HOME | CATALOG | DOWNLOADS | LINKS | EDITORIALS | DISCUSSION | CONTACT

The Future of Short Fiction?

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | User List | Help/Instructions | Log Out | Edit Profile | Register
Night Shade Message Boards » Morgan, Richard » The Future of Short Fiction? « Previous Next »

  Thread Last Poster Posts Pages Last Post
Book SoundtracksAlison03-11-08  03:30 am
  Start New Thread        

Author Message
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Will
New member
Username: Will

Post Number: 12
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Monday, February 18, 2008 - 10:38 am:   

Let's get some discussion going here now that the boards are back.

The future of short fiction, especially genre fiction, has been getting eyeballed lately in various blogs and online venues. Does short fiction have a future? Does short sci-fi have a future?

Richard, did you go through a period of shopping short fiction around, and we just haven't been talking about it? Or did you go straight from shopping screenplays to shopping novels? Any interest in writing things shorter than novels?

Are we still reading short fiction around here, and if so, why? What's the itch that it scratches? What will we lose if short fiction slips away?

What do we think?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Richard
New member
Username: Richard

Post Number: 84
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 - 10:15 am:   

Yeah, I did my time in the short story mines.....

From my point of view, it was a complete waste of time - I'm not a good short story writer, and most of the short stuff I did bears the indelible hallmark of that fact: it's shit. I never saw publication, and that was an entirely fair response to what I was submitting. I should have just got on with novel writing.

This is not to diss the short form. Far from it - I'm a big fan and I'm also of the opinion that it's probably harder to write a good short story than it is a good novel - tho' it is a lot less time consuming, obviously. I have a huge amount of respect for those who practice the short form well, not least because it tends to require a monk-like vow of poverty to keep at it. But I also think that it's a mistake to believe the hoary old myth that you can "hone your art" on short fiction as an interim stage on the way to writing a novel. Not so. Learning to write short fiction makes you good at exactly that - writing short fiction. The only way you learn to write a novel is by writing one.

So why the hoary old myth?

This is, I think, a case of the cargo cult meme. Pacific islanders saw white men building airstrips during the second world war and then saw aircraft come and deliver all manner of "cargo" from the sky - good stuff like food and tools and so forth. Later, when the white men finished killing each other and went home, the islanders figured if they built airstrips as well, maybe the aircraft would come for them as well, and bring them some cargo too. It's a cruel analogy, I know, but I think far too many people in the SF community are cargo culters working off the practices and assumptions of the golden age - at which time, the cargo used to actually show up. That's to say, aspiring young writers back then could make an actual living from writing short fiction for the pulps, or at least supplement their dayjob quite substantially. But this simply isn't the case anymore. The magazines are - with one or two honourable exceptions - dead and gone, the market simply isn't there any longer, and you can't make a living that way. But us poor islanders in the SF community go on copying the meme anyway.....
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Jlassen
Moderator
Username: Jlassen

Post Number: 23
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 - 11:44 am:   

Another view on the relationship between short fiction and novels. Short fiction may not teach you how to be a successful novelist, but if you are GOOD at short story writing, it can be used as a spring-board, to better get your name recognized by editors, etc, so you can sell a novel to them. Note, this only works if you are a)Extreamly Prolific, and b) have a very outgoing personality and travel to PROFFESSIONAL conventions regularly, making connections, and keeping your name visible.

Now, the amount of time and work this method takes may in fact be equal to the amount of time and effort it takes to write four or five novels, one of which eventually finds it's way off the slush pile, without any kind of "name recognition".

Which path works best is determined by how much one enjoys writing short fiction, and running the convention circuit, I suppose. But the con-circuit has its own pitfalls, and things that can get in the way of publication.

Having said all this, let me say I LOVE short fiction... thats why I continue to publish it, even though I could easily fill those slots in my schedule with novels. And despite the lack of markets and financial reward, there are still people who keep going back to the form, even when they don't have to (from a career perspective).

Anyway, Welcome back to the 2008 edition of the Night Shade Forms, Richard. It's good to "see" you again.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

John_klima
Junior Member
Username: John_klima

Post Number: 122
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008 - 06:58 am:   

For my money, I'd rather read short fiction over a novel every time. Recently I've found myself unable to read adult novels (young adult novels are fine). Of course, this ties in to the fact that I've been reading short fiction almost exclusively since 2001.

Richard is absolutely correct with people operating on the mindset that publishing is like it was in the Golden Age. And that pertains to novels as well. The midlist for novels used to 100,000 units shipped. That's New York Times bestseller list numbers now. There are more publishers, more writers, etc. The market has changed.

I'd like to posit that it's no more difficult to make a living writing short stories than it is writing novels. Let's do some math. First-time writer gets 5K for novel. It's 90,000 words. That's 5 cents a word. That's the same amount you would make if you sold those stories to Analog, F&SF, Asimov's, Fantasy magazine, Realms of Fantasy. It's actually less money than if you sold those stories to Chizine (7 cents=$6300), Clarkesworld (10 cents=$9000), the new Tor online community (25 cents=$22,500). None of those numbers (except MAYBE the last one) are living wages. And as a new writer I can almost guarantee that you won't earn out your advance to start earning royalties.

