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Kij Johnson « Flash Fiction Chronicles

Entries tagged with “Kij Johnson”.

by Gay Degani and Jim Harrington

logo for short story month 3We asked writers and readers to help us compile a list of favorite short stories in honor of Short Story Month 2013. Our goal was 150. With the assistance of many wonderful friends, we not only met that goal, we blew past it to a total of 161! Thanks to everyone who participated start making a list of your favorites for our 2014 list.

View the list here

and happy reading!

by Aliza T. Greenblatt

Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Kevin McNeil about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for January, “The Merry Jester”  a story about a family heirloom and the power of faith.

Aliza T. GreenblattFrom your short bio it seems like you have been active in the writing community; attending two intense workshops, reading for Lightspeed and Nightmare, as well as conducting a few author interviews yourself.  From doing a quick search (and correct me if I’m wrong), “The Merry Jester” appears to be your first published story.  Congratulations!  How does it feel to be a published writer?

Kevin McNeil

Kevin McNeilThank you!  And you’re right. “The Merry Jester” is my first published story.  I began writing fiction in 2010, and attended Kij Johnson’s novel writing workshop in 2011, which was my first chance to learn some of the fundamentals.  So I’m still pretty new to all of this, and up until now, I’d pretty much kept everything I’d written to myself.  Putting things out there is scary, but it feels great to see it on-line at Every Day Fiction.

ATGCan you tell me a little about your writing process for this story?

KM:  My approach to this story was very different from how I normally work.  I blame Jeanne Cavelos, who is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, which I attended in 2012.  One of the requirements of the workshop is the Odyssey Slam, where everyone in the class reads a flash story at a Barnes and Nobles.  I hadn’t written any flash stories, so I worked this up in order to have something to read

I’ll be honest — my only goal was to write something I could read without embarrassing myself.  I deliberately excluded dialogue in order to make the reading easier.  I’m still at a stage where most of what I write is an experiment to improve some aspect of my writing.  In this case, I wanted to write something very focused, with a consistent tone, that would get me back into my seat before anyone realized I didn’t know what I was doing.  And in the end, the Odyssey Slam turned out to be a great time.

ATG: Your bio says you work as a physical therapist and that you are a coach for the Special Olympics.  Has working with people who are combating personal challenges influenced this piece at all?  Or was it inspired by something else altogether?

KM:  I’m sure the work I do with people overcoming injuries and dealing with personal challenges influences most things in my life.  I love getting people back on their feet, and coaching kids I consider to be the greatest athletes in the world is incredibly rewarding.  In the case of this story, if my background was an influence at all, it was unconscious.

The inspiration for this story was a wooden marionette (like the one I described) my wife and I purchased while we were traveling in Prague a few years ago.  I usually like to take my time and plot out my story ideas, but with this one I just thought about the marionette and wrote to see what I’d come up with.  At first, it seemed to be straight horror, where the jester wasn’t such a good thing to have around your house.  Eventually, the story ended up in another direction, exploring the idea of faith, which is why there are some hints to religion in the word choices.

ATG:Part of what I found so interesting about this story is the idea of value and how it changes as a person changes, though the object remains the same.  The jester becomes more valuable when Matthew has more in life to lose.  Do you think the jester is created to protect its family or is it Matthew’s belief in it that gives it power?

KM:  I suppose this could be interpreted however the reader wants, but for me it’s Matthew’s belief that gives the jester power.  Belief is powerful.  There’s a Henry Ford quote I like: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”  In my experience, what you focus on, what you believe, is what you get.  We’re able to give a lot of things power in this way.  And if we believe we’re right (politics, religion, whatever), it’s difficult to convince us we might be wrong.

ATG: By the end of the story, Matthew suffers from a form of survivor’s guilt.  He comes to both love and fear the jester and will never let any harm come to it.  But it makes me wonder, what sort of stories will Matthew tell his daughter about the puppet, knowing that she will one day have to face its painted smile?  How will he handle his own guilt?

KM:  This is a tough question.  I left Matthew in a confused place where he needs the jester, but is also beginning to question it in some ways.  But I think Matthew is committed.  He’ll deal with his guilt, thinking it’s what he has to do to protect his family.  He believes what he’s been told about the jester, and he’s seen enough to confirm these things for himself.  I think Matthew will pass the information on to his daughter as it was told to him, so that she and her future family will also be able to live a healthy life.  But I don’t know if the faith of the next generation is ever as strong as the previous one.  What I wonder is whether the daughter will truly value the jester, or if she’ll end up putting it in a box in a closet.

