by Katherine Valdez
Best Microfiction 2019
published by Pelekinesis
Meg Pokrass and Gary Fincke, series editors
Dan Chaon, guest editor
“Beautiful, brooding, erotic, mysterious, idiosyncratic words shaped into thunderbolts, shocks that reveal what we didn’t know we know…This is flash at its best…”
– Jane Ciabattari, columnist, BBC Culture, The Literary Hub
“A brilliant, moving, entertaining collection of very short stories, chosen by an editor who is himself a master storyteller. This promises to be a great series. Highly recommended.”
– Robert Shapard, coeditor W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International
This collection of 87 stories, some award-winning, are the best of the best from microfiction journals around the world. As series co-editor Meg Pokrass mentions in the foreword, in 2009 only about a dozen literary magazines would consider publishing microfiction. Now thousands ask for flash submissions.
As a bonus, the anthology features an introduction (“Microduction”) by short story author and final judge Dan Chaon, an exclusive craft-oriented interview with the great Etgar Keret, and an essay by Robert Scotellaro about the current state of microfiction.
If you’re a microfiction writer, it can be difficult to find the best stories to study. Best Microfiction 2019 makes this task easy. I’m impressed by the wide range of genres, themes and writing styles. (Disclosure: I requested and received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.)
Whether you’re interested in contemporary, fantasy, magical realism, or horror, everyone will find something they like in this collection.
Having been a writer and teacher of microfiction in recent years, I was overjoyed to read such compelling, masterfully-written stories that are some of the best examples of the genre. I highly recommend this anthology, and know I will return to it again and again for inspiration.
Here are a few of my favorites.
- Sanctus Spiritus, 1512 by Sarah Arantza Amador. The editor clearly chose the best story to kick off the anthology. It contains a bit of mystery, a bit of fantasy, and a healthy dose of “longing, ghost-making, the endearment of monsters” as the author mentions in her bio.
- The Hungerer by Matt Bell (from Wigleaf). Gruesome fairy tale in the tradition of the brothers Grimm. A brother goes to extremes to protect his younger sister.
- There Will Be No Lace by TM Upchurch (from Flashback Fiction). A young mother, living in what may be medieval times, must give up her child.
- The Hair Child by Kaj Tanaka (from Bending Genres). An emotional and creepy magical realism tale told in second person that addresses a parent’s conflicted feelings about their son.
- Reverse Field Trip by Luke Wortley (from Longleaf Review). A story of hope and tragedy told in reverse chronological order.
The following are notable partly for their experimental form.
- The Central Line Has Severe Delays by Jamie Thunder (from Spelk). A tragedy told via a list of nouns and sounds.
- Lifecolor Indoor Latex Paints® – White and Reds by Kristen Ploetz (from JMWW). Cradle-to-grave story told in brand-name paint colors. This reminded me of the PowerPoint chapter in A Visit From The Good Squad by Jennifer Egan.
- Fragments of Evolution byCavin Gonzalez (from Cheap Pop). Three sections of scientific descriptions of mammals and existential musings.
- Things Left and Found By The Side of The Road by Jo Gatford (from Bath Flash Fiction Volume Three). A complex list of unlikely objects. Excerpt: “Imaginary friends, abandoned because of older sisters who said they were babyish.”
- Breathlessness by Claire Polders (from Moonpark Review). At just 49 words, quite possibly the shortest horror story you’ll ever love.
And here are some favorites focusing on LGBTQIA+ and gender identity themes.
- An Inheritance by Lutivini Majanja (from Flash Frontier). A mother of three daughters has a compelling reason to take their portrait.
- Masculinities by Paul Strohm (from West Marin Review). First sentence: “My father was edgy about my Christmas request for a doll.”
- Fire by Brenda Peynado (from Craft Magazine). The protagonist is a girl who claims her power.
What Others Say
“These fictions are travel guides, conversations, spell and incantations, language feasts, character studies, lab experiments. They are stories in the wildest sense of the word: stories that push and pull at boundaries, stories that move mountains and dig rivers and do it all while whispering quietly that they can.” – Amber Sparks
Katherine Valdez loves reading. Some of her favorite books growing up were A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle, Trixie Belden mysteries, and Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck. She’s currently reading (and listening to) The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.
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