Now the thing novels have over short fiction is that being successful, even moderately (or even poorly) successful will lead to more money and more sales with subsequent books. This does not happen with short fiction. Still, it will take a long time, and perhaps never, for most writers to make a living writing. And it's even less likely that you'll make a good living. I don't know Richard's numbers and I don't want him to divulge anything, but it seems that Richard is doing pretty well with his books. But again, that's not typical.

So why write short fiction? Why read short fiction?*

I think there are ideas that are short fiction ideas and ideas that are novel-length ideas. And they are two different skill sets. Again, Richard is correct that you can't learn to write a novel by writing a short story. However, I think something the short story affords you is the ability to try something unusual; i.e., Jeffrey Ford's "The Way He Does It." [full disclosure, I published Jeff's story in my zine Electric Velocipede] For Richard (and I'm putting words in his mouth, so please jump all over me if I'm wrong), he has all these great novel-length ideas, he doesn't have the time or inclination to develop short-fiction ideas. But there are a lot of people (if I can judge by my submission numbers) who have short-fiction ideas, and I think it would be a shame if they had no outlet for it. I think five years from now, maybe ten years from now, you'll see a radically different short fiction market.

As for reading, it's always been the way for me to find new authors. Many of my favorite authors I discovered through short fiction: Jeffrey Ford, Liz Williams, Jeff VanderMeer, Karen Joy Fowler, Joe R. Lansdale, and others. It's rare for me to find a new writer through novels. Perhaps I'm the exception in these matters.

*You could very well ask: Why write novels? Why read novels? Why should I give over my little bit of reading time to a novel when I would be able to read a lot of short stories in that same time and experience a wide myriad of worlds and people instead of spending all my time with one place and one small set of people?
Always finding the more difficult, time-consuming way to do things.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Richard
New member
Username: Richard

Post Number: 85
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008 - 02:09 pm:   

Yeah, the math works, but only in theory - first of all, 90,000 words is quite a short novel. My first, Altered Carbon, came in at more like 140-150,000. Scott Lynch's "Lies of Locke Lamora" would be substantially more again, probably closer to 200,000. But leaving that aside, the question is not so much word count but how many words make an "average" short story. My experience is painfully limited here, but I'd say the broad guide has to be substantially less than 10,000 words. So 90,000 words probably represents at least ten stories, possibly more like fifteen. (unless some are novella type, which are correspondingly harder to sell and anyway a somewhat different form again). To sell a dozen short stories in a year seems like a lot to me - a lot of success, and a lot of repeat engagements given the limited number of outlets available. And to repeat that achievement for a couple of years running.......hmm, I really do wonder if it can be done (or even should be, because if the same old names are getting all the magazine space, then the forum for fresh talent dries up even further)

But in a sense, this is almost beside the point - coming up with a good short story idea and fitting it into the tight parameters required is a very tough assignment. Doing it ten to fifteen times over is immensely tougher. By contrast, a novel really only requires one (maybe two) good ideas which you can then take for an extended walk and explore to your heart's content. I won't say it's actually easy, but I certainly think it's easier work than having to crank out the dozen plus good ideas and fit each one into its own beautifully crafted jewellery box.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

John_klima
Junior Member
Username: John_klima

Post Number: 123
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008 - 05:45 pm:   

Yes, my math points out flaws in the short fiction markets. Most notably, as you say, if I had 12 - 15 stories a year, there aren't enough pro markets to spread the love around, so to speak. If someone could even maintain that pace. I think there's only a handful of writers that have that many viable ideas over the course of a year(s).

If you're looking at numbers, and counting each fiction sale as one whether it's a novel or short fiction, making one sale a year versus making 12 - 15 a year is a lot more palatable.

I love short fiction. I wish there were more outlets for it. I'm watching the online magazines and seeing if anyone makes it work. With all the printing and shipping costs taken out of the equation, it raises rates for authors and increases the exposure.

Now I just need a sugar daddy to back my online zine...
Always finding the more difficult, time-consuming way to do things.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Annafdd
New member
Username: Annafdd

Post Number: 6
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008 - 09:10 pm:   

It's not writing the ten stories a year that I see as a problem. Not as the *major* problem. It's selling them. I know a lot of really good writers who got into Clarion, got a story or two into really good markets, and that's it. Over maybe four or five years. There aren't that many outlets for short fiction out there and it's a highly competitive market.

As Richard said, it used to be that you could live (almost) on selling your short fiction - that was one of the things that sent PKD over the edge, he was living on amphetamines to crank out stories as fast as he could. He published 34 stories in 1954 (and he still had problems keeping the wolf from the door, the money being in those days so bad).

I don't think anybody these days, not even Ted Chiang if he could write them, could sell that many stories in a year.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Niall
New member
Username: Niall

Post Number: 11
Registered: 09-2006
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 02:11 am:   

It's not writing the ten stories a year that I see as a problem. Not as the *major* problem. It's selling them.

Well, Robert Reed's been managing it for a while now:

http://www.robertreedwriter.com/bibliography.html

But most people are not Robert Reed. And I agree that 34 stories in a year is hard to imagine these days.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Timakers
New member
Username: Timakers

Post Number: 10
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 07:53 am:   

I think they serve different purposes. What I get out of a short story is rarely the same thing as what I get out of a novel, and I hold them to different standards. It's easier to be more experimental in the short form, and as a reader I'm more tolerant of dense writing. Frankly, I expect more of novels in terms of plot discipline, characterization, setting and narrative flow. Beautiful writing can get you through a short story. The same can't be said of a novel.

As a writer, well, they're different skill sets. Whenever I'm writing a short story, I feel like I'm trying to shove a novel sized idea into a tiny space. It's just not where I excel, and it's not where I'm most comfortable.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 17
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 08:47 am:   

I sell a little over ten stories a year. It's not that hard. Writing them isn't that hard either. The problem, I think, Richard - is that you are NOT a short story writer, but a novel writer.

So why act like one thing is better than the other? It's not. Just because writing short fiction is hard for you, and selling short fiction is hard for you, doesn't mean it's hard or bad or blah blah for anyone else.

I love short fiction as well.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Markteppo
New member
Username: Markteppo

Post Number: 3
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 10:26 am:   

Money aside, there's also a timing issue to consider. New writers may find the concept of finishing a novel more terrifying than a short story. A short story has a shorter return on its investment (the non-financial kind, and the assumption here is that I'm talking about a short story that sells relatively quickly). When you're starting out, the kudos of publication for short stories may be what sustains your enthusiasm for the work, especially if it is something that you're not doing for financial reasons.

Richard mentioned up-thread that, in writing short fiction, he discovered that it wasn't for him, which made the jump to novels a natural choice. I wonder, and this is completely hypothetical in Richard's case, would it be easier to be a novel writer if you didn't have the opportunity via the short fiction mines to discover that was your natural inclination? Or would the interminable slog to the end of the book, without having some experience of finishing product under your belt, be too much weight to bear?

I think John Klima's first point is a good one. He likes short fiction. As long as there are people like him, there will be markets. There may be fewer, but I don't think they'll vanish entirely. And I think writers who write short stories specifically without ever planning on being a novelist, aren't doing it for the money. How many of us started out with this being our primary source of income? Straight fiction. No freelance non-fiction, no corporate work.

If we're growing into our writing careers, I think short fiction is a tool for the writers to grow their craft. If there aren't any paying markets, we'd do it privately and share it with our friends. It's the way we get better, incrementally. It's a bonus that we can get paid for it, and I think that selling short fiction isn't the same thing as writing short fiction. At least not as far as the creative genesis goes.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Annafdd
New member
Username: Annafdd

Post Number: 7
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 10:40 am:   

Ah, well. With the right pressure I can indeed write a story a week, not that I can find the right pressure every week. However, selling them is another matter. Which is why I felt a right shit when Paul wrote:

"I sell a little over ten stories a year. It's not that hard. Writing them isn't that hard either."

Obviously I'm not that good a writer, since my professional sales amount to one only in the last five years.

Only... in googling, hoping to recognize Paul's name from somewhere, I happen upon a entry on his blog that mentions his first professional sale this February?

I stop and take stock and think, ok... we may mean different things with sale, then.

Ok, I admit: I give up too easily. I try the big professional markets, F&SF, IASFM, Analog, Interzone, Strange Horizon, Scifi.com when it was still around... then I pretty much give up. Just because keeping track of the addresses and guidelines and what has gone to whom at one point became too much. I thought to myself that I should go back to writing, polish my skill, and write better stuff, instead of desperately trying to place those ten pieces.

Various people have told me that I should get back into the submission business seriously. And no, not in that way. Also, I feel guilty at submitting when I read very little. I used to read Asimov and Interzone cover to cover, but my reading has become more and more scattered over the years.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Alan_frackelton
Junior Member
Username: Alan_frackelton

Post Number: 252
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 11:31 am:   

John Klima wrote: It's rare for me to find a new writer through novels. Perhaps I'm the exception in these matters.

No, I'm exactly the same.

The discussion of markets reminds me of Heinlein's classic advice - put it on the market and keep it on the market until it sells. Is this good, or even realistic advice, when you compare today's short fiction markets with those of 30, 40 years ago?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Richard
New member
Username: Richard

Post Number: 86
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 04:16 pm:   

"So why act like one thing is better than the other?"

I didn't, Paul. If you'd please look back at my post you'll see that's not what I said at all. Far from it.

And if you find it easy to write and sell ten or more short stories a year, then more power to you...but the vast majority of the writers I've talked to about this have had short story experiences much more in line with Annafdd's. Whereas, increasingly, I'm running across a lot of people who have just got on and written that first novel they've always thought they had in them, and have then got picked up by some small (or indeed big) publishing house looking for fresh talent. It isn't only the short fiction market that's changed - with publishing technology and technique becoming increasingly amenable to smaller scale operations, the number and accessibility of outlets for novel length fiction is very much on the rise

Markteppo - fair point about the longer slog, and the shorter term pay-off. But again, I think it's like deciding to train for the two hundred metres because you can't face the training for a marathon. Train up to a good 200 metre time and you might at some later juncture go on to train for marathons as a result of the confidence you now have in your fitness. But aside from the getting of that base level confidence (which you would have developed in your marathon training anyway), it seems to me something of an evasion of your real goal. You either want to run the marathon or you don't.

