Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.


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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Microfiction

Came across this gem yesterday:
An English professor gave his class the following assignment - write a very short story, the shorter the better. But the story had to include three subjects: religion, sex, and mystery.

The only A+ was given to the student who wrote the following:

"Oh my God," she exclaimed, "I'm pregnant! I wonder whose it is?"
This reminded me of two other great short-short stories, or microfiction as it's also called. One is the classic "Thermodynamics of Hell". (Jack, I know you posted this a few months back, but I can't find it now.)

The other was a story I remember my dad showing me about thirty or so years ago. It was published in one of the popular science fiction monthlies; I'd love to find it if anyone recognizes it, or can recall the author. Anyway, it went something like this; I remember the first and last lines verbatim, the middle is approximate:
"Your third wish?"

"What?" he responded incredulously. "What are you talking about, who are you?"

"Yes, of course you don't remember me. I'm a genie whom you freed from my bottle, and as per our code, I granted you the usual three wishes. You have already used two of them. Your second wish was for me to completely reverse the first wish, and irrevocably erase the very memory of its disastrous aftermath from all humanity, including yourself. So now I am ready to grant your third and final wish."

" Hmmm," said the man, still somewhat disoriented. "Well, let's see. One more wish - well that's still pretty good. Better make it a big one! I guess I'll wish that you make me king of the world"

"Funny," remarked the genie. "That was your first wish too."

7 Comments:

At 1/18/07, 11:02 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Hey Elie,

Beats me where that post is. I don't remember when I put it up.

I wasn't familiar with the second story. Maybe I'll Google it and see what comes up.

 
At 1/18/07, 11:32 AM, Blogger Elie said...

I googled the "punch line" of the 2nd story and found numerous versions on-line. They are all slightly different but none of them credit the original, which I know was published in a science-fiction magazine in the 70s.

 
At 1/18/07, 4:37 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

LOL - I love the first one. Brilliant!

The second one's just funny.

 
At 1/19/07, 2:00 AM, Blogger trn said...

The first one is a very clever response to the assignment.

The second one is an excellent example of what a micro-story should be. It is a complete story. Perhaps we might wonder about the additional details, but the full story arc is there. Unlike most attempts at micro-stories, it is not vague, nor seeming more like a plot summary or an opening line of a longer story, nor only about a quick moment in time. It takes creativity that I do not possess to pull this off successfully.

Here is a classic example of a micro-story by Hemingway:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Of course, there's also the micro-story that isn't really a story, but serves to shorten a longer, well-known story, such as the stage direction:

Enter Godot.

 
At 1/19/07, 9:46 AM, Blogger Elder of Ziyon said...

I can't believe you missed a couple of famous ones:

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door...
Variants and history can be seen here.

And the shortest story ever published, containing zero words, was by Edward Wellen and was entitled "If Eve Had Failed to Conceive."

 
At 1/19/07, 10:09 AM, Blogger Elie said...

Jack, Ezzie, TRN, EoZ: Thanks for the comments, and TRN/EoZ thanks for the other examples. I had never heard the "Baby shoes" and "If Eve" ones, and I had forgotten that classic "Last Man" one.

The history EoZ linked to is interesting. What's common among the different versions is that the one-liner is a serious story, with elements of horror, mystery, and/or romance. For the Genie one, I found several variants on-line, but they've all simply turned it into a joke, where the request is to be irresistable to women or something like that. The original science fiction version of this story, like the "last man" one, is scary, not funny.

 
At 1/19/07, 2:10 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Great stories good shabbos.

 

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