Monday, December 5, 2011

In Praise of the Short Story

Did you know that May is national Short Story month. I didn't. In 2007 Dan Wickett, drafting off of the idea of National Poetry Month, decided that the short story should have one. Neither did I. But I'm confused. The crime fiction community has always been an early adopter and started using online zines as a means to publish fiction damn near 15 years ago. In my opinion the crime short fiction continues to be one of the, if not the most, vibrant of all the other online fiction communities, even as other have been finally catching up with the idea of online publications. So *if* crime fiction has the most vibrant online short fiction scene and *if* there is a short story month then how come our community (and the zines we publish) aren't included in this endeavor? I don't know, but we should be.

So why do I love (and sometimes hate) the short story?

One of the most daring acts of reading is found in reading the short story. As readers (and consumers) we have some built in motions that we go through before making a purchase. Sometimes we aren't even aware of them. A cover caches your eye; the author's bio is read, blurbs can even be read or glanced at. Perhaps most important of all is the synopsis. The reader of long fiction constructs a safety net under their reading experience the moment they read the synopsis because at that moment they have some idea of what they are getting into.

A lot of these subconscious trappings of the reading experience are so ingrained they aren't even noticed. But the short story, and by extension the single author short story collection, strips a lot of these trappings away leaving only the title, author's name and the story itself. In many respects it's the purest form of reading. Even with an author you've read before or at a publication you've read before there are few expectations brought to the reading experience. It's a bit like stepping off the ledge, you simply begin the story and that's it. There are very few guideposts as to what you'll be reading. It may be one of the greatest acts of literary trust out there.

Which, to me, is part of the reason short story collections aren't read as widely as they should be. It's hard to to get a reader to close their eyes and make that leap.

So, should we make a concerted, community wide effort to participate in Short Story Month next year? Why do *you* like the short story? And, what/who are some of your favorite stories and authors?

I've started a new blog that will begin posting new content in 2012 that will promote the short story all year. It's called Short Story 365. Check it out and consider participating.

Also, Spinetingler will now be publishing weekly flash fiction.

Currently reading: REAMDE by Neal Stephenson; Hill Country by R Thomas Brown; Trigger Man by Jim Ray Daniels

Currently Listening: J Roddy Walston & The Business

1 comment:

Al Tucher said...

I never put it together before, but that's exactly my reading experience.