Friday, March 14, 2008

Strahan on the Short Story

Friday, March 14, 2008
This is a good time for the short story in genre circles. Not maybe in business terms - we're yet to develop a twenty-first century business model that allows writers to make a living writing short fiction - but in artistic terms, it's extraordinary. Whether in anthologies like this one or in magazines or on websites, short stories are being published in staggering numbers. Thousands each year, millions of words, and in amongst this torrent of content is some extraordinary work. - Jonathan Strahan, Eclipse One, p. 1)
This is the first paragraph of Jonathan Strahan's introduction to Eclipse One. I read it three times. Not because I don't understand the words, but because I was impressed by what it said. What I have been reading online in recent months was people bemoaning the state of short fiction today. It's not the golden age, it's not something one can make a living at, it's not what people want to read. There are fewer major magazines publishing and the pay scales are comparatively lower than ever.

The number of print magazines are not in question, nor is the fact that fewer writers can make a living from short fiction, but Strahan makes an excellent point. The stories, the best of the best, the ones we care about. They're damn good.

What Strahan doesn't say is that the stories are as good as they have ever been, but I feel like we are still living in a golden age for science fiction and fantasy. We've got some outstanding writers working today. Short fiction, novel length, we've got the serious men and women writing serious heavy fiction, we've got folks writing some entertaining fiction that just tells a story that people want to read. What we've got is damn fine writers. Ted Chiang. Elizabeth Bear. Jeff Vandermeer. Charles Stross. Catherynne Valente. George R. R. Martin. M. Rickert. Jeffrey Ford. Kelly Link. Karen Traviss. Joe Hill. The list could be longer. Much longer.

It's two conversations. And Strahan is correct. Amongst the torrent of content there is some extraordinary work.


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