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Welcome to our Editorial Page! As part of the yearly subscription package, Thomas J. Griffin and M.A. Dosser (the co-Editors-in-Chief) have written short commentaries on each and every story published by Flash Point SF. These editorials include examinations of craft from the perspective of the editors—how various elements of the storytelling worked for them on a technical level—as well as general impressions of each piece.

Ready to find out what makes each of these stories stand out? Click any of the titles below to reveal the contents.

2022

-One More Sunrise by S.J.C. Schreiber x

2021

-Spring or Winter’s Respite by Cameron Hunter x

-A Little Good Magic by Jamie Lackey

The epistolary form can be hard to pull off. When presented through the guise of a letter or journal, the necessities of exposition and plot can feel unnatural if they aren’t handled with care and a soft touch. Would someone writing an entry in their diary really go to the trouble of explaining setting and character backstories, or would they just write, “Jan was mean to me again today,” foregoing superfluous details?

A Little Good Magic navigates this medium perfectly, though it does help that the main character, Lisa, is writing to Santa (who can see you when you’re sleeping, don’t forget). This allows her to touch lightly upon her ever-changing circumstances without weighing the prose down with repeated exposition. It requires a lot of faith in the reader, who is mostly left to put two and two together by themselves, but it keeps the story concise and immediate.  

-TJG

Read A Little Good Magic

-You Are Not a Player Character by Greta Hayer

What makes You Are Not a Player Character such an enjoyable read is how relatable it is, though I do wonder if that relatability will be felt universally. This feels like a distinctly Millennial story to me, as I was immediately caught up by memories of playing video games like Skyrim and The Witcher. It’s a strange thing to observe the NPCs (non-player characters) of games such as those. Their routines revolve like clockwork, and as your hero galivants around the map, it becomes all too easy to use and abuse those NPCs to your benefit. The morality of your actions never come into play because the point is moot; no one lives behind the blank stares, the scripted responses. They’re bits of code which only exist to serve you, to facilitate the completion of whatever quest you happen to be on.

But what if someone did live within that code? In asking that question, You Are Not a Player Character instantly becomes a haunting exploration into the nature of free will and consequence. What kinds of things would we allow ourselves to do, if we truly thought no one was watching? It’s an idea that almost feels too big for a single flash piece, but the author plays it perfectly, asking the question, then letting us decide how to feel and what to think.

-TJG

-Demon Summoning Circle Starter Kit by Candace Cunard

Make the strange familiar(!!!)

I feel like I write a lot about the importance of making your story relatable, but that’s because it is important. Crafting a relatable idea, circumstance, or character is the quickest and surest way to engage with your reader, and Demon Summoning Circle Starter Kit does just that in a really fun way. Everyone knows what it’s like to read hysterical Amazon reviews or irate YouTube comments, but by taking something strange and fantastical—a demon summoning circle—and making light of it in this familiar context, the story marries the interesting with the mundane and makes it relatable. Just the idea of customer reviews for a demon summoning circle is patently ridiculous, and it’s that juxtaposition that gives the story its humor.

-TJG

-A Voice in the Winter by Shawn Kobb

I’m not being trite when I say this story is magical in the best way. For any story utilizing magic, we ask the readers to believe in something unbelievable, and to that end, it helps if we give our magic rules. A thing defined is a thing understood. Good stories then give depth to the magic as the plot progresses by showing how it’s applied firsthand within the boundaries we’ve set. 

Great stories take their magic one step further, not by breaking the rules, but by bending them, giving them nuance, showing how unexpected things can still happen within these boundaries, and that’s exactly what A Voice in the Winter has done. Through its magic it creates an engaging world with a unique dilemma, then hits us with a surprising, but absolutely fitting, twist to create that satisfying ending.

-TJG

Read A Voice in the Winter

-I Don’t Burn Like You by Katherine Sankey x
-The Unchecked Box by Douglas DiCicco x
-The Memorial by Jon Hansen x

-Ward F by William Kortbein

How much does a good premise matter when writing a story? Jim Butcher would argue not at all. Famously, the DRESDEN FILES author bet a fan that ideas didn’t matter, execution did, and to prove it he asked the fan for two lame ideas which he would then turn into a workable story. The fan suggested “Pokemon” and “The Lost Roman legion.” Jim took those prompts and ended up writing a six-novel fantasy series called The Codex Alera

…That said, a strong premise never hurts, and in Ward F we find an incredible sci-fi concept fulfilled by strong writing. The best SF stories, for me, are those that make me think as well as feel, and Ward F does that in spades. From the moment you become aware of the conflict’s true nature, the entire story becomes new. It’s the kind of twist that compels you to go back and read from the beginning, challenging you to apply what you’ve learned to the words. It’s brain-bending fun in the best way. 

