You may remember a post from a little while back in which I mentioned several great places to submit flash fiction (Flash! (AAAAAAHHHH!)). Well, I’m chuffed to report that one of them, Nanoism, just published one of my super short pieces yesterday 🙂
OK, it has been a while (again!), but I’m back and this time I have a little list of places for you to send your fantastic flash fiction. While I haven’t actually tried any of these outlets myself, they look like stellar publications and I certainly plan to submit to each of them in the near future.
So, if like me you spent the colder months of the year writing, why not take advantage of the fact that it’s now (finally) spring and get some of it out there!
First up is Nanoism, and billing itself as “a place for twitter fiction” it should be a prime target for all your micro-shorts.
Published on their website as well as in occasional anthologies, stories at Nanoism sometimes have a slightly confessional feel to them, such as Drew Knapp’s:
You leave the perfect amount of water in your nightstand glass each morning to feed my orchid.
Yet they also showcase a range of surprising, scary, and even poetic micro stories like this offering from Trevor Pyle:
He spoke in a harried whisper. About things he’d seen. About fears that tightened his stomach like a vise.
On the other end, a dial tone.
Although submissions are limited to Twitter’s strict 140 character length, Nanoism accepts all genres with a particular interest in literary fiction, so there’s really nothing to stop you from giving them a go. Besides, the challenge of writing twitfic can be fun (I previously blogged about it here and again here), you retain all the rights to your story and you even get paid!
What’s not to like? Get writing now people, and then get it in to Nanoism.net! At last look they were accepting unsolicited stories all year round, but make sure to check out their submissions page for latest info and guidelines.
Also, they have a Twitter account (obviously!) @nanoism, and welcome tweet-based contact.
Next up is Flash Fiction Magazine, a website that publishes one flash story a day, delivering it straight to reader’s inboxes, while also publishing the occasional ebook collection of the very best submissions.
Accepting stories between 300-1000 words in length, Flash Fiction is open to all genres except erotica (adult themes/content are/is fine in service to an actual story), although they also mention that children’s fiction probably won’t find a home on their site. Apart from that, have at it! Once again, you retain all the rights although it is important to note that they will not accept previously published works, and yes – your blog counts. So be careful.
While I am definitely a fan of micro flash, there is no doubt that the larger word limit at Flash Fiction Magazine allows for some great character/world development and I would strongly encourage you to check out their website and read some of the stories there whether you plan to submit or not. You won’t be disappointed.
Have a look at their submissions page for all the latest info for writers, and you can tweet at them here: @flashficmag.
Finally, there’s NANO Fiction, a “non-profit literary journal that seeks to cultivate the genre of flash fiction by creating opportunities for emerging writers to achieve national recognition through [their] website, print publication, and educational events.” Wow!
Founded in 2006, NANO is both an outlet for flash fiction authors and a resource for writers and readers everywhere publishing regular musings on the state of flash fiction in the world today which are definitely worth a read. In addition, their website hosts writing prompts and competitions as well as monthly featured stories showcasing some of the very best flash out there.
With both print and e-versions of past issues available, NANO accepts submissions under 300 words in any or no genre but, for their 10th edition, they are especially on the look out for work that explores “milestones and transitions”, experimenting with form while still balancing narrative. Check out their online catalogue for some inspiration and a lot of fun reads (you’ll have to dig through the events listings to find the stories/readings, but they are there).
In addition, NANO also host the NANO prize, currently open for submissions and with a first place prize of $1000. Not too shabby, eh?
As everybody on the internet is undoubtedly aware, last month Twitter, a platform of which I am rather fond, announced that they are considering expanding their strict 140 character limit to a whopping 10,000 characters.
Although the powers that be at Twitter HQ were quick to defend this change as being in the best interest of the micro blogging site’s users, allowing them to communicate more effectively and with greater creativity, the rest of the world was pretty sure the proposed character expansion was a thinly veiled attempt to appease shareholders who have seen the value of their stock plummet in recent months as the number of active tweeters reportedly falls.
Sadly, for Twitter HQ, I suppose, their much maligned character adjustment had the exact opposite effect, spawning a heated backlash across the platform and prompting the value of their stock to fall even further. Despite this, it looks as though the change is still going to go ahead giving readers the option to see tweets in their original, concise form or “read on” by clicking a link to an expanded view. Whether this change proves to be positive or negative is yet to be seen and I don’t intend to jump upon the bandwagon of Twitter-bashing here. I do, however, want to address the proposed change as it relates rather powerfully to my use of the platform for the creation of 140-character works of micro fiction.
