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Are short stories dead?

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Initial post: Jul 31, 2009 7:30:51 AM PDT
Renwonug says:
I don't think so! I've enjoyed PATCHWORK, by Annis Ward Jackson, a collection of short stories and essays about the regional culture of the Appalachian Mountains about as much as I have most of the novels I've read lately. She's not well known but her work goes back to the seventies. Honest, lean and well written.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2009 9:40:28 PM PST
Three answers:

1. Certainly not! Short stories are receiving a resurgence in digital form, with indie lit mags proliferating, flash fiction forums everywhere, and now, the widespread ability to read text anywhere with everyone whipping out their cell phones and reading to reclaim the little lost moments of the day.

2. Yes, unfortunately. The fiction being produced now, while being produced in huge quantities, is not and probably never will be again the stuff turned out by Fitzgerald and O'Hara and Faulkner back in the day. It's not just the shorter attention spans and shifted vocabularies; we have new requirements for what constitutes good fiction, new definitions of quality and worthiness entirely apart from the accessibility of the work.

3. Meh. Maybe the novel-reading/short-story-reading ratio is larger than it was, but I suspect we also have A LOT MORE PEOPLE READING, period. Everyone leisure reads, while this wasn't the case in many of the periods people like to point to as golden ages of short story writing. So the total number of short stories is probably far from falling sufficiently low to call the genre dead.

That's my take on it, anyway! (Now, ESSAYS, on the other hand...)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2009 11:51:03 PM PST
David says:
Read A McSweeney's book or Tin House issue and you should change your mind about short stories and short fiction being dead.

Posted on Dec 31, 2009 7:13:22 AM PST
Absolutely not. Simply asking the question shows that the medium still has relevancy. I tend to view these sorts of question's as a kind of cultural ''Schrodinger's Cat''. (And, before you say it- Yes, I am aware that that analogy is seriously flawed, but I am fairly sure that it clicked for more folks than it confused.)

The short story is alive and well. Literature in general is also alive and well. (The status of the publishing industry is a completely separate debate for another day). It's a mistake to compare the current state of the short story to some mythical golden age. The truth is that there has always been more bad writing than good, and at every point in modern history people have feared that literature- and its respective genres and formats- has been in decline. Declaring the novel dead has been the national pastime of the literate and educated since critics got their first taste of the column inch. Why should the short fiction be immune?

Is the cultural impact different at the moment? Probably, although I would argue that it is less so than many would assume. But as for overall health, I simply refer you to McSweeney's, Tin House, Granta, The Paris Review, etc. Also, while not dedicated exclusively to the format, The New Yorker can be counted on for a worthwhile example nearly every week. Even Esquire, once a stronghold for the likes of Hemingway, Faulkner, and countless others, is beginning to print fiction more frequently than in past years (Thankfully).

Consider the work of the following authors: Dave Eggers, Etgar Keret, Wells Tower, Roddy Doyle, T. C. Boyle, Miranda July, David Schickler... You cannot possibly tell me that you are unable to parse out a heartbeat there.

As an aside- Please excuse the brevity of the preceding list of writers, I have not slept in almost two days but I felt an overwhelming need to reply to this post after stumbling upon it on my way to sleep.

One last thought on the matter- The single thing that hurts the short story more than anything else is a pervasive misunderstanding of its nature. Unfortunately, many casual readers tend to think of short stories as simply stories that are short in length. In other words, a fair number of people think of them as merely ultra-mini novels, the rough equivalent of poorly considered, hastily jotted High School creative writing assignments. This tends to foster the idea that they are less significant works that the author was simply unable to flesh out any further. Or, even worse, that they are simply quick, almost effortless little yarns that writers churn out to meet magazine deadlines in order to make some easy cash (because, of course, we all know that writing for periodicals pays so well). Now, chances are pretty high that if you are reading this you are fully aware that a short story is not merely a story that happens to be short in length. Rather, it is a completely different animal, with entirely differing structure, goals, and mechanics. But you may be surprised to find out just how many people are unaware of this distinction. Just ask someone that you know (who does not read all that often, or whose reading materials tend to feature an inordinate number of pool boys and/or delivery men) what the difference between a novel and a short story is. All too often they will draw a blank after saying "length".

However, while short fiction does tend to suffer due to this general misunderstanding, this is nothing new. This has always been the case and it certainly does not contribute to the latest wave of premature calls for a funeral to be held for the short story.

The truth is that there are certain stories that can only be told effectively utilizing the structure of the short story. As all good fiction does, these stories relate some aspect of the human experience. So basically, as long as we remain human in nature and continue to exist in a narrative oriented culture, the short story will always have a place among us (the most important of those places being on my bookshelf).

I apologize for getting off on a long-winded diatribe of sorts there. As I said, I am a bit tired at the moment and I tend to get a little wordy at times like that. None-the-less, thanks for letting me get that out of my system.

