Monday, May 17, 2004

And more on the short side 

Continuing the theme of today's blogging, Maud points to a fairly in-depth article by Kelly Jane Torrance about where short stories fit in today's world, and why it's so difficult to get them published in magazines:
Looking for proof of life in that American institution, the short story, can seem like a fool's errand. Few magazines publish short stories. Few Americans read them—you won't find any collections in the New York Times bestseller lists. Even those in the short story business don't seem to want to talk about the short story.

I called the headquarters of a number of America's best-regarded short story contests and discovered a curious indifference. Sure, they will tell you the names of their famous guest judges. They will reel off statistics about how many entries they receive and how much they pay out in prizes. But just try to engage them in a discussion of the literary form for which they are the standard-bearers.

“I don't read the stories,” confesses Krista Halverson, managing editor at Zoetrope , a well-known literary magazine that sponsors an annual short story contest. Reaching the offices of the Boston Review , I told editorial assistant Brad Plumer that I'd like to talk to someone about the decline of the short story and their own short story contest. Well, he said, “our office is pretty tiny.”

How did we get to where even staffers at literary magazines seem unwilling to stand up for the short story?

Rather scary, if you think about it. The future, as Maud says in the article, is something I've long believed (and espoused) myself: the Internet:
If the short story has a future, it may reside in new technology. “My sense with the short-story market is that it's a matter of failure to fill demand, rather than lack of demand,” Maud Newton says. “I think the mainstream publications resist innovation and that the better stories generally are being published outside their pages. Some of the most vital short stories are published on the Internet these days.”

Torrance only speaks of literary fiction, but I certainly think the same applies in the crime fiction world. Need I bring up such upstart magazines as Plots With Guns, Hardluck Stories, SDO Detective, Thrilling Detective, Shred of Evidence, and SHOTS? All are places where rising stars merge with established veterans, especially as their professionalism and attitude attracts more quality writers, which breeds further respect and reputation for these 'zines.

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