It’s not quite the season to be jolly, but it is advent, and, as part of this annual time of daily chocolate eating and counting off December days until Christmas, I was invited to contribute a short story to an advent calendar.
The Black Library invited its writers to contribute stories for each of the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas day, and I was one of those invited, along with the husband, of course, and such luminaries as Graham McNeil, James Swallow and Aaron Dembski-Bowden, fine writers all. It’s always nice to be asked, and, remembering the first time I was asked, it’s also very nice to see new writers coming onboard and getting their first opportunities to see their stories published.
Anyway... the point was to write a thousand word story, a piece of flash fiction, obviously based on one of the things that Dan and I collaborate on, and, on this occasion, we decided that I should write something based in 40K. I had an idea and I set to work... And, yes, of course I’ll let you know when the story is due to appear.
The point is this... Advent has begun, and this project gives me the opportunity to talk about flash fiction.
The term flash fiction is pretty new, but very short short stories have been around for a very long time. We sometimes used to call this sort of thing prose poetry. I particularly like this format, and I regularly write very short fiction for fun and to practise my skills. I like that it requires some thought to take an idea that suits a very short form and craft it using a set and small number of words. It matters to me to get it right. I like that not everyone can do this successfully.
It is a tall order to ask writers to work in a variety of forms. Most novelists are not also short story writers. Most writers of short stories do not write flash fiction. The Black Library often asks its writers to work across a wide variety of forms from blogs and flash fiction through short fiction to long short stories, novellas up to novels and novel series. They are demanding, and I think this gives the writers an opportunity to test their mettle and hone their skills in ways that they might not otherwise have the chance to do. It is, on the whole, a good thing, giving writers the chance to learn where their strengths are and to work on ironing out their weaknesses.
I hope that many of the advent stories will be wonderful. I hope that they will be complete, self-contained, beautiful little tales that require nothing of the reader except a few minutes attention. I hope that we get polished, satisfying plots, and tight, elegant prose where no word is wasted.
I hope that we really do get some of the best flash fiction that the Black Library writers have to offer.