Saturday, November 13, 2010


Dear Diary,

As a child growing up among my parent's collections of books, the short story collections were the first I took to reading. They were brief and varied, and each story could be consumed before important plot elements were forgotten. Many of the ideas were quirky and thought-provoking. Books dragged on a bit, a challenge to my elementary school mind. My parents had some magazines, also filled with interesting short stories.

Today, all we hear about is how the magazines are barely holding on and how anthologies really don't make money. This seems odd in our time-pressed culture. One would think that a book that could be consumed in small chunks would be more popular than a novel, not less. And magazines still cost less than a paperback when bought on the newstand. By subscription, they are a huge bargain.

It doesn't make sense. Unless -- is there a reason why people would rather put their money into books than into short stories?

Could it be that I'm not the only person disappointed in the state of short story publications today? I figured I was just being a snob, and that I was only imagining that short stories in magazines are very artsy --but not very thrilling. Not thought-provoking to the hurried mind. Not entertaining in the way that the old stories used to be.

But if it is just me, then why are the magazines getting harder and harder to sell? And themed anthologies -- they should be popular. I like variety, and so do many people I know. We go to buffets and sample all the different foods. An anthology of short stories should be likewise. Unfortunately, I all too often find that the stories in anthologues are monotonous. It's like going to the Chinese buffet and finding twenty different varieties of Fried Rice. I want to try different things, but the editor seems to be working on variations of a single theme.

I wonder if anthologies would sell better if they had more variety, more plots that were tangential to the theme? I wonder if it would excite people to read exciting, non-stylistic stories? I wonder if I'm just weird?

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