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?