and digest each one to give it a fair chance. When there's hundreds of them, the effort still adds up. And it was just as hard this year as last year to narrow down my favourites. Reading through them the first time I thought it was pretty obvious which were my favourites... until I had to pick 25 of them in ranked order. Turns out what I had not initially thought of as a packed field came in at well over 25. The judges' results were then combined, sorted, cogitated over and algorithmically digested to produce a shortlist and, after further judicial harassment via personal top 10, the winner. Congratulations to the winners and all those who made the shortlist, as well as those who submitted to a competition for the first time.

Friday 4 April 2014

Flash Fiction: Wrecked

He was an unusual find, there at sunrise by the high-water mark, embedded in a four-poster wreck, tucked cosily into a seaweed-brocade net, a drinking-horn shell to his ear like a pillow, like a hearing aid, like a seafood cornucopia that had missed his mouth, a mouth half open beneath half-closed eyes.

Alive or dead? Dead or alive? She was answered by a cough, a snort and a crescendo of snores, waves of sleep breaking into foam, rolling in from a deeper dreamy sea. The seventh wave washed him onto the waking shore, his eyes half opened.

"Flotsam or jetsam?" she asked, head cocked to match his sleepy skew.


"Which are you?"

"I... I don't know. I don't think I'm either. I mean," he said, removing the shell from the side of his head, casting it into his cradle, "this is the wreck, not me."

"So why are you here?"

"I... I don't know. I remember drinking... drinking a lot." His hand reached up to the side of his head as if to restore the shell, as if its removal had undammed a dam, unplugged a plug, unhinged a hangover.

She passed him a bubble pack of tablets, part of some lost shipment spilt across the beach just yesterday, studying him as he popped two and swallowed.

"It's OK, you can keep them," she said when he offered back the remaining unburst bubbles, "flotsam." She continued along the shore leaving him in her wake. She would not claim him.

"Wrecked" was first published with Flash Frontier. More background here.