I don’t like micro fiction. I say this not to denigrate it as entertainment or indeed as an art form. It is simply a personal thing. If pushed as to why I don’t like it then I will admit that in truth it is simply because I don’t see the point of it. But let me be very clear, this is just a personal opinion, nothing more.
I like a good short story, god knows I have written enough of them. A good short story should have enough in it that you care about the characters, that you find that strange emotional involvement with the text that will elicit shock, or rage, or sentiment. Joy, loss, anger, love, hate… This is not a matter of length alone. I know some brilliant really short stories, a little over, or perhaps less than a thousand words. But these are exceptions, not the rule. To connect to a short story it must be just that, a story.
Which brings me back to micro fiction, and why I’m not a fan of the form.
Micro fiction is at its best just a slither of a story, introduction, situation, resolution in a few short lines. Yes there is craft to it, art to it, but there is also nothing to connect to. It might take a minute to read, and after reading it, its gone. I haven’t been with it long enough to care.
At its worse, micro fiction isn’t even that, its an unsatisfying glimpse at a story that ends without really going anywhere, because so many micro fiction stories are written as micro fiction… Which is to say, they don’t end because they have reached the natural end to a story but because observing the form is more important to the writer than telling the story. ‘This is a micro fiction, therefore it must be a micro fiction…’ Which is fine, as it goes, except for me I find it impossible to write anything based around restrictions of that kind.
Should you ever meet her, and be short of better things to talk about, ask Gillie Hatton, the editor of the Harvey Duckman anthologies about just how strictly I observe word limits with my short stories… Which is not to say I don’t have stories in the Harvey anthologies that obey the 3000 word limit,. I do, but that tends to be the exception, not the rule. A couple of my stories in the Harvey’s are closer to 8k, because, and this is the important point for me, that’s how many words it took to tell those particular stories…
So, what is the point of micro-fiction. What is the point of a story that can be read in a minute, and remains in your consciousness for less than that. How can anyone possibly tell a story worth reading in less than 500 words? In 300 words? in a half dozen lines? Surely this is symptomatic of the disposable nature of modern society and has the value you associate with that self same disposability? More importantly how exactly do you read micro fiction. You can’t just read a book of micro fiction cover to cover… Well you can, but as an experience it lack something, how can you engage with a bunch of unrelated stores in such a short format without each overlapping the other…
So, anyway, having established I am not a fan either as a writer or a reader of Micro fiction, I’ll get to the actual point of this post, which is a review of a book called Micro Moods, written by a fellow Harvey writer Amy Wilson, which is, as the title implies, a book of micro fiction. Well this is going to go well isn’t it…
Actually though, yes it is.
Micro Moods is a collection of 140 micro fiction stories which cover the breath of human experience. The collection is divided up in to five loose categories, Fear, melancholy, hate, love, joy. Each is engaging, interesting, complex and to an extent prose poetry more than just stories. They explore the inner workings of the mind, emotion and experience. Take fear, the stories all have the edge of horror and trepidation, you know something terrible is going to happen, but they manage to forestall your expectation all the same. It is not so much about the event, but the anticipation of the event.
Likewise the melancholy stories, all of which are small but beautifully crafted insights into the inner thoughts of the troubled.
Many of these stories are ostensibly female stories written in a female voice, and it is a testament to the power of these stories that even though these are very short they manage to instil a layer of discomfort and awkwardness for the male reader. But then many of these stories are meant to be unsettling for any reader. There is a darkness to them, but it is a darkness that at times is counterpointed with light.
I read these stories in strange places, and at stranger times. the book followed me around the house for a few weeks. Laying on my bed side, or at the side of the sofa, on the kitchen table, on the doorstep while I enjoyed a coffee in the sunshine one Sunday, and other places. Often I read a story or two and then it would be left behind and it wasn’t until I returned to the vicinity that I read another. It’s a book that can do that, and that you dip in and out of and that your never quite sure what you are going to read for that couple of minutes while the kettle boils.
But what you will read will be interesting, strange, upsetting , joyous dark and wonderful often all at the same time and in less words than you would think possible it will leave you thoughtful, or horrified,. angry , happy or sad.
So you should buy it, and treasure it’s little windows into the recesses of the soul.
I still don’t like or understand micro fiction. I still don’t really get the point of it. It always leave me wanting more, because it isn’t enough. But that’s me, and plenty of people love it. If you are a person who loves flash fiction, then take it from someone who doesn’t, this is one of the best collections I’ve ever read, by a writer who is a master of the art form. So its worth your time if its your kind of thing, or even if its not…
That said, personally I think Amy needs to stop faffing about with these silly things and finish that damn novel she has been writing since before her first Harvey Duckman story. But then I am a miserable old sod, who has been looking forward to her novel for years.