Last year I agreed to do Last Short Story with Tansy, Alisa, Sarah, Alex and Jonathan. I thought it would be interesting and even fun to see what genre short fiction was like.
I began strong, keeping up with a bunch of magazines – both online and print – and then, around June of that year, I fell into a heap. In the end I only read 184 stories and wasn’t able to finish a complete run of any magazine or online venue.
As was made clear to me by the battle scarred LSS crew* you have to be selective about what you read and know when to give up on a story. There’s nothing wrong avoiding authors you already have a bad track record with or moving onto something else if a story either doesn’t grab you or has a sniff of shit about it.
And so this year I did take on board their sage advice. I’ve limited the amount I’m reading, focusing on the major online and magazine venues, and I’ve made a point of not finishing shitty stories.**
At first it looked like the plan would work. By mid this year I’d read more then what I’d read the year before and I still felt I had things under control. But in the last two months I’ve dropped the ball.
It’s going to come as no surprise to anyone who reads a decent amount of short fiction, that most of what’s published is middling. Innocuous and vaguely entertaining filler that you’ll forget seconds after finishing it. And there’s a good reason for this. The field simply doesn’t have enough talent or creative chops at its disposal to fill magazines and anthologies with fiction that’s memorable beyond your next bowel movement.
But even knowing that I’ve been surprised at how few stories have left a lasting impression. Oh yes I’ve been excited by some pieces I’ve read – each one tweeted about on the LSS Twitter feed – but for every good story there’s seems to be more and more ‘meh’ stuck in between.
Of course I’ve been doing this for only 18 months and so I could be wrong. Maybe 2012 is a decent year compared to the others. What I am certain of is that I’ve burnt out on short fiction. I’ll still try and finish this years output – it’s a promise I made to myself that I actually want to keep – and I think I can wrap up the rest of this years output by February 2013. But after that… I’m done. Other than reading the odd magazine or anthology for the LSS podcast, I’ll be strictly a novella to novel man.
And just to be clear – this post is not me saying that genre short fiction is in a state of crisis. The only people who I think can make that sort of claim with any confidence are the Datlows. Dozois, VanDerMeers, Strahans, Tiltons and Hortons of this world who live and breathe this stuff.
Not me though. I’m a wannabe who knows he’s found his limit.
* Did you know that the LSS crew actually tried to read every single short story published in that first year. Considering this included a huge chunk of misogynistic slasher horror and those throwaway anthologies edited by Greenberg it’s a wonder and a miracle that they simply didn’t go bug fuck crazy during the course of that year.
** Though I still finish middling stories which is where I think I’ve come unstuck.
Mirrored from The Hysterical Hamster.