I started writing Twitter stories in or around February 2010 (I can’t be sure of the year off the top of my head and I can’t be bothered to look back and check just now, but I’m reasonably sure it was about then) initially as an experiment – could I write a complete tale, convey a scene, a snippet of plot, character, or perhaps just an emotion with so few resources? It’s a challenge I blogged about here, and the answer is yes, sometimes. Writing one piece of 140-character micro flash every day means that my output is admittedly hit or miss, but in 2014 I did collect the best ones together into an illustrated ebook called Vestigial Tales which sold atrociously, but of which I am rather proud nonetheless.
The bottom line is that come what may, I won’t be expanding. I do write longer stories – often more that 10, 000 characters (gasp!) – but that’s not what Twitter is about for me and, as long as the platform exists, I’ll be sticking to my self-imposed, artificial limit. Is it frustrating? Sure, sometimes. But it’s also inspiring, and, occasionally, downright brilliant. Who can read Ernest Hemingway’s six word story For Sale, and not be struck by the sadness conveyed in so few syllabus:
“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
Flash or micro fiction can be powerful to read and a lot of fun to write, and Twitter is, in my opinion, a wonderful platform for it. I’m not opposed to giving people the option to write more that 140 characters, although I do question the value of it; so long as Twitter leaves the original, shorter option in tact all is good by me.
But will anybody read my Tweets? Surely that is the question prompted by the hashtag above, spawned a few weeks after the 10, 000 character fiasco in response to further rumored changes which would see the Twitter timeline approximating something like Facebook, displaying first the “most-popular” Tweets rather than the newer ones, relegating tweeters with few followers to the dark end of timeline obscurity.
Needless to say, the Twitterati did not respond favorably to yet another, shareholder oriented change to their platform and soon started declaring Twitter dead via its own trending hashtag system. So not exactly a great start to the year for CEO Jack Dorsey, eh?
Unlike the 10, 000 character shift, the popular-tweets-algorithm talk has been addressed by the Twitter high ups, who have assured users that their voices matter and that any changes which may manifest in future, rumored or otherwise, will be optional.
There will of course be people who opt in. Heck, perhaps it’ll even be a good thing and I’ll find myself signing up too, but one thing is for sure: should the algorithm be unleashed the act of tweeting will never be the same again. No longer will we (the general tweeting public) be assured that our tweets will be seen by our followers, or even our friends, and on a platform famous for democratizing the act of socializing via media, that strikes me as rather sad.
So is twitter really dead? I don’t think so. Flash fiction aside, Twitter’s real strength lies, I believe, in its role as an information aggregator, a expansive list of curated links to all manner of content from all corners of the globe. Furthermore, a large part of the love, for me at least, is in the randomness of it all – retweets, likes, even paid-for promotions sending all sorts of links, stories, comments and creations into my timeline, exposing me to things outside of my normal scope, or even comfort zone.
That, in my mind is what makes Twitter greater than Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or just about any other social media platform out there. That is what Twitter stands to lose if it employs a probably very clever, even lucrative, but ultimately reductionist algorithm that renders everybody’s timeline an unsightly splattering of Trump and Kanye West.
No, for the time being Twitter is still alive but its survival is far from sure. Appreciating the capitalist mechanics of the economy, the fact that we all get to tweet for free and that Twitter somehow needs nonetheless to make money, I am not opposed to innovation, experimentation, and monetization, but it has to come on the same sort of wave of creativity that made Twitter so fresh and appealing in the first place. Although Twitter’s at-the-time much publicized role in sparking the Arab Spring movement across the Middle East is recently being challenged, even tarnished in the face of accusations of terror organizations using the platform to plan atrocities, spread hate, and even recruit, we must not loose faith in the internet’s intrinsic power to level the social playing field.
Twitter gives people a voice and it provides them with information. Some voices will be viscous, others never heard and not all of that information shared may be to everyone’s liking, but isn’t that the point of conversation? To expand one’s horizon and share experiences? Twitter gives the hope that each of us, no matter the number of followers, our “popularity”, will nonetheless get to sing.
They may take away our 140 character limit, but they will never take our FREEDOM!
Or maybe they’ll take that too. I just hope they don’t mess up a very good thing in the process.
*Yes – I know: nobody uses the term cyberspace anymore*
Happy New Year! Well, day six of it anyway.
But then perhaps it’s fitting that a blog post the central tenet of which is going to be that I have not only failed to do half the things I said I was going to last year, but that I’ve also not been blogging anything like as much as I should is in fact itself late.
Yes – let’s go with that and say it’s intentional, shall we…
So here we are: 2016 already. I’m not going to lie, kind of caught me by surprise this one. What about you?
