Short and shorter: new technology reviving old traditions

I must confess I was more than a little skeptical about Twitter. I’m one of those people that, when sending an SMS, insists on writing each word in full and punctuating the darned thing. I didn’t think I would be able to communicate much of interest in 140 characters or less, I think there must be better ways to promote a book than annoying people by tweeting your title 5 times a day, and I am not much interested in which reality TV ‘celebrity’ I’ve never heard of is angry with which other ‘celebrity’ I’ve never heard of.

A good friend persuaded me that it could nonetheless be a good source of information – more a jumping off point for information of more interest elsewhere. So, I have had my toe in the waters-of-brevity this year, and I must say, it’s been highly encouraging.

The other thread that folds into my thinking on this is that I am currently re-reading Stephen King’s short story collection¬†Everything’s Eventual. In the foreword, written in 2001, he expressed concern that the short story was a dying art form. Submitting shorts to periodicals used to be a rite of passage for the would-be author, as King himself recounts in On Writing, but such magazines were dying off in the late 90’s and early noughties. Everything’s Eventual also contains Riding the Bullet, King’s commercially successful proto-ebook, and King also noted this revolution in publishing, even in 2001, was already prompting claims of the death of the conventional book. Short stories and conventional books looked to be dying in 2001; whither the author?

While I am aware, of course, that technology has made self-publishing a viable alternative which has far from killed conventional publishing, I have also of late been discovering, through Twitter, that the short story is alive and well in a variety of forms. I see Black Static in the UK and Nightmare Magazine in the US, I see Dirge Magazine and Kraken Press starting up, and I see Johnny Mains and Salt Publishing proving the horror short story anthology still has an audience.

This is all very encouraging. As someone who has submitted my work to agencies and professional assessment services, I get told that, irrespective of the quality of my work, ‘horror doesn’t sell.’ I don’t believe that at all. I have also recently discovered Smashwords (yes, I know, I’m a terrible n00b) and was struck by founder Mark Coker’s summary: “I ultimately came to the conclusion that the publishing industry is ill-equiped to serve all authors.¬† They’re unable to take a risk on every author.¬† They acquire books based on perceived commercial potential, but ultimately they don’t know which books will sell well.”

I also read recently an excellent non-fiction analysis piece on ‘The Future of Horror’ by Eric Guignard in November’s edition of Nightmare. It’s a very thought-provoking article on trends and popularity of sub-genres. I hope he’s right we start to see more historical, gothic-ghost type fiction (and less zombies…). But in addition to enjoying the analysis, it also reinforced that there very much is a future for horror.

There is still the perceived ‘seal of quality’ of a conventionally published work, and the reality that while digital publishing makes it easier for an author to publish it also makes it hard for that work to be found. However, I can see that there is still a large community of horror fans and horror authors, of shorts and full length fiction, which encourages me to continue, and also has filled up my Kindle for the remainder of the year!

Onward. Yes, onward.

Posted in Blog.