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Friday, April 23, 2010

What Happened to Short Stories?

     A volume of Ray Bradbury short stories stared up at me, begging me to pick it up and look at it, so I did. Over 100 stories in one volume. Now, I'm a bit of a sucker for ye olde tyme science fiction short stories, probably because I teach a class usingthem. I've got a volume of Asimov's stories, and love it. Bradbury is a natrual extension, but it got me thinking (which is always a bad sign) what happened to short stories?
     Now, I know they haven't disappeared completely, and in some respects they're making a resurgence. I see volumes of multi-author anthologies in the bookstore, which is great. Glad to see them, but that's not really what I'm talking about. What happened to the wealth of short stories that authors would produce? In the days of yore (ie the golden age of science fiction, mostly) pulp magazines churned out stories all the time. These were the tools of authors to get themselves published back then, but that doesn't seem to be the way it works, now. Now it's the novel that is king.
     I think, though, that these short stories were great not just for publication, but for the authors to hone their craft and to give them breadth. I'm not sure writers now appreciate the shorter form of the story. The sweeping epics and multi-part series have taken over writing, which is great. I love series; I love epic-length books. I also love short stories. There are times when only a short story will do.
     It's more than that, though. Short stories are a great way to practice story-telling, and to get out those stories that don't require epic length. I've written quite a few short stories in order to tell the tales I need to, and like to think that they blend into my novels, enhancing the mythology and world I've created. I have other short stories in the works, though, and hopes at becoming a prolific writer of the form (as well as novels, of course) and perhaps see my own name on the shelf on not just novels, but a volume of my own short stories.
     But I would like to know the feelings of others regarding short stories. Have they fallen into decline? Are they coming back? Are they a useful tool for other writers? What do agents and publishers think of them?

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