Friday, October 15, 2010


Tiny Stars, Big Sun

I have been busy putting together yet another collection. All this story gathering is starting to become excessive; I have put together far too many books already this year. I don't expect them all to appear in the near future; some of them may have to wait for years or they may never appear at all. Who knows?

But this collection is something I have been working on for a long time. It's a set of microfictions, exactly one hundred of them, called Flash in the Pantheon. These ultra-short stories span almost my entire writing career; the earliest dates from 1989 and the most recent was completed a few days ago. First I put them in strict chronological order, then I decided that random order was better. Now it's time to stop tinkering and leave them alone.

There are many kinds of microfiction: the 50 word 'mini-saga', the suggestive '69er', the 100 word 'drabble'. All have one thing in common: they impose a creative fetter on the author. Poets who work with strict metre and rhyming schemes are no strangers to creative fetters, but prose writers rarely use them; and yet, by limiting the chaos of almost infinite choice, they can be highly beneficial as aids to invention and originality. Paradoxically, words in cages can be more free. The above photo shows a less symbolic cage, with me inside. I don't know if the metaphor is fully transferrable, however...

My favourite microfiction of all time was written by John Barth. It can be found on my Gloomy Seahorse site here. Something this ingenious is extremely difficult to match. My own approach to the microfiction question is often to link many together; each one should work alone but the sum should also be a complete epic in miniature. The recent anthology Blind Swimmer features one of my efforts in this vein, a story entitled 'The Talkative Star'. It's the kind of fiction I most enjoy writing, namely Calvinoesque whimsy; but in Britain this seems to be a minority taste and it takes a special editor to appreciate that what seems lighthearted may also be profound.

Fortunately, David Rix of Eibonvale Press is exactly that sort of editor, a gloriously eccentric individual who runs a gloriously eccentric independent publishing house that creates books that don't look like any other books from any other press. The theme of Blind Swimmer is 'creativity in isolation', one of the best themes I have been offered by any editor. I chose to write about our sun, because the sun itself is one of the most creative forces in one of the deepest isolations imaginable, but I made him sentient.

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