The Long and the Short of it

I looked at the books I’ve been reading and listening to really, and I realized that the last couple books I plowed through all fell under a similar category. I’ve been trying to look at authors I hadn’t read much of before, Dean Koontz and Margaret Atwood being the most recent example. The list of authors acclaimed enough that I should probably read them but haven’t goes on much further than that, but we’ll stick with the ones I’ve got on my plate right now.

Not knowing exactly where to start with these authors, I looked at what was available at the local library. I didn’t even know for sure what books I should read by these authors first, because checking the internet for book recommendations was just too gosh darn hard. It’s not like they have whole sites and networks devoted to that single purpose. (Brief reminder, check out my Goodreads feed on the sidebar to see what books I recommend you try out!)

Anyhow, both times I ended up checking out a collection of their short stories. This was partly because that’s what they had to offer and partly because I do enjoy checking out newer authors I’m not familiar with short stories. Whether it’s one story in an anthology or a whole collection, I guess I feel like a smart shopper investing less time into their possibly crappy writing while still getting a good taste of their style and skill.

Honestly, I started to feel a bit guilty that I considered short stories a somehow easier or cheaper alternative to novels, because I know from both reading and writing them that short stories can be a difficult enough beast to tackle perfectly in there own right, yet my shelves are definitely dominated by novels, especially if you count those of the “graphic” variety. Well, that might have something to do with the novel, or if we want to include nonfiction here too, generally long stories with a bigger story ark and so forth seems to just be generally more plentiful in bookstores, libraries, etc. I mean, look at the last handful or so books you read. How many of them short story collections of one kind or another? I mean, I’d started just two short story collections recently and it surprised me enough that I decided to write a blog entry about it. I can’t say this with the authority of a publisher, but it really seems like novels and longer works are just generally more plentiful in the whole book market despite being, you know, taking longer to write. It seemed a bit illogical to me.

Maybe back in cave days, there were actual production issues that made it more cost effective to only present longer texts, I don’t know, but it seems odd that, in the age of digital media and tiny attention spans, the novel is still a more frequent guest on the average bookshelf than the short story. Things do change, though. Perhaps we’re int he middle of a big change right now. Flash fiction is a thing now, an increasingly popular thing. Yeah, it’s stories shorter than short stories. They’re pretty popular, especially online. Online, yup there’s the magic word. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that while traditional novels are definitely still pretty dominant in the book market, the new possibilities brought up by e-publications and so on means that we should really be keeping a closer eyes on shorter works of fiction. Yes, even the ones that don’t have pictures, like Walking Dead. They have plenty to offer the modern audience besides being a good intro into an author’s longer works.


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