As you may recall, I had big plans for 2015 back in January, including the publication of a novella in October. Well, October came and went… the novella, not so much. It is still in the works though and a new, very tentative date of October 2017 (yes, ’17, that’s not a typo) has been set to a) give me enough time to finish the darn thing, and b) fit with my publisher’s schedule of fiction releases. So that’s nice.
Also, I know I owe you yet another apology for failing to blog half as much as I intended to last year. In my defense – I did write what for me constitutes a rather long post about Sid Meier’s Civilization back in May, and a semi political ramble about Britain and the EU in June. Although now that I come to think about it, that’s not really a very good defense. So let’s just stick with I’m sorry and will try to do better in 2016 🙂
Expect a veritable cyberspace odyssey comprised of more posts about writing and links to writing (mine and other people’s), as well as some more random stuff like the above. Some of it might even be vaguely interesting… no promises though.
In the meantime, know that I wish you all the very best for 2016. Carry on being nice to one another and make sure to pick up a copy of Vestigial Tales (sorry – I couldn’t resist!).
*Alright, it’s a rambly blog post not an ode. I recently took the very dangerous step of starting to play Civilization again. Dangerous because, as every Civ veteran knows, Sid Meier’s classic strategy game has the power to suck entire weeks of time from the lives of its players, replacing them with understandable pride at the accomplishments of your victorious armies on one hand, and a fear of going “outside” where there is “sun” on the other. Not to mention a deep suspicion of anybody with whom you don’t have a current open borders treaty. (They’re not as easy to negotiate outside of the game where, in my experience, people tend to think you’re just crazy.)
Don’t worry though… I think I’m keeping things in check. I mean I’m in control (of whole nations!). I can quit whenever I want to… right after this one last turn…
Seriously though, I don’t think I’m in any danger. There is far too much going on in my real life for me to be able to replicate those heady summers of my childhood spent glued to the computer monitor while my armies swept across an unsuspecting continent and I diversified my economy and built the Pyramids in Tokyo. Also, I’m play Civ IV (vanilla) which isn’t nearly as addictive as II or III, in my opinion. So I should be OK.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the wondrous game (seriously, you’re using your computer wrong), there are six versions ranging from the original Civilization released in 1991, to Civilization V from 2010 (counting CivNet as a separate entry in the series rather than an update and excluding the arguably quite distinct Colonization and the sci-fi themed Alpha Centauri and Beyond Earth (and I’m not even going to acknowledge Civilization Revolution beyond this highly dismissive note 🙂 )) and a whole host of expansions and additions, not to mention player-created content.
Civilization is a turn-based strategy game (as opposed to strategy games of the real-time variety such as Age of Empires, for example) that has been called the most important strategy game ever made and is routinely ranked amongst the best compute games of all time, it’s rich level of detail and repeat playability causing it to standout as a really quite unique gaming creation. But more about that later.
The object of all six Civ games is to guide your civilization (you can chose from a historical selection at the beginning of the game or create your own one) from the stone to the modern age, exploring, expanding, trading, fighting and/or negotiating your way to the top in the process. With control over the economic and cultural output of your civilization you must pay equal attention to developing your country’s infrastructure and building schools as to advancing your military tech. Devastating wars of conquest can be a great path to victory but so can the construction of world wonders, control of the united Nations, or the launching of an interstellar spaceship to become the first nation to send out colonists to another star.
If this all sounds a little detail heavy, that’s because it is, a feature that undoubtedly contributed to the rise of a dedicated if somewhat nerdy fan-base for the series which continues to this day with a bustling online community of modders and scenario builders actively keeping their megalomania-fueled dreams alive. Although I must confess to never having played Civ V, I consider myself a veteran Civer with a good nineteen years of gameplay under my belt.
My first brush with the franchise came when I got my very own PC circa 1996 (yes, my own – it was in my bedroom and everything!); a Packard Bell that shipped with a free copy of CivNet for Window 95. Instantly transfixed by the premise, not to mention the promise of ultimate power over the course of an entire civilization, I was soon saving my pocket money with an eye to upgrading to the newly launched Civilization II – obviously MicroProse’s cunning aim in giving away a free copy of CivNet to begin with.
Unlike CivNet, Civ II came with an editor which allowed players to easily create their own maps and custom scenarios. Its launch was also followed by an official expansion pack, Fantastic Worlds, which introduced both science fiction and fantasy elements to the game, challenging players to test their leadership skills against invading aliens or in worlds populated by wizards, elves and dwarfs. However it was not until the launch of Civilization III (the pinnacle of Sid Meier’s series imho) that the whole user-made mod craze really took off for me.
