Friday, March 22, 2013

Please do not look away from... The Novel

The Novel is often held up and upheld as the ultimate achievement every author can and should strive for.

Frequently, when I admit that I am an author, people tend to show at least moderate interest.

Until I confess that I write short stories. You can often see that interest fade, or replaced with a faked interest of politeness.

Short stories are to novels what TV used to be to movies. TV used to be considered by most as inferior to movies. I’m still waiting for the time when short stories are not generally considered inferior to novels. Where does that idiotic and bothersome belief come from? And why does it persist? Short stories are commonly thought of as practice for novels, a stepping stone into novels, or something writers do until they write a novel. Apparently , you are not a real author unless you have written a novel.

No, scratch that. Not until you get a novel published. No, scratch even that. Published by an officially recognized publisher.

Somehow, short stories don’t count? They are not recognized as real stories in the minds of the mainstream public.

If you write short stories, the impression goes, you might as well be writing fan fiction. As a side note, I’ve read some excellent examples of fan fiction.

So all those great many short stories that Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Poe and Stubblefield wrote?

Meaningless. Except as a means to an end: the almighty NOVEL. You are typically not taken seriously as an author, without a novel.

But what if they never produce a novel?

Writers like Yeats and Shakespeare are, therefore, by this illogic, not real writers.

Not really.

However, there are plenty of notable writers who wrote only or mostly short stories, and produced a considerable amount. How do you reconcile that contradiction?

I would say that you are only hurting yourself if you deny yourself the opportunity to read short stories, because of that belief. But in collectively sustaining that fallacious belief, you also deny many others by making it more difficult for short stories to attain literary credibility.

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