If on the other hand what you really want is to become a mean 200 metres runner - well, sure, dedicate yourself to that, of course, and the best of luck. I think people should dedicate themselves to writing whatever the hell they want to. And the hell with worrying about the money too - I certainly never did.
But I also think that you need to be clear about what you want, what exactly you're dedicating your time and effort to, and what you hope to get out of the process. And I think there is, in-genre anyway, rather a lot of unclear thinking on that score, for which I blame the enduring but superannuated Golden Age short story success meme.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Richard
New member
Username: Richard

Post Number: 87
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 05:07 pm:   

Tim - I'm with you on the comfort thing. All my short stories failed because they were really hypercompressed novels straining at the seams of long short story constraint.

I'd also agree that you expect very different things from the two forms - although I think if anything I tend to be more demanding of the short form. I really expect to be shown something special in a short story, it's not enough for it simply to tell me a story which is short. It has to have a twist, or make me look at things differently, or make me think about something I've never considered before, or just be.....other, and strikingly so. Of course, it's nice if a novel has all those things in it as well, but I'm far more likely to forgive their absence if I'm being told a good, immersive story.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Markteppo
New member
Username: Markteppo

Post Number: 4
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 07:15 pm:   

>> Richard said: But I also think that you need to be clear about what you want, what exactly you're dedicating your time and effort to, and what you hope to get out of the process.

Yes, exactly.

I may have come along late enough that the Golden Age short story success meme is a hoary myth, and the short fiction market has been, in my mind, a place for me to find both myself and an audience. But the distinction between 200 metre runner and a marathon runner is great. The rubric I fell into stated that what is, essentially, endurance training for the marathon was the same thing as the 200 metre dash, and it really isn't. That may be the subtlety that younger novelists are missing. We keep thinking that running five miles and ten miles as part of our training (read confidence building) is equivalent to training for the dash.

(And hello, by the way, it's very nice to meet you here. I realize I've done the equivalent of coming into your living room and putting my feet up on the cocktail table as if I belonged. It's been a great joy of mine to have been able to introduce people to your books over the last few years, so thank you for all your work.)
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 19
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2008 - 08:41 am:   

Richard-
Well, in a way you are, because you're assuming that your own experience and a handful of others is a universal experience, and then making a value judgment based on that. Ye olde broad sweeping generalization.

Anyway, writing 12 short stories a year? Not at all hard. And saying that a novel is "one idea" versus 12 is hardly fair to how complicated novels really are. Most of my short stories contain 5-6 (if not more) great ideas, and they have too or else they wouldn't be saleable. My limited experience writing novels seems to be that they have many, many, many more ideas throughout them. Interlaced.

But I'm not arguing your base argument- yes, writers being told to start in short stories is a terrible meme that floods the short story market with writers who don't like short stories.

Or something.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Richard
New member
Username: Richard

Post Number: 89
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2008 - 11:03 am:   

Paul - I really wish you would stop putting words in my mouth. The only value judgment I have made is that you can't (any more) make a long term living from writing and selling short fiction, whereas you might - just might - be able to do so from writing novels. I don't see anyone, on this thread or elsewhere, disputing that.

I do not believe, nor have I at any point said, that one form is "better" than the other. A Ferrari is not "better" than a three tonne truck (especially not if you're moving house) - but you sure as shit can go faster in it. If going fast is what you want, it behoves you to make the appropriate choice and drive the Ferrari. If making a living as a writer is what you want, it behoves you, in these times, to write novels. If that counts as a value judgment, well, yes then, guilty as charged.

As to generalisation, well, we all do that until contrary evidence presents itself. I do not believe, and nor have I said, that my experience is "universal". But to date you are the only person I've ever spoken to who is successfully selling ten+ shorts a year (and Robert Reed appears to make one more). On the other hand, in six years of touring my books and going to conventions I have met not "a handful" but dozens, possibly scores of aspiring writers who say things like "yeah, I've had a couple of things published in Asimov's" or "I got a short story into Interzone last year." Until that changes, and I start to meet dozens like you instead, then I will continue to assume that my experience, while necessarily limited, is also fairly indicative of current industry trends.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Richard
New member
Username: Richard

Post Number: 90
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2008 - 11:05 am:   

Mark - many thanks for all the plugging, glad you liked the books. And best of on-going luck with your short stories (or a novel if you ever choose to change disciplines)
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Jlassen
Moderator
Username: Jlassen

Post Number: 25
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Monday, February 25, 2008 - 04:12 pm:   

It's funny you should mention Mark, and novels:

Lightbreaker by Mark Teppo Coming in September 2008, from Night Shade!
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Richard
New member
Username: Richard

Post Number: 91
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 02:59 am:   

hey hey - I had no idea!!! Welcome to the 26th mile, Mark.

