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America’s First Curated Collection of Flash Fiction Artifacts

Story by Christopher Allen April 27, 2020

by Christopher Allen

Great news for the future of flash fiction this week: The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has established the first curated collection of flash fiction works in the United States. Over 250 single-author collections, anthologies, journals, and works on the craft of flash fiction have been generously provided by founding donors Tom Hazuka, Tara Lynn Masih, Pamela Painter, Robert Scotellaro, and Robert Shapard and will be “an extensive and enduring resource for the study of flash fiction,” according to Megan Barnard, Associate Director for Administration and Curatorial Affairs at The Harry Ransom Center.

An internationally renowned humanities research library and museum, the Ransom Center welcomes over 60,000 visitors a year. The center’s extensive collections focus not only on the literary works of living writers but also on the documentation of the creative process in the performing arts, photography, and film. With nearly 1 million books, more than 42 million manuscripts, 5 million photographs, and 100,000 works of art, “the Ransom Center is committed to building collections of enduring cultural value and caring for them in accordance with the highest standards of preservation and access.” The center is also devoted to fostering research, scholarship, and pedagogy in the humanities. The new flash fiction collection is housed in closed stacks and will be available to registered visitors to the center’s Reading and Viewing Room.

The Ransom Flash Fiction Collection represents “the starting point of an eclectic and necessary archive” according to Tara Masih, and includes works such as Sylvia Kamerman’s Writing the Short Short Story (1942); Marie de Nervaud Dun’s Harvest of Short Shorts (1968); 11 issues of Liberty Magazine (reissued in the 1970s); TriQuarterly’s 1976 “Minute Stories” issue, guest edited by Robert Coover; issues of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, published at the University of Chester, England; and Four-Minute Fictions: 50 Short-Short Stories from North American Review, edited by Robley Wilson, Jr. among many other important and seminal works of flash fiction.

At the Association of Writers and Writers’ Programs conference (AWP) in March, I had the opportunity to discuss the collection with one of the founding donors, Robert Shapard, who says the collection will satisfy the need of students wanting to do graduate studies in flash fiction but lacking research material at their university libraries. The many works Shapard has donated to the Ransom Center, including Ana María Shua’s Microfictions and I Call This Flirting by Sherrie Flick, are those which he’s consulted over the years for quotes, scholarship, and just because he “loved the stories or writing.”

While space is limited, growth is expected. According to Barnard, acquisitions will be made “to meet researchers’ needs and with the guidance and expertise of staff and colleagues in the field.” At present, the collection comprises predominantly published works but could expand to include other archival materials, such as correspondence, manuscripts and other historically relevant documents.

Visit the Harry Ransom Center.

About the Author

Christopher Allen is the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins (Matter Press, 2018). His work has appeared in Flash Fiction America (Norton, 2023), The Best Small Fictions 2019 and 2022, Split Lip, Booth, PANK, and Indiana Review, among other very nice places. Allen has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of SmokeLong Quarterly since January 2020 and was the 2023 judge of the Bridport Prize for flash fiction. He and his husband are nomads.


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