Sunday, July 8, 2007

A New Age for Short Fiction? –Part 1 -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I am a short story writer. It is an addiction. A compulsion. A need. I love and respect the form more and more every day, especially when, as a reader, I encounter a short story that is well-written, where the author understands and respects the form. As a writer, no, strike that, as an artist, reading and writing short stories challenge me and make me a better writer, a better storyteller. I am also a novelist. And, yes, I have the same needs, the same compulsions when it comes to writing novels.

But…I don’t think one form, short stories or novels, is greater or less than the other. I think they are separate forms of writing that require different skills and talents.

The conclusion to that debate can last for days, and I’m certain it already has, and is archived somewhere in the blogosphere. Every writer has his or her opinion on short stories, and it’s not my goal with this post to change anyone’s mind. It is my goal, however, to explore what I consider the New Age of Short Fiction. Or better put, the Digital Age of Short Fiction.

The past life of the short story is well-documented. The creation, the rise and fall in the last (20th) century, and ultimately the death of it—or reports of the death of it in the 1990s. No history lesson required. Slick magazines stopped buying and publishing short fiction until there were, and are, a few print outlets left that pay a worthy fee to a scant few writers.

The Internet, of course, changed everything. But not as much as you think.

I started trying to publish my short fiction in the early 90’s. I have a great collection of rejection slips from magazines that once were, but are no more. In those days, the small press movement was in its infancy. Writers like me, who sent work to Ellery Queen or Hitchcock and failed, found markets for our work in small publications like Scavengers and Gila Queen’s Guide to Markets. These market publications were labors of love, and provided a great service to the writing community—much like the market lists that now pepper the Internet with news of paying and non-paying markets. And like the web sites that now publish but don’t pay, the markets found in these small market publications provided a great training ground for new writers. The credits also garnered little respect from the larger world of publishing. Not much has really changed with that, or has it? This is a discussion we’ll have later on.

I cut my teeth in magazines like Hardboiled (which still exists and paid $5.00 for my story, “Loretta’s Garden”), Terminal Fright (dead), Kracked Mirror Mysteries (dead), and Plot Magazine (dead), among others. My guess is you’ve never heard of most of these print magazines. They varied in quality, but most were professional attempts, and these magazines remain proudly stored away in my writing trunk.

I learned how to write cover letters, how format my stories, and most importantly, I learned how to survive rejection slips. A story comes in one day, it goes back out the next, until it finds a home. Period. That rule still applies.

I would like to think those of us who subscribed to Scav were on the cutting edge, early adapters of what was to come. What the Internet has done for short fiction is amazing—it put rocket boosters on Scav and Gila Queen. Beyond the forums, the market lists (I will provide a brief list next week—but you know, there is this thing called Google), and the web sites dedicated to short stories, there seems to be a growing appetite for quality short fiction.

And the growing appetite is what I want to explore here. In the coming weeks I am going to discuss my take on the New Age of Short Fiction. The free web sites. The paying web sites, like Amazon Shorts and others. How is the Internet is helping or hurting the short story writer and reader? Feel free to join in. It may be a long discussion, but we have time. I have a few things to say about this topic, and I hope you do, too.

So I will leave you with a simple question to get us started: Do you read short stories on the Internet?


Michael Lockridge said...

Yes. I have just recently started doing so. I love short stories. I love to read them, and I also write them. I even have a few rejection slips.

I have recently started editing and publishing my tiny tales on Blogger. Short Stories by MLockridge.

I think that the blog provides an excellent medium for the very short story. I look forward to my explorations.

Michael Lockridge

Larry D. Sweazy said...


Good luck. You may want to post your URL in a comment.

Thanks for responding,


Sela Carsen said...

Absolutely! I write short stories and novellas for e-publishers and I've just begun work on my first novel.

Over Valentine's Day, one of the message boards I frequent challenged its members to post an original short story on their blog or website, then link back to the board. About 60 of us participated. We're romance writers, and it was loads of fun to read all the different stories and styles -- and get a feel for people's voices.
Here's a comprehensive list of stories to the Romance Divas E-Book Challenge:

Larry D. Sweazy said...


Good luck with your novel, and thanks for the link.

Stay tuned for more discussions on short stories...