Flash fiction lives in the liminal space between prose poetry and short stories. Marianne Moore saw “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Flash fiction sees the human condition in a story that is usually wound around a single metaphor. We create the forms that tell our stories– in the 19th century, it was the novel. Tolstoy and Woolf and the expansive canvas of family, politics, and relationships. In the 20th century, it was film and the hero’s journey divided into three distinct movements. In college, we studied the epic poetry of the Ancient Greeks; the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the Mahabharata where myth takes center stage in the narrative. But the 21st century will see the rise and the rise of Flash Fiction.
Our stories in the 21st century need concision, brevity, compression and a punch to the gut. We don’t have time, frankly, for Thomas Hardy’s long and gorgeous disquisitions on the landscape. We don’t have time for Woolf’s digressive explorations of character and motivation. We don’t have time for formal speeches, invocations to the muse, or the Greek chorus. The 24 hour news cycle is now the 15 minute news cycle. Twitter is the new stream of consciousness. The internet changed everything, and we invented flash fiction because we needed it. This is how we tell our stories-- in 1,000 words or less. The shorter, the better. We get our fix of literature in brief powerful texts that are as potent as the Greek epic. The narrating body of our culture has to keep pace with the times. Storytelling is bred into our DNA; this will never change. But the forms change, as they must. Welcome to the 21st century.