Short vs. long

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Short vs. long

Postby Кал » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:48 am

Inspired by my correspondence with Erik Simon:

Кал wrote:What I meant about anthologies (and short fiction) generally getting the short shrift these days (or has that always been the case?) is best illustrated by somebody like Theodore Sturgeon: compare how many people have read his collections (which arguably contain his better work) vs. how many have read his novels. Goodreads is a good aid in that respect:

LINK to Theodore Sturgeon's works on Goodreads, sorted by popularity

I can give you oodles of other examples; basically, I can't think of any authors who wrote both novels and shorter fiction, and whose shorter fiction was more popular than their novels.

So, domestic and foreign alike, we have that great hurdle to vault: readers' demand for longer stories. I know, I know: a larger canvas allows you to develop both your characters and ideas better, juxtapose more themes, play with them from more angles, etcetera, etcetera.

But ... what are you actually telling us, dear readers? That you would rather read those (often) overbloated plots (frequently) chockablock with fillers (and in between emotional "peaks," the inevitable "calm valleys" ... man, do I start yawning/skipping during those)--you'd rather read that than even the best short stories? Which can be all an emotional peak or the most refined distillate of a great idea? (Again, Sturgeon comes to mind first; but I have a long list of other proofs.)

The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

And if I get REAL angry, stuff happens. At times, it's miraculous stuff. ;)
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Re: Short vs. long

Postby Radiant Dragon » Sun Jun 07, 2020 9:23 pm

Скрит текст: покажи
Since the topic was started in English, I'll post in that language.


Well, I was going to write in the email, but now that I'm here, I might as well make my ramblings public. They are short(er)--haha--this time around. (<--Nope. Yet again ~20min were lost writing this.)

I have a two-fold hypothesis about that sort of phenomenon: the wild guessing part, and the personal part (wild guessing x2).

First, it's possible people can't (or don't want to) handle peak emotional load all the time during reading - because it's too much stress. As in "Woah, this story exhausted me, I need a break now". Most people still (I presume) treat reading as a leisurely hobby to pass the time/entertain themselves, and if an anthology of short stories is perceived as a package full of nothing but "right in the feels, dude!" then reading becomes a chore/challenge, not a hobby. As for the "distillate of a great idea", unless the readers of the fictional exploration of said idea are prone to contemplation/reflection, then I think the "5 minute wonder", which has become so prevalent in today's meme-laden social media, is in effect: "WOAH, that was radical!"; five minutes later: "Hey, a political hot take video with cats! So edgy!"

Second, and this is more of a personal perception of mine, and again revolves around reading-as-entertainment-and-nothing-more: people like to "invest" their imagination in a given setting/series/author. Because: a) they don't have to "learn" new things (setting paradigms, style change, thematic highlights, etc) every time when they sit down to read (as it would happen if they regularly change their reading "landscape"), so their brain works less and has "fun" more; and b) because sense of belonging: they can say "I am a fan of X" and identify as part of that group - X's fandom; and consequently find like-minded individuals, have flame/shipping wars (venting!), write fanfiction (self-expression!), and so on. Lastly, reading longer stuff makes you immerse yourself in reading, taking for example a whole afternoon doing just that, while shorter stories tend to "eject" you from the imagination when you finish them, and it takes conscious decision--even if only a minor one--to pick up the next story, but that's time enough for thoughts such as "I still have work to do" to enter the mind meanwhile.

Of course, there is the possibility short stories face some other unknown stigma that makes them unpopular.

Bottom line, reading (despite its decline) is still viewed as entertainment first, anything else second even in this day and age. And you know how it goes when mindless fun is involved: the lowest common denominator wins, and the flashiest "products" thrive.
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Re: Short vs. long

Postby Кал » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:51 pm

I actually agree on both counts. :) And so do pundits such as Donald Maass, who said in Writing the Breakout Novel that if you want to do a bestseller, you'd better do it BIG.

My recent revelation, however, was that I need to ration my reading time more and more strictly; so I need to pick those pieces that really give me the feels. I'm gonna be reading for 30 minutes a day at most anyway; why wouldn't I make those 30 minutes as memorable as possible? :)

(BTW, there are a few novels that manage to maintain the same "peak" level throughout. One example is Аз, грешният Иван. And yes, I've heard friends complain that Иван really tired them out.

Fools! Who made them read it in one sitting? :D)

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Re: Short vs. long

Postby Кал » Mon Jun 22, 2020 8:36 pm

The TL;DR version of the above:

On Goodreads, Кал wrote:Right now, I'm reading this year's Astounding Award (ex-Campbell) nominations--and boy, don't I wish there were more short works among them. :D I guess I'll be veering away from novels in the years to come, for the sheer amount of verbiage and fillers that go into most of them.

As for poetry, I've always thought it was the topmost rung in the literary ladder: the one that requires the greatest deal of attention and focus. Pretty intimidating at times. But you're right that people may be underrating it merely because they're not familiar with the form.

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