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Thread: Short stories are an outdated form

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    Short stories are an outdated form

    I've read a lot of great short stories and see how powerful the medium can be, but then again I've also read a lot of bad ones that make me realize how much the medium is flooded with crap.

    I feel that in today's day and age, there simply is not room for the short story. Short stories served a big purpose before the development of television and movies, being an entertainment form that provided a complete story or idea in a short investment of time. However, now that we have television and movies, we can get our entertainment in the short term from other sources, and the short story with a relative inconsistency of quality and accesibility from one to the other, looses its appeal. Who still keeps up with modern short stories? Where do you find them, and of them, how many of them are really worthwhile?

    See, the problem with short stories is twofold. The first is that they are easy to write, so any not so decent writer can write a glut of them and fill the marketplace with them. The second is that due to the brevity of the medium, many stories that are written well with good ideas end up being under-developed anyway. Since, there's so many short stories and they get read so quickly, it's kind of hard to really become enthralled with it as a medium, especially considering the inconsistency of quality. Great ones are hard to come by, because they really need to feel as though they totally fit within their length. There's many to be found within the anals of literature, because they were preserved, and the other ones tend to fade.

    I still see the value in reading the classic short stories, but nowadays shorts just seem relagated to writing students flexing their skills and to authors that want to have a whole bunch of movie pitches. Hahaha. No, I'm kidding, but what I mean is that you don't see authors doing it much at all anymore. Stephen King did some back in the 80s or whatever, but looking at the form, it seems to be dead commercially. Gone are the classic short story magazine and instead are websites brimming with mediocre stories upon mediocre stories that must be sifted through to find the gold, a sifting that's not worth it.

    It's a dead medium outside of short story communities within academia, and unless we have some source of really GREAT contemporary shorts, it's going to stay dead, because TV and movies are simply better and easier to access nowadays.

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    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    I'd disagree that short stories are easy to write, or that there are more bad short stories than bad novels or poems.

    Do you realize the absurd number of trash novels, "pot-boilers" that have been written over the centuries, especially the influx of self-help books as of late. The majority of films and tv shows that have recently been produced are also largely crap. Since humans have been creating art, there have always been a large number of uninspired creations compared to a few particularly genius creations.


    As for short stories being an easier medium than, say novels; I would disagree. I agree with Faulkner when he ranked the three literary mediums in terms of difficulty as: poetry, short stories, novels. Because short stories have fewer words, more emphasis is given to each word, more talent and preciscion is needed to keep to a high artistic standard. Novels are given much more leeway - loose, baggy monsters.

    Faulkner, for one, called himself a "failed poet", and I can understand his sentimentality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    I've read a lot of great short stories and see how powerful the medium can be, but then again I've also read a lot of bad ones that make me realize how much the medium is flooded with crap.
    If you have read bad short stories rather than good ones, your silly suggestion is explained.

    I feel that in today's day and age, there simply is not room for the short story. Short stories served a big purpose before the development of television and movies, being an entertainment form that provided a complete story or idea in a short investment of time. However, now that we have television and movies, we can get our entertainment in the short term from other sources, and the short story with a relative inconsistency of quality and accesibility from one to the other, looses its appeal. Who still keeps up with modern short stories? Where do you find them, and of them, how many of them are really worthwhile?
    Short stories are still published in magazines, and some are damned good. Short stories are fundamentally different from television, but many people don't realize that communicating in written language is different from oral language and other media.

    See, the problem with short stories is twofold. The first is that they are easy to write, so any not so decent writer can write a glut of them and fill the marketplace with them. The second is that due to the brevity of the medium, many stories that are written well with good ideas end up being under-developed anyway. Since, there's so many short stories and they get read so quickly, it's kind of hard to really become enthralled with it as a medium, especially considering the inconsistency of quality. Great ones are hard to come by, because they really need to feel as though they totally fit within their length. There's many to be found within the anals of literature, because they were preserved, and the other ones tend to fade.
    Short stories are more difficult to write than full length novels, because the writer has to develop characters and the lot in many fewer words. You may be confusing bad short fiction with short stories, and there is a tendency these days to leave stories unfinished. The difference between novels and short stories is not just a matter of length.