Although the third installment in the Civilization series was criticized as too detail/micro-management oriented, its clever AI and more advanced diplomacy made for challenging and addictive gameplay. With the growth of the online Civ community, the introduction of a play-by-email option to compliment the existing LAN and internet multiplay acknowledged the potentially damaging time-sucking quality of the franchise and enabled Civers to enjoy new mods while also keeping their family together and holding down their job 🙂
The Civ III game engine had serious downsides however – there was no ability to include scripted events, for instance – yet creative modders came up with some ingenious ways to get around these shortcomings leading to range of highly detailed, imaginative mods. El Justo’s Cold War Deluxe and Age of Imperialism are both shining examples of this practice with historically accurate gameplay, hundreds of unique units, new soundtracks, and meticulous play-testing leading to flawless and truly immersive gaming experiences.
I must have lost weeks of my life playing these creations and even more coming up with strategies and sharing tips and stories with the friendly and interactive online community that grew up around such mods.
Yet more than simple entertainment, the truth is that Civilization inspired me and, dare I say it, actually taught me things. The history, geography and politics I encountered in the game intrigued my young brain far more than the drab classroom-based attempts to engage me on such subjects ever could and I found myself voluntarily reading up on wars, nations, and social structures in my free time.
In secondary school (middle-high school for any Americans) history class had always been a dry endeavor and I had dropped it from my syllabus as soon as I was able. Yet at university it was my first choice and I loved it so much I gained a Masters in it too. I don’t think I ever admitted this to any of my professors (or even my classmates) but Civilization is almost certainly responsible for awakening and nurturing this passion in me and was probably a much better introduction to many important historical subjects than most people ever receive at school.
My experience is in no way unique of course, and Civilization has actually been used by teachers as a creative way to bring subjects to students’ attention in schools across the world. Moreover, I know I am in good company: one of my favorite ever authors, the late Iain M. Banks was a known Civilization addict and it is said his experience of the game inspired the creation of one of the most enjoyable Culture novels: Excession.
Then, a few years ago, I was highly amused to stumble upon this:
It’s a news report about a guy who goes by the name Lycerius, who played the same game of Civ II for 10 years, resulting in an nightmare Orwellian world of constant war. Details of the decade long game are available on his Reddit thread. Highlights from his description of the war-torn world include:
The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.
There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.
The ice caps have melted over 20 times (somehow) due primarily to the many nuclear wars. As a result, every inch of land in the world that isn’t a mountain is inundated swamp land, useless to farming. Most of which is irradiated anyway.
Lovely. In fact Reddit users were so traumatized by Lycerius’ experiences that they even set up another thread called The Eternal War, which is both dedicated to ending the virtual suffering of this ravaged world and allows users to post their own tales of never-ending Civilization wars.
I’ve not done any research beyond the Reddit threads, but I am pretty sure Lycerius’ game is the longest ever played. The fact that over this length of time the Civ II engine produces such global stalemate, akin to the geopolitical situation described in Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984, is incredibly interesting and suggest the games creators were not too far off in their bid to create a game that mimics both societal development and the ultimate futility of war.
Returning to Civ now, after several years away, I have to admit that some of the magic has gone. This may partly be due to the fact that I am playing Civ IV and I was never particularly fond of its cartoonish, faux 3D graphics (a superficial addition to a turn-based strategy game if ever there was one) or its interesting but in my opinion flawed civic system.
Or maybe it’s just a part of getting older, growing up.
Never again will I be able to spend quite so many guilt-free hours clicking away at world maps and adjusting sliders, not when I have actual things I want to accomplish, work to do and relationships to maintain. Perhaps this is why I can’t bring myself to justify spending the money on Civ V (just yet, anyway) and yet I still find myself going back for that one last turn that somehow morphs into another couple of hours. Honestly, I don’t know how my wife copes.
In what must have been a stroke of genius, the creators of Civ IV employed the late, legendary Leonard Nimoy to narrate the introduction to the game, and he follows the player’s progress, rewarding them with a relevant quote read in his distinguished dulcet tones whenever they unlock a new technology. Even though I must have heard each quote a dozen time by now, I still get that tingle on the back of my neck whenever Mr Spock’s voice rings out over the world, encouraging and inspiring me to research fast and reach ever further.
And that’s just it. I’m not a kid anymore; I can’t afford, and indeed don’t want to waste my time conquering fake worlds on my computer, not when there’s a real one out here to be a part of everyday. But nor do I want to forget that owe a lot to Civilization, to all the lessons it taught me not just about history and geography but about the struggles faced by our civilization(s) both now and in the past. The game inspired me and, 3D graphics or not, I hope it continues to inspire others.
