Sunday, 17 February 2013

The return of the short story?

Is the short story making a comeback in the US? See the New York Times' Good Fit for Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories and Clifford Garstang's response. Charles May's why some short story writers don't want to write novels is worth a read too. The points they make are that

  • Novelists new and established are now producing collections
  • Specialists like George Saunders are gaining respect
  • The way that the internet killed the music album has helped people accept the short story (Kindle Singles).

But then Salon published Sorry, the short story boom is bogus. See also Charles E. May's comments.

I've seen few signs of recovery in the UK. The National short story award doesn't help a whole lot. I'm glad that Salt is producing a Best British Stories anthology each year, and that Flash is making inroads (e.g. there's a Bridport prize for it).


  1. Some might say the short story never went away...!

  2. I’m with Vanessa on this. They only seemed to go away because publishers demanded novels and very few authors dug their heels in and only produced short stories. I keep waiting on Ian McEwan’s next short story collection. His first two books were pretty popular at the time as I recall but it’s been novels all the way since. The same goes for the science fiction novella. All publishers wanted were epics. This is where ebooks are definitely a good thing because they all weigh the same. That said I still don’t see that many short story writers out there. Everybody wants to write a goddam novel. Why we might be seeing more short story collections coming out now from traditional publishers is the pressure writers are being put under to bring out two books a year rather than the one they’ve been used to. I really hate it when writing gets reduced to a product but if the result is more shorter books then I’m all for it.

  3. Garstang writes - "For years, short story writers have been told by agents that story collections don’t sell. Readers don’t buy them (except, presumably, for other writers of stories), so publishers don’t publish them, so agents won’t represent them. No writer I know was ever convinced by this argument, but there wasn’t much we could do about. Agents were/are the gatekeepers to the big publishers, and so there was cycle that fed on itself".
    I don't know how true that is in the US or UK, but if it is, then maybe the cycle is destined to be broken.


  4. But the short story still never went away. The focus of these arguments/ articles is always on the big publishers and whether or not they deign to publish them. That is rather irrelevant - the short story is alive and well in thousands of superb literary magazines, in collections and anthologies published by great committed independents, who do not have profit as their main driver.

    It never died. That's the point. Whether the big publishers decide they can make a profit out of them and their writers, is another issue.

    What is wonderful is hearing that established 'long story' names are writing shorts because (presumably) they want to, as opposed to doing their retirement planning - that's rather great.

  5. Ah, Vanessa, I see what you mean.
    I'm one of those people who prefers Ian McEwan's stories to his novels. It would be cool if he come out with a story collection again.