Short stories as a literary form need no introduction. What’s more, writers probably need no justification to continue writing them – they always have and likely always will. There are things you can do with a short story that you simply cannot do with a longer work, most of all what Edgar Allan Poe referred to in The Philosophy of Composition as unity of effect: the power to focus on a single idea, emotion, or mood to the exclusion of all else. However, two writers have just shared, courtesy of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a series of ten career-oriented justifications to keep on churning out the shorts.

Daniel H. Wilson & John Joseph Adams point out in particular that “Publishing Short Stories Creates Intellectual Property (IP)” and “Short Stories Can be a Way to Pay It Forward,” as well as a whole lot of other more intuitively obvious justifications. A lot of these point towards an overall critical mass and mometum argument, that with each short you’re both sustaining your development as a writer, and incrementally building your presence, following, and stature. I’d argue another justification that they didn’t touch on, though: Short stories can change the development of literature as a whole. Unless we’re focusing on the development of a single form like the novel, I think there’s very little way to avoid the conclusion that literature per se can be changed by short fiction. Western fiction was never the same after Poe. Or the Decameron. And that’s surely an argument that short fiction can have an impact out of all proportion to its length.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail