Category Archives: Flash fiction

The Great KOA Getaway

The Great KOA Getaway

There’s an energizing crispness in the October air – and that’s not all. Regional festivals celebrating local wine, apples, and barbecue lure excited crowds with sweet, smoky aromas and music from homegrown bands. The squawking from a wedge of geese overhead reminds us it’s hunting and camping season. And Halloween is just around the corner.

My latest work, “The Great KOA Getaway,” should get you in the mood. It’s a flash story about an unlucky/lucky ranger caught in the middle of a little misunderstanding at a remote campground. I’d describe it as a mash-up of Twilight Zone and National Lampoon’s Vacation, with just a touch of Lovecraft thrown in. It’s available free (!) at The Flash Fiction Press.

I’ve always enjoyed stories that tickle your goosebumps and funny bone at the same time. And isn’t that what makes Halloween so much fun?

I hope “The Great KOA Getaway” brings a shiver and a smile to your day.

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Bewildering Stories’ Third Quarterly Review, 2016

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From Bewildering Stories:

Bewildering Stories ends the season — winter or summer, depending on your hemisphere — with the Review Editors’ selection of favorites from the third quarter of 2016. New readers will have easy access to the recent best of Bewildering Stories, and veteran readers will have a chance to catch up on anything they may have missed.

The Quarterly Reviews are not a contest, competition or poll. And there are no quotas: anything — from everything to nothing — may qualify in any genre. Rather, they answer a practical question: “If a friend asked you to recommend something outstanding from the past quarter of Bewildering Stories, what would you choose?”

I’m happy to announce the editors at Bewildering Stories included my piece “Whisper Listing” in their short list of best flash fiction stories.

Quote of the day

Bonfire

“A brilliant flash fiction can illuminate a world in a moment. It can tell an epic story in the space of a page. The compression necessary to a flash fiction piece means it takes on a greater urgency, a controlled burn that means every single word on that page is necessary, is living and breathing and is saying the thing that so desperately needs to be said. Every piece of kindling is cut and placed and perfect.” Amber Sparks

Whisper Listing

Whisper Listing

“In transactions involving haunted real estate, the rule is not only caveat emptor but also caveat venditor.”

The looming presidential election is shaping up as a combination fiasco and tragedy of such staggering proportions, the only thing we can do is laugh. So in a desperate act of escapism, I wrote a satirical flash fiction piece entitled “Whisper Listing.” It’s featured in the latest issue of Bewildering Stories. Here’s hoping it provides a bit of comic relief to our ongoing political agony.

(In real estate, a “whisper listing” is a house for sale in a market restricted to a select group of potential buyers. Celebrities often use them to avoid publicity.)

* Be sure to check out Challenge 680 linked at the end of my story!

Black Ghost

Silver Blade

Silver Blade Magazine specializes in “Cutting-edge Science Fiction, Slipstream, and Fantasy.” The latest edition features my flash fiction piece “Black Ghost.”

The inspiration for this story came from a couple of things. My father, a veteran of World War II, was recently admitted to the “Memory Ward” at a nursing home. Seeing him alone in a wheelchair when I visit makes me wonder if people passing by have any idea what this quiet man, a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, endured in that war. Short answer: They do not. Nor do most folks consider what they owe to that generation, a generation of heroes which slips away from us day by day.

The other spark for this story was a fascinating article in Ancient Origins about the once widespread practice of interring items in tombs the dead could use in the afterlife. These “parting gifts” weren’t cheap. Consider what archaeologists found in the tomb of Princess Ukok of Siberia:

Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.

There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold. And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.

Often, the living would supply the departed with the means to carry on their life’s work. The Ancient Origins article cited a study of tombs from pre-Roman Italy that revealed “indications of the commonality of military service since men’s tombs of the era routinely contained metal weaponry lying across or near the skeletal remains.”

That got me to thinking about the many deities and religions — not to mention nations — that have come and gone over the centuries, and how all of them arose because they met timeless human needs. The more I thought about it, the more intriguing the possibility a future society could adapt this ancient practice. Next thing I knew, I was outlining a story I’d already titled “Black Ghost.”

Stories provide much that religion offers. The tales we read, like the ones we encounter in worship, may not be factual but are nevertheless true and necessary. The cycles of nature, the challenge of growing up and leaving home, and one’s inevitable confrontation with life and death arouse fear and fascination within every human heart. Stories and myths have the power to startle, teach, and assure us on life’s journey. That’s why religion and storytelling have germinated in all cultures.

And whatever one’s views on religion, we can all appreciate the story’s secondary themes of the debt the living owe past generations, the heroism of ordinary people that make life possible, and the boundless potential — and petulance — within every 12-year-old. Enjoy.

The Clincher

The Clincher

The Flash Fiction Press has published my story The Clincher, now available online.

The idea for this story came to me while reading William Lind’s introduction to Fourth Generation Warfare. Lind predicts that future battles will hinge on public perceptions of the combatants:

Fourth generation adversaries will be adept at manipulating the media to alter domestic and world opinion to the point where skillful use of psychological operations will sometimes preclude the commitment of combat forces. A major target will be the enemy population’s support of its government and the war.

Propaganda has long served as a “Fifth Column” for invading armies. During the 1968 Prague Spring uprisings against the Soviet Union, Czech communists assured their restless population that Soviet troops entering Prague weren’t really invading — they were just dropping by to preserve order and stop “counter-revolutionaries,” thereby ensuring Czechoslovakia’s peace and prosperity.

Prague Spring“We’re from Moscow, and we’re here to help.”

Lind argues that in future conflicts, warring groups will clash over narrative even more than over territory, making the control of public opinion “the dominant operational and strategic weapon.” It occurred to me that 4GW will weaponize the advertising industry. That made me think about Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and the other rapacious but fascinating characters from Mad Men. I wondered how they’d react if space aliens asked them to handle a PR campaign to prepare the Earth for invasion.

Yeah, they’d take that account.

Please leave comments at The Flash Fiction Press. Thanks!