import_contacts Vestal Review

reviewed by Tom Hartman

Published in Issue No. 52 ~ September, 2001

Reading Jakob Nielsen’s recommendations on writing web content in
Designing Web Usability
, one can’t help but consider all the
different kinds of text-based content that can’t possibly be
bulletized, chunked, or otherwise distilled to some web-friendly
essence – like fiction, for example. There’s no doubt that publishing
fiction presents some serious usability problems for ‘zine editors;
nor is there any question that writers will continue producing stories
of 5 or 6 or 10 thousand words. So what’s an editor to do?

One answer, I suppose, is to focus on “flash” rather than standard
fiction. This interstitial genre, which, at it’s best features the
kind of compression one normally associates with poetry, has certainly
blossomed on the web – and out there in the bricks and mortar world
it’s even become the subject of courses and writers workshops.

There are a number of places to discover flash fiction if you haven’t
already done so. One is Vestal Review,
edited by Mark Budman, who selects 6-10 pieces for each issue, many of
them penned by Canadian writers. In one piece in the current issue
(Issue 5), a woman, following a chance encounter with a
shotgun-wielding farmer’s pet rabbits, becomes a “werebunny”; in
another, a wife watches impassively as her soon-to be ex-husband,
bumped over a tableside railing by a mariachi guitarist, drowns in a
Mexican river. In yet another, the language of noir fiction is
hyperbolized ad absurdum.

As these brief descriptions indicate, the current VR tends toward
lighter fare: entertaining, anecdotal flashes, some of which read like
professionally-polished urban legends.

For some of the edgier work being written in this genre, look in at
Prose Ax ( where the current issue features 2
excellent new flashes by Richard Payette (“The Gift”) and Kenneth A.
Champeon (“Hope”).

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Tom Hartman has been a regular contributor to Pif since 1999. He lives in Philadelphia.