The expression “time flies”, to denote the swift and almost imperceptible passage of time, may arguably be the most overused cliché in the history of language. However, its overuse notwithstanding, time does really fly with its speeding up (and slowing down, yes) accepted as a scientific phenomenon with various causes which I will not discuss here because this is not written by someone with a background in psychology or neuroscience. One thing of interest though, before we go to the real purpose of this post, is that our general perception of time speeds up as we age. Take that fact in any way that you wish.
Instead, this post will deal with a different temporal trick, one which is involved in the realm of fiction rather than psychology or neuroscience. The trick is called flash fiction, where a writer tells a story with only around a thousand words at his disposal. Yes, the trick seems easy to pull-off at first glance but it requires deft hands in order to pull it off perfectly.
In order to shed some light and show appreciation to this underappreciated offshoot of the short story, The Station held a poll in which each of the contributors selected a story that a reader can pick in order to decide what two pieces of flash fiction will be featured in The Station for the month of February. With two votes each, the readers who voted have chosen the short stories for the month and the results are:
- Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood – 45% (18 votes)
- Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace – 30% (12 Votes)
- You Can Find Love Here by Ramona Ausabel – 10% (4 votes)
- One of These Days by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 7.5% (3 votes)
- The Story of the Hour by Kate Chopin – 7.5% (3 votes)
And, not surprisingly, Margaret Atwood and David Foster Wallace won by a landslide particularly Atwood who garnered almost half of the votes for the poll. Therefore, it will be Happy Endings and Incarnations of Burned Children for the month of February here at The Short Story Station.
Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood (from Murder in the Dark, 1983)
Happy Endings is a take on the conventional love story that begins when a woman meets a man. Then abruptly, Atwood takes the story in a different direction. In fact, she takes it in many different directions by employing different endings in a multiple-choice format. Through this postmodern trickery, Atwood explores different kinds of plotting from unrequited love to May-December affairs. Of course, she also engages in a bit of deconstruction regarding the plotting of such stories.
Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace (from Oblivion: Stories, 2004)
In contrast to Atwood’s delicate narrative and almost academic deconstruction of the love story, we have David Foster Wallace’s Incarnations of Burned Children which reads like a car crash, from zero to out of control in the blink of an eye. This is an example of a story where it is best if you know nothing about it going in. All I can say is, after reading it, you will certainly hold this story in your head for days to come.
The links to the stories can be found below and, as always, I hope you will find our featured short stories to be enjoyable reading material and let us know your thoughts about them in our comments section.