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Mike Jasper
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 06:47 am:   

I always feel like I don't read enough, especially when I have a couple years' worth of Asimov's and F&SF on my shelves that I haven't read cover to cover (and the damn things keep coming, every month!). But I was sort of surprised to hear from some of my writing friends that they don't really read much short fiction at all. They read lots of novels, instead.

This bugs me.

Is this common? Do a lot of writers of fiction not READ short fiction?

I enjoy reading short fiction, and usually that's about all I have time for, what with working full-time at a Day Job and writing my own fiction (short stories and novels), spending time with my wife and family and friends. I've read only a small fraction of the stories in both Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's YB for 2002, as well as Gardner's YB SF for '02 as well (that's why I pick those anthos up each year, like clockwork).

My reading tends to be eclectic and erratic, mostly online stuff like Strange Horizons and Sci Fiction, as well as 'zines like LCRW and stuff from friends (I read and crit a LOT of stories by friends that aren't published, at least not yet...).

My point? Just curious where other folks stand with reading short fiction. I'd like to think that when my stories get published, SOMEONE is gonna read 'em!
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Andreas Black
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 08:33 am:   

Since i'm currently trying to publish some of my own stories, i've been reading nothing but short fiction. Strange Horizons and Sci-Fiction have been particularly useful since I can read them at work and look less like a slacker.

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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 10:06 am:   

I'm beginning to suspect that I'm the person alive who reads predominantly short fiction purely out of choice; for some reason, I've always viewed it as a more perfect form than the novel. In fact, between a novel by a writer I worship and a collection by a writer I merely enjoy, I'll almost always go with the latter. Does that make me a bad person?
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 10:12 am:   

The "only person alive" and "predominantly reads", that is.
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 10:17 am:   

Not a bad person at all, Nicholas -- just a rarity! Keep on reading, please! :-)
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Jed Hartman
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 11:53 am:   

Wow, actual short-fiction fans! Cool beans. As I noted in an editorial a couple years ago, most of the people I know don't think much of short fiction; at best, they seem to consider it a sort of inadequate substitute for a novel. (In workshops, I've lost count of the number of times I've heard writers say things like, "This is a good story -- you ought to turn it into a novel!") (Though of course that's probably good advice from a financial perspective; I just think it's often bad advice from an artistic perspective.)

I think novels have their place, and I've certainly enjoyed many of the novels I've read, but short fiction is really where my main interest lies.
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Forrest
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 01:05 pm:   

I'm more of a short fiction person also - frankly I can churn through short stories and find a lot of cool stuff much more quickly than if I have to slog through novels all day long.

Plus, I'm also always on the lookout for undiscovered talent (see the Ministry of Whimsy message board around the corner) and need to cover as much ground as I can as quickly as possible. I just can't do that grinding my way through a 300 page novel every time I turn around. I'm actually veeeeery picky about the novels I read - if I spend that much time reading, it damned well better be worth it!

Forrest Aguirre
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 01:14 pm:   

Nice to see that not only am I not alone, but I'm in good company. See you in the magazines and anthos!
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Jay C
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 01:32 pm:   

Ahh, what would you know, Jasper? You can't write short fiction for crap. Then nor can I.
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Mike
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 02:00 pm:   

You ain't kidding 'bout that, Caselberg...

Um... you ARE kidding, aren't ya...?
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Jay C
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 02:02 pm:   

Heh...
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Karen Meisner
Posted on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 07:10 am:   

I read short fiction nowadays much more than I used to. Mainly because I rarely have time now to sit down and get through a book.

They're really two different activities for me, though, reading short & long fiction. Reading a novel is like going on vacation: I can submerge myself into it and go to another place for a while. Whereas with a short story I get just a taste of someplace (atmosphere, attitude, idea, event, or actual place) different. But that taste can be pretty powerful. Good short stories go on for just as long as they need to in order to show whatever it is they've got to show us. Novels serve different purposes.

I learned to love short stories by reading stuff like Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Truman Capote. Every story offered me a different window onto life, and the sheer elegance of their sentences left me breathless. All those guys wrote novels I love as well, but they caught me first with their perfectly carved little stories.

It's like origami and architecture, you know? You can admire the larger work and maybe you can live in it. But there's a delicate beauty to the folds and angles of the little crafted thing you can hold in your hand.

Too early in the morning for clunky metaphors, sorry.
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 03:01 pm:   

Hey, I think the metaphor works quite nicely, Karen!

I've always had trouble plowing through novels, which I think is due to a short attention span, and the fact that when I usually do sit down to read, it's nighttime and I've had a busy day and I usually end up reading a couple pages before nodding off.

With stories at least I can read 'em all the way through.

And, an added note -- I look at novel-reading as a big, serious commitment (Stephen King called a novel a marriage, while a short story was more like a kiss or a one-night stand), which is why I've had my copy of THE SCAR sitting on my To-Be-Read Shelf for almost a year now! Ack! Commitment!

Thanks for dropping in. Now, if a short story is origami, and a novel is architecture, what's a novella? A house of cards? ;)
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Karen Meisner
Posted on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 09:12 pm:   

How about we go with your/King's metaphor and call it a romantic fling, in which both parties kid themselves that it's going to last but really they're mostly in it for the transient intensity? Not a real commitment, but you're heavily involved for the short term.

Actually, I guess "house of cards" could describe that too.
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Mike
Posted on Monday, August 11, 2003 - 08:27 am:   

Heh heh heh...

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