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Short Fiction Beat: Long Live the Short Story

Short Fiction Beat: Long Live the Short Story

The short story is dead. The short story is where aspiring writers hone their craft.  Markets for short stories are dwindling. We’re in a golden age of short story creativity and innovation. Print is dead.

And so on and so forth. We’ve been hearing variations on this theme for, well, a long time.  The latest is from Adrienne Martini, whose reportage more or less reiterates all of these.

So just how can things  be so awful at the same time as being so open to new opportunity? I think part of the answer may be that while the magazine format is struggling, both in print and on-line, there seems to be no shortage of anthologies (for the most recent example, see John O’Neill’s recent report on The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction). While I don’t really know, I’m guessing that the profit margins for yet another Dozois edited collection or the best gosh darn stories from the last 33 1/3 years are better than having to crank out a periodical. And, there is an audience, or otherwise publishers wouldn’t be cranking these anthologies out.

If that’s true (and, again, this is supposition since I haven’t done any substantive analysis), why are magazines seemingly dying? Well, part of the answer is that some of them continue to shoot themselves in the foot by insisting on trying to uphold a heritage no one is much interested in anymore.  The 12 year old boys of today are seeking their sense of wonder from gaming and on-line porn, rocket ships to Mars aren’t doing it (obviously we’re talking genre here, as literary magazines  mostly supported by universities that don’t pay authors and largely frown upon genre have a much different audience than anything that is publishing with the idea of actually turning a profit). There are just so many entertainment alternatives than in the days when it was an actual event that The Saturday Evening Post arrived in the mail.

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