In Praise Of: Short Stories

Apples are not mangoes, though both are fruits.ladyreading

Rabbits are not fish, but they’re both animals.

Short stories are not novels, though both forms have things in common.

Fantasy Faction, a place I was unfamiliar with until this morning, had some thoughts on Short Story Markets and Why They Are Important.

Unfortunately, the piece, written by Marc Aplin [edited to correct spelling!], doesn’t actually address why short story markets are important, so much as it tells you that short stories allow you to practice for your novel. This seems to imply that novels are more important and valuable than short stories themselves — that one writes short fiction in order to prepare themselves for the grand and arduous undertaking that it writing a novel or anything of greater length.

“At very least,” Aplin writes, “the short story market provides something for writers to invest their time into.”

As an editor for a short story market, let me tell you why they are important: short stories are vital and beautiful, and in this era of two-second attention spans and mobile-this and mobile-that, short stories are often the only fiction a person has time to digest. I have plenty of friends whose lives of work and families and travel have whittled their reading time to almost nil. Short fiction remains a way for them to vanish into another world, even if only for a few minutes. They cherish short stories. “Short story markets,” Beth Wodzinski says, “are important because they print wonderful short stories.”

Indeed.

This article does not consider that people genuinely love the short story form. Let us not consider that there are people who enjoy writing them, editing them, reading them, illustrating them, and reading them for podcasts. Short stories are not mere filler until your novel comes along.

Aplin goes on to say that short story markets should be treated as “contests,” that sending stories to them is “a game.”

Short stories are not a game. While I understand challenging yourself (I set out to write 12 new short stories every year, after all) the idea that publication is a contest is absurd. If you want to improve your writing, read everything you can get your hands on. Study what you read. Pay attention to what published writers have done — in the form you want to write in. A short story can certainly instruct you in how to string sentences together, but on a larger scale, they don’t prepare you for writing a novel any more than eating chocolate eggs prepares you for making an omelet. As Beth says, short stories are not training wheels.

Short stories rock. Here are a few of my favorites (outside what Shimmer has published, ha!): “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe.

5 thoughts on “In Praise Of: Short Stories

  1. Marc Aplin

    Not only have you spelt my name wrong, but you’ve taken my comments wildly out of context and ignored my replies to Beth Wodzinski explaining my position.

    It is these kinds of posts, ones that purposely look to cause hostility and put words into peoples mouths, that have caused the recent problems and divides in the SFF community.

    Disappointed.

    1. Elise Post author

      Ah! All my concern to get “Aplin” right and I confused C and K! Fixed.

      And I read your replies to Beth, indeed, and don’t think that any of what you said on Twitter comes out in what you actually posted in the original blog.

    2. Rachael Acks

      “It is these kinds of posts, ones that purposely look to cause hostility and put words into peoples mouths, that have caused the recent problems and divides in the SFF community.”

      …wow, really?

  2. Peter

    I agree with you and I believe that short stories are a very valid form of writing. In our very time conscious world I have started many books that I have had every intention of reading, but find that it takes me 6 months to get through. Short stories keep me and my brain involved with reading and are immensely entertaining to digest when done well.

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