It originated when storytelling began, out of the oral traditions that informed our ancestors so long ago. They evolved into a literary force in the European early 14th century, when short pieces like those found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio’s Decameron came into being. Slowly, such authors like Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott wrote them, leading into the serialized novel. Short stories have been around ever since.
Readers in the United States did not embrace the short story when America was founded. Not like the Europeans. Even now, while Europeans read a great many short story collections, publishers are reticent to purchase such collections in United States. They simply did not catch on and it has grown into our culture.
I like what David Sedaris says about them:
“A good [short story] would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.”
Edgar Allen Poe, who is famous for his horror short stories and who is one of the few American writers to have their short stories catch on, felt a tale should be read in its entirety in one sitting. That is the beauty of the short story. Fulfillment for the reader.
Although a great many people love Stephen King’s short stories. Must be something about the horror genre that lends itself well to it…
Anyway, short stories are beginning to catch on, with the advent of the eReader. Authors are discovering they have another avenue to grow their readerships, a place to tell their short stories and have them delivered immediately and with ease. It’s an extra source of income. It’s a way to tell certain stories that otherwise would not be published.
What Poe said has been growing on me as of late. Two months ago, bestselling author Terry Brooks sent me only his third short story in his thirty-five years of publishing. The topic? The Druid Allanon and his efforts to locate the last scion of Shannara. It is set before the events of The Sword of Shannara, a time period that fans have been clamoring for since 1977. Everything is not what it seems, of course.
I read the short story and loved it—and true to Poe form, I finished it in one sitting and I loved being able to do so.
I’m excited for the future of this new medium. My favorite writers giving us novellas and short stories every once in a while? All because of the eReader?
Yes, please! Brilliant!
Are you excited about this happening? Or are we all just novel readers? Discuss!