by Erin Kelly

There are Those Who Have the Stars” is a flash fiction work of science fiction; one that is able to create another universe and aesthetic in only 650 words — a commendable feat. But it isn’t just the writing and skilled technique that makes this piece intriguing. It’s the underlying message(s) that the story conveys in such a short expanse of words. Readers of Every Day Fiction, where “There are Those Who Have the Stars” was rated as the top story for October, took many different viewpoints on John Eric Vona’s piece of flash.

Vona took a few moments to answer questions about this compelling top-rated work and his outlook on writing in general.

FFC: What do you find uniquely satisfying about writing science fiction?

Vona: Scifi is probably my first love. My earliest memory is of Ben Kenobi turning off the death star tractor beam. Writing it is a chance for me to do anything I want, go anywhere I want. The infinite wonder of the universe and all possibility stretches before me when I sit down to write a piece of science fiction. I have to say, though, for me, it’s always about bringing it back home. I have to take those possibilities and confront humanity with them. There’s so much conflict that lies in the space between all infinity and the smallness of a human being. Like in this story, the end result isn’t always something that fills you with warm fuzzies.

FFC:  What do you find uniquely satisfying about writing flash fiction?

Vona: From the perspective of a part time writer, flash is a way for me to have that rare sense of accomplishment. If writing a novel is building house, writing flash is like doing the dishes. It’ll be great when my novel is finally done. I’ve been working on it for two years and I think I could easily be working on it for two more. I can’t imagine the sense of accomplishment I’ll have when it’s finally complete and out there for the world to read. But flash gives me the will to keep going on a regular basis. It’s not going to make me any money or even reach a broad audience, but like the dishes, it feels damn good to just hunker down and get something done.

FFC: There were many interesting comments on EDF about your story. Some readers interpreted it as a statement about human trafficking, others said it was about society’s preoccupation with profit at any cost. My reading was different than both of those. I felt the piece was about cynicism versus hope. What were your thoughts on all these different takes?

Vona: Lately I’ve been discussing what art is with my tenth graders and the general consensus is that it can be anything evoking emotion and interpretation. I take these varying perspectives as a sign of the piece’s success. There’s a hint of all of that in there: human trafficking, cynicism, greed, you name it. I wouldn’t say there’s a statement about any one in particular, or even a statement at all. When I write, I’m not interested in preaching in any way. What I am interested in is putting something on display that can’t be captured in a sound bite. I’m driven to write by feelings and ideas that can be expressed no other way.

FFC: What do you feel the story is about?

Vona: Regret, maybe, from a character stand-point. I wanted to look at a man who sold his soul a long time ago and see what was left. I wanted the reader to step into his life, see what he’d given up goodness for and how he judged the exchange in retrospect. That perspective is important. It’s not always what we do in our life that makes us, but what we think about those things we’ve done.

It may also be of interest to some that I wrote this story after reading Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not.” I consider it a scifi-flash response.

FFC: What is your writing process when it comes to flash fiction?

Vona: Write it in one sitting, no matter what. Then forget about it. A month, two months, a year later, dredge it up out of the depths of your hard drive and tear it to shreds. Take what’s worth keeping and write it again. And again. And again until you’ve got something you almost can’t recognize as your own creation. Because it’s not. It was a group effort between you and all those other yous who worked on it over that period of time. And in that way, it becomes even truer to who you are because it’s not what the Monday-you or the springtime-you wrote. It’s something that transcends mood and disposition and whim. It’s more representative of you than you are on any given day.

FFC: What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

Vona: Fame, notoriety, power, wealth, life eternal…and a jet ski.

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John Eric Vona is a graduate of Florida State University’s prestigious Creative Writing program. He has been published in Crossed Genres, 365 Tomorrows, Every Day Fiction, and Thematic Literary Magazine. His blog about writing can be found here: http://www.blogiversity.org/blogs/dmi/default.aspx He currently resides in Tampa, Fl with his amazing wife, Mary, and teaches tenth grade English at Steinbrenner High School.