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Do You Read Short Fiction?

This topic was born of a twitter conversation between myself & @thenewauthor, Brian Knight. He asked:

  1. Do you believe short stories are respected in the current publishing world? Is there a demand for them?
  2. Do you agree that eReaders and phone apps make short stories more appealing?

He and I had a long talk about this over twitter, and it really got me thinking.

So, with that in mind – I put it to you, the SF Signal readers: Do you read short fiction?

If yes – how and where? By this I mean – do you subscribe to magazines? (Which ones?) Are you buying anthologies? Trolling the web? (What are your favorite sites?)

Do you use an eReader? What kind? What does your short fiction library look like? What do you like about your eReader & what do you wish were different?

Nosy minds want to know…

About Patrick Hester (527 Articles)
Patrick Hester is a writer, blogger, podcasting dude, Denver transplant and all around Functional Nerd. Don't hate him cuz he has a cool hat.

28 Comments on Do You Read Short Fiction?

  1. Absolutely.


    I began buying Datlow & Windling’s (and Datlow & Link & Grant’s) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR anthologies a couple of years back, and have been working my way through the series. I also buy or borrow any themed reprint anthologies that appeal to me; notable recent examples have been Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s THE NEW WEIRD and STEAMPUNK. I buy or borrow the odd anthology of original short fiction, if I trust the editor’s taste or am interested in the theme, but I find I enjoy a larger percentage of the stories if I stick to reprints and single-author collections.


    I buy Fantasy & Science Fiction from a brick-and-mortar bookstore whenever possible, but I currently live in a country (New Zealand) where the cost is prohibitive.


    I also troll through Free Speculative Fiction Online for stories by authors I’ve enjoyed in the past. If I find a story I like, I’ll send the link to friends so they can share the love.


    I keep meaning to explore free online magazines, but I haven’t gotten very far with them. I need a few more hours in the day.

  2. Certainly.  In fact, in the past few years, my reading has almost exclusively been shorter fiction.  Getting an Iphone with Stanza means I can read anywhere anytime.  And there’s just so much fantastic shorter fiction out there for any price from free on up.  Sites like Beyond Ceaseless Skies, Subterranean Press and Clarkesworld have amazing stuff.

    Frankly, I bought exactly one dead tree book this year and have hundreds of stories on my Ipod.

  3. Sure I do! I got into SF by reading short fiction (the SF Hall of Fame, actually), and love the form. I find “best of”-type anthologies to be my favorites, though I also will pick up magazines at the newsstand or check websites. Perhaps my online favorites now are the audio readings from Clarkesworld.

    The nice thing about short fiction is that there’s less time investment. So if a story doesn’t grab you, it’s easy to flip a few pages and go on to the next. 

  4. Do you read short fiction?

    No, absolutely not.  I hate short stories.  You just start to know the characters and the story is over.  I’m in my 30’s and I have only read about 20 short stories my entire life, and I probably only paid for 8-10 of them (bought one book once…never again).

    Do you believe short stories are respected in the current publishing world?

    Only in SF/F and even then not that much.

    Is there a demand for them?

    Only in SF/F, but I have no idea about the level of demand.  It could be miniscule or huge, but if I had to guess I would leand towards the smaller side.

    Do you agree that eReaders and phone apps make short stories more appealing?

    Possible, but it doesn’t make them more appealing for me.

  5. Yep. Not as often as novels, but I pick up Anthologies, read magazines (online and print) and generally keep my eyes out for good stories. 

    Are they respected in the current publishing world? Go look at the New Yorker and tell me. 

  6. Yes. As busy as I am. A full time job and full time university. I only have time for short stories.

    Recently I prefer the Hartwell Years Best SF.

    I also subscribe to Asimov’s and Analog, which if you look in the back of the David Mack’s new Star Trek novel you can get a subscription for $ 12.00 a year.

    I am also on the lookout for editions of the Asimov Presents Great SF 1-25 covering the years 1939-1963 and the Terry Carr years bests with various titles from 1965 – 1987.



