Matthew Fogarty. Stillhouse Press, $16 paperback (214p) ISBN: 978-0-9905169-4-1
Flash fiction can be a tough thing to get right. Too little information, and the stories are fragmentary, leaving the reader adrift in the world created by the author, wondering what could’ve been. Too much and, well, it isn’t flash fiction. Matthew Fogarty’s debut flash collection, Maybe Mermaids and Robots Are Lonely is the perfect balance between the two. The stories are tight, the word choice on-point, and hardly ever are you left lacking at the end of a piece.
The title story is, in short, like Wall-E, but better. Fogarty makes us feel for both of these characters, the mermaid and the robot, in ways that Pixar wishes they could. Sure, there isn’t a Randy Newman song playing in the background, but that’s what Spotify is for if you really wanted it. The story is a love story, but it also deals with what many of the stories in this book—pieces filled not only with mermaids and robots, but Princess Zelda and zombies, and a whole cast of others—deal with: possibility. “Wherever it is they find each other, he has to believe in the possibility, because if this isn’t possible, what is?” This is the heart of this book, it seems, as in story after story, Fogarty grapples with what it means for something to be possible. What, in this world, can be real, can be believed, and what can be made to be believed.