Small Thoughts: Short Story Review

Sparkle and Shine

By Tonia Laird
Speculative City, Volume Five: Occult

Speculative City is a small, but quality speculative fiction magazine, only published online. They run a Patreon here, but it’s mostly to supplement/offset the money the editors spend (out of pocket) in order to produce the mag.

Sparkle and Shine by Tonia Laird is a flash fiction piece that focuses on the occult dealings of humans with demons. Goes with the territory I suppose.

Flash fiction works in some pretty confined ways, and with this piece just under 700 words, you can see why. The premise is built quickly. A husband and wife have arrived home. Everything from the syntax to the word choice feels gloomy. Whatever the reason for their late arrival can’t be good.

Then the information of the plot, which is also backstory comes to life.

This is common in flash fic. The form often deals more with the consequences of what has already happened than the events themselves, simply because there aren’t enough words to go, step by step, through the whole plot. The plot is implied and the consequences of it are now becoming clear.

For me, Sparkle and Shine does this well. It establishes plot, mystery, setting, and then turns the circumstances back on those who created them.

A quick and satisfying read over a morning coffee.

The Hole Where Andy Used To Be by Sean Vivier, Flash Fiction Online, 2018

This piece uses clever repetition and simple sentences to articulate complex issues. The hole is metaphorical as well as literal. It is a manephestation of the lonelyness and emptiness the narrator feels since he husband has left her–and their son.

The piece excels in the places of loss and sadness. Near the end the piece gets more hopreful and I think it’s a bit rushed. This piece is at its best when it is giving specific examples of how the Hole Where Andy Used To Be is impacting the narrator and her son. While the end is uplifting and definately shows changed within the character, the abruptness of the shift left me a little on edge. I felt as though I needed a progression rather than a pure switch.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Lillian Ward-Packard, Flash Fiction Online, 2018

Not to fawn too much over this piece, but holy shit! This piece just ticks every box I could ever want in terms of flash fiction. It literally gave me goosebumps; the ending was that good, the writing was so clean and perfect.

It’s about two high school girls (I think they’re in high school) in the early 60s’. Sputnik 1 has been launched the previous day and they are sitting around in the attic of one of their houses talking and eating candy. The prospect of nuclear war suddenly hangs over them just like the satellite, but so much more is at stake as well. The friend of the narrator has grown up. She likes to talk about fashion and movie stars and, most of all, boys. The narrator, on the other hand, doesn’t connect–or perhaps she is too shy to admit the attraction. It does feel like this a bit. What the narrator really wants is for everything to stay how it is at that moment. She doesn’t want to grow up and she certainly doesn’t want anything to change.

I can remember feeling this way in 7th grade. I went to Italy with my parents for three weeks and when I came back my best friend had started putting gel in his hair and dressing hip (or what seemed hip) and I couldn’t understand why he was doing this. It just didn’t seem like him. Of course, he was the same person–just older. And he’s still the same person–just older. We worry about different things now than we did then. And that’s what this piece is about. How people’s concerns change with the passing of years. How we look back and think of the ‘good ol’ days’ and how we grew up and how things felt at that moment of change.