“It won't be any of those things,” J.D. [Sauvage] said. “I don't know what it will be, but it will be something different.”

—Vonda N. McIntyre, Starfarers

 [ Issue 2019.49; Cover art © 2019 Eric Asaris ]

Issue 2019.49

Flash fiction


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The quote above, from the radical science fiction series by the recently departed Vonda McIntyre, has always struck me as a beautifully neat summation of what speculative fiction should try to do. It should be something different. The aliens shouldn’t just do what we would do but with more advanced technology and funny-shaped heads, they should do something startlingly unexpected, even inexplicable. Even more so if we’re talking about social and political behaviour, sexual or family arrangements, than the laws of physics or whatever.

As a literary medium, poetry (and to some degree flash fiction as well) is well suited to exemplifying the unexpected. What makes writing poetic is not just the jagged right-hand margin (pace my late friend Matthew Sweeney), but also its ability to do innovative things with language, to avoid cliché (or to use it in surprising new ways), to bend or break the rules of style, structure and content, to challenge and to question rather than simply to tell a story. A poem or very short story has to suggest, set up, prompt with imagery or sound, and let the reader fill in backstory, details, often even climax. Some of the best speculative fiction can come from this combination of innovative form and unexpected content.

In this issue we present eleven short pieces of speculative fiction, either poetry or flash fiction/prose poems, that push the boundaries of genre a bit further than we do usually. It’s hard to trace a single theme between these tremendously diverse pieces, although feminism and other activisms loom large, as you’ll have come to expect. There are pieces that revolve around love—the love that leads to and nourishes resistance, the love that fortifies and motivates us for survival, the love that persists in the face of monstrosity and decrepitude, love of self and love of family. There is also a strong thread of home in this issue: the home as place of that we escape from, home that we protect or keep others out of, home that we recognize the poverty of, that we maintain and fight for. The activism, the resistance, the passion echoes through every poem or flash story.

We’re excited to present this bumper issue, with pieces by many new friends and old: Dawn, Hayley, Jeana, Jennifer B, Jennifer C, Kim, Michael, Paige, Petra, Rebecca and Victoria all thrill us, move us, confound us. As always we’re spoiled by the wonderful artistry of Cécile, Eric, Fluffgar, Jason, Joyce, Katharine, Miguel, Toeken and Valeria (plus J.W. Smith and an unnamed Hellenistic sculptor). Please enjoy the poems and stories in this issue, and keep an eye out for issue 50 this summer, when we’ll have something special for you again!

Djibril al-Ayad, May 2019

Comment on the stories in this issue on the TFF Press blog.

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