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Is short fiction (in SFF) relevant?


Kat

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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482136' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.09']At that point, we're arguing whether or not a specific author rocks, not whether the format as a whole is healthy. And I think it's clear that as far as a global influence is concerned, short fiction is pretty backwater. Certain authors may rock the format but it's unclear whether they required the format to make it big or spread their word to others the way it used to be.[/quote]

You are IMO confusing things. You are confusing making money and selling lots and being famous and important with being "influential". Perhaps influence can only be judged a posteriori. But if we define a genre as works in dialogue with each other, I do think a lot of short fiction writers are pretty influential. Even if they perhaps do not have gazillions of readers ( unlike say Patricia Briggs) or even are able to make a living from that.

The format is an old one - and I am talking of the short story, not the american magazine distribution which I mostly ignore. A lot of great authors from other genres do still find it profitable to work with it. People still read it. To bash a format which is read and respected just because there is something "cooler" or more profitable is a bit silly. Our genre is not like it sells all that much anyway, so the pissing-off short stories because nobody reads them it is sort of annoying me as an argument because it seems like arguments people use to bash off sf "nobody reads it, or just weirdos read it". Why read sf, or why read short stories? because of the ideas, because of the good stuff!

BTW a sf author I am finding now seems to be surprisingly influential after all this time but in other niches than straight sf - Octavia Butler. I know somebody who would not touch anything sf I would recommend actually buying one of her books (Xenogenesis I think). wow.
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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482141' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.11']Okay...so you're arguing that short fiction is relevant because people are influenced by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars? I think you've lost the narrative here[/quote]

I am guilty of trying to be diplomatic here, I was trying to politely call you fanboy about those guys you mentioned and to remind you that hey real sff readership does not correspond one on one with the express tastes on this forum. This forum is not surprisingly biased towards big fantasy ASOIAF-ish stuff.

Obviously when I try to be diplomatic I end up not saying what I want to say, but if you think the next generation is going to look to Eriksson or Scott Lynch or Bakker for ideas and inspiration on what to write, ahahah, LOL. . Though I actually I know some ( ok slightly emo) people who yeah do get inspired to write by Kelly Lynch.
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[quote]You are IMO confusing things. You are confusing making money and selling lots and being famous and important with being "influential".[/quote]No, I'm not. I'm not denying Ted Chiang being awesome or him influencing people; I'm denying that he would be relevant or not without short fiction requiring awards or being otherwise recognized. He's clearly influential, but that doesn't mean that he needed short fiction to get there.

And he's about as good as you can really bring up in terms of relevance. There are a couple others that are influential and important in the SF/F scene, but by and large the good up-and-coming authors are writing novels, not short stories. There's simply no need for them to cut their teeth in the short story market any more. And that's why it's irrelevant.

I'm not bashing short stories; some of the best stories ever have been short, and it's an interesting genre. It takes a different kind of writer - the anti-Erikson, if you will - to write a story that is good, interesting, and resolved in less than 50 pages. But the relevance of that format has gone from a sort of farm league status that it used to be (where authors who weren't as widely known could make a living and get more fame and notoriety from short fiction) to a subgenre that is interesting but not particularly relevant to the community at large, the popular readers or even the niche readers. In that respect it is more a way for authors to explore things or use ideas that won't quite work as a full-length book. But that relevance is much smaller than it used to be.

And awarding short stories used to be a huge deal because so many big names took part in them and so many up and coming authors were seen this way. Now? It's not that big a deal and doesn't tend to point to anything, really. Short fiction isn't really separate from fiction any more the way it used to be. There's no need for it to be separate. And in that way, it's no longer particularly relevant as a genre.

[quote]BTW a sf author I am finding now seems to be surprisingly influential after all this time - Octavia Butler. I know somebody p who would not touch anything sf I would recommend actually buying Xenogenesis. wow.[/quote]Yeah, I discovered her last year. Really astounding author and great near-future work.