-TJG

Read Ward F

-One Last Trip by Teresa Pham-Carsillo x

-By Any Other by Kristin Osani x

-The Set-Up by David Far x

-Heaven Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be by Karl El-Koura

This story is a study in dramatic irony. As the reader, we recognize fairly early on that the narrator isn’t in Heaven at all, but the other place, and it’s that awareness that lends the piece its humor. This dramatic irony is executed well throughout, but there’s one paragraph in particular, I think, around which the story’s humor turns.

“Second, there’s the heat…” 

If you didn’t pick up on the joke right from the start, this paragraph is a dead giveaway. Hell is hot, Heaven’s not, but even though it rather obviously lets the reader in on the joke, it still works for a couple reasons. First, it’s an implied twist rather than an overt one. The reader is now aware of the irony of the narrator’s words, while the narrator remains oblivious. Second, it comes early enough that the reader is now in on the joke for most of the story, making the reading experience that much more enjoyable. Twists don’t have to come at the end. That’s where we usually find them, and when done right they serve to shine new light back upon what we’ve just read, but in this case it actually works better coming earlier. The author isn’t trying to blow anyone’s mind; he wants to give you a reason to keep reading what would otherwise be a pretty scathing Yelp review of Heaven. 

-TJG

I openly admit that I didn’t pick up on the twist as early as Thomas did. For me, the “Second, there’s the heat” paragraph (and really that sentence) was when the lightbulb went off. Up until then, my main thought was “If we accept this, my mother will be furious with me.” Even before my realization, however, I was impressed with the witty prose and drawn into the piece. Afterwards, I found the dramatic irony both funny and exceptionally well executed. It pulls directly from the reader’s expectations and builds to the point where Karl switches from winking at the reader to nudging them in the ribs with “Hell, I’d settle for a middle-management type…”

I agree with Thomas that one of the strongest aspects of Karl’s story is that the twist comes early enough that rather than shining a new light on the story you’ve just read, you get to enjoy the bulk of the piece aware of the twist while the narrator is oblivious. I, personally, felt quite intelligent and doffed my tweed jacket and elbow patches upon figuring it out at the start of the third paragraph, seeing there was over half of the story to go. It doesn’t hurt that the story is funny regardless of if you catch on from the get go or you don’t realize until the narrator admits that they didn’t not give into their baser instincts while still alive.

-MAD

Read Heaven Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be

-Amanita by Dawn Vogel

With Amanita, it’s all about the sensory details. The idea of a psychedelic, pseudo-magical mushroom trip isn’t enough; the author combines sight, touch, taste, and smell in concrete ways that draw the reader in and make the experience feel real and concrete in our minds. 

This story also does well to cultivate a sense of danger. “There was a fine line between poisoned to death and poisoned to dream” is such a strong sentence because it serves multiple ends, letting us know what the mushrooms are for, as well as alerting us to their risks. This gives the story a baseline tension that Amanita maintains throughout as she works against the clock to draw her charges out of their dreams before she herself succumbs to the mushrooms’ poison.

-TJG 

Read Amanita

-Giving Up the Ghost by Aeryn Rudel x

-Never-ending Dawn by MM Schreier x

-Alien Taxidermy and Love have Four Things in Common by Addison Smith x

-From Iron Freed by Laura Duerr x

-The Glitter and the Grey by Matt McHugh x

-Pink Marble by Zoe Kaplan

Opening lines can make or break a story. Fail to captivate a reader in those first few moments and they might quit on you before they ever get to “the good part.”

The author of Pink Marble understood the assignment. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about “The Queen had turned to stone,” but therein lies its power. The line is direct and concise, telling you exactly what’s happened (ostensibly), and yet there’s a compelling question inherent to the sentence: HOW did the Queen turn to stone? A good mystery, perhaps more than any other literary device, will keep readers turning the page.

This story’s style is also a winner. It calls to mind the opening passages of a classic fairy tale, and the narrative tone is laced with a subtle dramatic irony that can only be fully appreciated once the story is finished and the twist revealed. Pink Marble was one of our most popular stories for all of 2021 and it’s not hard to see why. 