  7. I rarely read short stories.  I got a copy of “Where Do We go from Here?” after my grandfather passed away.  I was way into it, especially the intros by Asimov.  I’m not against short stories, I just happen to read books most of the time.

    I’m open to recommendations for good anthologies though.

    I don’t use an ereader but I plan on getting one soon.  I’ve played around my mom’s Nook and I’m a fan.

  8. I used to have a subscription to two of the big three and I’d buy copies of the one I didn’t have subscriptions to from time to time.  

    I used to have time to read what was published by the big three and the ezine markets as well.  When you work as a security guard, you have a lot of time to fill.  

    These days?  

    I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with short fiction in the genre.  It never quite satisfies my need for adrenaline in my fiction.  There is the style monkey aspect of some of our writers who seem hellbent on outdoing the folks who appear regularly in The New Yorker.  Then you’ve got the politics, the never ending sermons, the same predictable stories over and over and over again.

    I have the same reaction to a lot of American short science fiction that I had to the Baptist Church when I was a kid.  I’m afraid I do not see much of a difference between the current strain of virulent political correctness in the short markets and a fundamental baptist.  

    I have better things to do with my time.

    That said, I make it a point to buy Gardner Dozois’ YBSF each year.  If I see a story in there I want to read, I’ll read it.  I trust Gardner to pick something that isn’t just the standard issue political rant.  If a writer I enjoy is making an appearance in any magazine other than Asimov’s, I’ll make it a point to purchase a copy if I can get my hands on it.  

    Otherwise, when I read science fiction, it tends to be novels.  Yet again, I run into the same problem as with the short fiction.  Further, so much of the crap on the shelves is fantasy, urban fantasy or sparkly vampires, which I find exasperating.  

    So until this phase comes to an end (and it must, it can’t last forever) I’ll spend my time reading history books.  

    As for the other questions, with regard to short stories and respect, I suppose that depends on the publisher.  Short stories are still a route by which some writers move on to novels.  It was/is still the route I’m trying to follow as a writer.  On the other hand, I know of writers who won’t waste their time on the short stories because they feel it isn’t worth the money they receive for those stories.  

    As for e-readers and short stories, it is hard to tell.  


    S. F. Murphy

    On the Outer Marches


  9. These days, I mainly LISTEN to short stories when they appear on podcasts like the great Starship Sofa. A splendid way to pass a daily commute.

    For reading, I did read a lot of short stories, however nowadays I mainly read novels and occassionally a novella.

  10. It’s a golden age for short fiction readers — even people like me who never read a page online.

    Used to be I’d read F&SF and sometimes Asimov’s.  Now, there are so many better options, I almost never do.  Just recently, I bought The New Space Opera and a Solaris New Fiction collection.  They were each about 600 pages of new short fiction for about $7.95 — about the same cost as a 100+ page issue of Asimovs, a better format, and at least as good.


  11. If the summary of one story appeals to me in a sci-fi compilation book, I’ll read all of them.  Heck, I have one book in my library that I only like one story from. But it’s fun to crack it open and read it occasionally to see my favorite parts.


    It all depends.  The Improbable Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes collection was pretty good for example.

  12. I am an avid short fiction reader, who apparently lives in a a parallel universe to S. F. Murphy, because I see far more vitality and challenge in the genre’s short offerings.   Stories that provoke thought about issues like identity and politics are much more engaging than rote kick-assery or socially-myopic big-idea fiction.  What I’ve found in the short story market is a much broader range of topics and perspectives than seems to be in the novel market right now.  I think the field of short fiction demonstrates the vitality of the genre.

    Any short fiction collection, whether a periodical or an anthology, can be uneven, which means that sometimes you are disappointed.  But there is also the fun of looking for and reading short fiction: finding the gems, of which there are a goodly amount.  I think that people generally take more chances and stretch themselves in short fiction, although sometimes you wish that they would extend their stories.   And exploring short fiction can lead you to new discoveries, which has made it quite valuable to me as I re-enter the genre after some years away from it.

