Short Stories are American Opera
"The Observer" just ran another one of those befuddled articles you see every now and then about how come nobody reads short stories anymore.

The article claims there ought to be a huge market for short stories in America and wonders why the print media only sells short stories in book-bound anthologies and in squat, dedicated magazines like Ellery Queen, Asimov's, and Ploughshares.

The article suggests selling short stories in smaller, daintier packages -- or letting consumers "subscribe" to the individual output of a given author.

With so many options out there for generating revenue from short stories, one must stop and ponder: what could big publishers possibly gain from killing off an entire medium?

1). Short stories are curt, violent, and controversial. They generally do not make you feel good about life or offer the moody consolations that long-form literary fiction achieves through weight. When placed inside a magazine (unless the magazine is porn), short stories will not help you sell ads, cars, and luxury products (unless the luxury product is fucking).

2). The editors of short story magazines often do not know what they are doing. To edit a magazine in New York, you have to quietly sacrifice everything in life to safety, security, and cosmopolitan ennui. People will applaud your bravery at choosing not to be independently wealthy like your friends. For this reason, you are going to prefer stories about the facile, specific complaints of the modern intellectual. Poe wrote detective stories and stories about insane people torturing their enemies to death. Remember?

3). Television and movies didn't kill short stories -- comic books did. The people who used to read short stories now read comic books. If comic book publishers started publishing short stories, maybe we'd see a good, healthy shock to the system. But why would comic book publishers do that?

4). Short stories originally got to people in America as remoras on the factional shark of Angry Democracy. Small presses who were already publishing spit-flecked sermons, rabid political tracts, and stuttering polemics against whiskey, taxes, the King, and sodomy said "WHY NOT THROW SOME STORIES IN THERE TOO."

The fever is back these days, and instead of on the streets, it is on the internet for free.


Posted by miracle on Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:40:49 -0400 -- permanent link

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