Friday, October 26, 2007

Is short fiction dying?

This is related to my post below, so you might want to check it out first.

There's been a lot of Web talk recently about the potential death of short fiction, most specifically short speculative fiction. You can find plenty of informed comments from authors such as John Scalzi, Jeff Vandermeer and Jim VanPelt.

For the most part, I'm going to agree with Vandermeer, though he has his detractors on this issue.

Frankly, I don't think there is as much good short fiction out there as there used to be. Or, to be more correct, I think there is just as much as there used to be, but readers are bombarded with so much more crap today than we used to.

The Internet and desktop publishing have allowed a whole lot of people to think they can be writers and earn Stephen King's salary at the stroke of a computer key. It's just not so. I hate to squash anyone's dreams, but there are a lot of people out there who should not be writing. I don't mean to say they have no right to writing and submitting fiction, but that if they are going to, at the very least they should look at their work as objectively as possible and spend plenty of time working on their craft before submitting.

Writing does take talent, but it also takes experience. Just because you like to read it doesn't mean you can write it.

I do not mean to suggest anyone should give up their dream of being a writer. Not at all. Just do the work. Write your stories. Read. Write some more. Study editing and other forms of writing, screenplays or poetry and the like. Keep writing and writing. Sometimes it takes years to be a decent writer. Join a critique group, get some feedback. When you finally think you have a good story, then submit it to a publication.

I speak from experience. I'm sure I made George Scithers at Weird Tales cry more than once during the early 1990s.

So, I suppose the gist of what I'm saying (to get back to my original subject) is that if anything is killing short fiction ... it's bad writing. Or not-quite-so good writing.

And I'm not I'm the greatest writer in the world. If I was, I'd be earning that Stephen King salary.


JB Dryden said...

First, Ty, let me thank you for the link to Sheer Speculation's website. That's very kind of you to offer the support.

Second, let me say that I don't believe the short fiction market is dying. I think what is happening is that the readership is moving to the internet with webzines and online publications, and it's difficult to truly track those numbers right now, and so it looks like the market as a whole is declining rapidly. Even as a small market I see a fair amount of traffic to my site, a decent number of submissions (even at an offer of only half a cent a word), and I have a fair amount of readers. The market is there; it just moved.

Good blog.

Ty said...

Thanks for stopping by.
I actually agree with eerything you said above, though I might not have spelled it out so well in my own blog posts. Hope I didn't sound like I believe the whole short story market is dead.

I don't think it's as strong as it was during the days of many pulp writers, but I could be wrong. I think readership is changing more than anything, and short stories might yet rise up once more. Who knows? They might even be bigger sellers than those thousand-page novels I keep seeing at the bookstores.