Thursday, March 3, 2016

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online March 2016

It's march and spring is sort of in the air. Not really here in Wisconsin, but in the latest issue of Flash Fiction Online there is a sense of the season, one of revolutions and rebirth. The stories this month are incredibly different, from far-off wars and atrocities on imagined planets to strange visions of the people stuck in their situations here on Earth, to the tenuous strands that link the two, that whispers that we are all made of stars, linked in a great chain that cannot be broken. It's not exactly a happy collection of stories, but there is a strength to them. To stand. To learn. To transform. And this is the season for it. So let's kick off March right with some reviews, shall we? 

Art by Dario Bijelac


"This is the Sound of the End of the World" by Matt Dovey (1004 words)

This is a story about resistance, about celebration, and about loss. To me, the story is about how people meet death, what songs they sing as they see their own destruction written across the sky. The story flits between people on the surface and a captain watching as part of the detail assigned to destroy that planet. The story does a nice job of showing the situation, of delving briefly into the heads of those about to be wiped out and the person partly responsible for it. And the story revels in the power of resistance in the face of injustice, in showing the power of empathy to move people to do the right thing. If there's something I was a little less comfortable with it's probably that, given the specifics of the story, it becomes a bit more about the Captain than about the people on the planet, which is not exactly uncommon to these sorts of stories but does keep the focus on those benefitting from colonialism as opposed to those being exterminated by it. The politics of the story are rather on the nose in many ways, and I do like the power the story gives the myriad songs of the planet, the way they impact the Captain while being in many ways indecipherable to her. And yet…well, I like the story. It's short and shows many facets of resistance, and it does a fair amount of world building in a very short space. [SPOILERS!!!] I wonder, however, what would have happened if the Captain had looked and seen something more like what she was expecting. Would she still have decided to turn? Or would it make the destruction of a planet somehow okay, despite the fact that what she ultimately does is pretty much exactly what the Empire used to justify the destruction of the planet in the first place? It's just a stubborn thought I can't quite shake, that the story focuses just a bit too heavily on ideas of nobility and tone for me. But I say check it out and definitely make up your own mind on the matter. It certainly flows nicely and the story is quite nicely constructed. Indeed!

"Millepora" by Shannon Peavey (977 words)

Nice. Disturbing. Yeah. Probably I could end my review there but that would hardly be doing service to what is a rather strange and rather layered story about potential and about choice and about change. In many ways I want to put this into the realm of "Millennial fiction" (which I think, given a line in the story itself, the mention of mille-people, is not unintentional, though perhaps I'm reading too much into that. Even if it's unintentional it's how I drew the most personal meaning from the story) because it examines this group of people who have become stuck. Who were perhaps not ambitious, which is basically to say that they wanted things as easily as they were brought up to expect, that a good job and family and house and everything were just what happened naturally. And so in hoping to just pass through life in that manner, and because opportunity became harder to find, they have basically opted out. They have removed themselves from the world and there's nothing really to be done. College debt or income inequality or rampant political corruption, call it what you will, but these people have been stuck, and the rest of the country has basically thrown their hands up and given up on them. So yeah, definitely a Millennial story in my mind, and one that shows that when this happens the forgotten people carry something that is dangerous. That they are the seeds of destruction because of what they are, because they have been left out, stuck in place. That there is change coming, and because it is being largely ignored it's going to be so much worse. The story is great at selling the strange premise and in burying that bit of disturbing darkness, that growing realization that the story is much deeper, the situation more complex, than it seemed at first. An excellent read!

"All Souls Proceed" by K.J. Kabza (713 words)

Okay, yes, I love the varied uses of processions in this story. I love the ghosts and the sense of lingering and the passing of time, and how the main character starts to understand the place where he lives a little better through the small and big ways they mark death. There's just such a great way the story crept up on me, drew me in with the idea of ghost bikes and celebrations and manages to use all that to speak to forgetting and grief and loss. [POSSIBLE SPOILERS] There are great many strong images in the story, from the face painting to mimic the dead to the broken glass in the tire of the bicycle. And paired with those is the idea that there is a procession going on, not just the one in the All Souls celebration but that life is a procession and death is a procession, of memory and pain, that people have to let go, even when they live among the dead, even when death is such a force where they live. That the souls move on and so must the people, that what remains are memories and moments of stunning beauty but that souls merge back into the universe. The story moves through a series of scenes that circle the ghost bikes, the procession of souls, the main character. It builds very well with a tone and style that mixes rather shocking moments of bluntness with elegant moments of understanding and ethereal strangeness. It works. It works and you should go out and read this one. Like right now.

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