    I still see the value in reading the classic short stories, but nowadays shorts just seem relagated to writing students flexing their skills and to authors that want to have a whole bunch of movie pitches. Hahaha. No, I'm kidding, but what I mean is that you don't see authors doing it much at all anymore. Stephen King did some back in the 80s or whatever, but looking at the form, it seems to be dead commercially. Gone are the classic short story magazine and instead are websites brimming with mediocre stories upon mediocre stories that must be sifted through to find the gold, a sifting that's not worth it.

    It's a dead medium outside of short story communities within academia, and unless we have some source of really GREAT contemporary shorts, it's going to stay dead, because TV and movies are simply better and easier to access nowadays.
    Authors who expect that their novels will become movies write long, detailed novels. Crichton is the best example. There still are many fiction magazines; although they all have websites also.

    If short stories are a dead medium to you, then you shouldn't think that they have died for everyone; but I will agree that it isn't easy to find really good short stories, but 90% of everything is crap.

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    Oh, please, short stories are far easier to write. The majority of people have a much harder time trying to expand their ideas into long-windedness than they do being for precise about them. How many novels have you written versus how many short stories have you written, if you're a writer? Writing a novel is truly a grand investment, not just of time, but of will and skill to write so much about so little.

    Short stories are dead as an artiscally relevent money-making medium.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    I've read a lot of great short stories and see how powerful the medium can be, but then again I've also read a lot of bad ones that make me realize how much the medium is flooded with crap.

    I feel that in today's day and age, there simply is not room for the short story. Short stories served a big purpose before the development of television and movies, being an entertainment form that provided a complete story or idea in a short investment of time. However, now that we have television and movies, we can get our entertainment in the short term from other sources, and the short story with a relative inconsistency of quality and accesibility from one to the other, looses its appeal. Who still keeps up with modern short stories? Where do you find them, and of them, how many of them are really worthwhile?


    This is certainly one of the more ridiculous posts I have read on the Lit Net. You see the medium (short stories) flooded with crap and hence assume that this is proof of the demise of the short story as an art form... especially now that we have the artistic brilliance of television to keep us entertained. First of all... in case no one has pointed this out to you already allow me to inform you that the majority of ALL ART is mediocre at best and flooded with crap. Novels, poetry, painting, songs, etc... It is intriguing that you bring up the comparison with film and television (which I assume are still relevant) without the slightest hint that you recognize that these later media probably have an even large "crap to quality" ratio. You also suggest that you can reduce the purpose for the short story to a single concept: that of providing a form of entertainment in which a narrative or idea can be communicated in a brief period of time. Art forms certainly change... and new art forms are born... but this does not invalidate the previous. Painting not not die in response to photography or CGI. Opera is still being composed.

    Who still keeps up with modern short stories? Where do you find them, and of them, how many of them are really worthwhile?


    Who keeps up with painting or opera or the ballet or symphonic music or poetry? Those who appreciate the artistic potential of those art forms and those who admire the achievements of certain artists within those art forms. How many contemporary short stories are worthwhile? Again, who can tell. As I stated before the majority of all art is but mediocre and it is far more challenging to discern the wheat from the chaff if we are looking at the latest art... art which has not been absorbed and digested by the culture as a whole... by later artists. On the other hand... the short story of the past century short fiction easily stands comparison with almost any other art form: Faulkner, Hemingway, Kafka, Anthony Burgess, S.Y. Agnon, I.B. Singer, J.L. Borges, Augusto Monterroso, Julio Cortazar, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Maurice Blanchot, Henri Michaux, W.S. Merwin, Tomasso Landolfi, Italo Calvino, Alaine Robbe-Grillet, Anthony Burgess, Raymond Carver, Michel Tournier, etc... These are among some of the most influential literary artists in any form.

