Novelty is relative. The newness of style, of language, in literature is wholly dependent on the reader’s exposure, limited or otherwise, to various texts. “If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me,”Â so goes the mantra. While flash fiction isn’t a brand new form, it is still a rarity to see a flash fiction collection.
Heroes and Civilians by Adam Ford Â is a swift read (forty-one pages), paced with a tempo which undulates between frenetic and saunter, briskly truncating the human condition with less-than-500-word vignettes, yet occasionally letting off the gas to allow a miniature story bloom into a larger work (still under 2000 words).
The stories are crafted with brevity in mind. Less room to write means less time to get to the point. Less time to let the language unfurl with a multisyllabic, metaphoric splay of carefully-chosen vernacular. With little dialogue, Ford achieves brevity with light, silly and entertaining narratives through Otherspace, monster attacks (which ruined first dates in the process) and an ode to a celebrated superhero from his lowly sidekick sibling.
Ford showcases an enjoyment of writing, allowing his imagination to roam free while the watchful eye of the craftsman, aware and wary of belaboring the point, chaperones the fantastic. Yet this is all conducted with literary aspirations in mind, as seen here in an excerpt of Â “A Billion Tiny Lights,”Â told from the perspective of a spaceship suddenly self-aware:
When it happened it wasn’t like waking from a dream. It was like the dream had finally started. Ozone, steam and heat. That’s what I remember. Feeling heat for the first time. Not just monitoring it. Not just recording it. Feeling it. He told me he could tell that something had changed. Your control panel was warm, he said. Like the skin over someone’s heart.
Some of the stories come and go”â€the effect of brevity as opposed to poor storytelling. Compared individually, a few of Ford’s stories are filler, stop-gaps to the jewels of Heroes and Villains, such as “Exit The Raven,”Â the musings of a recently-retired superhero, and the title story, about a young man’s desire to meet the super-heroine of his dreams—and the lengths he’ll go to achieve this goal. Still, Ford delivers memorable characters and plots, amusing lines and otherworldly settings, all neatly packed into a volume as small as a poetry chapbook.
Flash fiction is a difficult form, demanding the elements of short stories within the page-space of poems. Adam Ford exudes a control of the flash form, as well as an adherence to the principles of fiction, in a way not seen before by this reviewer. Heroes and Villains is no masterwork, and sometimes falters by the very form it touts, but it nonetheless embodies the potential and possibility of flash fiction as a viable, powerful literary art form, doing so with imaginative, yet provocative prose that does its work with little clearing of the throat. It entertains. It conjures thought. It wastes no time.
Heroes and Civilians is available for free download.
Thomas DeMary currently hacks away at his prose somewhere in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @thomasdemary