Friday, February 26, 2021

Six Questions for Thomas J. Griffin and M.A. Dosser, Co-Founders/Editors, Flash Point SF

Flash Point SF publishes speculative fiction from 100 to 1,000 words. “Send us your science fiction, fantasy, slipstream, and everything in between, so long as it’s short.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

FPSF: Even among short fiction enthusiasts, there seems to sometimes be a bias of “longer is better.” You’ll often hear talk about a “sweet spot” of 3000-5000 words for what's most desirable for both publications and readers, and whenever magazines can afford to, they try to raise the ceiling of their word limits. 

So we decided to go the other way. We’ve both been flash fans for years, in our reading as well as our writing, but outside of a few high profile venues, flash fiction markets can be hard to find, so we decided to create a new space for flash fic ourselves. It’s only been a few months since we opened to submissions, but already we’re seeing that we weren’t alone. There’s a huge demand for great flash fiction out there, and we’re happy to do our part promoting it. 

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

FPSF: Does it feel like flash? Flash fiction at its best is portrait made word--a single scene (or a few at most) with a strong conflict and immediate consequences. And yet, despite its brevity, it should feel whole and complete. Packing beginning, middle, and end all into one brilliant 1000 word (or less!) shot is what gives flash fiction its unparallelled punch. 

Was it fun to read? As we say in our guidelines, we want stories that will make us laugh, cry, think, or smile (maybe even all four). Whether it’s a hearty chuckle or a solemn “woah,” we want to be feeling feelings by the end of the story. 

Quality of writing: you don’t need to be Faulkner (in fact, we prefer if you aren’t), but a great plot alone isn’t good enough. With so many great submissions coming our way, often what sets one apart from the others is the quality of the prose, that professional polish.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

FPSF: First and foremost, follow the guidelines. Not only are they simple, they’re very much standard for the industry. We don’t ask for anything special, just the due diligence.

Second, is it a true flash fiction piece, or a piece of something larger? This is the other side of the question “Does it feel like flash?” We get a lot of submissions, some which are frankly otherwise great, that fail to tell a complete story and instead act like an opening scene with a good cliffhanger. While we might be interested in the larger work as fans, that sort of excerpt is never going to fit with what we want to publish at FPSF.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

FPSF: This is a tough one because it can be any number of different things! Questions like this remind me of the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when he was asked to define pornography: “I know it when I see it.”

In all seriousness, don’t waste time. Make it feel immediate. Use the opening lines to ground us in someone (or something’s) POV and present that POV character with a problem that makes the reader ask, “Oooh, what next?” With only 1000 words *at most* there’s not much room for long-winded expositions and the like. Get us to the moment that matters right away (and let go as soon as that moment resolves itself, for good or bad).

SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

FPSF: We aren’t interested in pure horror, but we won’t turn a story away simply because it has a fright or two. We’re happy to take stories with romantic elements, but erotica is not something we publish, and excessive, graphic violence or obscenity are also going to be hard sells. That doesn’t mean that any instance of these elements is an automatic no, but it shouldn’t be gratuitous; it should serve the story. 

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

FPSF: “How can readers support Flash Point SF best?”

FPSF: By reading and sharing our stories, of course, but also through our email subscription service, which delivers new stories to your inbox every publication day. This isn’t just a shameless plug. Not only is it the best way for prospective authors to stay current on the kind of stories we like to publish, but it helps us toward our goal of supporting our authors as well as we can. Publishing credits are nice, but we know how much time authors put into their craft, and they deserve to be rewarded for that effort. That’s been our goal at FPSF from the beginning, and though our rates are semi-pro at the moment, our ultimate goal is to offer a SFWA-approved pro rate. 

Thank you, Thomas and M.A.. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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