    I regularly acquire anthologies and read a lot of short fiction online.   I reviewed Swords and Dark Magic recently (which exemplifies my point about unevenness) and I am reading Haunted Legends right now.  I often read an anthology and a novel concurrently.  I do not own an e-reader but I do read a lot of fiction on my computer, and there are a lot of fine periodicals online to sample, such as Clarkesworld, Port Iris, and Black Gate.

    There’s a lot out there to hunt down and savor.

  13. Do you read short fiction?

    Yup. On the whole, prefer short stories to novels.

    If yes – how and where? By this I mean – do you subscribe to magazines? (Which ones?) Are you buying anthologies? Trolling the web? (What are your favorite sites?)

    In print and online. Subscribe to Interzone, buy individual issues of F&SF, Asimov’s, and several semiprozines when I like the authors inside. Regularly read and donate to Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, and Apex. Read and Beneath Ceaseless Skies when I hear about a good story. Buy several anthologies a year, both original and Year’s Best.

    Do you use an eReader? What kind? What does your short fiction library look like? What do you like about your eReader & what do you wish were different?

    Sort of. I prefer print, but when I want to read a longish story online, I run it through Instapaper and read it on an iPod or iPad. Also sometimes download ePubs when places like BCS provide them for free. On the whole, though, I find ebooks too ugly to read at great length–it’s only a backup option, for when the Instapaper version will be more comfortably readable than the website.

    Do you believe short stories are respected in the current publishing world?

    By whom? Publishers respect material insofar as they can sell it. The SF community cares at least enough to hand out awards.  

    Is there a demand for them?

    Within a certain niche, yes. 

    Do you agree that eReaders and phone apps make short stories more appealing?

    Mixed feelings. Short fiction’s the only thing I read electronically. In the abstract, it seems like a good idea for magazines to make the most out of those opportunities–Asimov’s is allegedly gaining subscribers due to its Kindle editions. I suspect the gadget-loving and frequently urban publishing crowd that makes up a significant part of the audience for SF short fiction is more into e-reading than the average person. But the apps I’ve seen seem like half-assed failed experiments so far–it probably doesn’t make sense for most smaller magazines to waste money developing an app. And I don’t think electronic availability makes the short format or the stories more appealing in any way–it just makes them more available. And since some folks prefer to read electronically, that availability’s generally a good thing.

  14. Do I read short fiction? Yes. I subscribe to Asimov’s and grab anthologies that grab back. In these near-ADD times, short fiction makes a lot of sense: finish a story in one sitting, go back to your life for a while, read the next story at the next opportunity. Funny how earlier non-Internet times had a much larger market for it though!

    I have a Kindle (an iPad too, but don’t use it as an e-reader much), but most of what’s on it right now is novels. The primary thing I wish were different about it is that the formats are too MOBI-centric; there’s so much stuff out there in ePub, HTML, and PDF. Kindles handle PDF, sort of — I read a certain novella on mine a while back — but simple touches like margin elimination would help immensely there.

    And I will leave it at that, because if I go a little off-topic I’ll just keep going…

  15. I do read short stories. I subscribe to the Daily SF and read the stories on and World SF blog. I normally read them during my lunch hour since short stories are so much better for short reading times. I’ve also downloaded a bunch of short stories and anthologies on my Kindle. I like having them on my Kindle and it’s nice to have shorter stories when I’m traveling.

  16. Yes I read short fiction. But not all the time. I used to subscribe to all the magazines and I still have probably 25 years worth of those still kicking around. I also buy many anthologies both new and reprint. Latest one  read was Mirror Kingsdoms: The best of Peter Beagle. I really liked it. Especially not having read Mr. Beagle before. I usually buy all the Best of volumes and have read many of them but not all.

    My short fiction reading has been taking a hiatus as I started reading Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. This has required several months as I’m a slow reader and just don’t have the time to read huge blocks at once.

    The proliferation of on-line fiction sites would maybe indicate a resurgence in the popularity of short sf and fantasy. Maybe.

    I don’t use e-readers and most likely never will. I like the feel of books, their heft, smell etc.

  17. Do you read short fiction?

    Yes, but not as much of it as I used to because I don’t have as much time to do it. I used to subscribe to mags like Asimov’s and Realms of Fantasy, but now I mostly read it on the Web at places like

    Do you believe short stories are respected in the current publishing world?

    Yes, but it’s a small market. It’s a good form for small presses that need to do shorter books, but the larger houses still do them too and anthologies have been doing well lately in SFF and in romance. They don’t make a lot of money on average, but publishers don’t want to give up on them. In terms of magazines, SFF is one of the few areas where there is still a viable short story market, but it’s taken its shocks in the last two decades as the wholesale vendors collapsed and the Web threw things up in the air. The fact that we have so many online magazines trying to make a go of it says something about the commitment to the form, though.

    Is there a demand for them?

    There’s a small demand, but in fiction publishing, small is sufficient. Themed anthologies probably get the biggest demand in the book world. In the magazine world, generalists probably do better.

    Do you agree that eReaders and phone apps make short stories more appealing?

    No, there is constantly the argument that our attention spans are shorter and therefore we’ll want short fiction more. They’ve been saying that for three decades, especially as there are technological improvements, and it has never panned out. People who read like longer works more — novels, novellas, series. I think the developing e-market will certainly help continue the smaller demand for short works, but it’s probably not going to radically change things. One exception may be comics — short comics may be becoming more popular on the Web.

  18. I pretty much worship short fiction.  It’s SF’s most natural form.  A lot of SF novels could easily be trimmed to short story length.

    Short fiction doesn’t get the respect it deserves.  Even though new pro markets continually open, short fiction is seen as a way to get publishing contracts.  While there are still those die hard short writers, most writers abandon the genre when they get a novel out there.

    Demand for short fiction is limited to the older generation who grew up on pulps and writers doing market research.  I meet people daily that don’t know stories can be written at lengths other than novel.  Sad, but true.

    Phone apps might contribute to a small spike in short fiction sales, but even on a phone, short fiction has to compete with Youtube, chatting, texting, talking, taking pictures, checking stocks, etc.

    I wish short fiction would make a comeback, but I doubt if it will anytime soon.

  19. Dang.  I sent a long response in earlier, but it appears to have vanished into the aether.

    Short version: I love the short form.  It is a vital component of SF.  I read paper magazines, anthologies, and stories online.  I hope that short fiction gets more attention in the future for what it offers both writers and readers.

  20. Eric Francis // November 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm //

    I read short stories more often than I do novels, which is a reversal from my reading habits as a youngster when I first discovered SFF. I do pick up a variety of print magazines — Asimov’s, Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Shimmer, Sybil’s Garage. I also read a lot of short fiction online — Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons primarily, but I keep tabs on favorite writers and follow links to whatever webzine/blog/whatever they post stories on.

    I am no kind of fan of e-readers. Besides the fact I just like the feel of paper, I can’t deal with small screens (and by small, I mean smaller than my 17-inch monitor). I’ve got a smartphone but have never bothered to use it to read fiction — though, now that I think of it, I read The New York Times on it regularly. Hmmm. Wonder if it’s an issue of font readability.

    Regardless, until and unless my favorite authors become available exclusively in electronic formats, I won’t even entertain the idea of purchasing an e-reader. They’re just not for me.


  21. I love SF short stories. I buy the big three. I read the year’s best, Dozois, Hartwell, and Horton. I am also am slowly going through the old Hugo and Nebula collections,and the old  Merrill, Carr, Universe collections. I prefer the anthologies rather than single person collections. I don’t like using a screen to read.

  22. I read SF short stories, I especially like some of the ones by Charles Stross.


    I like short stories like his for the extra info you have to come up with in your head, he drops you in a world that has stuff everyone in the world knows about and descriptive language gets around having to have obvious exposition.



