In my first blog post in the Reader's Freebies series, I looked at ten of my favorite free magazines for speculative poetry, which is a genre I feel constantly increases in popularity. Another favorite for readers these days, and something that I personally love to read and write, is flash fiction.
Flash fiction is a genre of stories that are 1,000 words and under. Also called short-shorts, there are many subdivisions within the genre. Twitterature/tweetfic arose from microblogging on the social media site Twitter, and these are stories composed of 140 characters or less. A dribble is a 50-word story, a drabble is 100 words and sudden fiction is 750 words. One of the most famous (and also most brief) flash fiction stories is attributed to Hemingway and is only 6 words: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
One criticism of this art form is that it lends itself more to vignettes than short stories – that while it's often poetic, it doesn't contain the same story arcs as longer pieces. However, I feel this isn't true with great flash fiction – the beauty of the form lies as much in what isn't said as to what is. It might be harder to tell a complete story in brief, but when done well, it can be a truly amazing read.
So without further ado, here are my favorite ten free outlets for flash fiction, listed in alphabetical order:
The title says it all – this magazine showcases stories of exactly 100 words. It's hard to believe that so much emotion can be packed into so few words, but the writers of this magazine manage to do it. The stories can be touching and heartfelt, fun or funny, but they always evoke an emotional response in the reader by connecting to a moment or a series of moments that resonate with real life. In addition to unsolicited 100-word stories, they also have photo prompt stories of 100 words, and it's always interesting to see what stories writers see in the photos.
For genre fiction – science fiction and fantasy – you can't beat Daily Science Fiction for variety and style. It has everything from how-to manuals about personal robots to heartbreaking fantasy stories about family-friendly cannibals.
An "almost" flash fiction publication (they accept work up to 1,500 words, although most stories are below the 1,000-word cutoff), this magazine has stories with a mainstream voice and a literary aftertaste. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes ironic, the fiction is fun and quick to read.
If you're looking for something more experimental and literary, this is a good choice. Flights of fancy, the strange, the weird – FLAPPERHOUSE has all types of experimental and surreal literature.
Compelling stories in a variety of genres, from speculative to literary. The stories often have vivid and resonant language that is a cross between poetry and prose.
Fun science fiction, fantasy and horror stories, often written with a lighter, humorous tone.
Twitterature/tweetfic of 140 characters or less, which is reminiscent of Hemingway's famous 6-word story. Fun (and really fast!) to read.
Short stories slightly longer than a drabble (180-360 words), this publication is the result of a quarterly contest with large cash prizes for the winners. The competition is apparent from the results, which are beautiful and vibrant flash fiction stories that capture strong and emotional moments in life.
Literary fiction, to me, is prose that lingers, that keeps you thinking about it long after you finished reading the story. SmokeLong is dedicated to literary flash fiction in the truest sense of the word, and the stories are profound glimpses of human nature, even if they are sometimes surrealist or coincidental instead of realistic.
Pointed and mindful literary stories that take ordinary slices of life (in addition to the extraordinary) and make them relatable to the problems we all face.
Thoughtful fiction that features realistic moments captured in literary style. Each summer, the magazine also publishes a "Top 50" list of their favorite flash fiction from around the web, and so it's a great resource to discover more excellent flash fiction and flash fiction magazines.
If you were counting, you might have noticed that I lied – I included 11 magazines, not 10. I couldn't narrow my choices down any more, so this is my equivalent of a baker's dozen – I'll call it a reader's top ten, with a bonus eleventh magazine thrown in for fun.
This list isn't comprehensive by any means – there are so many great publications out there that are either dedicated to flash fiction or have a flash fiction section. As you can see, there is a wide variety of genres represented, from literary to mainstream, from speculative fiction to magical realism, from experimental to surreal. Many of these magazines are online and free to read. If you're looking for more, a good list of flash fiction magazines that have large readerships can be found here, at John Matthew Fox's website Bookfox.
I hope you will check out some of these magazines and, perhaps, fall in love with short-short stories just like I did.