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Interview: Flash Fiction Digest

 


Flash Fiction Digest     12/03

Gina DeGarmo

 

The Future of Flash Fiction?

 

 

The editor of “Satire” states, “Rossi fits ten ideas into a page and a half of flash fiction. Where others have a gimmick he has a point of view. ‘Philosophy of Rent’ is a perfect example of an evolving literary form reaching an undefined plateau.”

 

Every time I hear that I am in shock.

 

Why?

 

Irony.  Fiction, for me, has no past or future. This meaning I haven’t spent any time writing traditional short stories. I read them all the time and know the classic structure, yet from a writer’s stance, I find that format boring. I began reading two years ago what many are calling “flash fiction” which is basically very short stories or fictional prose or dialogue-free fiction. And I decided to jump right into without a whole lot of examination or literary reflection. My versions of flash fiction are pieces that have something to say that I cannot find a method to say in poetry or drama. Hence, it has no future for me since I can see the end of the line for further experimentation. Ironic. Some of the best compliments of my entire writing career have centered on a form of writing in which I have the least commitment.

 

Does that realization give you pause?               

 

Not really. A majority of these short pieces pack an emotional and political wallop and therefore appear more accessible.  I am somewhat surprised by the reaction but it won’t cause me to start mass-producing this material.

 

Tell us about the cynical and humane “Philosophy of Rent.”

 

That is a fair estimation. I wanted to peek into society and poke fun at feminist restrictions on gender roles and then suddenly when the reader becomes interested, angry or bored---switch to a bank robbery devised by a man in love with a woman.

 

What is the creative process involved in your unique take on flash fiction?

 

It isn’t anything I can quantify for you or anyone else. I simply base it on essay-like prose interlaced with poetic sensibilities and my personal spin on reality.

 

Rumor has it some of your work is deemed too controversial for publication. I read “Subway Student” on the internet zine “Thunder Sandwich” and found it disturbing but still worthy of publication. Why is there opposition even from some of your supporters?

 

 Too much of fiction these days is subtexual tease and not direct commentary on anything to ignite thinking or feeling. It’s either profane language, casual sex or excessive violence. How the hell am I controversial when I write a piece about people abusing the homeless, composing college papers about murdered prostitutes, fearing rats are God’s punishment, linking drugs to devil-worship, etc. Perhaps I am supposed to cushion these notions with humor or paragraphs of say-nothing to lessen the impact. Forget that!

 

How did the Internet play into publicizing your fiction work?

 

Thunder Sandwich has become home to cutting-edge work often pushed out by mainstream literary publications. Most of my fiction is published in traditional print magazines but the Internet is fast-becoming a vehicle to transport new ideas to a new audience. I get email about the work, good and bad, and I cannot complain.

 

Wendall Sexton of Round Table Review states your first-person narrative “is direct and scary.” Is that what bothers people—the first-person narrative?

 

Perhaps so. Writers are in the habit of disguising their viewpoint or fearing whatever they write is going to smear them. My feelings are very different. Every time you write you expose something about yourself whether you it or not; whether you hide it or not. I write it. I say it’s fiction and that’s the end of it. If you prefer to believe it’s all true then you give me more power over your perceptions. Keep in mind we are living in the digital age where television, radio, motion pictures, compact discs and the internet compete for our attention spans. New literary structures are natural outgrowths of modern pressure for competitive artistic expression.

 

I am uncertain why Sexton would deem your technique to be “scary.”

 

My first-person narrative assumes a role-playing narration of each character of the fiction piece. In one I am a young Hispanic, in another a female seeking revenge, etc. The lack of third person cover probably scares most reviewers expecting the average story coming from the typical voice.

 

Sexton criticizes and praises your fiction collection “Tracking the Beast” as a mixed-up book lost in a loose definition of what is evil.

 

A review of his review, how clever. Reviews are vital to the written word and I actually appreciate their existence. With that said, it’s hard to understand why certain pieces ring home and others are scattered in his claim of negative undertones. However, discerning his feelings is not my job; it’s enough to discern my own. He’s accurate regarding my myriad slants on evil surfacing in regular people. I propose most evil in the world is created and sustained by the average person and Sexton thinks dictators cause all the evil.

Your work provokes deeper questions about society. I re-read “Zero-Zero” and walked away with the belief it was concerned with more than a spoiled brat robbing a homeless man to get enough money for a bus ride home. I saw parallel lives led by desperation. 

 

Hypocrisy is the foundation and fodder of most of my urban flash fiction.  It is the lubricant to grease the truth out of ironic situations. Sometimes the only difference between the downtrodden and the college student is someone is there to pay for the latter’s mistakes. But that is about as parallel as it really gets. Any strand of politics is purely coincidental since I am not positing an agenda. I personally do not care about either character. They serve the theme; not a “disease-of-the-week” mentality often bandied about these days. I want to be provocative since I do believe certain questions are absent in short fiction due to the fact that so much of it is written by coffee-chugging college brats upset over daddy’s distance or the death of their expensive dog.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the conscious choice of including certain questions in your work---a political agenda?

 

You are wrong. A political agenda is always served by providing a ready-made answer and demonizing the “other” in the equation.  For example, in “Cosmic Justice Comes to Slumville” I label the drug dealer is a scumbag (a fact of life) and plot his demise by use of magic. A political agenda would defend the drug dealer as a poor soul robbed of promise by an unkind society or portray as a monster to be shot on sight for corrupting the youth of the community. In, “Johnny Bag O’Doughnuts” an elderly man starts a poisonous streak in a community after he regularly feeds a pack of rats living in the park. A political agenda would have me turn this into another “society neglecting the elderly propaganda piece” or another “respect nature’s wild animal” sermon.

 

 

 

 


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1 Comments

  1. looking forward to see more interviews. this first one, though, done some time ago is insightful and creative.

    ReplyDelete