Earlier this week I found this collection in my local second hand bookshop:
I haven’t tried any of the stories yet but am looking forward to digging in. I have had a blast through the preface though and the sentiment in it struck a chord. It opens with the statement I used as the title of this post:
‘The short story is a threatened species’
The short preface goes on to wring its hands over the vanishing of literary magazines and the barren publishing landscape remaining in which that most misguided of literary creatures, the short fiction writer, will surely perish. This was written and published in 1979. Since then there have been plenty of advocates for the idea that the short story is going the same way as the dodo or C90 cassettes. Yet the short story is thriving. How you ask? Well, like any creature under threat, it has adapted to its new surroundings and found new ways to survive in the changing literary landscape.
The short story is alive and well on the internet, in fact the internet is possibly the best thing to happen to the short story form. The nooks and crannies of the world wide web are crammed with a multitude of online journals and digital magazines. Some are shit. Many are brilliant. All are helping put short fiction back into the reading diet of the masses.
The short story is alive and well on mobile apps. iPhone and Android users have a positively bewildering choice of applications that provide access to quality short fiction. If I had to recommend one it would be the Ether app, not simply because they publish a handful of my stories though there is that, but because I was an Ether reader before I became an Ether author and on the app I have enjoyed loads of great stories from loads of great authors. And I get to carry them about in my pocket to read wherever I might be. It’s free to download on iTunes and an Android version is due later this year.
The short story is alive and well in the output of brilliant small presses like Roast Books and Salt Publishing. Every collection I have purchased with their names on, and there have been quite a few now, have positively bristled with energy and emotion. They also offer quality ebook versions of their titles. I’ve actually bought digital copies alongside the print editions, so that I can carry them with me when on the move. They are that good.
The short story is alive and well in the output of clever self pubs like Connor O’Brien whose Quiet City is that rarest of beasts, a brilliantly written and wonderfully designed self published ebook of short fiction. You can download it for the altogether far too generous sum of a tweet or a status update mentioning the collection. If you like it, you can also buy a hard copy. It’s the kind of clever use of social media that is raising the profile of both the author and the medium of the short story.
So I say, the short story is far from a threatened species. The short story, diminutive and lithe and agile, is a still evolving species that will continue to change to fit the times it finds itself in.