Posted on Jan 2, 2010 6:33:24 AM PST
Wow, cool thoughts here. I believe the short story has declined but as an author I can tell you it's very important for trying new ideas, experimental voices, or just plain honing craft. Even after writing seven novels, six screenplays, and a career's worth of journalism, I'd rate two or three of my short stories among my top five all-time works. I just put one up for Kindle, a 20,000-word novelette called "Burial To Follow." It appeared in a limited-edition book and I always wanted it to have a larger audience, and with e-books there's a good chance.
Bradbury, King, Hemingway, Vonnegut, Shirley Jackson--these people influenced me a lot with their short stories and I still look for bold new voices in the magazines. When done well, it can provide a wonderful journey that's just as powerful as a novel, movie, poem, or painting.

Scott Nicholson
Burial To Follow

Posted on Feb 3, 2010 7:47:03 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 30, 2010 10:54:14 AM PST]

Posted on Feb 3, 2010 12:18:26 PM PST
The mid-length short story may be in somewhat of a (temporary?) decline as print magazines are struggling with all the publishing changes. However, ultra-short fiction forms (flash fiction, micro fiction, hint fiction etc.) are on the rise as more people discover (free) online reading and the range of ezines available. With the advent of e-books, the longer "short" forms also seem to be doing well, since the publication of novelettes and novellas has become feasible in that medium, in the same way that ezines have created a practical medium for flash and other ultra-short forms.

Fashionable literary styles and reader tastes have changed a bit since the "golden age" mentioned -- I would say fashion and taste in writing are always changing -- but there are some excellent stories out today that compete in every way with the classics. In fact, I believe that short fiction is where the next wave of great writing first appears.

Camille Gooderham Campbell
Managing Editor, Every Day Fiction

PS. You can find my picks for emerging greatness in The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and The Best of Every Day Fiction Two.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 3, 2010 3:07:12 PM PST
Fresh Kills, Tales from the Kill Zone
Definitely short stories aren't dead! One example: This week, seven top suspense writers from a popular literary blog banded together to debut 'Fresh Kills,' an e-book of original short stories. The stories in 'Fresh Kills' vary in mood and theme from the paranormal to action-oriented to traditional mystery. The authors of the Kill Zone blog (, who include New York Times bestsellers John Gilstrap (Hostage Zero) and John Ramsey Miller (Inside Out), developed the idea for an e-book anthology during the recent buzz over the digital publishing revolution.

Posted on Feb 5, 2010 11:13:33 AM PST
CReads says:
It Happened in Oakville: [Deep Reflections of My Past]

I do not think short stories are dead. Try this book, "It happened in Oakville", full of wholesome, family stories. This book is a memoir / biography.

Posted on Feb 6, 2010 11:33:44 AM PST
Hello out there, all you short story fans! First I want to point out that great movies spawned from short stories. I could see how, since film makers like to embelish the stories, the imagination and creativity is born through these writings of compact size. My short stories average about forty plus pages. I write as my imagination carries me. If you would like to see what a novice writer does, take a look at "The Short Story Cookbook", it contains stories from sci-fi to fantasy. I wanted to show my diversity as a writer by compiling ten of my short stories that I wrote in the year 2009. "Six Great Short Stories", is up for review right now as I write this, I can hardly wait to see what they have to say about my works. I recently wrote "The Ape Mine", great story and also just finished "Son of the Phoenix", I was searching for this title on Amazon and found the same title written by another author, but his work was out of print. I guess by coincidence that I resurrected the title, different story however. I've written stories that young and old alike have read and tell me that I should keep writing. Well, if short stories are dead, then maybe I've resurrected the genre as well. Anyhow, for anyone interested in reading my works, all my titles are on Amazon. Please rate them, I welcome that indeed. Keep writing short stories, all you authors. Writing is a craft, no matter how long or how short.

Posted on May 14, 2010 12:22:28 PM PDT
Absolutely not! I love short stories, especially fantasy ones. I even have an e-anthology of short stories (and poems) that I've written up for sale! Check it out: Fantastika: A Collection of Stories and Poems

Posted on May 14, 2010 12:22:51 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 14, 2010 12:23:07 PM PDT]

Posted on Jun 19, 2010 7:52:50 AM PDT
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Posted on Jun 25, 2010 4:22:19 PM PDT
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Posted on Jun 30, 2010 5:52:33 AM PDT
Tweedy says:
I've almost finished "Agents of Treachery" - a collection of short, original, stories by some of today's top thriller writers (Lee Child, Joe Finder, Stephen Hunter etc). Pretty good I have to say. About to start a fantasy collection ("Swords and dark Magic) - likewise original stuff by some top authors.

