Billing itself as a venue for stories of 500 words or less, I started reading with a little bit of skepticism. For about a little over a decade now publishers have been printing teeny-tiny short stories----sometimes dubbed short-shorts or flash fiction----in books and lit mags. They are damn tough to do well, so I often find them fun to read once but not offering much reason to come back to them again and again. More than one time I've wondered if publishers and editors started the trend mainly to publish more authors and, hopefully, get more readers.
The stories in this particular issue ran the full gamut of short fiction: traditional stories with a beginning, a middle and an end, anecdotes, and formalistic experimental pieces. Some, like John Ellingsworth's "One Novel as Auto-Summarized by Microsoft Word, Reducing 31,000 words to 24, Losing None of Its Nuance Nor Delicious Homoeroticism, and Gaining Even a Kind of Terse, Sad Poetry, the Author Thinks" are just goofy fun. Sue Allison's "Second Chances in the Old People's Home" is more traditional but manages to dig into some surprising layers of character for such a short space. Not surprisingly, Addonizio's "Crash" approaches things like a short narrative poem, building image after image to shoot a pretty grisly scene at the reader. While the short lengths of all the pieces suited my current (ie short) attention span, I found myself marking phrases and re-reading pieces more than I have in some time. The editors have exerted real quality control here, publishing work with real purpose behind it and not just putting out short pieces to be quirky or trendy.
For fellow writers, this is a great market if you have a real talent for tiny, tight fiction. With the quality so high the competition would be pretty stiff, but I'd be more than honored to find my own name---my real name---in the contributors list someday. Not likely, since my stories seem to get lengthier the more I write, but you never know.