Talking About Short Stories

Talking About Short Stories


In one of my other lives, I write fiction.

My newest story has just appeared at Stone’s Throw, an online literary magazine. Yes, this is shameless self promotion. I’m hoping some of y’all will find the time to read the issue — and maybe even read some other great literary journals as well. You’d be surprised how much literary short fiction is out there.

In fact, a recent New York Times editorial by A. O. Scott theorized that the short story might be ready for a rebound, after years and years of being considered all but dead.

The new, post-print literary media are certainly amenable to brevity. The blog post and the tweet may be ephemeral rather than lapidary, but the culture in which they thrive is fed by a craving for more narrative and a demand for pith. And just as the iPod has killed the album, so the Kindle might, in time, spur a revival of the short story. If you can buy a single song for a dollar, why wouldn’t you spend that much on a handy, compact package of character, incident and linguistic invention? Why wouldn’t you collect dozens, or hundreds, into a personal anthology, a playlist of humor, pathos, mystery and surprise?

This is, quite likely, wishful thinking. But I’d like to believe there’s still a niche for fiction of the truly fictional variety (rather than the yarns people claim as “truth” throughout the political blogosphere).

What do you think? Anyone here read short fiction? Poetry? Novels? Would you read more if they were more attainable?

Just wondering.

  • Brad Porter

    tldr. :)

    I write personal essays (creative nonfiction, if you like) in my other life as well, which I think is actually (and quite clearly) the ascending literary form.

    But yeah, I’ve all but given up on novels. Contemporary novels seem to either be mainstream pap (with the ensuent dumbing-down that comes with trying to reach a wider audience) or starting to go the way of poetry, writing to a smaller and smaller audience, becoming more and more insular as a form.

    Short stories, however, are as vibrant as ever, and actually there’s a fair bit of innovation happening in the form (flash fiction springs to mind, prose poems, collaborative serial fiction, etc.). I’ve found that I’ve migrated to anthologies for both my short stories and creative nonfiction. I get restless reading most single-author collections, even if the author in question is very good, but something about the Best American series or the Pushcart Prizes or any number of “specialized” anthologies can keep my attention cover to cover.

    There has not yet been a truly great online lit journal, I don’t think, and I think that has more to do with our online reading habits than anything (hence my joke at the beginning of the post), but I suspect that will change too, and when it does, it will change big. We’re kind of in the middle of the plates shifting between people doing their everday reading online but still turning to hard copies for their literary reading. Maybe the Kindle or similar will change that, or maybe it will never change (both are about equally likely in my book), but I think we’re set to see a resurgence of the lit rag (in online form) as if not popular entertainment than at least more than an incredibly narrow niche market.

  • TerenceC

    I just finished your story – I thought it was sad but terrific – well done. There is always room for great writers – and their great stories, whether they are novels, shorts, or even poetry. I read so many emails I don’t typically enjoy reading on line. I will read anything, but I need to have the book or magazine itself. I am a member of the shrinking group of individuals that actually still subscribe to newspapers, magazines, even the Readers Digest.

  • Lily

    I like telling short stories too !