ATG:  What other projects are you working on now?  Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

KM:  Right now I’m completely focused on short stories – working on my own ideas, and also reading stories for Lightspeed and Nightmare.  I have a sports mentality, and a lot to learn, so I feel like I’m still in training, putting in my practice time, trying new techniques, and challenging myself.  I’m just beginning to submit stories to magazines.  Even “The Merry Jester” took some arm-twisting from a friend to finally submit to Every Day Fiction.  I’m enjoying the work right now, and hopefully I’ll have some more out there for people to read soon – as much as that scares me.

ATG:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us.  Best of luck with all your writing endeavors

KM:  Thanks for the great questions, Aliza.  Every Day Fiction had some really great stories in January.  So thanks to everyone who enjoyed “The Merry Jester.”



Kevin McNeil reads slush at Lightspeed Magazine and is an editorial assistant at Nightmare Magazine. He is a physical therapist, sports fanatic, and volunteer coach for the Special Olympics. He graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2012 and The Center for the Study of Science Fiction’s Intensive Novel Workshop, led by Kij Johnson, in 2011. Kevin is a New Englander currently living in California. Find him on Twitter @kevinmcneil.


Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.  Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.  She writes, raves, and blogs at and on Twitter @AtGreenblatt

Thanks to all of you who suggested stories online (and off) that you love and want to share with others.  This year we’ve reeled in 134 links to stories.   While this is a wonderful list, it is in no way inclusive of all the worthy stories out there.  However, these are the stories that stirred readers to take the time to suggest them.  They are listed in the order we received them.  No one story is considered better than another.  That’s for YOU to decide.  (But don’t vote for them here. This isn’t a contest).  Please take the time to scroll through the list and read some pieces you might not have read before.  Let the author know if you loved it.  Share with others.


Flash Fiction Chronicles 134 Story Links in Honor of Short Story Month 2012*

1.      Lydia Before  by Aliya Whiteley  suggested by Gay Degani

2.       Flowers for Clockwork Street  by Jennifer R. Fierro suggested by Chris Lawrence

3.      Guava by Etgar Keret suggested by Christopher James

4.      Husk of Hare by Christopher Allen suggested by Gill Hoffs

5.      About Me and My Cousin  by Scott Garson suggested by Tara Laskowski

6.      Singing My Sister Down by Margo Lanagan suggested by Nicola King

7.      The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges by Ava Lanchetoo

8.      Taking the Wind by Folly Blaine suggested by Chris Lawrence

9.      ‎Banyan  by Robert Olen Butler suggested by Susan Tepper       

10.  The Howling by Rusty Barnes suggested by Sam Snoek-Brown

11.  Little Things by Raymond Carver suggested by Sam Snoek-Brown

12.  Dedication by Stephen Graham Jones suggested by Karen Pfister Nelson

13.  Standard Loneliness Package by Charles Yu suggested by Jane Hammons

14.  The Langsammachen Pitch by Martin Zeigler suggested by Nate Tower

15.  Do You Remember by Sally Houtman suggested by James Claffey–2

16.  What Passes For Normal by Michelle Reale suggested by Robert Vaughan

17.  Divestiture by Bruce Holland Rogers suggested by Virgie Townsend

18.  Vanya by Alex Pruteanu suggested by Susan Tepper

19.  My Life As An Abomination by Marc Schuster  suggested by Nicole Scarpato Monaghan

20.  I Met Loss the Other Day by Cara Blue Adams suggested Virgie Townsend

21.  Egg Toss, August 1989 by Meagan Cass suggested by Cindy Tracy Larsen

22.  The Freeze by Virgie Townsend suggested by Ashley Inguanta

23.  One Truth by Curtis Smith suggested by Gay Degani

24.  The Writer by Cezarija Abartis suggested by Gay Degani

25.  A Temporary Matter  by Jhumpa Lahiri suggested by Stephen Buoro

26.  ‎Light in the Window by Martin McCaw suggested by Tim Johnston (fee)

27.  Mr. Pfeiffer by Vicky Mlyniec suggested by Tim Johnston (fee)

28.  Staying Behind by Ken Liu suggested by Johann Thorsson

29.  Tideline by Jasmine Gould suggested by Oonah Joslin

30.  The Third and Final Continent by Jhumpa Lahiri suggested by Tammy Johnston & Steve Buoro

31.  Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury suggested by Joanna Delooze