  23. Do you read short fiction?

    Yes, but I mostly read novels.

    If yes – how and where? By this I mean – do you subscribe to magazines? (Which ones?) Are you buying anthologies? Trolling the web? (What are your favorite sites?)

    I subscribe to Realms of Fantasy (and hope it’s still alive), but I mostly troll the Web lately. Download the story, then read it on my Kindle.

    What do you like about your eReader & what do you wish were different?

    I like it the way it is.

    What does your short fiction library look like?

    Uhm… a folder in my hard drive.

    Do you believe short stories are respected in the current publishing world?

    Perhaps, but not as much as novels. Novels are more engaging and that’s why they generate more profit for the publisher, I think.

    Is there a demand for them?

    If there was none, there would be no mags publishing them. But, again, not as much as novels.

    Do you agree that eReaders and phone apps make short stories more appealing?

    To be honest, if it wasn’t for my Kindle, perhaps I wouldn’t read some of the online stories I read; so, yeah, I think they do make them more appealing.

    Nosy minds want to know…


  24. I don’t know about magazines, but readers buy my short fiction as e-shorts in surprising numbers. Apparently there’s a healthy market for short e-books that I knew nothing about until I started pitching my reprints and trunked pieces online. People report reading my shorts on their commutes or in chunks between parenting duties. I’m guessing it’s a length that lends itself well to reading off devices… it’s certainly a great way to find a market for novellas, which have very little life in print.

  25. I prefer hardbacks unless only paperbacks are available.’


    Ebooks however are great for long trips.  Laptops (I prefer them over ereaders) take up less space than 15 or 20 books.

  26. Very, very little. Though with the plethora of anthologies out there and everything else I feel the need to investigate further.

    One problem is no internet connectivity for the smart phone. Too expensive. Texting is expensive too, but I kind of need it for communication. Internet would be too slow on my phone anyway. I can certainly see me reading on it (or more hopefully: a better phone), especially short fiction.

    Most of the short fiction I’ve read recently has been…yours. So congrats. I guess you snagged a reader. πŸ˜‰


  27. Yes, very much. Although I love novels, American novels in and out of our genre becomes longer and longer and I cannot hold a single book in my hands during commuting. Thick novels are a big problem for me. It suggests less editorial effort and I can see it everywhere. Movie directors are selling the longer direstor’s cuts, and musicians are selling the whole shows without editing on their sites. It’s creator’s heaven but consumer’s hell. Even in short stories I can occasionally see the redundant and irrelevant parts that could be cut. But Kindle can save me now. I can finally find the strength and time to read any books, although availabilities of titles are limited in Asia & Pacific Area even when it’s global electric media.  

  28. I really enjoy short fiction. Anthologies and magazines tend to present a wider variety of subject matter and writing styles than I’ve noticed in novels lately. It also takes a lot of talent to tell a focussed story that really engages a reader and leaves an emotional and intellectual impact in a short amount of time. Anthologies and magazines also offer good opportunities to get introduced to new authors or established writers I just haven’t gotten around to yet – if I like someone’s short story, I’ll probably go looking for their novel, if not, then at least I haven’t wasted much time (or money) on them and I can move onto the next submission. Anthologies can also present a great opportunity to learn about the SF scene in other countries if you can find some of the culturally-themed collections out there.

    In terms of where I get my short fiction, I subscribe to On Spec (which reminds me I’ve got to renew my subscription) and pick up the occasional copy of Neo Opsis, and probably one out of every 5 or six books I buy is an anthology.

    Something interesting that I’ve noticed is that every few years when the painful task of culling the herd is foisted upon me by a lack of room on my shelves (my wife steadfastly refuses to let me expand my collection through the rest of the house for some strange reason), I’ll get rid of novels to make more space for new stuff, but I’ve never parted with an anthology. That section keeps slowly growing and taking up more shelf space.

    Admittedly, I haven’t read much short fiction in e-formats.



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