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Stop! Important news!

First: James Morrow (review of The Last Witchfinder) is going to be in the UK at the end of April, and will be interviewed at a special BSFA meeting on Wednesday 19th. This will not be at the Star Tavern, but instead in the Hogshead on Dering Street: turn up from six, interview starts at seven. There's a map here; nearest tube is either Bond Street or Oxford Circus.

Note this is an additional meeting. It does not replace the normal monthly meeting, which is Ian R. Macleod interviewed by me, in the Star, the following Tuesday. As always, members and non-members are equally welcome to either or both event. Tell your friends! Bring your friends!

Second: all the nominees for the BSFA Short Fiction Award are now online. BSFA members need to cast their ballots by April 11th; Concussion members have until 6pm on April 15th; the rest of you just might want to check out what BSFA members think are the best stories of the year. They are:
You may now go about your business.

(Remember the days when there was actual content here, rather than just links to other stuff? Yeah, me too.)
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Last weekend, Margo Lanagan's collection Black Juice gained extended eligibility for the Hugo Awards--so that stories in it can be nominated for the 2006 Hugos--on the grounds that the US edition wasn't available until this year. Frustratingly, however, it now looks like the UK edition of the collection won't be published until next February, or after the nomination deadline, which means some people will still not get a chance to read it in time. I'm also not quite sure about the publisher's blurb:
Short stories, no translation rights, no Australian rights, US (and first world) hardback published this month. Sometimes writing is so extraordinary that you just have to publish it. Even if it breaks all the rules. BLACK JUICE is such a collection. However few copies we sell of this book, Margo Lanagan is the sort of writer that every list has to publish if that list cares about good writing. These are stories of immense confidence, the faith they have in the believability of the worlds they describe is such that they explain nothing, concede nothing but still leave you entranced because of the beauty of the writing and the intense clarity of the characters. Whether a family singing their daughter to her death, a young boy braving pestilential angels to give his grandmother the death she deserves and himself the freedom he deserves, or clowns on a sniper spree at a clown convention these are people you believe in, peopling stories of quite extraordinary power. Margo Lanagan will, one day, write a world beating novel.
OK, most of that's perfectly good; I just wish they'd left off that last line.

On the upside, when it's finally published it will contain an extra story compared to the existing editions. And in the meantime, the US edition is easily available from Amazon.
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A couple of weeks ago there was a debate around these parts about whether a 'mainstream model' of short story publishing (producing enough stories to fill a book and then publishing them together) or a 'genre model' (submitting stories to genre magazines as they're written then collecting them at a later date) encourages better quality short fiction writing. Elsewhere, I suggested this thesis, and the idea that there are differences in publishing strategy was greeted with some surprise; it was pointed out to me that many mainstream writers do submit stories to places like The New Yorker or McSweeny's in an attempt to build their career.

So, a little unscientific research: I would like everyone to look at their shelves, look at their non-genre short story collections--published since, say, 1995--and tell me how many of them have 'previously published in...' credits and how many don't. (Also, if you have any genre collections where all the material was first published in book form, let me know about that as well; the only ones I can think of at the moment are Margo Lanagan's Black Juice and White Time).

I'll start:

Beware of God by Salom Auslander (2005) - no previous publication histories listed.

Some Rain Must Fall by Michel Faber (1998) - no previous publication histories listed (but note that Faber had already published a novel at this point).

Explaining Death to the Dog by Susan Perabo (1999) - most stories previously published elswhere (in Story, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, New Stories From The South and others).

Close Range by Annie Proulx (1999) - a few stories previously published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and GQ. Proulx has, of course, also published novels.

So far, evenly split. Over to you?
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I wonder if this will work?
Looking for Something New to Read?

Amazon Shorts are brand-new short-form literature from top authors, available only on Try a new genre or a new author -- there's something for everyone. It's all digital and only 49 cents. Amazon Shorts are:
The sf titles look interesting, and appear to be a mix of fiction and nonfiction. 'The 'Velt' by Lucius Shepard is the one that grabs my eye first (although this thread makes me wonder if it's strictly a short story at all), but there's stuff by Mary Rosenblum, Michael Swanwick and others as well. The largest problem I can see is that they only seem to be offering the stories as HTML, which is frankly bizarre.

And tangentially, going back to the short fiction thread from a few days ago, does anyone want to own up to being anonymous?

