The internet is saturated with blogs and newspaper articles heralding the resurgence of the short story as a popular literary form. I say, “It’s about time.”
I have nothing against a good novel, you understand. I make no secret of my addiction to historical romances and spy novels and detective series and … you get the idea.
But there are times when a well written short story fits into my wasted-time-waiting schedule perfectly. Ten minutes here, a half hour there and I meet a character, encounter-examine-resolve a dilemma, marvel at an ingenious plot twist, and bingo! It’s time to get on with life. No background to remember or re-read, no interrupted train of thought. I read it, enjoy it, give a little thought to the author’s point and move on.
Short story collections based upon a single theme are a pleasant compromise with the new every-scene-is-a-new-chapter novel or (to me) the always incomplete-feeling novella. And with my e-reader I can sample these gems by new writers for under a dollar. If the writer is good, it’s a great introduction to his/her longer works. If he’s awful, what have I lost?
In reality, readers of The New Yorker and Readers’ Digest, among others, know the short story never actually died. Its availability became limited as the publishing world contracted while trying to readjust to the increasing expenses of producing the magazines that brought quality short stories to their readers. As the world economy further contracts, fewer readers subscribe to the print literary magazines that used to pay for quality writing, and ad revenue plummets as well. Most of the magazines have either folded, or the better writers have moved to where the money is – e-publishing.
Interestingly, it isn’t the publishing houses that are sparking the rebirth of the short story. It’s independent, small e-zines like Page & Spine and self-published authors like this week’s Guest Writer Avril Borthiry who are feeding the need for high quality reading material at reasonable prices. And it’s discriminating readers like you who appreciate the no-room-for-weaknesses expertise that makes a short story shine. You are the driving force behind this phoenix’s rebirth. The more demand you create by reading literary magazines and e-zines, the more you encourage good writing by downloading singles and short story collections from the electronic bookstores, the more high quality writers will be encouraged to write this specialized form of literature.
Ultimately, it is the short story reader who will reap the reward.
ABOUT N.K. WAGNER
STORIES BY N.K. WAGNER
POEMS BY N.K. WAGNER
ESSAYS BY N.K. WAGNER