My flash science fiction story Man on the Moon Day is now available on Daily Science Fiction’s website. Hooray! (Make sure you press the “Display Entire Story” button so you don’t miss out on the end.)
For those of you who don’t know what flash fiction is, it is super short fiction. The word limits vary, but in my own mind, I usually define flash fiction as stories of 1000 words or less. Other people say flash fiction is even shorter than that.
I wrote Man on the Moon Day for a contest of the Codex Writers’ Group called Weekend Warrior. The idea is that every weekend for five weeks, the participants are provided with a few prompts to choose from, and must write a story of 750 words or less. Then everyone reads everyone else’s stories and rates them all from 1 to 10 and provides brief comments (a sentence or two).
For me, this contest was a great education in flash fiction, a form of fiction I hadn’t been very familiar with before. I participated in three of the weeks (one weekend I was in Detroit for ConFusion, and the last weekend I was just tired and very steeped in Novel). My first two stories…well, they weren’t very good. And then I wrote Man on the Moon Day, edited it based on contest feedback (it’s now 850 words long instead of 750), and sent it into Daily Science Fiction. Thirty-five days later I received the e-mail saying they wanted to buy it.
This story challenged me in two particular ways (well, besides the challenge of learning to write at a much shorter length, which was hard enough!). First, I was playing with a protagonist who…well, she’s fairly bitter, and many readers did not find her particularly likeable. I actually enjoy writing about protagonists who aren’t likeable but with whom I still have some sympathetic connection, and I figured, if I couldn’t play with that in such a short form, when could I get away with it? The structure of the story doesn’t help this either, as it is just one moment in time in what I consider to be the denouement of the entire story. Showing more of the story would, most likely, have helped to build more sympathy for the main character. So it was definitely a risk to take and doesn’t work for all readers. Indeed, many of the readers on Codex adamantly didn’t like this story.
The second challenge was one of theme and how this story plays into the “great space explorer” trope of science fiction. Because the story should be about the spouse who travels off into the great beyond and founds a colony on the moon…shouldn’t it? Well, I didn’t think so. In this case, I thought it was more interesting to explore what (or in this case, who) the explorer leaves behind and ask the question, at what cost? I’m not trying to make value judgments here about the cost as much as present the question to the reader so they can answer it for themselves. At the same time, the story may cause some readers to question traditional gender roles and how gender privilege sometimes asserts itself into relationships. It certainly caused me to think about that, even though I didn’t originally intend to write a story about that issue.
So this is a story that very much challenged me, as both a writer and a human being, and I hope it will challenge some of you as well.
Meanwhile, if you are wondering why a Wednesday post, it is because I will be on a plane for most of Thursday. I’ll be at Readercon outside of Boston this weekend, my first time at this particular con. I have a group Codex reading on Friday at 12pm in Room NH, at which I’ll be reading this story (it is, after all, a Codex success story). The rest of the time, I’ll be gorging on exciting panels and interesting conversation. If you are going to be there as well, I’d love to say hello!