In Defense Of Bite-Sized Fiction

I work in a bookstore, so I know the drill. I know all about the elitists talking about what does and what doesn’t qualify as fiction. Or as “good fiction.” Or as “real sci-fi.” I hear, constantly, about why graphic novels are “candy for the brain” and not worth any consideration as literature.

I’d point out Maus and Persepolis and Fun Home, but I guess those don’t count.

So I get very strange looks for the way I prefer to present prose fiction; in roughly thousand words chunks so that they can be consumed in five to ten minutes and then you get on your day. They’re the equivalent of a ten minute cartoon, a comic book. Hell, I even call them issues and call out various story arcs.

Why? Why bother with this?

Well, for starters, I feel bad. Not like I have food poisoning, which almost came out as good poisoning. No, I feel bad for the number of people who enjoy the idea of reading but have five minutes of free time here or there in their day. For the parent trundling their kids off to school before fleeing for work, for the person working two jobs to keep their apartment, for the person who’s traitorous brain and defiant meatsack don’t allow them to be mentally well enough to consume much beyond ten minute time limits.

They should have alternatives to sprawling epics and five hundred page literary wanking.

And so, I made Chrysalis Falls. Now, Chrysalis is a goddamned mess, a sloppy metaphor, sitting at the end of the world like Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One with an implausible hydroelectric and solar system, an impossible defensive wall, and creatures of pure fantasy scrabbling at the gates to murder what’s left of humanity.

That’s the easy part. The stories inside? Well, that’s where the point starts. Rate of Decay (originally called The Pallbearer) focused on a blue collar mech suit wearing corrections officer who exiles prisoners into a walled off section of the city dangerous enough to be considered a death sentence. But Neil’s story isn’t just about corporate greed and cronyism. Neil’s story is about a man whose life has been defined by loss and has only ever found relief in violence. His stubborn anger keeps him alive, certainly, but it can be easily argued that it’s also what gets many others killed. Take a look, he’s here on Medium now.

But he’s not the only example of folks in Chrysalis. There’s also Nod. Poor Nod. What kind of trauma drives a prepubescent boy to become a mercenary? The kind that leaves you in a coma and that kills one parent, while turning your father and brother against you. There’s a giant fridge hanging over him, sure. But it’s a fridge that a small, broken boy is trying to dismantle, because to him, the idea that someone should have to lose a family member to gain a story is ludicrous. But you wouldn’t guess that from this would you? You’d think it was Jimmy Stewart’s “Harvey”, if Harvey carried high explosives.

And of the three I’m willing to talk about tonight, last is Rue. Morgan Chadwick. Morgan’s not got powers or a suit. He’s just a detective who’s seen some shit and who’s maternal grandmother taught him how to write ofuda. Morgan’s big, built like a gorilla, and mocked for reading old Edgar Allen Poe. His wife, Amy, is his most trusted companion. She’s a ghost.

That’s write. The fridge seems to be getting awfully full in just these three story starts. You know why? Because each one seeks to take that awful damn trope and do horrible things to it. Amy’s dead and Morgan blames himself, but she’s highly talented all on her own whereas Morgan has a caffeine and stimulant addiction that he feeds just so he has the energy to keep going. Neil is on a quest to return to his Cassie whom he so valiantly bought time to escape, only to keep running into great big neon signs announcing his longstanding problems with women. Nod… Nod’s trying to escape from the shadow of the murderous half of his family to make peace with himself. And yet, he only begins to understand how family works after those closest to him get dumped out of the fridge like fuzzy blue tupperware.

People who have no time and short attention spans shouldn’t be robbed of media that doesn’t talk down to them. They shouldn’t be treated like second class citizens among the literary community. And they damn sure shouldn’t have their taste in fiction labeled as worthless because a purist said so.

And that’s all the words I care to say about that. Good bye.

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