The latest issue of the Stinging Fly – Issue 27 – has arrived, with fiction guest-edited by Nuala Ní Chonchúir. There’s a substantial section devoted to flash fiction. In her intro Nuala Ní Chonchúir talks about the terminology: ‘flash’ fiction versus ‘short-short’ fiction, and the impossibility of pinning down a definition of the form. It is hard to tell the difference between a brilliantly achieved piece in this elusive form and a prose poem, say. I used to like the idea of ‘sudden’ fiction, but it seems to have come and gone – well, rather suddenly. The term would have been apt for this collection: submissions were received within a 24 hour window on International Flash Fiction Day in June last year. Then again not quite so apt because of all the time that’s passed since, time that’s needed to select and process, distill and shape. Hmmm. You see the problem.
There’s nothing at all sudden about the Stinging Fly itself, which has been around for an extraordinary 16 years. After this issue Declan Meade will hand over the role of editor, not leaving but morphing: he’ll still be the editor of the Stinging Fly Press and overall publisher. Thomas Morris, who has been his assistant for three years will edit the magazine from now on. Morris has posted an editorial statement on the website, a guide to what he looks for in a story, well worth a visit.
In his (final) editorial, Declan Meade talks about the proliferation of good literary magazines online and in print as a good thing for writers and readers and a challenge to the Fly, to ‘keep us on our toes’. He doesn’t say anything about the sixteen years of faith and sheer hard slog that he’s put in to tending the sometimes fragile, sometimes fitful flame of contemporary Irish writing, keeping it burning until it achieved its current healthy blaze. He doesn’t mention the debt we owe him, for creating an outlet for short stories when there wasn’t one, a magazine that held a bar that any writer could aim for, and raised it, then raised it again.
The Fly’s strong record in poetry often gets overlooked – but poetry has always had its outlets. The literary short story didn’t, until Declan Meade came along and gave it one. At the risk of sounding like a groupie, that’s worth saying.