EDIT: Anonymous strikes again! Is my journal being invaded by the dark cabal?

via John Klima
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Chance writes:
What I Believe About SF But Can't Prove

That the ongoing collapse of the short story markets has little to do with distribution problems or any of that crap that is often cited. Rather, it is because most SF writers have no love for the short forms of fiction, and mostly view it as a stepping stone to novels, a diversion, the means to an end, not the end itself. And because of this most writers churn out mediocre story after mediocre story, not willing or unable to invest the time and skill to make something wonderful.
Some not particularly ordered thoughts:

This doesn't sound completely implausible. There's also a chunky group of writers who seem to view short stories as, essentially, adverts for novels. Mr Baxter has certainly been guilty of this in the past, though he's by no means the worst offender.

But is it the whole story? Certainly the Big Three are, as far as I know, still shedding readers, but how many people are the 'zines/small press/online venues reaching, and are they reaching people who wouldn't read the Big Three?

In addition, why are writers like, say, Kelly Link--who certainly takes the time to make her stories work--not being published in the major (genre) magazines? If the answer is 'because they're not submitting to the major magazines', again, why is that?

Further, is it anything new? I was reading the first section of Hell's Cartographers last night. This is a collection of autobiographical essays by sf writers, published in 1975. The first section is by Robert Silverberg, and one of the things that really struck me was that in the first part of his career, in the late fifties and early sixties, he made a decent chunk of his living from short fiction. He was doing other kinds of writing as well, but the the short fiction seems to have provided the bulk of his income for a few years at least, and it did so not because he was crafting a few highly-paid jewels but because he was simply churning out an insane amount of words on a daily basis.

It's also a truism these days that you can't make your living from short fiction (though maybe if you had Silverberg's output you could?), and I suspect that may be a big reason why writers focus on novels.

And lastly, and I suppose most importantly: if this is a reason for collapsing short fiction markets, can anything be done about it, and if so what?

EDIT: On a similar theme, this (not entirely serious) post by Alan DeNiro:
Short Stories, 2015

In light of what science fiction writers are “supposed” to do–be predictive, prophetic, whatever–and with a lot of paradigms floating around lately in terms of perscriptive notions of how to fix genre writing, let’s take some potshots at the future. Short story readership is in decline…I think we can all agree on this? So where does it go? What’s the event horizon? And secondly, how does this change–if at all–the creative processes at work?
Make sure to read the comments.

SON OF EDIT: via [ profile] sartorias, who points at Gregory Feeley's blog, who quotes from the introduction to a collection by Robert Sheckley:
"Despite the efforts of NESFA Press and others, almost everybody is looking at novels as the measure of a writer's true quality. If this goes on without challenge, everone from Damon Knight to Harlan Ellison, from Lucius Shepard to Ted Chiang will end up as second rank, and not worthy of Grand Master awards no matter how fine their stories. And to put it bluntly, there are a disproportionate number of excellent short story writers in the SF tradition, but not a lot of first class novelists."

-- David Hartwell
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In case anyone going to Eastercon this weekend didn't know, most of the stories nominated for the short fiction award are available online. So, no excuse for not casting an informed vote, then.
'Point of No Return' by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
'Delhi' by Vandana Singh
'The Wolfman of Alcatraz' by Howard Waldrop
'The Faery Handbag' by Kelly Link is available in The Faery Reel; and the fifth story, Stephen Baxter's 'Mayflower II', is not online, but I've written about it here (and if you ask nicely I can lend you my copy. Actually, for some of you if you don't ask nicely I might forcibly lend you my copy).


Sep. 7th, 2004 06:23 pm
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In the post today, to review for Vector:

Trujillo: stories by Lucius Shepard

'Only Partly Here' [notes]
'A Walk In The Garden' [notes]
'Crocodile Rock' [notes]
'Eternity and Afterward' [notes]
'Hands Up! Who Wants To Die?' [notes]
'Jailwise' [notes]
'The Drive In Puerto-Rico' [notes]
'Senor Volto' [notes]
'The Same Old Story' [notes]
'The Park Sweeper' [notes]
'Trujillo' [notes]
It's a lovely hardback, with a ribbon bookmark, and it's huge. It might only be 11 stories but it weighs in at a shade under 700 pages, which means it's easily the biggest book I've seen from PS (although possibly not quite the biggest they've actually published). A big chunk of that length, note, is down to 'Trujillo' because that story is, in fact, a novel. A short novel, but still a novel, and a brand-new-for-2004 one at that.

Oh, yes. I think I am going to enjoy this.

There's one tiny downside: I only have eight hundred words for the review. I already know I could write eight hundred words about 'Only Partly Here', 'Eternity and Afterward' and 'Jailwise'. Each. Maybe I'll post more detailed thoughts here as I go along.

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