Gotta Love the Bloody Book

Stephen King talks about editing Best American Short Stories. Gotta love the bloody book. What the heck does that have to do with anything? As for the article, a few things in there that don’t make sense. Like, Tin House has a very healthy circulation, as do many of the major literary magazines, which are not, in fact, just being read by would-be contributors/writers.


  1. says

    Well, it is true that the situation might not be so dire as King says. But it is certainly true that the short story form has become far less important than it was in times past. But that is evolution. People get their little entertainment fixes in different ways now: the internet, TV etc. To know what kind of stuff short story writers are writing, you do need to go out of your way a bit, which is not the case with certain other kinds of literature.

  2. says

    well, I don’t have the facts as I’m quite a distance away, so all I do here is mull and conjecture a bit.

    First, re: contributors/ writers – well, that may be true. See, there’s a few things I’m wondering about in the modern era that I can’t find definite answers for:
    1) Are there more prospective writers today than before? I do think so, especially with the way teh internet has shrunk the world.
    2) A question was asked on the Nightshade board once “What percentage of a magazine’s readers also want to be writers”. I’m tempted to say nearly all of them, at least at one stage or other. GVG surprised me by saying he thought only about 40%
    3) Thing is, whether short form or novels, I think the vast majority of readers have a dream or hope of writing. There are non-readers who want to write, so this is a statement I’m rather careful with,. although I do know what King is getting at.
    Either way, writers are ultimately readers first, and so I’m hesitant to say this is a bad thing per se. You’d need a hell of a lot of data to be able to say one way or the other.

    Literature does have to compete with a huge amount of alternate options; this is where it gets pretty important for an individual writer as well as a magazine, publishing house, etc, to define to themselves what they are doing and who are they targeting?
    Are they entertainment first and last? In which case, they are competing directly with Halo3 et al, and the intent is then to rope in non-readers.
    This might be a doomed enterprise, since I’m skeptical that people who don’t want to read are going to read ever.

    Having said that, it comes down to the genuine threat to writing – invisibility.
    (We don’t, for instance, get a lot of short fiction magazines here in SA; it’s impossible to say whether there is a market or not because we don’t get them. But, comics have fallen a lot in sales here, and that comes down to one and only one reason – availability. When I was a kid, they were everywhere. Now, they are mostly sold by specialty shops. Now that’s great for the specialty shops, but it also means the majority of potential readers do not even know they exist!)
    Bottom line, I can either fork out a fortune on a magazine I may not like and have never seen, or I can read online for free, and support magazines that cater instantly and easily to me as well(and by support, it can be as simply as trying to let as many people as possible know that they exist).
    This is also why I’m thinking the internet is the venue of choice for short fiction magazines – it’s more accessible, the entire world can access it at the same time (as opposed to print where various people have to wait from days to months depending on where in the world they live).
    It fits the nature of the short, to move it to a different venue.
    Combining it with print anthologies for online venues (whether a Year’s Best of, or a Collected Works), and freeing up money in the consumer’s pocket for themed anthologies (right now this is a huge negative mark against taking out subscriptions to me; that that money is money I cannot use to buy some of the themed anthos and there are some awesome looking ones out there) could become the standard way to go.
    It also comes down to the lack of marketing and wider publicity that short markets need to do and don’t, at least not much that I can see.
    Shimmer put up a couple of very nice trailers for two of their issues on YouTube; I think this is on the right track, in the long run, to try and reach wider and generate more interest.
    Fantasy imagazine s moving online, which I think is a good thing in the long run.

    I do think short form has lost some readers; but I also am skeptical about all this muttering of the Apocalypse. This is just a continuation of the debate re: SF short form that blasted a couple months ago.
    There are inevitable cycles to anything, but I do not think it’s time to play the doomsday trumpets yet.
    UF, for instance, is booming right now, and I’m happy that its writers are so deliriously happy with the sudden exposion of newly published writers. I’m also fairly certain there is going to be a backlash, since inevitably a lot of crap is getting pushed into the market. But you know, that’s not a bad thing always; a bit of a stupid move from the pub houses, in a way, but not something that will irrevocably kill UF.
    Short fiction, like science fiction, like anything else, simply has to adapt itself to keep up, be accessible and make people aware that it exists, and most importantly, have something to offer.

    But I don’t really buy the Apocalyptic mutterings, in the end.