Jeremy - can I get a review copy?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Markteppo
New member
Username: Markteppo

Post Number: 5
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 11:27 am:   

Thank you. I'm pretty pleased to have made it that far.

I really have been working on short fiction these last few weeks, though at 8K and 13K, I'm not sure they qualify as "short." Your comparison between the sprinter and the distance runner has clarified some of the reasons why I tend to run long, and it certainly has its origins in how I was taught to look at short work versus the novel.

You know, as a kid, I sucked at the sprints, and could do marginally better at the longer distances. Probably a clue there as well. :-)
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 20
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 05:34 am:   

"If going fast is what you want, it behoves you to make the appropriate choice and drive the Ferrari. If making a living as a writer is what you want, it behoves you, in these times, to write novels. If that counts as a value judgment, well, yes then, guilty as charged."

Well I think that's a flawed argument. I could also say, writing non fiction pays better and is quicker to sell, and involves less work (let's see- the last non fic piece I did for a non-genre mag was at $1.50 a word, and took me a weekend to complete) esp if its non-genre work.

So, by that logic to really work fast and make a living as a writer you need to move out of genre. But we all know that's flawed. You're giving advice to aspiring writers- and while the hoary old myth that making your start selling short stories is FLAWED, so is pushing the "if you want to be a real writer, and make a living doing it, you need to publish novels".


"As to generalisation, well, we all do that until contrary evidence presents itself. I do not believe, and nor have I said, that my experience is "universal". But to date you are the only person I've ever spoken to who is successfully selling ten+ shorts a year (and Robert Reed appears to make one more)."

Well, that's just two years doing it. Who knows if I can keep that pace? But Jay Lake sells more than that a year. Much more than that a year.

"On the other hand, in six years of touring my books and going to conventions I have met not "a handful" but dozens, possibly scores of aspiring writers who say things like "yeah, I've had a couple of things published in Asimov's" or "I got a short story into Interzone last year." Until that changes, and I start to meet dozens like you instead, then I will continue to assume that my experience, while necessarily limited, is also fairly indicative of current industry trends."

And I've met tons of aspiring writers with a novel they are working on forever, or are on their fifth novel after having four trunked due to rejection after rejection. How is that faster? How long did it take them to write each novel?

Aspiring writers are a poor judge of a professional job market's credibility.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Timakers
New member
Username: Timakers

Post Number: 11
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 06:30 am:   

Well, look Paul, it's a simple fact that pretty much no one makes a living as a writer of short stories. It's not possible. Yes, Reed and Lake produce many, many stories every year. They're not the mean, they're outliers. If anything, they prove the point.

And you keep using the term "real writer" when Richard is saying "make a living as a writer" or somesuch. He hasn't once said that writing short stories doesn't make you a "real writer" or anything of the like. Maybe stop imposing your interpretation on the argument.

As far as aspiring writers being a poor judge of the market's credibility? Absolutely. Now find me some short story writers who do just that for a living. And for every one you find, I suspect we can find dozens of novel writers doing the same. That's the argument here. Can you make a living as a short story writer? Not really. Can you make a living as a novelist? Yes. You want to make a living as a writer of genre fiction? Write novels.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 21
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 06:57 am:   

I never once said short story writers could make a living writing short stories. Never. Not once.

I did say his argument was flawed- that to become a writer who MAKES A LIVING as a writer, one needs to do novels. And that's a blatant lie.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 22
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 07:01 am:   

And also- writing and publishing novels do not necessary mean making a living doing that. There are too many factors here to just make that statement!

For example- what about those who publish their first novel in a small press? Or someone whose first novel bombs abysmally and no one will buy their follow up?

Just saying "if you want to make money in genre, write novels" is an understatement. Just writing a novel doesn't ensure success.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Will
New member
Username: Will

Post Number: 13
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 11:26 am:   

Let's see if we can drift a little bit out of the zoomed-in argument of implied intent, and back to a question about the success or failure of short fiction in general.

Specifically, why is it that short stories seem to be (or maybe are) less popular right now? Is it a cyclical thing, or was there success back in the day a fad? For all that short-form media is "booming" (we're told by the producers of TV tie-in "webisodes" and the like), why is short-form fiction relatively unpopular?

To what extent, for that matter, is the faded appeal of short fiction an issue of the genre? Do "mass-market" readers (whatever that means) buy short fiction? Do they buy anthologies? Is there an outlet for short fiction outside of genre collections and literary journals?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Markteppo
New member
Username: Markteppo

Post Number: 6
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 12:48 pm:   

I saw this phrase today: "genre fiction came out of the pulp tradition . . . where writers were writing a lot of schlock to fill pages." (Jeff Vandermeer's interview in the Steampunk magazine, if you want to know the source)

What caught me was "fill pages," and it would seem to me that the current short fiction markets aren't filling pages, not like the pulps used to be, which is either a sign of cluelessness or an awareness that their markets have changed. Let's assume for a second that the latter is true, and that their target market is short fiction readers and not pulp readers, i.e. a class of reader who is specifically looking for something short and of a certain caliber. The majority of the pulp readers (those who helped give these magazines those six figure circulation numbers) have grown up, died, or moved on. Moved on to what?

