Columns > Published on January 2nd, 2015

UPDATED WITH WINNER - LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: December Edition

Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or prompt. You write a flash fiction piece using the inspiration we gave you. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 23 words. No more. No less.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 10 words.
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence.
  • One entry per person.
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before December 30th will be considered. We'll run the winner on December 3st.

This Month's Prize

A copy of The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert, the New York Times bestselling author of Dune, is one of the most celebrated and commercially successful science fiction writers of all time. But while best known for originating the character of Paul Atreides and the desert world of Arrakis, Herbert was also a prolific writer of short fiction. His stories were published individually in numerous pulps and anthologies spanning decades, but never collected. Until now.

Frank Herbert: Collected Stories is the most complete collection of Herbert’s short fiction ever assembled—thirty-seven stories originally published between 1952 and 1979, plus one story, “The Daddy Box,” that has never been appeared before.

Your Inspiration:

In 1997, the popular sitcom Seinfeld broadcast an episode in which George Constanza's father creates a new holiday in response to the bloated commercialism and excessive ebullience that usually accompanies the winter holiday season. The holiday is called Festivus. Apparently the holiday originated in the 1960s as part of a tradition in Seinfeld scriptwriter Dan O'Keefe's family. O'Keefe turned it into an episode of Seinfeld, and the world has never looked back. 

In 23 words or less (23, because Festivus is celebrated on December 23rd), create a new winter holiday. Describe (in some fashion) at least two of its "traditions".

If you need some inspiration, the traditions (per Wikipedia) of Festivus are:

Festivus pole

In the episode, the tradition of Festivus begins with an aluminum pole. Dan O'Keefe credits fellow Seinfeld writer Jeff Schaffer with introducing the concept, which was not part of the original O'Keefe family celebration. During Festivus, the pole is displayed unadorned.

Festivus dinner

In "The Strike", a celebratory dinner is shown on the evening of Festivus prior to the Feats of Strength and during the Airing of Grievances. The on-air meal was shown to be some sort of meatloaf and spaghetti with red sauce. The original holiday dinner in the O'Keefe household featured turkey or ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&M's, as described in detail in Dan O'Keefe's The Real Festivus. In the Seinfeld episode, no alcohol is served at the dinner, but George's boss, Mr. Kruger, drinks something from a hip flask.

Airing of Grievances

The celebration of Festivus begins with the "Airing of Grievances", which takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. It consists of each person lashing out at others and the world about how they have been disappointed in the past year.

Feats of Strength

The Feats of Strength is the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, celebrated immediately following (or in the case of "The Strike", during) the Festivus dinner. The head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match. Tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in a wrestling match. In "The Strike", however, Kramer manages to circumvent the rule by creating an excuse to leave. The Feats of Strength are mentioned twice in the episode before they actually take place. In both instances, no detail was given as to what had actually happened, but in both instances, George Costanza ran out of the coffee shop in a mad panic, implying he had bad experiences with the Feats of Strength in the past. What the Feats of Strength entailed was revealed at the very end of the episode, when it actually took place. Failing to pin the head of the household results in Festivus continuing until such requirement is met.

Festivus miracles

Cosmo Kramer twice declares a "Festivus Miracle" during the Festivus celebration in the Costanza household. It is the character Kramer that actually causes the occurrence of two "miracles" by inviting two off-track betting bookies to dinner with Elaine (men whom Elaine wished to avoid), and by causing Jerry's girlfriend Gwen to believe that Jerry was cheating on her.


And the Winner is...Grant Williams

Pail Day

December 1st the family waters a ficus with used neti pot water. The day it dies the family exchanges Garbage Pail Kids cards.

About the author

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer for an engineering firm and volunteers on the planning committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education.

She holds a degree in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. In the English graduate program at Penn State, she taught college composition courses and hosted a poetry club for a group of high school writers.

While living in Seattle, Taylor started and taught a free writing class called Writer’s Cramp (see the website). She has also taught middle school Language Arts & Spanish, tutored college students, and mentored at several Seattle writing establishments such as Richard Hugo House. She’s presented on panels at Associated Writing Programs Conference and the Pennsylvania College English Conference and led writing groups in New York, Pennsylvania, and Colorado for writers of all ages & abilities. She loves to read, write, teach & debate the Oxford Comma with anyone who will stand still long enough.

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