Posted on Jul 1, 2010 6:18:02 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 30, 2010 10:53:29 AM PST]

Posted on Jul 11, 2010 6:45:47 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Oct 24, 2011 3:18:37 PM PDT]

Posted on Jul 29, 2010 10:18:42 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 30, 2010 10:53:18 AM PST]

Posted on Jul 30, 2010 3:58:31 PM PDT
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Posted on Aug 9, 2010 12:09:30 PM PDT
Nolan says:
I feel that short story anthologies will always thrive as many working adults do not have the time nor the energy to read 500 page novels. Also, many people do not like to be stuck in one genre for so long, so they take a break from their paperback and jump into a short story. Being a college student, short stories are the way to go for me as I have too much on my plate to try and finish a novel. Part time school, work, friendships, and a relationship greatly minimize the allure of a novel. A short story, however, is a welcomed escape.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2010 5:08:00 PM PDT
Dorothy, you should take a look at mine. Just search for 'Chris Robertson'. I priced them very cheaply. My stuff is alot like Poe, Shirley Jackson, Lovecraft, etc. I like the classic stuff. Regards, Chris

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 12:16:54 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 30, 2010 10:52:52 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 13, 2010 12:27:11 PM PST
Dear RemLegere,

At least one set of short stories is alive and well, the "Woodcliff Anthology" is available in soft cover ( and as an eBook.

The eight stories in the anthology invite readers to consider some of life's big challenges: courage, forgiveness, perfection, and enlightenment.

In "Wishing for Secrets," a young boy's desire to know more about life drives him on a quest to learn secrets. He is tired of conversations stopping when he enters a room and he wants to be treated as a full member of the family. With his birthday just days away, he begins a mystical journey into the realm of answers for some of life's biggest questions.

In "Jewel's Unexpected Friends," we meet a girl who lives in an isolated area. Her mother died when she was a small child and her father, a heartless man, makes her cook and clean the house. He does not allow her to have friends. His only concern is where he will find the money to buy his next drink. After learning that a pack of wolves is nearby, Jewel becomes concerned for a stray dog and her newborn puppies. She promises to protect them, even if that means incurring the wrath of her heartless father. Sometimes unexpected friends make our lives better.

In "Miss Elaine's Rescue," the Macphersons hire a woman to care for their newborn daughter. The woman appears to be the perfect nanny. She taught school and she has a deep understanding of the challenges of parenting. She accepts the position for very little pay; however, she has a secret reason for caring for this baby. Elaine is special in ways that will surprise her parents. Who will rescue her and insure her promising future?

Everyone wants justice or do we? In "Justice for Patricia," a gang-banger robs and assaults a woman, and threatens to kill her if she reports him to the police. Summoning her courage, she files a report and then lives each day in mortal fear of his return. As the months pass, her fear evolves into an all-consuming rage and all she wants is to punish the man who attacked her. The authorities have done nothing, so when she learns it is possible to make things right, she begins her life-changing quest for revenge by going to a pawnshop to buy a gun.

In "The Last Bet," we meet Chuck Greystone, who was one of the greatest golfers in the world. At the peak of his career, he commanded millions of dollars for endorsements and the adoration of his fans. Unfortunately, bourbon, parties, gambling, divorce, and despair destroy his game and usher him on his descent to skid row where he is just another bum. One evening an attorney finds him at a street mission and offers him the wager of his life. Will he win back the thrill of playing great golf or is loosing the bet his best option?

In "The Final Defense," a judge, a jury, and an accused man assemble in a courtroom. His victims describe stalking, beatings, and cruelties that move the jury to tears. The accused man does not recognize any of his victims. Everything seems to be a dream; yet, he can't wake up. His attorney begs him to listen and try to remember-he must do something to help in his defense or all will be lost. Yet, with so many crimes, so many victims, and so many reasons, can anyone determine the punishment?

What could a psychic do for a politician? Senator and Mrs. LeGrand have dreams of becoming the next occupants of the Whitehouse. "The Mystic's Help" is their story of how, on a rainy evening in a damp parking garage, they find the woman who can make their dream come true. She looks like a homeless person, just some old lady begging for loose change; however, she knows their future and her prediction rattles the senator's skepticism. They hire her to help arrange for the senator's rise to the pinnacle of US politics.

What is the perfect day? In "The Arrangements," Jeff learns he has only a few more months to live. He has built a successful real estate business and now everything seems meaningless until an older man enters his office claiming there has been a mix-up at the deli and they must have swapped sandwiches. This mistake leads Jeff on a journey of re-evaluating his life and his ideas about the perfect day.

An unabridged version of "Jewel's Unexpected Friends" is available at

D.A. Blankinship

Woodcliff Anthology
The Scoloderus Conspiracy
The Scoloderus Conspiracy
The Shameless Shorts Anthology

Posted on Nov 17, 2010 1:30:41 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 30, 2010 10:52:44 AM PST]

Posted on May 30, 2011 8:24:19 AM PDT
I've a feeling that short works (whether stories or poetry) probably suffered because of a difficulty in promotion and distribution - an anthology sitting on a shelf next to a huge, fat book with its own entire storyline doesn't help the case of shorts at all, does it? but each on its own... a delicious treat to fit in well with our bits of free time. I'm hoping the ebook revolution revitalises audience reception for short stories by making them just a click away, able to have their own packaging and appropriate price as well.

Isabella Amaris
p.s. If you like psychological thrillers, mysteries or suspense, you might want to check out my short story The Shoplifter Never After. It's a great read, if I do say so myself:) All reviews/comments are welcome:)
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Discussion in:  Anthologies forum
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Initial post:  Jul 31, 2009
Latest post:  Aug 19, 2012

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