SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
D Laserbeam: I’d been working with Spark: A Creative Anthology for about a year and a half, when I decided I wanted to start my own market. Since flash fiction has always been my thing (as far as writing and critiquing), and I really liked the idea of a flash-only market, it seemed like a logical decision. I wanted to show that flash fiction isn’t just a short-short story: it’s something you can read quickly, but it’s much more than meets the eye. There are subtleties and implications that make you want to read again.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
- A story, rather than a scene or character sketch. A lot of people confuse flash fiction with vignette; we do not publish vignettes. I don’t want a slice of life, unless it implies something bigger.
- A unique voice. Unique plots are also good, but I want to feel like I’m not just reading a story I’ve never read before, but also reading something told in a way I haven’t read before. We read hundreds of submissions per issue—we don’t want to be bored; we want to be transported and entertained. I think that’s accomplished much more through voice than through plot.
- A connection to the characters and/or situation. Just because you have a unique voice telling me a whole story doesn’t mean I have to care how it ends. Make me care.
From some of my staff readers: An element of surprise and unpredictability, a story that stays with the reader, succinctness, strong voice, satisfying ending.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
- Obvious lack of proofreading and/or not following submission guidelines shows a clear lack of respect toward not just the people reading your story, but also the process in general.
- A twist ending that reads as more of a punch line than an actual conclusion or resolution. Don’t get me wrong; I like twist endings if they’re done well. The point is that they have to be an aspect of the piece, not its entire purpose.
- Unoriginality: in any form, whether it’s characters, plots, morals, I don’t care. If someone else has written the same story, I don’t want to publish it.
From some of my staff readers: Clunky prose, no conflict or stakes, two-dimensional characters, a story that takes too long to start.
SQF: How and when did you get started with flash fiction?
DL: I’ve written flash fiction since I was young—starting before high school. I liked the idea and challenge of trying to tell a whole story in so few words. My first attempts were obviously nothing great, and probably didn’t succeed at the ‘whole story’ bit, but that’s where it started. I love reading flash fiction done well: real people, complete stories, and—in our case—generally something unusual. My own writing is pretty dark, so it’s unsurprising that the works I tend to like and accept lean that way, as well.
SQF: You’re currently working on a PhD in mechanical and nuclear engineering. How would a nuclear engineer describe the connection between flash fiction and the reader?
DL: Well, my work has been more on the mechanical end of that spectrum. I actually just finished my MS. Just, as in, last week. The PhD is still a bit up in the air. Either way, to me, the connection needs to be strong. Some people use the marathon versus sprint analogy to compare a novel to short fiction. Personally, I prefer to think of it as an intense burst of words. Like a word storm. But, a storm that’s both compelling and satisfying. The reader should not want to stop, and when he’s done, he should feel like the story has ended, even if in an ambiguous way. And later, when he thinks he’s forgotten about it, it should come to mind, and he should want to read it again.
I guess what I’m saying is that flash fiction should be doing the work for you. A novel takes awhile to get into; flash doesn’t have that luxury. It needs to suck you in and drag you along, and then make you want to do it all over again. I’m not sure that has anything to do with nuclear engineering, but there you have it.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
DL: The only other thing I’d really like to highlight is the importance of my staff readers, who make it possible with their comments for us to send out personal rejections to every submitter. I know what it feels like to get form rejections: not good. You have no sense of why, which also gives no help as far as where to go next (other markets, revisions, etc.). All of our rejections contain feedback from the readers, so you know we read the story, and you know why we didn’t want to publish it.
Thank you, DL. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 11/21—Six Questions for Max Vande Vaarst/Founder and Fiction Editor and Katie Morrison/Photography Editor, Buffalo Almanack