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Short Fiction Conversation.

Yesterday's post about short fiction has gotten talked about over here. It's interesting that most people replying appear to have thought that I've made a judgment call about short fiction and said that I must read trash because I said I read and write short fiction for that burst of the moment and you move on afterwards.

The problem with that conversation, I guess, is that the word disposable appears to have been linked to the quality of short fiction, to suggest that a short story can't linger, can't alter the reader, can't have a point, can't whatever. Which is not what I said. It can do all those things. Why wouldn't it? But when I talk about the fact that fiction can be seen as disposable, I was talking about the time factor in reading it, and the fact that it is a small bit of fiction. After you've read it in a magazine or a website you can forget about it easily if you don't like it, even throw it away, not worry about it so much because it's small. The risk is less for your time. Whereas with a novel, you generally invest more time and you keep novels for the most part. Which is why archiving short fiction doesn't appeal to me much.

It's also worth pointing out again that I don't see the word disposable as a bad thing. I love the idea of disposable fiction. It's really quite freeing.

But whatever. It's fun to watch people react.

Comments

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ex_benpayne119
Sep. 9th, 2005 02:27 am (UTC)
I think the idea that people don't read short fiction is a misnomer... magazines like Asimovs sell around 40 000 copies a month, as far as I know... that's a hell of an audience... small press stuff of course sells less, but then you can't compare the sales generated by the small press with stuff sold by major publishers without taking into account promotion, advertising spent on them etc...

The fact is that short fiction does sell, just not as much as novels do, and when major publishers are choosing between something which sells well and something which sells better...

oldcharliebrown
Sep. 9th, 2005 11:02 am (UTC)
Yes, but in proportion to the US reading public, it's stastically rather small, dropping with every year (for the last few decades). This is true for all the genre magazines here, particularly the digests . . .
benpeek
Sep. 9th, 2005 04:11 am (UTC)
You're saying what I am, although I don't think that the risk (or lack thereof) factors into it as far as my reading choices go.

i like risks--but i'm a little less willing to try a risk of six hundred pages than a risk of fifteen, but that's just me.
ashamel
Sep. 9th, 2005 01:28 am (UTC)
Like everyone else, it seems, I'm not quite getting you.

If a story can linger, can alter the reader, can have a point, then why dispose of it?

You seem to be saying it's easier to get rid of bad stories, and thus you can take more risks with the time involved -- which is fair enough. But why should a strategy for bad stories affect the good ones?
benpeek
Sep. 9th, 2005 04:07 am (UTC)
If a story can linger, can alter the reader, can have a point, then why dispose of it?

i didn't say you should. keep it.

it's really not a comment on quality. but if it has a good affect on you, neat, joy. you still move on though, don't you? i mean, you go on to another story, maybe by the same writer, maybe not... but you get another twenty thirty minutes, then you have another bit of time you can give to a short story.
ex_benpayne119
Sep. 9th, 2005 02:22 am (UTC)
Makes sense to me...

I'm very much a "new things" kinda guy... I don't reread much... although maybe one story in every anthology I might reread... if that...

my favorite stories i reread. And with exceptions (Vonnegut, the Little Prince) I'm a lot more likely to reread short stories than novels... that's just too much time to commit...

benpeek
Sep. 9th, 2005 04:15 am (UTC)
re-reading isn't much encouraged, is it? i remember reading something a while back that made an interesting observation about it, but for the life of me can't remember who wrote it now.
bodhichitta0
Sep. 9th, 2005 04:28 pm (UTC)
Well, I usually don't take much part in this type of writer talk but I just have to comment I don't see Disposable as an inherently bad word at all. Disposable diapers, maxi pads, paper towels and lots of other disposable things are chock full of goodness and convenience.

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