32.  Back and to the Left by  Ryan Werner suggested by Sam Snoek-Brown

33.  You Choose by Linda McCullough Moore suggested by Beverly Akerman (full text not online; subscription)

34.  In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel  suggested by

35.  The Day the Universe Learned How to Lean by Len Kuntz suggested by Ross McMeekin

36.  Pavlov by Erik Evenson suggested by Ross McKeekin

37.  Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie suggested by Stephen Buoro

38.  The Headstrong Historian by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie suggested by Stephen Buoro

39.  26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss by Kij Johnson suggested by Sarah Pinsker

40.  After the Ball by Andrew Stancek suggested by Autumn Humphrey

41.  This Is Us and This Is Us Outside by Kuzhali Manickavel suggested by  Indira Chandrasekhar

42.  The Reincarnation of Chamunda by Annam Manthiram suggested by  Indira Chandrasekhar

43.  Hot, Fast, and Sad by Alissa Nutting suggested by Virgie Townsend

44.  The Sweeper of Dreams by Neil Gaiman suggested by Virgie Townsend

45.  Outside Sweetwater by Ashley Inguanta suggested by Virgie Townsend

46.  The Prediction by Kama Falzoi Post suggested by Virgie Townsend

47.  Bound by Blue by Meg Tuite suggested by Robert Vaughan

48.  Snapshots I Brought Back from the Black Hole by K.C. Ball suggested by Gay Degani 

49.  (UNTITLED) by Mary Stone Dockery suggested by Meg Tuite

50.  Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu by Robert Vaughan suggested by Susan Tepper

51.  The Oregon Trail Taught Me How To Love  by Gregory Sherl  suggested by Meg Tuite

52.  ‎ Desire by Susan Tepper suggested by Meg Tuite

53.  Ginger by Marcus Speh suggested  by Susan Tepper

54.  Headstone by Jane Hammons suggested by Susan Tepper–2

55.  Altar Rail by James Claffey suggested by Meg Tuite

56.  To Build A Fire by Jack London suggested by Dan Vitale

57.  Rain by W. Somerset Maugham suggested by Dan Vitale

58.  Scissors/Paper/Rock by Beverly Carol Lucey  suggested by Beverly A. Jackson

59.  The Widow’s Tale by J. Chris Lawrence suggested by Vlad Osmo

60.  Snow by Kathy Fish suggested by Virgie Townsend ‎–3

61.  Running by R.S. Thomas suggested by Gay Degani

62.  In a Basket by Ann Bogle suggested by Susan Tepper

63.  Hellgate by David Ackley suggested by Susan Tepper

64.  Child’s Play by Alice Munro suggested by Anonymous

65.  Bullet in the Bran by Tobias Wolff suggested by Anonymous

66.  The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris suggested by Anonymous

67.  Land of Pain by Stacey Richter suggested by Sequoia Nagamatsu

68.  Flower Children  by Maxine Swann suggested by Kathy Fish

69.  That Long Evening on Our Balcony  by Nathan Long suggested by Sue Ann Connaughton

70.  Notes to my Biographer by Adam Haslett suggested by Stefani Nellen

71.  Zog-19: A Scientific Romance by Pinckney Benedict suggested by Sequoia Nagamatsu

72.  His Last Great Gift by Matt Bell suggested by Sequoia Nagamatsu

73.  Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr suggested by Sequoia Nagamatsu  (available only by purchase of his collection of the same name, but I love this story too)

74.  Jesus is Waiting by Amy Hempel suggested by Anonymous (download $2.99)

75.  Wildwood by Junot Diaz suggested by  Anonymous (found this link but can’t find a link to actually listen to it)

76.  Fruits and Words by Aimee Bender suggested by  Anonymous (found this link but can’t find link to actually listen to it )

77.  Good Country People by Flannery O’Connor suggested by Bonnie ZoBell

78.  The River by Flannery O’Connor suggested by Peg Frey

79.  How Pearl Button was Kidnapped by Katherine Mansfield suggested by Peg Frey

80.  A Small, Good Thing by Raymond Carver suggested by Peg Frey

81.  The Burden by Russell Banks suggested by Peg Frey (preview and then you must sign up)

82.  Cathedral by Raymond Carver suggested by Peg Frey  (I can’t find a link to this online)

83.  A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez suggested by Cynthia Litz

84.  The Scheme Of Things by Charles D’Ambrosio suggested by Sequoia Nagamatsu

85.  In Gavin Slough by Robert McCarthy suggested by Marty Lopez

86.  The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark suggested by John C. Mannone   (I can’t find a link to this online)