-TJG

Read Pink Marble

-DEPLOY by C.T. Dinh x

-The Wreck of the Douceur Suprême by Karter Mycroft x

-Welcome Aboard by Simon Kewin x

-Kraken Mare by Tim Major x

-Chosen by Chrissie Rohrman x

-Machine Learning by Holly Schofield x

-It’s Just not Ragnarök without the Naglfar by L.L. Lamando

Voice—It’s Just not Ragnarök without the Naglfar has it nailed, but what do I mean by that? For me, it means that without a word of physical description or action, the author has used diction, idiom, speech patterns, humor, and a variety of other tools to paint the perfect picture of the speaker. He didn’t even need two-way dialogue; one side of the conversation is enough for the reader to get an idea of exactly who’s speaking.

Now yes, because of Marvel, Loki is a household name in popular culture these days, but even before the name-drop, the reader has already formed a picture of someone charming and forward, a salesman with a winsome smile and a never-take-no attitude. In my head it’s all too easy to see him standing there in that locker room, probably in nothing but a towel (having come straight from the sauna), one foot up on the bench as he’s making his pitch. And doesn’t Loki slot perfectly into that characterization? That’s the power of a strong voice.

-TJG

Read It’s Just not Ragnarök without the Naglfar

-Brick by Jude-Marie Green

There’s so much that works well about Brick–the narration’s sense of dramatic irony, the try-fail cycles which the main character goes through while building up to his final triumph–but what really drew me to this piece was its theme. 

Theme is a tricky thing to pull off. When done well, it can evoke and enlighten, but there’s a delicate balance between poignant and preachy. Often, authors lean too overtly on the “point” of the story, and the reader comes away feeling like they’ve been lectured to. 

Instead, Brick lets the plot illustrate its theme in a beautiful and subtle way. It should be apparent that our main character, Brick, has special needs, whether it be autism or something else. “There’s something missing from you, son,” Brick’s mom says to him, but despite this, Brick’s autism isn’t presented as a handicap; rather, his uniqueness is what makes him great. Long before Brick builds the device which allows him to fly like a superhero, he displays superhuman intelligence through a variety of experiments, and that’s cool to see.

Fun fact: The current World’s Strongest Man, Tom Stoltman of Scotland, has autism. Those who learn and think differently aren’t necessarily disadvantaged; they can do great things, just like Brick.

-TJG

Read Brick


Welcome to our Editorial Page! As part of the yearly subscription package, Thomas J. Griffin and M.A. Dosser (the co-Editors-in-Chief) have written short commentaries on each and every story published by Flash Point SF. These editorials include examinations of craft from the perspective of the editors—how various elements of the storytelling worked for them on a technical level—as well as general impressions of each piece.

Ready to find out what makes each of these stories stand out? Click any of the titles below to reveal the contents.

2022

-One More Sunrise by S.J.C. Schreiber x

2021

-Spring or Winter’s Respite by Cameron Hunter x

-A Little Good Magic by Jamie Lackey

The epistolary form can be hard to pull off. When presented through the guise of a letter or journal, the necessities of exposition and plot can feel unnatural if they aren’t handled with care and a soft touch. Would someone writing an entry in their diary really go to the trouble of explaining setting and character backstories, or would they just write, “Jan was mean to me again today,” foregoing superfluous details?

A Little Good Magic navigates this medium perfectly, though it does help that the main character, Lisa, is writing to Santa (who can see you when you’re sleeping, don’t forget). This allows her to touch lightly upon her ever-changing circumstances without weighing the prose down with repeated exposition. It requires a lot of faith in the reader, who is mostly left to put two and two together by themselves, but it keeps the story concise and immediate.  

-TJG

Read A Little Good Magic

-You Are Not a Player Character by Greta Hayer

What makes You Are Not a Player Character such an enjoyable read is how relatable it is, though I do wonder if that relatability will be felt universally. This feels like a distinctly Millennial story to me, as I was immediately caught up by memories of playing video games like Skyrim and The Witcher. It’s a strange thing to observe the NPCs (non-player characters) of games such as those. Their routines revolve like clockwork, and as your hero galivants around the map, it becomes all too easy to use and abuse those NPCs to your benefit. The morality of your actions never come into play because the point is moot; no one lives behind the blank stares, the scripted responses. They’re bits of code which only exist to serve you, to facilitate the completion of whatever quest you happen to be on.

But what if someone did live within that code? In asking that question, You Are Not a Player Character instantly becomes a haunting exploration into the nature of free will and consequence. What kinds of things would we allow ourselves to do, if we truly thought no one was watching? It’s an idea that almost feels too big for a single flash piece, but the author plays it perfectly, asking the question, then letting us decide how to feel and what to think.

-TJG

-Demon Summoning Circle Starter Kit by Candace Cunard

Make the strange familiar(!!!)

I feel like I write a lot about the importance of making your story relatable, but that’s because it is important. Crafting a relatable idea, circumstance, or character is the quickest and surest way to engage with your reader, and Demon Summoning Circle Starter Kit does just that in a really fun way. Everyone knows what it’s like to read hysterical Amazon reviews or irate YouTube comments, but by taking something strange and fantastical—a demon summoning circle—and making light of it in this familiar context, the story marries the interesting with the mundane and makes it relatable. Just the idea of customer reviews for a demon summoning circle is patently ridiculous, and it’s that juxtaposition that gives the story its humor.

-TJG

-A Voice in the Winter by Shawn Kobb

I’m not being trite when I say this story is magical in the best way. For any story utilizing magic, we ask the readers to believe in something unbelievable, and to that end, it helps if we give our magic rules. A thing defined is a thing understood. Good stories then give depth to the magic as the plot progresses by showing how it’s applied firsthand within the boundaries we’ve set. 

Great stories take their magic one step further, not by breaking the rules, but by bending them, giving them nuance, showing how unexpected things can still happen within these boundaries, and that’s exactly what A Voice in the Winter has done. Through its magic it creates an engaging world with a unique dilemma, then hits us with a surprising, but absolutely fitting, twist to create that satisfying ending.

-TJG

Read A Voice in the Winter

-I Don’t Burn Like You by Katherine Sankey x
-The Unchecked Box by Douglas DiCicco x
-The Memorial by Jon Hansen x

-Ward F by William Kortbein

How much does a good premise matter when writing a story? Jim Butcher would argue not at all. Famously, the DRESDEN FILES author bet a fan that ideas didn’t matter, execution did, and to prove it he asked the fan for two lame ideas which he would then turn into a workable story. The fan suggested “Pokemon” and “The Lost Roman legion.” Jim took those prompts and ended up writing a six-novel fantasy series called The Codex Alera

…That said, a strong premise never hurts, and in Ward F we find an incredible sci-fi concept fulfilled by strong writing. The best SF stories, for me, are those that make me think as well as feel, and Ward F does that in spades. From the moment you become aware of the conflict’s true nature, the entire story becomes new. It’s the kind of twist that compels you to go back and read from the beginning, challenging you to apply what you’ve learned to the words. It’s brain-bending fun in the best way. 

-TJG

Read Ward F

-One Last Trip by Teresa Pham-Carsillo x

-By Any Other by Kristin Osani x

-The Set-Up by David Far x

-Heaven Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be by Karl El-Koura

This story is a study in dramatic irony. As the reader, we recognize fairly early on that the narrator isn’t in Heaven at all, but the other place, and it’s that awareness that lends the piece its humor. This dramatic irony is executed well throughout, but there’s one paragraph in particular, I think, around which the story’s humor turns.

“Second, there’s the heat…” 

If you didn’t pick up on the joke right from the start, this paragraph is a dead giveaway. Hell is hot, Heaven’s not, but even though it rather obviously lets the reader in on the joke, it still works for a couple reasons. First, it’s an implied twist rather than an overt one. The reader is now aware of the irony of the narrator’s words, while the narrator remains oblivious. Second, it comes early enough that the reader is now in on the joke for most of the story, making the reading experience that much more enjoyable. Twists don’t have to come at the end. That’s where we usually find them, and when done right they serve to shine new light back upon what we’ve just read, but in this case it actually works better coming earlier. The author isn’t trying to blow anyone’s mind; he wants to give you a reason to keep reading what would otherwise be a pretty scathing Yelp review of Heaven. 

-TJG

I openly admit that I didn’t pick up on the twist as early as Thomas did. For me, the “Second, there’s the heat” paragraph (and really that sentence) was when the lightbulb went off. Up until then, my main thought was “If we accept this, my mother will be furious with me.” Even before my realization, however, I was impressed with the witty prose and drawn into the piece. Afterwards, I found the dramatic irony both funny and exceptionally well executed. It pulls directly from the reader’s expectations and builds to the point where Karl switches from winking at the reader to nudging them in the ribs with “Hell, I’d settle for a middle-management type…”

I agree with Thomas that one of the strongest aspects of Karl’s story is that the twist comes early enough that rather than shining a new light on the story you’ve just read, you get to enjoy the bulk of the piece aware of the twist while the narrator is oblivious. I, personally, felt quite intelligent and doffed my tweed jacket and elbow patches upon figuring it out at the start of the third paragraph, seeing there was over half of the story to go. It doesn’t hurt that the story is funny regardless of if you catch on from the get go or you don’t realize until the narrator admits that they didn’t not give into their baser instincts while still alive.

-MAD

Read Heaven Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be

-Amanita by Dawn Vogel

With Amanita, it’s all about the sensory details. The idea of a psychedelic, pseudo-magical mushroom trip isn’t enough; the author combines sight, touch, taste, and smell in concrete ways that draw the reader in and make the experience feel real and concrete in our minds. 

This story also does well to cultivate a sense of danger. “There was a fine line between poisoned to death and poisoned to dream” is such a strong sentence because it serves multiple ends, letting us know what the mushrooms are for, as well as alerting us to their risks. This gives the story a baseline tension that Amanita maintains throughout as she works against the clock to draw her charges out of their dreams before she herself succumbs to the mushrooms’ poison.

-TJG 

Read Amanita

-Giving Up the Ghost by Aeryn Rudel x

-Never-ending Dawn by MM Schreier x

-Alien Taxidermy and Love have Four Things in Common by Addison Smith x

-From Iron Freed by Laura Duerr x

-The Glitter and the Grey by Matt McHugh x

-Pink Marble by Zoe Kaplan

Opening lines can make or break a story. Fail to captivate a reader in those first few moments and they might quit on you before they ever get to “the good part.”

The author of Pink Marble understood the assignment. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about “The Queen had turned to stone,” but therein lies its power. The line is direct and concise, telling you exactly what’s happened (ostensibly), and yet there’s a compelling question inherent to the sentence: HOW did the Queen turn to stone? A good mystery, perhaps more than any other literary device, will keep readers turning the page.

This story’s style is also a winner. It calls to mind the opening passages of a classic fairy tale, and the narrative tone is laced with a subtle dramatic irony that can only be fully appreciated once the story is finished and the twist revealed. Pink Marble was one of our most popular stories for all of 2021 and it’s not hard to see why. 

-TJG

Read Pink Marble

-DEPLOY by C.T. Dinh x

-The Wreck of the Douceur Suprême by Karter Mycroft x

-Welcome Aboard by Simon Kewin x

-Kraken Mare by Tim Major x

-Chosen by Chrissie Rohrman x

-Machine Learning by Holly Schofield x

-It’s Just not Ragnarök without the Naglfar by L.L. Lamando

Voice—It’s Just not Ragnarök without the Naglfar has it nailed, but what do I mean by that? For me, it means that without a word of physical description or action, the author has used diction, idiom, speech patterns, humor, and a variety of other tools to paint the perfect picture of the speaker. He didn’t even need two-way dialogue; one side of the conversation is enough for the reader to get an idea of exactly who’s speaking.

Now yes, because of Marvel, Loki is a household name in popular culture these days, but even before the name-drop, the reader has already formed a picture of someone charming and forward, a salesman with a winsome smile and a never-take-no attitude. In my head it’s all too easy to see him standing there in that locker room, probably in nothing but a towel (having come straight from the sauna), one foot up on the bench as he’s making his pitch. And doesn’t Loki slot perfectly into that characterization? That’s the power of a strong voice.

-TJG

Read It’s Just not Ragnarök without the Naglfar

-Brick by Jude-Marie Green

There’s so much that works well about Brick–the narration’s sense of dramatic irony, the try-fail cycles which the main character goes through while building up to his final triumph–but what really drew me to this piece was its theme. 

Theme is a tricky thing to pull off. When done well, it can evoke and enlighten, but there’s a delicate balance between poignant and preachy. Often, authors lean too overtly on the “point” of the story, and the reader comes away feeling like they’ve been lectured to. 

Instead, Brick lets the plot illustrate its theme in a beautiful and subtle way. It should be apparent that our main character, Brick, has special needs, whether it be autism or something else. “There’s something missing from you, son,” Brick’s mom says to him, but despite this, Brick’s autism isn’t presented as a handicap; rather, his uniqueness is what makes him great. Long before Brick builds the device which allows him to fly like a superhero, he displays superhuman intelligence through a variety of experiments, and that’s cool to see.

Fun fact: The current World’s Strongest Man, Tom Stoltman of Scotland, has autism. Those who learn and think differently aren’t necessarily disadvantaged; they can do great things, just like Brick.

-TJG

Read Brick