Short story collections are fun because you can read about several worlds in one book; you get to see an author take on a bunch of different topics. Flash fiction is like that, but taken even farther. The stories in Thursday’s Children, a collection of flash fiction by Curtis C. Chen, are all 512 words or fewer. Nearly all of them fit on a double-page spread.
It’s fantastic for my life, when I read in small snatches at a time—a minute here, ten minutes there, in between chasing my kids around and dealing with laundry and cooking. I can actually finish an entire story or five before I have to set the book down.
Between 2008 and 2013, Chen posted a story each Friday on his website, 512 Words or Fewer. Those stories have now been collected into book form (available as a paperback or for Kindle), organized roughly in categories—stories about spaceships, superpowers, mythology, and so on. Most of it leans toward sci-fi and fantasy (with some horror mixed in there), and it’s a blast to read. It’s really amazing how much you can learn about the world of a story in just two pages—and it’s also fun when certain characters or events crop up in other stories, too. You get a sense of the larger world(s) Chen has built.
(Note to parents: not everything is kid-friendly, so you’d want to preview it before setting your kids loose on it, but some of the tales would make great bedtime stories. Others will keep your kids up at night.)
What’s more, you can actually get the eBook for free—Chen released it under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license—but the Kindle version is only $1.99, which is less than two cents per story! Seriously, it’s worth it. (I’m a paperback guy myself, and that version is only $11.99.)
Click over to 512 Words or Fewer and read a couple of the stories there—here are a couple of my favorites: Thrilling Heroics; Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; Creation Blues. And if you like what you see, consider picking up a copy of Thursday’s Children.
Full disclosure: Curtis Chen is a personal friend of mine. I met him a couple years ago at a Doubleclicks concert, and then at GameStorm, and since then he and his wife have been a regular part of my board game group. He’s our paladin in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, but now he’s off at the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop for the summer, honing his craft. So I figured while I don’t get to see him every week for games, I can still enjoy time with him through his writing. And now you can, too, and you’ll be so jealous that he’s not in your Pathfinder group.