It’s getting chilly here in New Jersey. Plants are fading, sunset is coming earlier. We’re slowly descending into the gloom of winter.
The approach of the season brings its own pleasures, too, often stemming from the juxtaposition of opposites: a cup of hot apple cider steaming in the cool outside air, the smell of burning logs carried by a fresh breeze, and candles glowing inside twilight-shrouded pumpkins — which are themselves carved in cheerful mockery of evil and devilry.
This magazine is no different: We have some excellent awfulness for you this month.
We start with Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s placid unveiling of love and not-love in Eating It Too. We’re really happy to have Kris in the magazine — she’s an award-winning author in a variety of genres (though sometimes under pseudonyms) — but perhaps most interestingly, it’s the first time she had sold, or I had bought a story mainly through Twitter. (The story itself was exchanged through email. No 140-character snippets for us!)
From there we move to a perfect horror: Death Babies by S. Craig Renfroe, Jr. I have to read each story multiple times on its way to publication, and each time I read this one, it just sticks with me that much more. Analytically, I think it works because the first part is distant and objective, always building dread while leading us slowly to a personal and direct ending. It may be the best horror flash I’ve ever read.
Our last new story comes from Damon Shaw, a bittersweet piece called The Door. The real horror has already happened to the main character when the story starts, but watching her move forward really drew me in. The ending sparked some interesting debate among our staff. Tell us what you think in the comments.
With all of this dread going around, I considered getting a funny Classic Flash for this month. But no. In honor of Halloween, I decided to publish H.P. Lovecraft’s stunningly crafted Nyarlathotep. It’s technically not flash, by my definition, anyway — it’s 1,134 words — but (a) he didn’t know he was writing for a flash fiction magazine when he wrote this in 1920, and (b) even with a few extra words it achieves that unity of effect that flash fiction is known for.
While thinking about that unity of effect, I was reminded of how much Lovecraft respected Edgar Allan Poe. “The Raven” is, of course, one of Poe’s best-known poems, but it’s less well-known that he described its creation in an essay titled The Philosophy of Composition. It’s a good essay, and it highlights the way craft can heighten or even lead to inspiration, and I think you flash writers out there might find it worthwhile.
Bruce Holland Rogers will return next month with the next installment of his Short-short Sighted column. If you haven’t read them all, check out his author page for the index.
As always, my tremendous thanks to those who tipped authors and donated money this month, including Randall Brown (editor of flash fiction magazine Smokelong Quarterly), Christopher Chapman, Graeme Williams, Stephen Smith, Pamela Jean Herber, Jennifer Linnaea, and Francesca Forrest. Every penny counts.
Our next issue goes live on November third. I hope to see you then!
© 2015 Jake Freivald