The Best Small Fictions 2015
Ed. Robert Olen Butler, Tara L. Masih
Queens Ferry Press
The Best Small Fictions 2015 is a collection of the best fiction – not stories – under 1,000 words. Pieces range from a couple of lines to those wrestling with the word count. To its credit, The Best Small Fictions’ fiction strays far from the conventional. We have stories of a transsexual love affair; a dead man who heads to the office unaware he is dead; a loved-up bird-thief. The fictions take all manner of forms: from first person to third person to monologues from 19th century duellists.
Unfortunately, though the jaw-popping opening line – ‘It sounded like Nadal and Federer are fucking, very slowly, in the living room’ – and the compelling premise intrigue, many of these fictions lack moments of clarity and stirring climax. Instead, there are forced epiphanies, clumsy emotional hooks, and a lack of faith in ambiguity. Halfway through some pieces we can almost hear the author scrambling for that lock-click of a last sentence. If we write these off as the pitfalls of such a strict form, there are many witty, sharp, and moving pieces in this anthology. It’s just a shame that more didn’t leave a sting. It’s a peculiar and difficult form, flash fiction. When it’s successful, as with David Mellerick Lynch’s ‘The Lunar Deep’, the reader wonders why we would ever need more than 1,000 words. However, all too often this anthology left me peckishly chewing on something undercooked.
Words: John Patrick McHugh