[quote]Obviously when I try to be diplomatic I end up not saying what I want to say, but if you think the next generation is going to look to Eriksson or Scott Lynch or Bakker for ideas and inspiration on what to write, ahahah, LOL. . Though I actually I know some ( ok slightly emo) people who yeah do get inspired to write by Kelly Lynch.[/quote]I think Mieville is going to be damn influential (hell, he already has been). I doubt Lynch, Bakker or Erikson will be any more than any other random author would be. Donaldson is already hugely influential. Rothfuss probably will be. Abercrombie likely will be too. And all of those authors are more influential or are going to be more read by more people than Ted Chiang.
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Interesting thing about both Miéville and Erikson is that both have been writing shorter fiction alongside their novels. Just thought I'd point that out. Now back to the back-and-forth haranging.
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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482167' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.28']No, I'm not. I'm not denying Ted Chiang being awesome or him influencing people; I'm denying that he would be relevant or not without short fiction requiring awards or being otherwise recognized. He's clearly influential, but that doesn't mean that he needed short fiction to get there.[/quote]

I think we are getting to some points which are interesting after all. Of course Chiang is awesome and he is awesome no matter what format he writes ( shorts, novellettes, novellas, bah). But what he writes is all short fiction, and you know how long he takes to write anything. If it did not get published we would miss that. If you and why did not read it, we would both be a smidgeon poorer of his ideas ( and compassion also. what a cocktail, ideas and compassion) in the background of our brain.

About short fiction requiring awards of acknowledgment, what is the problem with it having either? Some people like writing short stories ( Chiang. Haruki Murakami. a portuguese author whose work I love). Some people ( like me. like a lot of authors also) like to read those. Surely the right to awards for say best short story is fair. If this is about Kowal again, please say this is not about Kowal again, this is become way past dignified.

[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482167' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.28']And he's about as good as you can really bring up in terms of relevance. There are a couple others that are influential and important in the SF/F scene, but by and large the good up-and-coming authors are writing novels, not short stories. There's simply no need for them to cut their teeth in the short story market any more. And that's why it's irrelevant.[/quote]

I would guess aspiring authors are writing what they can write ( inspiration, taste, feeling comfortable) with concerns for what they can sell. If you are wildly ambitious for a large readership, then short stories are a really bad route, the best is probably to just get a name change to "Nora Roberts". Or write some romancey "urban fantasy" because that is what sells like hotcakes now. And write consistently and lots and promote and all that. But if an author wants to learn writing by writing maybe writing short stories is good practice. Maybe getting a short story published will help you get a contract, or at least an agent to help you get a contract for that novel. And like I mentioned way before, consider me, picky capricious book buyer. I got "burned" very often with board recommendations, or just liking a blurb or just by buying what everybody else seems to be reading. But something which can make me sit and pick a book and buy it ( or even order it just on name basis) is if I have read a short story by that author I liked. A first novel author might get more name recognition from authors and reviewers. And repeating something I mentioned way up thread. according to GRRM, the sales of AGOT on paperback only picked up momentum after the release of the Legends anthology ( where he did not have quite "top billing" at that moment in time).

So, if you want to say, authors do not have to write short stories, I totally agree! Even way back in the past. But it does not mean that short stories are that useless for their careers either.


[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482167' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.28']I'm not bashing short stories; some of the best stories ever have been short, and it's an interesting genre. It takes a different kind of writer - the anti-Erikson, if you will - to write a story that is good, interesting, and resolved in less than 50 pages.[/quote]

I thought of the perfect argument and you are sort of stealing it! If only Erikson had decided to stick to short stories hein? Or started by those, his books might be more readable and there might be less dead trees all around.

[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482167' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.28']But the relevance of that format has gone from a sort of farm league status that it used to be (where authors who weren't as widely known could make a living and get more fame and notoriety from short fiction) to a subgenre that is interesting but not particularly relevant to the community at large, the popular readers or even the niche readers. In that respect it is more a way for authors to explore things or use ideas that won't quite work as a full-length book. But that relevance is much smaller than it used to be..[/quote]

I think the relevance of our stuff to what is considered sf/f is now much smaller than what it used to be. Those arguments about worldcon and the Hugo being the premiere ( which really really should be spelled premier, I can no longer keep quiet about that) award and its relevance, and those amazon bestseller lists. I think there is some sort of malaise, some disconnect from what people think worthy of discussion and what people actually buy. I can not articulate it or even know what to think precisely. Weirdly some demographics which we look down upon might be a market who will buy anthologies, to get a new canon short stories by fan-favorite authors - say legends anthology sold on the basis of maybe Brooks and Goodking. Or anthologies which sell because there is a Anne Bishop or Sharon Shinn story there.


[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482167' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.28']And awarding short stories used to be a huge deal because so many big names took part in them and so many up and coming authors were seen this way. Now? It's not that big a deal and doesn't tend to point to anything, really. Short fiction isn't really separate from fiction any more the way it used to be. There's no need for it to be separate. And in that way, it's no longer particularly relevant as a genre.[/quote]

I think it should have separate awards, though maybe the whole short-novella-novellette thing is way too much.

[quote name='Kalbear' post='1482167' date='Aug 15 2008, 22.28']I think Mieville is going to be damn influential (hell, he already has been). I doubt Lynch, Bakker or Erikson will be any more than any other random author would be. Donaldson is already hugely influential. Rothfuss probably will be. Abercrombie likely will be too. And all of those authors are more influential or are going to be more read by more people than Ted Chiang.[/quote]

Time till tell surely. Mieville´s influence, not sure if he can last past being flavour of the year. I think the true test will be if in say 30 years people talking will say "oh read this" or read that, or see the influence of this or that in some classic written in 2015...
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Honestly, I'd rather just see the whole awards thing rolled up into one. Best SF/F story would be fine. If a story is good it doesn't matter how long it is.

Clearly, short fiction gets published and is popular enough, though perhaps not in the same way it used to be. Really, with people like Chiang and Doctorow they're going to get their name out because they're good and people appreciate good writers. They didn't need Analog to get there. Chiang would have a voice regardless of whether the Hugos had a special award for it. Heck, if the Hugos didn't have a special award for it and he was nominated, chances are he'd get more recognition for his works, not less.
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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1482181' date='Aug 15 2008, 17.42']Interesting thing about both Miéville and Erikson is that both have been writing shorter fiction alongside their novels. Just thought I'd point that out. Now back to the back-and-forth haranging.[/quote]

No ones arguing the quality or usefulness of the short format. But using the 2 authors your talking about, which of their works is more likely to have been read? Which work is more likely to be influential?

I'd say their novels far out pace their short-stories in both distribution and effect.
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I mentioned them only because someone further up (I forget whom and could care less for looking it up) had claimed both were known for novels only. Therefore, I mentioned that only as a correction to an erroneous claim. I have no energy for joining this fray, since it seems it's verging on becoming a circular argument. :P
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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1482306' date='Aug 15 2008, 20.03']I mentioned them only because someone further up (I forget whom and could care less for looking it up) had claimed both were known for novels only. Therefore, I mentioned that only as a correction to an erroneous claim. I have no energy for joining this fray, since it seems it's verging on becoming a circular argument. :P[/quote]

Oh, I'd compltely agree they are known for their novels. That's the works of theirs people think of most when they hear their names.
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Perhaps, but I think Miéville's best work includes a novella, [i]The Tain[/i] and the short story about Jack Half-a-Prayer in his [i]Looking for Jake[/i] short story collection.
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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1482321' date='Aug 15 2008, 20.28']Perhaps, but I think Miéville's best work includes a novella, [i]The Tain[/i] and the short story about Jack Half-a-Prayer in his [i]Looking for Jake[/i] short story collection.[/quote]

Best, maybe. Best known? I'd give that to PSS.
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[quote name='Stego' post='1482073' date='Aug 15 2008, 21.29']This simply is not true anymore.

Rothfuss, Erikson, Bakker, Lynch, Morgan, Mieville, Durham off the top of my head did not cut their teeth on short fiction.[/quote]

Although I broadly agree with the thrust of your argument, it has to be pointed out that Rothfuss got his book deal based on the strength of him winning the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest with his short story [i]The Road to Levinshir[/i] (which was a cut-out from [i]The Wise Man's Fear[/i], perhaps, but still presented as a stand-alone piece).

Erikson's first published book was [i]A Ruin of Feathers[/i] in 1991, a short story collection.

Mieville started with short fiction (he published his first story when he was 14), although the bulk of his short fiction appeared just after [i]King Rat[/i] did.

Durham also started his career with short stories, with his earliest short fiction predating his first novel by nine years.

Also, from other major SF&F authors of the present time, Stephen Baxter, Paul McAuley, Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher and Alastair Reynolds also got their start in short fiction. Iain M. Banks didn't, but published a few stories a bit later on as [i]The State of the Art[/i].

Reynolds gives an excellent defence of short fiction in the afterword to [i]Galactic North[/i]. For what it's worth, I think the age of the magazines is drawing to a close and short fiction of note will appear online or in anthologies. Since I don't even have enough time to read all the novels I want to, I'm certainly not going to be able to read tons of short fiction in a year as well, so I largely sit it out and wait for the really noteworthy short fiction authors to produce a novel.
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[quote name='MattD' post='1478855' date='Aug 13 2008, 15.40']Peter S. Beagle and Ursula Le Guin have both released several fine collections of stories over the years, and Roger Zelazny's excellent collections -- which invariably include several award-winning stories -- were among my first SF&F reading.[/quote]

Zelazny has really wonderful short stories. His collections and Le Guins are the only ones I would buy in hardcover as they are worth every penny and I would read and reread them over and over again. ;)

[quote]Most short fiction sucks.[/quote]

So true. I think this is why most people who do read short fiction prefer the "best" anthologies and single author collections. I simply don't think most short stories are worth paying for. :P Even in the "year's best" collections I normally dislike half or more of the stories in it.

However, there is no way that short fiction is not relevant. Short stories written a long time ago are still influential. I only picked up ASoIaF again after reading Legends (I didn't like AGoT).

Are we ignoring non-professional short stories? There is a lot of fiction on the internet which is not professionally published or written by published writers. Lots of fans write short stories and I would say they write more short fiction than epic-length novels. ;) Short fiction is alive and kicking as far as I can tell.
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A good point there, though it sometimes pains me to say it. If you ignored fan fiction, there's a number of authors who would _seem_ to have little or no involvement in short fiction. But... Naomi Novik? A fanfic writer back in the day. Yet her professional publishing credits are novels, so one could argue it's "irrelevant", but I'm pretty sure she'd tell you you're wrong about it and are stuck in an old, backwards paradigm of "print + sales = relevance".

The number of new outlets for short fiction is going up, not down, really.

And then I'm reminded of the role of writer's workshops in bringing many people to careers and into publication, and even if they never publish them, a lot of them use short stories as the material for their workshopping.

Again, it's relevant. Many more people may be reading great fat books, but short fiction -- for a number of reasons -- is a much easier training ground for new writers.

Are people getting confused with the idea that it's perhaps not _as_ relevant as it used to be? That's true if you have an aching need to factor in magazine print runs, but then there was a time that short fiction was overwhelmingly the more important of the forms in SF/F, so it coming closer to a balance between the two of them seems pretty reasonable to me. Long fiction may be the commercial future of the genre (though whether this too shall pass, who can say?), but writers will still write what they feel like writing, and what they need to write, and for many of them short fiction is a real and necessary component.

In the end, it's not an either/or proposition. Long fiction and short fiction are both relevant to the genre, its writers, and its readers.
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I'd say it this way, Ran. You don't know authors as 'great short fiction authors'. You know them as great fiction authors. The size of their stories is really irrelevant. And in that respect, short fiction is likewise irrelevant.
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[quote name='Ran' post='1482468' date='Aug 16 2008, 03.24']A good point there, though it sometimes pains me to say it.[/quote]

;)

[quote]And then I'm reminded of the role of writer's workshops in bringing many people to careers and into publication, and even if they never publish them, a lot of them use short stories as the material for their workshopping.[/quote]

Very true and a good additional point. I would say many, if not most, sf writers write short fiction so in that way it is relevant.

[quote]Are people getting confused with the idea that it's perhaps not _as_ relevant as it used to be? That's true if you have an aching need to factor in magazine print runs, but then there was a time that short fiction was overwhelmingly the more important of the forms in SF/F, so it coming closer to a balance between the two of them seems pretty reasonable to me.[/quote]

So I have heard but that was before my time, I think.

[quote]In the end, it's not an either/or proposition. Long fiction and short fiction are both relevant to the genre, its writers, and its readers.[/quote]

Fans and professional writers write a lot of short fiction, some for fun and some to train themselves. A lot gets posted on various internet sites. Back in day, they used to print them and distribute them around to other fans - fanzines, right? Just nowadays the short fiction is on the internet.
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This is on my mind after receiving books the past couple of days from Spain and Brazil: Should the discussion be centered more around [i]where[/i] short fiction is going to be more influential than others? I'm reading a novella by the Spanish author Javier Negrete right now, [i]Buscador de sombras[/i], and this novella-length story is outstanding 1/3 in. Negrete wrote short stories and novellas for his first few years, before switching mostly to novels about 7-8 years ago and he's become one of Spain's best writers, likely because he had a training period with writing short fiction.

As for the arguments of authors who are remembered for their short fiction, besides Chiang, what about Harlan Ellison? Or Sturgeon himself, since he's been cited a few times in this thread? Angela Carter? Gene Wolfe's Doctor/Death/Island stories were what led to him even having the readership in place for his New Sun books to become as popular as they were in the early 80s. Thomas Ligotti is a short story-only writer, if memory serves, whose stories are now being converted into graphic novel adaptations.

Guess it mostly depends upon one's "scene," huh?
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I think in honor of this thread (I sort of choke on saying 'in honor', though; maybe I should say, despite this thread) I'm going to add to my next book order some story collections that have been on my wish list for a while. I know I definitely want to buy Monette's [i]The Bone Key [/i]and Cordwainer's Smith [i]The Rediscovery of Man[/i]. I've also been wanting some that aren't SF/F (Aimee Bender's [i]Willful Creatures[/i], for example). I don't buy a lot of anthologies, but I will pick up a few each year, and I occasionally read short stories online (esp at work when things are slow). It has always been my way of sampling authors. If I liked their stories, I would then followup with pursuing their novels.
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[quote name='cteresa' post='1482124' date='Aug 15 2008, 17.04']More than Ted Chiang? whose short stories have inspired series by other people? Whose work gets quoted on scientifc work? I don´t see what you mean by impact! Or Kelly Link who edits and is involved in some interesting alternative stuff?

The only reason I can think you would say those other guys (apart from Mieville) got more impact on the field is if you argue they have been read more widely or made more money, or got more active fanboys. But if you go by that argument to proclaim they more influential than Chiang or Link, problem is what stops ( apart from taste.) from having Terry Brooks or Christine Feehan be the ones whose influence obliterates all of them! and bitch please, if one is allowed to object to some of those on regards of taste, so can I about Eriksson and more![/quote]



Ted Chiang is hardly influential. And I love his work. And him.

The literati in SFdom wank to him, but few read him.
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[quote name='etcetera' post='1482914' date='Aug 16 2008, 15.29']I think in honor of this thread (I sort of choke on saying 'in honor', though; maybe I should say, despite this thread) I'm going to add to my next book order some story collections that have been on my wish list for a while. I know I definitely want to buy Monette's [i]The Bone Key [/i]and Cordwainer's Smith [i]The Rediscovery of Man[/i]. I've also been wanting some that aren't SF/F (Aimee Bender's [i]Willful Creatures[/i], for example). I don't buy a lot of anthologies, but I will pick up a few each year, and I occasionally read short stories online (esp at work when things are slow). It has always been my way of sampling authors. If I liked their stories, I would then followup with pursuing their novels.[/quote]


How can one call themselves a supporter of SF short work and not have read The Rediscovery of Man? Fucking seminal.

And Monette is unreadable shite.
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