Flash Fiction Online is a brand new e-zine, edited by Jake Freivald, which publishes fiction of 1,000 or fewer words. They began publication in December of 2007. But even though they are a young e-zine (with possible print anthologies on the horizon) their commitment to meet the SFWA guidelines for being a professional market, results in Flash Fiction Online publishing work by some known authors, such has James Van Pelt, Carl Frederick, and Bruce Holland Rogers, that really doesn�t have place in other short fiction magazines due to the extremely short length of the stories.
Now, some of you reading this review are probably skeptical about the ability of any author, no matter how good a writer, to tell an entire story in under 1,000 words. I was until I read the April Issue of Flash Fiction Online. In the span of twenty minutes, my preconceived notions about story were challenged, and I was able to read five great stories. And each one took no longer to read than the average blog post.
Readable online in either HTML or PDF format, these stories are laid out clearly, in a readable format, with clever and excellent illustrations by R.W. Ware (who, by the way, is also a tattoo artist) to add to the panache of the e-zine. Additionally, each story has a short bio on the author, with a clever author photo that I think underscores the whole concept of the fiction being �flash� in nature. The entire site is very polished and professional, and even is set up with an RSS feed to allow readers ease of access to the stories.
In the April issue of Flash Fiction Online, Freivald collected five stories that were humorous in their content, playing on the fact that this month begins with April Fool�s Day.
�The Dyslexicon�, by Carl Frederick is a story written about a dyslexic robot that can�t fulfill his function due to his dyslexia. The story is populated by spoonerisms, homographs, and misspellings. In way, this story is both funny and sad, as it allows the reader to get a glimpse into the world of dyslexia sufferers. But it isn�t preachy, just funny. Sometimes the word equivalencies are hard to discern, and Fredrick might have done better to only play around with the words most obviously incorrect to readers.
�How Not To Stage a Play in the Aftermath of a Zombie Apocalypse� by Kurt Bachard wonders what life would be like after a zombie apocalypse in the world of the theatre. A �woe is me� type of story, it says an awful lot while using a true economy of words. In keeping with the economy of words, Bachard�s explanation of the directors special situation and retention of his humanity might have been better integrated into the narrative, rather than being separate paragraph. It is out of place and makes the narrative slightly choppy. Any theatergoer or amateur thespian will enjoy Bachard�s wry humor about the world of the stage.
�Call of the Wild, Line Three� by Dalton Keane was the funniest of the five. The idea of stockbrokers as a pack of wolves is apt and funny. Keane has transposed the hierarchy of the animal kingdom onto the world of business, and it results in a hilarious story. Of the five, this one was the only one that made me laugh out loud.
�Fast Living� by Hank Quense, while only a quarter of a page in length tells a story that (no insult intended) is like stories you read in the Reader�s Digest humor sections. The story may be short, but the punch line brings a smile to your face. It’s a type of story called a Feghoot.
�Quiet Please� by Kevin Scott is a reprint of a classic story that qualifies as flash fiction, but that is now in the public domain. Each issue of Flash Fiction Online includes on of these classic reprint stories, many of them from authors that are obscure. �Quiet Please� was probably the most difficult of the stories to read, and I had to read it twice in order to get why the story ended the way it did. Once I did, I thought it a neat, quirky story about language barriers from the November 1961 issue of Word of If.
Flash Fiction Online is one of the few e-zines I plan to read regularly. The length of the stories makes it ideal for reading on the small screens of internet capable cell phones, iPhones, and any PDF capable eBook reader.
Additionally, Freivald is not overambitious, and doesn�t try to print every story he receives. This allows the reader to get a few good stories at the beginning of each month, but without having to sift through a lot of stories to find ones that interest them. Plus, you don�t have to wait overlong to get new stories (and a few articles) since publication is monthly. Lots of e-zines publish either bimonthly or quarterly, and it is often easy to forget check them. Flash Fiction Online has made that easy. I hope they are able to stay in business, as their unique style of fiction is a breath of fresh air, in the overburdened Internet.
With the easy to use RSS feed, I can read these short stories at the office on my coffee breaks. They only take five minutes or less to read, no matter your speed, and you can step back into your office work not feeling guilty about taking your employers time, but with the smile and feeling of refreshment that fiction lusually brings to your face.
Jake Freivald and Flash Fiction Online are providing an excellent service to all fans of short fiction, and I encourage you to take advantage of it.
Artwork © 2008, R. W. Ware