I will always be grateful for the passion for history playing Civilization in its various incarnations awoke in me, not to mention the joyous days spent expanding my empire and conquering other nations. To this day I cannot hear Beethoven’s Ode to Joy without picturing all those little pixelated fireworks exploding over my little pixelated cities as my virtual citizens celebrated in my honor. And I think there are elements of world geography that will only ever look familiar to me in blocky, CivNet map style form, but I don’t mind.
Thank you, Civilization! Thank you, Sid Meier!
This isn’t a ode, it’s just a rambly blog post; but it is for you.
It’s still March, so I’m getting this one in just under the wire.
In case some of you don’t know, micro fiction (or flash fiction, or micro-narrative, or however you want to label it) is something of an interest of mine. For almost four years now, I have been endeavoring to write a micro short a day and post it to my Twitter account @Liam_Aidan.
Their eyes met across the crowded lecture hall. Will you be my Valentine? he asked silently. But then he blinked and missed her response.
This necessarily means squishing any tale I want to tell into 140 characters, including spaces, which is fun, challenging, inspiring, and annoying in turn. It’s a self imposed limit, an attempt to distill the essence of a story into as small a space as possible, and hopefully improve my writing skills as a result.
Last year, a collection of 106 of the best of my micro shorts, called Vestigial Tales, was published as an ebook by Ichabod Press. You can find out more about that here.
Possibly the most famous piece of flash fiction is Ernest Hemingway’s six word story For Sale:
“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
Although I think my personal favorite has to be Knock by Fredric Borwn, the first lines of which constitute a micro short in and of themselves:
“The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”
Both of these epically tiny tales served as inspiration for my initial foray into micro fiction on Twitter (or twitfic, as a few of us call it), but if you’re looking for additional daily doses of fast and sometimes furious fiction, why not check out my three micro-fiction recommendations below? Each is worth a follow and even the occasional RT.
My assistant says, I got a paper cut. This is a paperless office, I reply. She looks at me as if I’m an insect. A talking insect. In charge.
It’s a good question, one I ask myself quite often.
Obviously everybody is going to have their own take on exactly what inspires them to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard/touchscreen) but there are probably some general truths out there re the human longing for connection and expression that, I would imagine, account for much of our collective creative output.
With that in mind, here’s an interview that recently came across my path and which sets out one writer’s response to that very question. Author and teacher, Katey Schultz writes an eloquent reflection at Fiction Southeast on what makes her writing tick and is well worth a read:
Now that all the celebrations have died down and the hangovers have (mostly) gone away, it’s time to take a quick look back at the year past and to gaze longingly at the one yet to come.
2014 has been a big year for me. I started this website, move out to the Windy City (which I can confirm is mighty pretty), got a new job and, of course, published a collection of my micro-fiction, Vestigial Tales.
Yep, overall 2014 was pretty good to me and I want to say thanks to all of you who read, or have ever read this blog, follow my 140 character stories on Twitter, or bought a copy of Vestigial Tales. You’re the ones who made all this possible, so, um… thanks!
While 2015 is still new and all shiny in its unspoilt packaging it’s impossible to know exactly what it has in store, yet there are a couple of exciting elements on the horizon I thought I’d share quickly with you now.
Firstly, I have a short novella that I am *hoping* to kick out the door before the year is through. The tentative plan is to publish it in or around Halloween which is both soon enough it seems like a real, tangible deadline yet far enough away that we might just actually make it. Who knows? But whenever we do get the little beastie out, I plan on giving away free copies on this here very blog. So, you know… stay tuned!
Secondly, I have not just one, but TWO sci-fi shorts that should also be appearing over the next few months, if all goes to plan. Exciting, no? Well it’s all relative, I suppose.
Anyway, that’s it from me. A very Happy New Year to you and the bestest possible wishes of warmth and success to you and your loved ones. If 2015 is half as good as its predecessor, it’s gonna be one to keep.
Well, now I’m back to tell you that Pint-Sized Plays was a huge success and has found a permanent home in the red door bar and lounge.
What’s more, they are keen to hear from you with your ideas for short performance pieces that could form part of the Pint-Sized Plays 2015 line-up. You don’t have to be in Portsmouth to take part but if you are, they are having a series of informal ideas sessions which sound like a great way to meet new creative-types.
Check their out the Pint-Sized Plays website for more info and sign up for the ideas session via their Facebook page. They have a great team of writers, producers, directors and actors working on this and it’s a brilliant opportunity for people to get involved with innovative, grassroots theater and potentially see your own work onstage. I certainly plan to write for them again in future – why not give it a go yourself?
Well, that’s all for today. TTFN everybody, and DFTBA!