    See, the problem with short stories is twofold. The first is that they are easy to write...

    Nonsense! How much experience do you have with creating a work of art. Certainly a larger work may be more labor-intensive... may demand a greater investment of time on the part of the artist... but "smaller" need not mean "lesser". Shelley's Ozymandias, Blake's Tyger any number of Shakespeare's, Petrarch's or Baudelaire's sonnets are worth more than entire volumes by most writers... and would not be so precious if they were so easy to create. A Nocturne by Chopin or Etude by Debussy may be small in scale but not inferior in artistic value to many grand symphonies or operas. I would give up any number of novels before I gave up certain short stories by Kafka, Borges, Landolfi, Cortazar, etc...

    any not so decent writer can write a glut of them and fill the marketplace with them...

    True... but again (say it like a mantra): the majority of all art is mediocre at best. Of course one can just as well glut the market with mediocre (at best) poetry or novels just as easily (can you say Jackie Collins?)

    The second is that due to the brevity of the medium, many stories that are written well with good ideas end up being under-developed anyway.

    Personally... if I found the ideas (however good they may be) undeveloped... I don't think I would call the work "well-written". I would also suggest that the aim of many writers when writing short stories is not to develop a character or a complex narrative. This is not the form for it any more than is the lyric poem.

    I still see the value in reading the classic short stories, but nowadays shorts just seem relagated to writing students flexing their skills and to authors that want to have a whole bunch of movie pitches. Hahaha. No, I'm kidding, but what I mean is that you don't see authors doing it much at all anymore. Stephen King did some back in the 80s or whatever, but looking at the form, it seems to be dead commercially.

    An artist usually creates in whatever form he or she is most comfortable with... whatever form best suits his/her intentions. The commercial viability of an art form in rarely a means of measurement for how relevant that form is. I doubt that Cubism or Abstract Expressionism or the epic poem were ever the product of artists considering commercial viability.

    Gone are the classic short story magazine and instead are websites brimming with mediocre stories upon mediocre stories that must be sifted through to find the gold, a sifting that's not worth it.


    Repeat the mantra...

    It's a dead medium outside of short story communities within academia, and unless we have some source of really GREAT contemporary shorts, it's going to stay dead, because TV and movies are simply better and easier to access nowadays.

    Is this even worth replying to?
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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Short stories are dead as an artiscally relevent money-making medium.

    Now there's a truly interesting sentence. "Artistically relevant" and "money making"... hmmm do they have anything to do with each other? Is something only artistically relevant if it makes loads of money? Is everything that makes loads of money a great work of art? Millions tune in for Survivor or the World Wrestling Federation... does this mean that these are of some great artistic merit?
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    You know, Watershed's post, while I pretty much disagree that short stories are easy to write and that there aren't good and innovative stories being written today, is on to something. I do think that the medium while not dead is certainly dying. I think the reason is that the magazine industry is willowing. Possibly because of the internet or perhaps other reasons I'm not aware of. Who here has read a recent short story in a magazine lately? I can't remember the last time I did.
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    Registered User aeroport's Avatar
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    And St. Luke beats me to it once more...

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    I do think that the medium while not dead is certainly dying. I think the reason is that the magazine industry is willowing. Possibly because of the internet or perhaps other reasons I'm not aware of. Who here has read a recent short story in a magazine lately? I can't remember the last time I did.
    I can partially agree with this; the internet has largely filled the gap originally reserved for magazines (though we should note that many major magazines post their content weekly to their websites). But some people - me, for instance - will always read them. And regarding fiction in mags: I recently did in fact read a Jennifer Egan story in The New Yorker, and have just begun another (by E.L. Doctorow - last year's PEN/Faulkner winner) from last weeks. I try, when I have time, to do this.
    Also, however, at this very moment several magazines that once published fiction on a monthly or weekly basis have ceased altogether. (I believe the Atlantic just stopped sometime last year.) If this continues, perhaps the story will diminish a little, since there will be fewer places to publish it - many authors' first books are collections of their stories compiled from magazines.
    Who knows? I like to think it will stay around; many of my favorite works are short, and I really see no viable artistic reason why it should go out.

    The idea of TV replacing written entertainment is nonsense; we should be greatful if mercenary writers shift their attention to the more lucrative medium. Then the market will be little less "flooded with crap".
    Last edited by aeroport; 01-24-2008 at 11:46 PM. Reason: Edited cuz i kant spel kno good.

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Is this argument for real? Short stories grew extremely popular with the emergence of the Borges style in the second half of the twentieth century. With that, and the jump to post-modernism, short stories have grown at a surprising rate. The argument you propose assumes that we look at the entire market, but as everyone knows, reading in general is down. I know many genre readers who gouge on sci-fi or fantasy shorts. Short stories were never a very popular vein of entertainment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    Oh, please, short stories are far easier to write. The majority of people have a much harder time trying to expand their ideas into long-windedness than they do being for precise about them. How many novels have you written versus how many short stories have you written, if you're a writer? Writing a novel is truly a grand investment, not just of time, but of will and skill to write so much about so little.

    Short stories are dead as an artistically relevant money-making medium.
    I have to agree with you. Writing a novel is a HUGE investment. But that doesn't take away the value of the short story, I have used a lot of the short stories I have written to help me with larger writing projects (Novels/ Novellas)
    And short stories are a great way to get yourself on the map via literary magazines etc

    Though I am not sure what you mean by "Artistically relevant" it has been my understanding, with myself and other writers I know (both successful and not) that money is seldom involved lol
    Last edited by Igetanotion; 01-25-2008 at 12:18 AM.
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    Registered User Kent Edwins's Avatar
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    I'll be short and to the point. This can be said about nearly any artistic medium. Music, art, literature (for example who reads poetry anyway?), film, and so on. Don't like the new stuff? Fine. But it's no use trying to prove that it's not as good or dead or inferior. You can't do it, and it only makes you sound like an old man.

    Not many people read for pleasure, but I'm under the impression that those who do enjoy short stories just as much as long ones.

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    Registered User Aiculík's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    I've read a lot of great short stories and see how powerful the medium can be, but then again I've also read a lot of bad ones that make me realize how much the medium is flooded with crap.
    Well then, learn to choose better.
    Most of short stories I read are great. Perhaps because I don't have so much time to read what I want so I have to choose carefully...

    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    I feel that in today's day and age, there simply is not room for the short story. Short stories served a big purpose before the development of television and movies, being an entertainment form that provided a complete story or idea in a short investment of time. However, now that we have television and movies, we can get our entertainment in the short term from other sources, and the short story with a relative inconsistency of quality and accesibility from one to the other, looses its appeal.
    Perhaps it lost its appeal to you. But I, for example, watch TV only rarely. Again, I choose carefully what to watch. I agree with stlukesguild that most of art is mediocre - and as for current TV production, I'd say that more than 90% is not worth wasting the time on it. It's dull, shallow and highly repetitive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    Who still keeps up with modern short stories? Where do you find them, and of them, how many of them are really worthwhile?
    Me. I find them by recommendations from other people. Look around these forums - you'll find many recommendations on briliant short stories. As I said - I don't have time to waste on rubbish, so most of short stories I read are great.

    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    See, the problem with short stories is twofold. The first is that they are easy to write, so any not so decent writer can write a glut of them and fill the marketplace with them.
    Wrong. The problem is, that many not so decent writers think that short story is easy to write, with a result of producing something of mediocre or even lower quality.

