Meet Alistair Marquis, CM of Flash Fiction

Alistair, who lives in Florida, has been a member of Helium since 2009 and the Flash Fiction CM since 2010. He has written nearly 150 articles on

How did you first learn about and what’s your favorite aspect of the site?

I first discovered Helium while searching for a place where I could share my work, as well as my thoughts and opinions, with other writers, in a place devoted solely to writing.  Little did I know how much I would grow both as a writer and as a person after becoming a part of the community. Not only am I now more confident in my abilities as a writer, but I’ve never been more passionate about the craft either, and I owe that to Helium.

What drew you to Flash Fiction?

Though Flash seems, at first, very limited because of the constraints of word counts, I found there to be something ultimately freeing about the restrictions, because the structure lends itself to the minute examinations of a single moment, instead of the explorations of broader ideas in much more general terms.  As a writer who revels in verbose description, this is something that I find very appealing.

I see your writing isn’t limited to Flash Fiction; you’ve written pieces for Humor, Reflections, Poetry and other CW channels. What’s your favorite type of creative writing, and why?

I think that there is something to be said for all of the different channels on Helium, but Flash Fiction is by far my favorite, not only for the reasons outlined above, but also because, for me, it combines the best of all the other channels in one compact package that, done correctly, explodes with the impact of every other form combined.  That being said, some ideas simply work better as a poem or a humor piece, so I’m happy to have those other avenues available to me when I feel like doing something different.

Whose writing inspires you?

First and foremost on my list of inspirational writers is, without a doubt, H.P. Lovecraft.  His work, for the most part, is all about setting a mood, and the mood that he sets is one of deep, unsettling fear.  His stories reach into a part of you that has yet to learn about fear and ultimately terrifies it with the implications.  Beyond Lovecraft, I owe a lot to Kurt Vonnegut, who taught me that it was okay to be unhappy, and that dark humor and sarcasm are incredibly effective tools.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and Iain Banks are also immense inspirations.

What’s the best part of being a Helium channel manager?

I love being able to reach out to new writers or writers who are new to the Flash Fiction channel and congratulate them on their work.  It’s not always easy to try something new, or to attempt to do something familiar in a new way, and everyone, regardless of their history or confidence as a writer, appreciates compliments and encouragement.  The fear of the blank page or the empty screen never goes away, no matter how much you’ve written or how experienced you are, and it’s a challenge sometimes to fill the void with your thoughts in a way that makes you happy, so it’s always important to know that people are actually reading your work—even if it’s just a single person.

What are your favorite articles you’ve written on the site and why?

Most of my favorite pieces feature my masked alter-ego, Degage, who appears in numerous, loosely-connected stories about a shadow organization with undetermined motives.  Most of those stories deal with the inevitability of despair and the reasons why we wear masks.  Because Degage is essentially me, I love those pieces the most.  “The Swans” is one of my latest favorites.

A lot of my work is inspired by the feelings that are conjured within me by music, and “The Morgue” is one piece that embodies my attempt to convey these feelings, which are often undefined, even within me, in words.  Both “The Swans” and “The Morgue” feature links to the music that inspired them.

Who are your favorite Helium authors besides yourself and what do you like about their writing?

I have to admit that I rarely read anything on Helium that is not creative writing, so my favorite writers are those who have written creative writing pieces. Kat Apf fits my definition of “poet”, but not simply because she writes poetry. She is poetry, and her work is not to be missed. Darren Horton always succeeds in achieving unique views in his work. His stories are funny, dark and amazing, all at the same time. Rachel Howells never ceases to amaze, and I believe her to be one of the strongest writers currently active on Helium.

What tip would you give to a new Helium writer?

As I previously stated, the feeling of intimidation over writing never goes away, but the trick is to learn how to utilize that fear as a tool that drives you forward and makes you better. The only way that I see to do this is to keep writing, as often as you can, and listen to all of the feedback that you receive, even the comments that seem ignorant or insulting, because each comment comes from someone who read your work, and is a legitimate view on it. From this, you can learn what matters to you about the opinions of others, and what doesn’t.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re away from Helium?

From books and magazines to Helium articles and other websites, I read a lot.  Next to writing, it has been, and continues to be, one of the activities that satisfy those things that make me up as a person, and there are few things that bring me more pleasure. I also enjoy physical activities, and am often awake and moving early in the morning, when my mind is at its most open and creative. Living in Florida, I can’t do without the sunshine, and I take my exercise in that glorious light nearly every day.

How do you promote your Helium writing?

I use Facebook more than anything else, because it contains multiple outlets to share your work, and it’s also easier to interact with readers there.  Twitter and StumbleUpon are also valuable outlets, though I find them limited in terms of reader interaction. Of course, while electronic means are well and good, we shouldn’t forget that the world that exists in our immediate reality, the one in which our lives are actually lived, is just as, if not more, important to our existence as writers when it comes to promotion. I share my work the most with the people that I encounter in my day-to-day life, because it is more likely that I will hear their thoughts on it, especially the thoughts that occur to them days or weeks after reading a piece. Face to face feedback is still the most valuable, in my opinion.