Why stories? Why now?
After all, the thinking seems to go – at least, in my social
media hive mind – there are more pressing matters, more
urgent issues. More rallies to attend, more phone calls to make, more
abuses of power to resist. And all this is true – and it is
urgent – and it is necessary to respond to the tyranny of the
moment with all of our force and might and voice. At the same time,
though, I feel certain that to lose our sense of story is to capitulate
more absolutely in the face of fascism than any other surrender we
might make. The stories we tell are the shape of the world, and the
warning of the world to come or the hope of the world we might make.
Writers have a unique gift to offer to a sick and sore society: the
stories that can keep us alive.
When I read these Wigleaf Top 50 stories, I felt more alive than I have
in months. I felt electric, hopeful, aware – I was a thousand
thousand pairs of eyes that took in so much human joy and pain and
strangeness. Thank goodness for the sites that publish flash fiction -
some familiar, some here new to me, all now on my radar - and thank
goodness for the writers who take up the often thankless form of flash.
In particular the flash fiction story allows for that sense of
compression, the epic sense of feeling that gives a story urgency and
fierceness. The flash fiction pulses. It punches. It demands reading.
And these stories, each one in their own way, demand reading
– and rereading. They vary wildly in tone, in subject matter,
in setting, and in form. Some play with structure, and some are
straightforward narrative. Some are surreal and bizarre, and some are
kitchen table realism. Some take place all over the globe, in far flung
regions – and some take place in the space no larger than a
character's own mind. But every one of these stories took risks of some
kind. Every one of these stories kept me nearly breathless for the
duration. They were fun to read or hard to read but all were good to
read – they all made me giddy and glad to be a person.
And while reading these stories, I thought about something else, too.
The diversity of lived experience and subject matter is wide and
wonderful. There are paupers and rich people, people of color,
refugees, immigrants, women who love women, men who love men, and women
who love moose, too. (Just wait.) The living and the dead, animals and
demons, people who work, children – so much of the human
experience is right here, housed in these fifty stories. And so I
thought: if Donald Trump read books – if he read stories like
these – might he be a better person? Might he understand and
embrace the kind of shared humanity that writers are so good at
delivering? Surely it was no accident that President Barack Obama
embraced the widest, most inclusive notion of human society that any
American president has yet – and also was one of the most
well-read of our presidents, particularly in literary fiction?
But alas, Donald Trump will probably never read a magazine without his
picture on the cover, let alone a novel or a short story. So perhaps
that hope is futile. And yet – that simply means that we
writers must press on, must keep doing what we do best: telling the
stories that humans need to hear. That is the work that will keep us
alive in the dark times. And it is the work that will tell the story of
how we survived them, long after we're gone.
Amber Sparks is the author of the short story collection The Unfinished World and
Other Stories, which has
received praise from The New York Times,
Washington Post, and The Paris Review,
among others. She is also the author of a previous short story
collection, May We Shed These Human
Bodies, as well as the
co-author of a hybrid novella with Robert Kloss and illustrator Matt
Kish, titled The Desert Places.
She's written numerous short stories, flash fictions and essays, which
have been featured in various publications and across the web. Say hi
on Twitter @ambernoelle
To link to this directly: http://wigleaf.com/17top50intro.htm
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