Once Upon a Time in the Land of Short Stories...

Commentary by Cherie Jung

28 August, 1997

Everyone wants to write a short story, or two. Ask any editor of a small press magazine. Rarely do they have to go begging for submissions. Rather, the parcels arrive as if by magic, day after day, week after week...

Everyone wants to write one, but not everyone wants to read one, or two, or an anthology, or a collection. Ask any bookseller. Short stories don't sell.

Everyone wants to write one, and maybe they might read a few, but will they buy a book or only a magazine or two? Magazines are messy. Ask any bookseller. Magazines with short stories are messy and they don't sell. Just go ask a bookseller.

Okay. If everyone wants to write short stories, and some people are willing to read short stories, and some people are willing to buy a magazine or two (dare we hope for the purchase of a book--be it an anthology or a collection of short stories?) how do we get the "everyones" to go out and buy some short stories and convince the booksellers to stock them? (Stock short stories, not "everyones.") And how do we get these "everyones" to buy the books before they are remaindered? (How much confidence in the short story's appeal do you think is generated if only remaindered copies sell? That's not going to impress a bookseller, now is it?)

What if all of the "everyones" who are writing these many short stories, published or not, were to start buying books of short stories? (Christmas is coming up. Wouldn't everyone on your gift list like a book of short stories?!?) Pretty soon, if enough books of short stories and magazines filled with short stories were selling like the proverbial hotcakes, and booksellers couldn't keep their shelves stocked, would we see the value of short stories and respect for their writers increase? Would the short story form become popular again, and not just for the writers? Or are we on the road to the land that time forgot?

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