How about the shared universe, media tie-in novel. For example, is the Warhammer line just a repackaged, longer, version of something like "Wartime Tales Monthly"? Or the Hard Case Crime line filling in for Black Lizard (or its ilk). The pulp reader was looking for entertainment for his nickle (or quarter) and he bought the magazine that matched his mood, and need met content and all was good. Isn't that what all the D & D tie-ins, the Star Trek books, and what not doing now? Matching need to content on a monthly basis?

In which case, the short stories readers of the past may have grown up to become devourers of short-attention span novels, and the genre short fiction now may be looking to the same audience share that literary short fiction enjoyed in the past. They may be different enough that claiming a "dearth" now is to misunderstand what drove the market back in the day.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 23
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 05:15 am:   

Mark-
I'd have to agree with you. One of the things I hate seeing is people saying "we have to return to the pulps to get our audience back", and I don't think that's true. The people that read the pulps now watch television, and get that same feeling from tv for free instead of magazines.

And have for a loooooong time. I don't think short fiction writers are cargo cult worshipers- most of the damn good ones are smart enough to know that the genre short fiction market is dismal. But they love short fiction. Period.

I know- I always have. Even as a kid growing up I devoured anthologies and collections. Short stories were my favorite form of fiction and still are.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Blue_tyson
New member
Username: Blue_tyson

Post Number: 67
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 09:56 pm:   

The Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, etc. books do fill some of that old longer pulp story niche, I think, anyway.
<a href="http://freesf.blogspot.com">Free SF Reader - Free SF Fiction Ratings</a>
<a href="http://notfreesf.blogspot.com">Not Free SF Reader - Not Free SF Fiction Ratings</a>
<a href="http://superprose.blogspot.com">Super Reader - Superhero Prose Fiction Ratings</a>
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Blue_tyson
New member
Username: Blue_tyson

Post Number: 68
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 09:59 pm:   

Speaking of short stuff was quite surprised to see two Nightshade hardback novellas in the library not so long ago.
<a href="http://freesf.blogspot.com">Free SF Reader - Free SF Fiction Ratings</a>
<a href="http://notfreesf.blogspot.com">Not Free SF Reader - Not Free SF Fiction Ratings</a>
<a href="http://superprose.blogspot.com">Super Reader - Superhero Prose Fiction Ratings</a>
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Will
New member
Username: Will

Post Number: 14
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Friday, February 29, 2008 - 10:44 am:   

Those media tie-in books are a pretty good analog (heh) for the old pulp magazines, aren't they? This is particularly embarrassing for me because I write and design the games those books tie into, so from my perspective they are something very different. (That is, they are ancillary product, at least when regarded from too close.)
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Blue_tyson
New member
Username: Blue_tyson

Post Number: 77
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Friday, February 29, 2008 - 06:14 pm:   

Of course, some of the games being designed is for stuff that existed before there were computer games as such - Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, etc.

As for Tie-Ins, if you are talking about the most famous pulps etc. then there were radio shows, tv shows, movies, comics, etc. (The Shadow, etc.)
Free SF Reader
Not Free SF Reader
Super Reader - Superhero Prose Fiction List and Ratings
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Blue_tyson
New member
Username: Blue_tyson

Post Number: 78
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Friday, February 29, 2008 - 06:17 pm:   

I suppose now it is often the other way - electronic to print tie-ins rather than print to electronic, but not always, of course.

e.g.

Heroes tv - Heroes comics - Heroes books

30 Days of Night comics - 30 Days of Night books - 30 Days of Night movie

etc.
Free SF Reader
Not Free SF Reader
Super Reader - Superhero Prose Fiction List and Ratings
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Lukedjlaw
New member
Username: Lukedjlaw

Post Number: 83
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Saturday, March 01, 2008 - 06:48 pm:   

I remember a post from Ellen Datlow saying the only writer she knew whose only source of income was his stories was Howard Waldrop.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 24
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2008 - 06:03 am:   

I don't think that media tie ins fill the same niche as the pulps did- there was a loooong time between the death of the pulps and the rise of the media tie-ins.

And who cares about the pulps? It's almost been a 80 years since the pulps died off.

Anyway, Galley Cat posted this:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/mailbag/the_short_storys_doing_fine_deal_wi th_it_79044.asp?c=rss

which I think is very relevant.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Timakers
New member
Username: Timakers

Post Number: 12
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2008 - 06:59 am:   

I care about the pulps. And if you talk to the people responsible for the media tie ins, they'll gladly point to the pulps as their ancestors.