87.  Pleiku Jacket by Jane Hammons suggested by Linda Simoni-Wastila

88.  Pornography by Steve Almond suggested by Townsend Walker

89.  The Babysitter by Robert Coover suggested by Townsend Walker

90.  The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman suggested by Townsend Walker

91.  Black Ice by Cate Kennedy suggested by Townsend Walker

92.  The Leaper by Frank Marrone suggested by Townsend Walker

93.  Pumpkins by Francine Prose suggested by Townsend Walker

94.  Ocean in a Box by Marko Fong suggested by Townsend Walker

95.  Just Lather, That’s All by Hernando Tellez suggested by Townsend Walker

96.  Queen Isabella Eats a Pineapple and Misses the Jews by Cami Park suggested by John Riley

97.  A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life by David Foster Wallace suggested by John Riley

98.  Full by Robert Walser suggested by John Riley

99.  The Smallest Woman  in the World by Clarice Lispector suggested by John Riley

100.    May You Live in Interesting Times by JP Reese suggested by Susan Tepper

101.  A Pile of Shirts, Ripped from the Body by Kevin Wilson suggested by Brenda Bishop Blakey

102.Jealous Husband Returns in Form of a Parrot by Robert Olen Butler suggested by Kenton K. Yee                                                                                          

103.‎The Hermit’s Story by Rick Bass suggested by Kenton K. Yee (This is the title story in Bass’s collection of the same title).

104.Taking the Cinder Path Down to the Sea by Sarah Hilary suggested by Gay Degani

105.Stump Louie by Lisa Halliday suggested by  Christoper Sutcliffe Jones

106.Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates suggested by Bonnie ZoBell

107.How to Become a Writer by Lorrie Moore Oates suggested by Bonnie ZoBell

108.Big Me by Dan Chaon suggested by Bonnie ZoBell

109. On Becoming Women by Cynthia Larsen suggested by Gay Degani

110.Warning by Seana Graham suggested by Colleen F. Ciccozzi

111.The Dressmaker’s Child by William Trevor suggested by Peg Frey

112.Men of Ireland by William Trevor suggested by Peg Frey

113.Scheherazade by  Charles Baxter suggested by Peg Frey (fee and/ subscription)

114.Fright X by Robert Swartwood suggested by Gay Degani

115.What is Tucked Inside the Fold of Her Skin by Eryk Wenziak suggested by Robert Vaughan:

116.Haunt-by-Ethel-Rohan suggested by  Michelle Elvy

117.Timpani by Michelle Elvy suggested by Walter Bjorkman

118.A&P by John Updike suggested by Elham Zolghadr

119.The School by Donald Barthelme suggested by Doug Bond

120.Reunion by John Cheever suggested by Doug Bond

121.Dry September by William Faulkner suggested by Doug Bond

122.The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund suggested by Doug Bond

123.Under the Boardwalk by Jayne Anne Phillips suggested by Doug Bond

124.I Married This by Meg Pokrass suggested by Doug Bond

125.Boys Town by Jim Shepard suggested by Doug Bond

126.Impossible Object by  Robyn Carter by Hobie Anthony

127.The Potting Shed by Graham Greene suggested by John C. Mannone

128.Acts of Love by Len Kuntz suggested by Andrew Stancek

129.Soccer Dad by Randall Brown suggested by Andrew Stancek

130.The Wig by Brady Udall suggested by Andrew Stancek

131.Baby 6 by Morgan Brothers  suggested by James Claffey

132.The Swimmer in the Desert by Alex Preston suggested by Johann Thorsson

133.Instead of the Glass by Randall Brown suggested by Cindy Tracy Larsen

134.Pebble in a Pool by Frances Gonzalez suggested by Gay Degani



*A lot of copying and pasting went on during the month and the information above was gleaned from different Facebook sites as well as Zoetrope.  There is the strong possibility that I have lost, dropped, confused a story, a name, a link, and I know for sure there is no “suggester” for one of the stories above.  Please don’t be afraid to post a correction in the comment section of this post. I will try and get to correcting the post as soon as I can.   –Gay Degani, editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles