Short Stories vs. Novels: The Long and Short of It
As regular readers are aware, I’ve embarked on another reading project this year to read a short story a day. (Well, not really – that’s too much for me so I developed a points system where a longer novella counts more than a shorter novelette which counts more than a short story. Fred at The Eternal Golden Braid, on the other hand, is a reading maniac shooting for 600 pieces of short fiction – regardless of length – this year alone!)
One of the reasons I am doing this reading project is because I like variety. Short fiction in any format provides nice, quick sf jolts of varying flavors. There is usually no time to be bored and the stories rarely feel padded. With short fiction, I can fit many more science fictional ideas into my reading.
That said, the part of me that likes variety also likes to get lost in a good novel. The is a certain comfort once you are acquainted with a story’s setting. A good novel can be absorbing and entertaining and still provide the sense of wonder I enjoy from the quick hit of short fiction. A novel also allows time to get to know the characters and develop a relationship. Some characters are very likable, some are fun to hate.
There’s an interesting recent post from David Schwartz (which links to some other excellent posts on the subject from Jay Lake, Scott Westerfeld and others) that talks about some of the differences between long and short fiction. There are always exceptions, of course, but usually short stories are plot/idea-focused and books are more character focused. I find I like both types of stories for the variety they bring.
How about you? A recent SF Signal post about the creation of an award-nominee-based anthology leads me to believe that there is not much demand for short fiction; this regardless of the fact that there are a shelf-loads of annual anthologies published every year with even more new ones on the horizon. Someone must be buying them, right?
Do any other readers like variety? Is the short story a dying format? Do any of you read short stories on a regular basis?
Filed under: Books
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