Galleycat's post doesn't shed any light on anything we've said. You can't make a living at it, or it's very rare. Yes, there are many great writers producing great stories. It's not a dying form. But if what you want to do is write and nothing but write? Novels.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 25
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2008 - 10:57 am:   

Or maybe do nonfiction articles.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Timakers
New member
Username: Timakers

Post Number: 13
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2008 - 06:54 am:   

Granted. But again, that's a different skill set. I've done nonfiction, but I'm much better at fiction. There's very little difference, for me, between writing nonfiction articles and showing up at this job every day, effort-wise, and here I get insurance and a consistent paycheck. So, to narrow the description: If you want to write fiction for a living, you'll pretty much have to do it in novels.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Blue_tyson
New member
Username: Blue_tyson

Post Number: 80
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Sunday, March 09, 2008 - 03:43 am:   

Who cares about pulps? A lot more people than care about your garden variety unknown SF writer. :-)

80 years ago is 1928, so you have a few problems with counting, there, too. :-)
Free SF Reader
Not Free SF Reader
Super Reader - Superhero Prose Fiction List and Ratings
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 26
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2008 - 05:02 am:   

Really blue_tyson? Well, name me four pulp writers. And Robert E. Howard, Haryy Knutter and H.P. Lovecraft don't count (trust me- there are a lot of writers in that generation who weren't them...can you name them?)

Fact of the matter is- the pulps aren't even considered the Golden Age of SF. That came about right after the pulps died. I pretty much think that more people care about popular writers of today (or 30-40 years ago) than they do about the pulps.

And pulp work was hack work of the worst sort. Writers were churning out short story after short story just to make money. Period. It took the pulps to die for SF to get GOOD.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 27
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2008 - 05:04 am:   

Tim-
I loved your short story in EV about two years ago- very cool, very creative.

"So, to narrow the description: If you want to write fiction for a living, you'll pretty much have to do it in novels."

No. That Galley Cat article I linked to mention many writers who write short fiction for a living- they just aren't genre writers. So yes, if you want to write genre for a living, then you will probably have to write novels.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Timakers
New member
Username: Timakers

Post Number: 14
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2008 - 01:51 pm:   

Paul- Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. I was very happy with that story, and very happy that it went to a great market like EV. Went on to write a bunch of similar stories for Interzone, and now I've sold the novel. I'm one of those guys who did it by apprenticeship. Not for everyone, but it worked for me.

The Galley Cat article did go on to say that the four writers it mentioned also taught creative writing full time at various colleges. I don't know, I'm pretty sure this isn't where the argument was meant to go, but since I'm a genre writer trying to make my living as a writer, then I'm going to stick with novels.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Damiengwalter
New member
Username: Damiengwalter

Post Number: 6
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2008 - 02:56 pm:   

I'd challenge you to name a single writer who makes a living from short fiction. I can't think of any.

There aren't even many writers who make a living publishing novels. There are a few who make BIG money, much more than a living, a few more who just about scratch a living, then many more others who make pocket money from novels and stay afloat teaching, editing etc etc. And their the lucky ones. 99% of aspiring writers never even make it that far.

There's lots of great things about writing fiction, but as a way of making a living its bloody useless.
Damien G Walter
http://damiengwalter.wordpress.com
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Blue_tyson
New member
Username: Blue_tyson

Post Number: 81
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - 03:12 am:   

You want to challenge me to a name pulp writers competition? Probably not the best idea on your part. :-)

If you don't know when pulps were published, you don't know when the Golden Age of SF was, etc., not really worth bothering, and not surprising that you can only name a couple, not even managing to get the third of the Weird Tales 3, for example.

Writers today are still churning out crap story after crap story, too, and in 70 years most likely 99.9% of it won't be of reading interest, either, in just the same way, because people will look back on it as dated shite, just as you are doing now.

Popular writers of 30-40 years ago? You read any Arthur Hailey or Irving Wallace or Harold Robbins recently? ;-)
Free SF Reader
Not Free SF Reader
Super Reader - Superhero Prose Fiction List and Ratings
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Blue_tyson
New member
Username: Blue_tyson

Post Number: 82
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - 03:29 am:   

Here's a bit of a list for you though, anyway. ;-)

Pretty sure most of these people, did, off the top of my head:-

Robert Leslie Bellem
Alfred Bester
Robert Bloch
Leigh Brackett
Ray Bradbury
Max Brand
Fredric Brown
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Hugh B. Cave
Paul Chadwick
Raymond Chandler
Arthur C. Clarke
Ray Cummings
Lester Dent
August Derleth
Philip K. Dick
Erle Stanley Gardner
Walter B. Gibson
Zane Grey
Edmond Hamilton
Dashiell Hammett
Robert A. Heinlein
Frank Herbert
Henry Kuttner
Harold Lamb
Louis L'Amour
Fritz Leiber
Murray Leinster
Elmore John Leonard
Jack London
John D. MacDonald
Johnston McCulley
Talbot Mundy
Philip Francis Nowlan
E. Hoffmann Price
Seabury Quinn
Sax Rohmer
Robert Silverberg
Clark Ashton Smith
E. E. Smith
Jack Vance
Cornell Woolrich
Free SF Reader
Not Free SF Reader
Super Reader - Superhero Prose Fiction List and Ratings
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Will
New member
Username: Will

Post Number: 16
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - 10:31 am:   

It's with happy new-definition-of-irony that I report I've made my first short-fiction sale to The Escapist magazine (www.escapistmag.com). It'll appear in about two weeks. Here's hoping short fiction isn't dead, then!
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Pauljessup
New member
Username: Pauljessup

Post Number: 28
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Monday, March 24, 2008 - 05:51 am:   

Blue_tyson:
That would be more impressive in the days before Google.

"Writers today are still churning out crap story after crap story, too, and in 70 years most likely 99.9% of it won't be of reading interest, either, in just the same way, because people will look back on it as dated shite, just as you are doing now."

So? Your logic is flawed- just because there is shit now doesn't mean the shit in the pulp era was somehow "better". I still think the pulp era has historical reference and nothing more. And really, as for as classics go, it's very unimpressive stuff.

Tim-
Yes, that is a good story, and I see you have a novel coming out from Solaris. I'll have to pick it up. Unless you want to do a trade- I have two books coming out next year, a collection of short stories by PS Publishing called Glass Coffin Girls (all originals except for one reprint- a story I have in clarkesworld) and a surrealist space opera novella whose title is still being argued over and over.

Anyway, I'm not trying to convert people over to writing short stories full time. I'm just saying that just writing novels won't make you a writer who can live off their work either. I know I can't write now- you have to make a ton of stipulations for the whole "pro writer==novelist" to come true (pro writer being a writer who lives by writing alone).

Maybe I'm just bitter because I love short stories and feel that they've been getting the shit end of the stick lately, I don't know.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Redrichie
New member
Username: Redrichie

Post Number: 1
Registered: 03-2008
Posted on Monday, March 24, 2008 - 02:44 pm:   

Apologies if I'm repeating anything else posted here, but here are my thoughts on the subject.

My views are those of a parasite, btw, I am merely a consumer of SF.

I'm still, relatively speaking, a young lad (I'm 29) but I grew up reading tattered SF omnibuses from our local public library (quaint thought!)
These books were good, you couldn't always say that everything contained within was destined to echo down the ages, or even be remembered by me
3 days later, but for my unformed mind and gnat-like attention span they served a purpose. They entertained. A lot of the stories were based on one-note twists
or jokes, but to my tyro mind they were clever or funny, or both. However, very occasionally, I would remember something as indicating a greater talent, and this is where I started
reading SF novels. Over time, I found there to be more and more that I wished to read and less and less time in which to do it. I would therefore tend to d
devote most of my time to reading novels that interested me (SF or otherwise) as well as study and, later, work.

Now, I wonder if this experience is common to all readers as they age?

If it is, I reckon that part of the problem would be that kids more so that even when I was young have access to more and more distractions, electronic
distractions. Not that you didn't have them when I was young, but there were only 4 TV channels, the internet didn't exist as we know it, and video-games
weren't able to really rival written modes of expression in the same way that they can now (though not *always* sure that they do). So perhaps, if my experience
is not too dissimilar to other people, the problem is simply that new readers of short SF are far fewer than there were even 20 years ago meaning that there is less of a market for shorter
and (unfortunately, but almost necessarily) more ephemeral short fiction?

Thoughts?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Redrichie
New member
Username: Redrichie

Post Number: 2
Registered: 03-2008
Posted on Monday, March 24, 2008 - 02:45 pm:   

Oops. Typed this in notepad, and I see that I have, rather foolishly, forgotten to justify the text properly!

Sorry about that.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Lukedjlaw
New member
Username: Lukedjlaw

Post Number: 84
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 - 11:36 am:   

This is how it was for me:

I got started in fantasy and science fiction reading stuff that is, in hindsight, crap: Piers Anthony's Xanth, and more Piers Anthony, starting around the fourth grade. Then I got into the big ones: Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, etc., and had a one-year subscription to F&SF at around the same time.

I tried to reread Anthony recently as was amazed that a book I saw as a wondrous, all-consuming fantasy was now so drab and two-dimensional. I think what I had back then was a natural perpetual motion machine of imagination, and the slightest pressure would send it off into convulsive ecstatic frenzies of fantasy. You can call it "becoming more sophisticated as a reader" or you can call it growing hardened callouses around your imaginative mind.

Many others have written how SF readers are disproportionately younger, and I think the above has something to do with it. I drained the big three of life like a vampire, then went on to Dick, making my way to Delany and LeGuin in college. Now, I had tried LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS in my junior high days and don't think I made it past the first page. However, through the older collegiate lens, with my imagination increasingly stultified and more subject to "reason", I could appreciate the skill and craft in her anthropological world-building.

I read the pulps until they were pulped, and kept moving towards the fringes of weird novelty, driven towards Delany until I went off a cliff. I could appreciate it, but from afar, as someone looking on an odd bauble through an observation window. Finally, I couldn't make it through TRITON and barely cracked DHALGREN.

The fantasies of youth exist within the minds of youth and an attempt to recreate it from an adult perspective through the power of weird ideation always seemed to fall short for me. Soon I may be reading exclusively nonfiction.

Luke Jackson
http://solipcyst.blogspot.com

Add Your Message Here
Post:
Username: Posting Information:
This is a private posting area. Only registered users and moderators may post messages here.
Password:
Options: Enable HTML code in message
Automatically activate URLs in message
Action:

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | User List | Help/Instructions | Log Out | Edit Profile | Register

| Moderators | Administrators |