Heads up, short fiction scribes: The Guardian has announced this year’s Guardian Weekend Summer Fiction competition.
The theme of this year’s fiction special is “journeys”, and to enter all you need to do is send us a story of no more than 2,000 words by 13 June. The work must be previously unpublished and we can accept only one story per entrant.
Reading through the full announcement got me thinking though, particularly the reference to the judges.
Top novelists judge the entries, and they will be looking for the most original, gripping and well-crafted pieces of writing.
Are top novelists really the best judges of short fiction. Many top novelists are able to write short fiction well, yes, but lets face it, not all of them. Most of the truly great short fiction writers are those who have devoted a huge slab of their career to the genre. There are plenty of great British short fiction authors publishing in the UK today. Why not get them to judge? Lets face it for every novelist capable of mastering the short form (say, Ali Smith, for example) there are a whole slew of novelists whose shorter works are less than stellar.
I’m not suggesting we segregate writers into boxes or have to be overly sensitive in this issue. But something about the idea that novelists make the best judges of short fiction smacks of further evidence of the pervading literary establishment attitude that the novel is the ‘proper’ fiction writing that all other prose forms aspire to, which is simply not true.
What do you think? Is short fiction best judged by novelists?