Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online December 2015

This month's Flash Fiction Online is all about the holidays. Well, mostly all about the holidays. Three stories anchor the issue, two of them rather explicitly holiday themed and all of them offering a mix of darkness and hope. In each there are hard truths that are cut by slivers of hope. Elves are exploited and risk death to escape their master, the world stands on the brink of a new mass extinction, and two girls are trapped in a Christmas that never ends. But through all that there is some light, the light breaking through the glass, the light of human kindness and human invention. That all is not lost. That this winter might not be our last. A fine issue that I'm going to get to reviewing!

Art by Dario Bijelac


"To the Havens" by Ariel Bolton (935 words)

This is a rather cute Christmas story, though cute might accuse me of stretching it past comfort. In the story, two police officers stationed at a dock find a small body in the snow, frozen to death. Stories with Christmas elves sometimes focus on the grueling work conditions, but few enough show what happens when they might want to escape, and this story does a very nice job of exploring that, focusing not on the elves themselves but on the people tasked in part to enforce their powerlessness and exploitation. The chief here is obviously a sympathizer dealing with a new employee shocked at how nonchalant he can be at the death of a sentient being. But things are more complicated that that, and the chief knows that tears won't help the elves. That not much will, except what he does at the risk of his career. Like I said, it's a cute story, filled with Christmas spirit, though at the same time it's dark as hell. I quite like the subtle world building, though, the ways in which the story sells the conditions at the North Pole (calling it a Republic, mentioning the shifts, etc.) but more than that the fact that elves would be willing to risk running across the ice to Alaska says the most, gives proof to their desperation. A very good and seasonable story!

"Fibonacci" by Eleanor R. Wood (996 words)

Here's a story that ditches the Christmas theme but still provides a story that is uplifting, hopeful, and definitely in the spirit of the miraculous reputation of the season. In it a scientist is working on bringing back ammonites from extinction to reintroduce into the wild to help recover the dying ecosystem of ocean. To create something that might survive whatever climate change humanity causes. Mixed in with that is a neat form that follows a Fibonacci sequence, taking the mathematical idea as a way of giving the story structure and rhythm. The story begins each paragraph with a number which follows in the sequence. It's an interesting choice, because it makes the story about those numbers, about the data and observation, while still managing to capture the story of the scientist and her work and her budding romance (or at least collaboration). There's a lot going on here, and I did like the structure despite some of the entries did seem a little strong-armed into the story for the sake of keeping the numbers there. The numbers had more hits than misses for me, though, and some lovely, nearly poetic moments, and the plot in general is strong, the feeling appropriate for the holidays. Another fine story.

"The Snow Globe" by Kate Hall (1048 words)

And to close things out is the darkest story of the issue, or at least the quietest, the saddest. Because while the other two stories offered up hope to stand against the cold and snow of the season, this story does not. It focuses on two sisters trapped inside a globe. Prisoners, constantly doing the same thing over and over again, blissfully ignorant until one of the sisters reads a book a learns that their world is actually the tiniest fraction of the universe, that they are contained. And she rails against it, refuses to be complacent. She attacks the globe. The other sister watches, afraid and hopeful at the same time, wanting both a return to the safety of the mindless globe and yet yearning for something more, for her sister to be right. Of course, things aren't really as simple as breaking through the glass. What is left behind is broken, sharp and bleeding, and there is a bleakness to this story, or perhaps the hope is just buried so that it doesn't provide an easy answer. From my reading, the second sister doesn't want to make a stand, to risk anything. She wants to be freed. But the story seems to say instead that she cannot, that she must free herself, that her sister can make it easier but that she has to be the one to escape. It's a layered story and the most surreal of the bunch. Definitely a story to spend some time with.

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