On Why I Write Short Fiction

I decided to add a few anthologies and magazines with fairly recent short stories to the grid on the home page.

Why are my short stories and short story collections fairly recent, and my novels are not?

A distinguished editor told me in 1994 or 95 that, given the publishing business then, my career as a novelist was dead. I had never liked dealing with the New York houses, and I did like dealing with magazine and anthology editors, who mostly seemed like nice people. (The New York book editors also seemed like nice people, but there were too many screw ups.) So I switched over to writing short stories, novelettes and novellas. I wrote in series: the hwarhath stories, the Lydia Duluth stories, the Big Mama stories. The hwarhath and Big Mama stories have come out in collections, and one Lydia Duluth story — Tomb of the Fathers — has been published as a stand alone. It got way too long and is almost a novel according to Nebula Award rules. I have called Tomb a novel in my bibliography.

Since the early 1990s, publishing has changed a lot. The New York houses have consolidated into — what? four mega firms? — that have lost interest in mid-list authors. As a result, small presses are much more important than they used to be. Self-publishing has become a more or less attractive alternative, now that ebooks can be sold on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (It used to be you’d end with boxes of self-printed books and no good way to market them. According to a friend of mine, 5,000 paperbacks fit under a standard size ping pong table. She knew, because that’s where she kept her self-published mystery.)

So was I right to switch to short fiction? Maybe not, given that there are really fine independent presses now, and self-publishing no longer requires a ping pong table.

On the plus side, I really like the novelette and novella lengths. They are long enough to have richness and complexity, but not so long that I get tired of writing.