Saturday, September 12, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Flash Fiction and Me

A while back I wrote one of these about poetry and me and, as I've been having some thoughts recently on the subject, I thought I would pick up my "I complain about stuffs" hat and see how it fits. Because, really, this is coming from a place of personal hurt and a place of personal grump and so you have full warning to turn back now.

But I want to talk about flash fiction. It's an interesting mode of telling a story, an interesting form, which I think is much more different from a "normal" short story than a "normal" short story is different from a novelette. And perhaps that is where I get some of my grumps. That flash fiction is obviously here. There are a number of even professional rate and SFWA qualifying places that publish flash exclusively, and many more that publish it along with everything else. In August alone there were flash stories at Strange Horizons, Apex, and Urban Fantasy, and in the past flash has appeared at Lightspeed, at Crossed Genres, in the big ole digests, in everywhere. Flash is not new and it's not going away and it is it's own thing. Doing flash well is different than doing longer fiction well. And yet...

So part of my annoyance is completely selfish. Used to be (right before I started getting published) that the barrier to getting into the SFWA was three pro sales totaling a certain amount of money. Which meant that a writer could get in with two flash sales and one longer sale. Which, I'm guessing, is exactly why the requirements were revised to look at word count and not just money. Now for a writer to get in with three sales they have to average over 3333 words. Let's say before a writer had one 4k story and two 1k stories and could get in. Now, with that same 4k story, they'd need probably seven 1k stories. pro sales is a fuck-ton for new writers. It makes me more than a little discouraged to see that two years ago I would be one flash sale away from SFWA qualification and now I'm...not.

Again, this would probably hurt less except that it certainly feels that people saw that there was a way into the SFWA and other members effectively cut it off. Closed the door behind them perhaps out of some, what, thought that membership was too easy to come by? Things were getting too diverse? Because again, yes, I imagine that flash sales are easier to get for new writers. Most of my sales have been flash sales. And from what I've seen flash fiction sales tend to be a little bit more diverse than, say, novella or novelette sales. And so seeing that flash sales now mean less, now are valued less...well, to me personally it seems to say that I'm not writing the "right kind of story." Which shouldn't surprise me, because it's not like flash fiction really gets that much consideration for awards. It gets lumped in with short stories and as such tends to get lost in the tide of stories.

And I have no idea what went into the decision to change the SFWA qualifications. Perhaps the reasons for making the adjustments were somehow entirely logical and not at all flash fiction is populist crap that shouldn't count for as much. That it's not exclusive enough. Not competitive enough. It panders too much to damned kids with their zero attention spans and ADD and whatnot. To say nothing that Kafka was a master of flash fiction, that it's been around forever and that it actually does bring more diverse voices into writing in the genre, because it does buy more and is less of an investment so that more new writers get their start in flash.

This is all just me venting. I wouldn't qualify for membership right now anyway, and perhaps my next sale will be a 6k story that will put me up over the threshold anyway. But part of me sees publications being much more likely to buy flash. Which is great, only then it becomes that much more difficult to sell "normal" short stories. If publishers are moving more toward flash, but the SFWA is moving away from valuing it, it just means that new writers are basically getting screwed over. I would love to know the justification for changing the requirements in that fashion. I would love for someone to explain that to me. Are there minutes I can read somewhere? Because what the SFWA probably doesn't need is more instances of the established bloc trying to keep out "the wrong kind" of writer. Just maybe.

Anyway, there are my thoughts on flash fiction. Because I'm bitter. Also because I love flash fiction. Writing it. Reading it. It's why I always pick out three flash stories a month to feature on the Round. I got my start writing flash fiction. I continue to sell mostly flash fiction. It is sad to see that flash fiction is treated poorly in SFF. So yeah... Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

[EDIT: Holy fuck, hold on. I just read through the SFWA requirements again and it's EVEN WORSE. Apparently where Associate membership used to be one pro rate sale, now it's one pro-rate sale that is not flash. Seriously, no story under 1k can count toward Associate membership. That means, hypothetically, that someone could get into Active membership before Associate membership if that someone wrote only stories under 1k. Which means they could sell to Apex, Lightspeed, Asimov's, basically everywhere and get over 10 pro sales and still not qualify for Associate membership. WTF? To say nothing of the fact that they would still likely not qualify for Active membership either. Now, this might be an unlikely scenario, but it is seriously, seriously fucked up. It's saying that flash fiction has no value. That it shouldn't count. Again, no story under 1k counts for Associate membership (as I'm reading that). It used to be that all you needed was one pro sale, and only five at any length to qualify for the SFWA. Now, if you write flash, you could technically write over a dozen stories and fall short because of the word count requirement but have been paid more than a 10,000 word short story would have sold for. This is wrong. This is wrong and fucked up and what the fuck was the rationale behind it? And I'm done, okay, done.]

1 comment:

  1. So writers of flash aren't legitimate... or aren't legitimate unless they write longer forms, too? That's a cruddy notion. Crafting an incredibe story in a shoebox is challenging, sometimes moreso than a longer piece.

    It is almost like hearing the chorus of family members who want to know when I'm going to become a "real" writer. Poetry and flash fiction aren't what people see as major WRITING.

    Unless the SFWA believes an editor is more likely to snap up a shorter piece and, therefore, the flash writers don't have to be as good. Or maybe, they think it takes less work. Untrue, but possibly the reasoning.