Review: Flight: Queer Sci Fi’s Third Annual Flash Fiction Contest (QSF Flash Fiction Book 2)

front-cover
Author: Jerome W. Stueart; Clare London; Nina Pachebush; Ellery Jude; Hawthorne Moss; John Allenson; Zev de Valera; Liz Fury and Missy Welsh
Reviewer: Diane
Publisher: Mischief Corner
Genre: MM SciFi, Horror, Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Summary: A 300-word story should be easy, right? Many of our entrants say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever written.

Queer Sci Fi’s Annual Flash Fiction Contest challenges authors to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story on a specific theme. “Flight” leaves much for the authors to interpret—winged creatures, flight and space vehicles, or fleeing from dire circumstances.

Some astonishing stories were submitted—from horrific, bloodcurdling pieces to sweet, contemplative ones—and all LGBTQ speculative fiction. The stories in this anthology include AI’s and angels, winged lions and wayward aliens. Smart, snappy slice of life pieces written for entertainment or for social commentary. Join us for brief and often surprising trips into 110 speculative fiction authors’ minds.

Review: For the third year in a row, Queer Sci Fi have offered a contest to their members to write a 300 word story on a specific theme. 2014, the theme was Endings and resulted in about 15 entries. The theme for 2015 was Discovery and with the promotion and encouragement of the Queer Sci Fi group, had 115 entries and the first year they decided to publish the group of stories. Which brings us to 2016, a theme of Flight that inspired 172 entries and was narrowed down to the 110 that are in this collection! The authors are given the parameter of the theme and the 300 word count to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story but the authors can interpret the theme in any way they like.

With 110 stories, you can’t really review each of them, but this is a fantastic collection of new and established authors in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, horror and paranormal. If you area a fan of those genres, I think you’ll enjoy this book. The variety of style and ideas is likely enough to find some new authors to look up, find more reasons to love your favorites or renew an interest in an already established author, particularly if they have decided to take on something new, as some here did! I know for myself, there were many stories where I definitely wanted more, and as a result, if I don’t already have books by the authors, I’ll be looking them up!

I also asked some questions of the QSF site to better understand the process, which was quite interesting too. This year they had six authors as judges, the judge team having been added to with winners of the previous contests and somehow the group of them managed to get the 172 entries down to the 110 in this collection. They even managed to determine three winners but, for something new, also had six judge’s choice stories. The judge’s read the entries without knowing the author name, which means they really have no preconceived ideas of what they may or may not know of the work of that author entry, so the story is judged on the content alone. The judges read the stories, then have their discussions (which I expect can get rather intense – they are readers too!), to determine finalists and ultimately, the winners.

I’ve always said that I like anthologies because you can see if you like an author’s style before reading more of their work, or try a different genre and that is definitely true with this anthology and I really liked that they grouped them by genre, that way, if you like three or four of the genres but not as much for the others, you can skip them, or try them out to see if someone has found a new angle that interests you.

The first place winner this year, under the category of science fiction, was Your Weird Aunt PollyMorph says Hello by Jerome W. Stuart, which just about made me cry! Make Me Fly by Clare London, also under science fiction, came in second, and is a short and steamy story. Under the fantasy genre, the third place winner of The Secret Lives of Octopuses by Nina Pachebush is an interesting take on when life becomes too routine. The judge’s choices were in the categories of science fiction, fantasy and horror – Performance by Ellery Jude; First Flight by Christopher Hawthorne Moss; Walking on Air by John Allenson; Smoke by Zev de Valera; Athena – Class Engineering by Liz Fury and Weren’t Fantasy by Missy Welsh, again all unique interpretations of the theme, but so well done. There are so many good stories, I’m not sure how the judges got down to only the nine stories, but for all of us readers, we are fortunate to have the anthology to read so many of them and I think there is something for everyone here.

New for this year, they are adding illustrations by the very talented Mila May. She has done the incredible cover, as well as illustrations for the winning stories then picked a couple of the judge’s choices to do artwork for as well. I know I’ll be getting the print version of this anthology, not only for all the great writing work, but the artwork as well!

And if you are a fan of LGBTQ science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, horror and all, you might want to check out the Queer Sci Fi website and/or Facebook page, become a member and see what else they offer besides their annual contest – from what I’ve seen so far, they have writer workshops, advice columns, interviews, Monday is promo day, writer and reader questions for everyone to participate in, so it’s quite the inclusive and supportive group. I was quite happy to get to read and review this anthology and look forward to discovering more and more authors and books to add to my collection!

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