    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    The second is that due to the brevity of the medium, many stories that are written well with good ideas end up being under-developed anyway.
    That depends on what you undestand as "underdeveloped". For example, I prefer texts that don't answer all question and close all actions, so I have something to think about, find my own ansers, meaning and explanations which can be different every time I read it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    I still see the value in reading the classic short stories, but nowadays shorts just seem relagated to writing students flexing their skills and to authors that want to have a whole bunch of movie pitches.
    Hahaha. No, I'm kidding, but what I mean is that you don't see authors doing it much at all anymore. Stephen King did some back in the 80s or whatever, but looking at the form, it seems to be dead commercially. Gone are the classic short story magazine and instead are websites brimming with mediocre stories upon mediocre stories that must be sifted through to find the gold, a sifting that's not worth it.
    First, what do you mean by "classic short stories".
    Second, I don't think that Sthephen King is a good example. Though I really liked some of his novels, I think his short stories are... well, mediocre.

    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    It's a dead medium outside of short story communities within academia, and unless we have some source of really GREAT contemporary shorts, it's going to stay dead, because TV and movies are simply better and easier to access nowadays.
    And one more thing - the fact that you can't orientate in the contemporary short stories (no offence, but it does seem so to me from your post) does not mean that the short story is dead.

    And anyway, you can say something like that only about your country - if you feel you have enough knowledge about situation of literature there - but you cannot generalize and globalize it, because in other countries there can be quite different development in literature. You can say that short stories are becoming less popular in your country, or their quality is lover, but to say that short story as a medium is dead, may sound bombastic, but it's just an empty phrase - unless you can backup it with something much more persuasive than your personal preference of TV shows, I'm afraid.

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    Registered User Aiculík's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Watershed View Post
    Oh, please, short stories are far easier to write. The majority of people have a much harder time trying to expand their ideas into long-windedness than they do being for precise about them. How many novels have you written versus how many short stories have you written, if you're a writer? Writing a novel is truly a grand investment, not just of time, but of will and skill to write so much about so little.

    Short stories are dead as an artiscally relevent money-making medium.
    Really? I have quite different experience. Many not so talented writers choose to write novel, because there are more possibilities to hide their incompetence... exactly because to write a novel means, as you put it "to write so much about so little".
    Just go to the bookstore - is there more of average short stories, or of average novels?
    And as for investment of time - any kid can today write a novel, if he can use copy-paste, compile things from few famous books, with minimum of his own creativity - and even become world-known, with movies made according his "art".
    On the other hand, it's difficult to write short story, because that means "to write so little about so much".

    But don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that it's easy to write a good novel, or that there aren't any good novels today. What I try to say, that people with mediocre way of thinking and approach to art will always create mediocre work, be it a novel, short story, film, or a painting...

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    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    I don't really know enough about short stories to make any meaningful contribution here, but I'll admit that I personally find the whole short-story reading experience ...well .. not very satisfying. especially the slice of life type...
    I like to read about interesting characters and learn lots of details about them. I can identify with almost any character in a novel, whether I find their actions morally acceptable or not. but in short stories, the characters seem to be more generic and the emphasis is on plot, or whatever.

    I read lots of Hemmingway's short stories in high school, and I like them quite a lot. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce was OK, too, but most of the others I've read so far were just so pointless (personally speaking...).
    Poe?
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    Graham Greene, the one where the last Pope on earth gets shot by the dictator WTF

    A.S. Byatt The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, OK , except that it's a a story written by a Lit scholar, about a Lit scholar and for Lit scholars

    sorry, I know I'm a total cretin. so please don't take this posts too seriously, it's jut my personal opinion.

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    Registered User Granny5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    You know, Watershed's post, while I pretty much disagree that short stories are easy to write and that there aren't good and innovative stories being written today, is on to something. I do think that the medium while not dead is certainly dying. I think the reason is that the magazine industry is willowing. Possibly because of the internet or perhaps other reasons I'm not aware of. Who here has read a recent short story in a magazine lately? I can't remember the last time I did.
    I don't remember the last time I read a short story in a magazine, either. But I love Hemmingways short stories and I read Stephen Kings, too. I love O Henry. I think everyone should read him. It's hard for me to write shorts, but it's hard for me to write just about anything other than a grocery list.
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