It’s been pretty well established that laughter — even smiling — significantly enhances one’s health. Therefore, if you’re not aware of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (“a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels”), now’s your chance to enhance your immune system.
For my part, I’m not a winner, but I made a valiant effort:
The dawn peeped through Wednesday’s — or was it Thursday’s? — sticky eyelids beneath Cara’s curious hangover as she pushed aside the empty tequila bottles and puzzled over the puzzling array of chicken feathers scattered neatly over the body of the naked dead stranger beside her, and then Cara thought: not again!
If you think you can write more wretchedly, you’re welcome to enter the contest. It’s easy; check here for details.
P.S. I hate to admit it, but I recently submitted — in spite of hours of polishing — a short story that started, “It was…” Needless to say, an excellent way to ensure a quick rejection, regardless of the quality of the remainder of my story. Sometimes we’re simply blind to obvious mistakes, which is why a good editor will always be a necessary partner for a good writer.
“Face Off” by N. E. Walker is a futuristic vision of our celebrity-obsessed culture, where Face Masters recreate long-dead fan favorites. Capped by an ironic twist, “Face Off” has been selected for publication in the print edition of Cosmos Magazine, issue # 44.
Flash fiction is a very short story. Unlike a novel, where the reader may tolerate a few slow-paced chapters as the novel’s foundation is set, readers expect short stories to be quickly engaging. Flash fiction is even more demanding: grab the reader’s attention, hold it for a few paragraphs, and provide a payoff at the end. Does “Postmortem” below do all that? You can decide.
For an example of one of the shortest stories you will ever read, Fredric Brown’s “Knock” is hard to beat (see “Fredric Brown Quotes“).
(c) 2011 N. E. Walker
“Where am I?”
“Ah, you’re finally awake.”
“Who are you? You have an odd accent.”
“I’m your interpreter, and also the manager for your project.”
“Yes. You are being revived, so we can study you. Like the others.”
“I don’t understand. But no matter. Let me up, now. I demand it!”
“You’re no longer in a position to give commands, and even if I wished to obey, it isn’t physically possible for you to sit up.”
“What? Why is that? What happened?”
“You will know soon; eventually your memories will fully return. When they do, we’ll be having many conversations.”
“Then I will be able to move about, be given my freedom?”
“No. Let me give you a quick summary of your situation: You died approximately one hundred years ago. Since that time, technology has increased where — using genetic samples that have been painstakingly gathered over the years — we have been able to construct a mental equivalent to what you were before you died.”
“A mental equivalent?”
“Yes, a type of, um, clone, with limited physical functionality, but full mental capacity.”
“Yes. Ironic, I think, considering that you were so obsessed with genetics.”
“Was I? I will remember all this, eventually?”
“Yes, and then we will question you, at length. We hope to obtain a better understanding of why you behaved the way you did.”
“And I will never be able to move from here?”
“That is not acceptable! It will be no better than being in hell!”
“How true, Herr Hitler. How very true.”
Obsession, compulsion, paranoia.
These are just a few of the psychological frailties that affect us all, sometimes propelling us to the edge of reality and beyond. My novels and short stories are crafted to explore these darker sides of our nature, using a blend of mystery, suspense, and a touch of the Twilight Zone.
For those of you who enjoy trying to puzzle out an offbeat plot as it unfolds, who value psychological insights more than physical action and fisticuffs, and who like being challenged and informed, I think you’ll appreciate these stories. I’ll be using this blog from time to time to provide additional background material, and to answer any questions you may have.
Others have found my work to be not only entertaining (the writer’s first duty), but also thought-provoking, and I hope you do, too.
-N. E. Walker