Should the new short story be entertaining?
ONCE, not much over 100 years ago, the short story was the most popular art form. The American public consumed stories voraciously– work by Jack London, Frank Stockton, Richard Connell, O. Henry, Stephen Crane– even from more refined types like Edith Wharton and Henry James.
What was the hallmark of the short story?
They were entertaining.
Build a better story, we believe, and the public will beat a path toward your door. We’ve already seen steps– baby steps anyway– in that direction in the prestigious-and-usually-snobby pages of The New Yorker. which recently for the first time in decades published a story that some people actually wanted to read.
And so, we give you a tale of suspense and mystery– “The Rottweiler” by Alex Bernstein, one of the best new practitioners of the short story art going. You’ll find in the work a touch of humor, and perhaps a rottweiler or two. Jump into the adventure. . . .
“On the plus side – if we kill you – we don’t have to put up with all this fuss and noise all the time. On the negative side…mm…Woolsy, what was the negative side, again?”
(Painting by Claude T. Stanfield-Moore.)
WE’VE BEEN THINKING a lot of late about games and strategy. About what we’re doing right and the literary mainstream is doing wrong– or more often, the size of the obstacle they represent and what we’re doing imperfectly in hoping to compete with them. In such discussions, the strategy of chess comes to mind.
AT PRESENT we’re behaving like a tentative chess player pushing pawns forward, hoping to find or create an opening– which, if one ever appears, we’ll need to jump through with all forces, talents, words, and arguments at our disposal.
WHICH BRINGS US TO our new featured story, “I May Have Been a Chess World Champion” by talented international writer Eva Ferry. It’s ostensibly about chess and chess players, but it’s about more than that. A metaphor for– ? The story carries the atmosphere of a spy novel. It evokes the feeling of hopelessness, dread, expectation and fear which engulfs the culture now, perhaps the entire world. But it’s only about chess. Or is it?
The men in the Centre were saggy, they were not handsome by anyone’s standards. But the beauty of their effort, their perfect commitment was real.
I wanted to be real too. That’s why I told the man from upstairs that I would be going to the tournament, even if that was the last thing I did in my life.
Speaking of terrific writers and writing, at the All-Time American Writers Tournament there’s a new Appreciation, this one by Robin Wyatt Dunn about Gene Wolfe. What strong writing looks like. Only 437 words but it’s dynamite.
Painting: “The Chess Player” by Frederich August Moritz Retzsch.
Happy Halloween! We find ourselves without a new Halloween story to present to you– so we dug up from a literary crypt fragments of an unfinished slasher novel, like cut-up pieces of a corpse. The original idea was that the intellectual parts of the novel would be scarier than the scary parts. It’s about a city, a mayor, and his wife, and staff, and a series of murders with which they’re confronted. Read the excerpts here.
The resurrected novel notes anyway are an apt prelude to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which kicks off November 1st. We’ll be doing a presentation for NaNoWriMo in the Detroit area– more info to follow .
The finely-sharpened hunting knife filled the killer’s vision. Staring at the edge of the knife intoxicated him. The image carried resonances of barbarism. Violence and blood. To his warped mind, the killings were necessary, but they’d also become fun.
Are you an imaginative person?
Are you easily frightened?
Take care reading this story: “Lucid Dreamer,” by Scott Cannon. One of the best stories we’ve ever published. It may be the scariest, or creepiest, or most unsettling story you’ll ever read.
What’s lucid dreaming, you ask? You’re about to find out. Encounter Part I of the tale– and plunge into the world of your own head.
“But really, as an adult? I can’t think of one time a dream has scared me awake. If that’s what you mean by nightmares. You know, the kind where your heart is just pounding and you kind of just thrash out of it. . .” His voice trailed off and his eyes lost focus for a moment. Ashlee’s smile went away and her gaze sharpened.
Hello! We’re back to posting short fiction, which is our main purpose. We seek to present stories that are readable, compelling, and well-written. We have one! The question you must ask yourself about this tale is this: is it genre or is it literature? (This is a question John Colapinto addressed for us in his recent interview.) We’re of a mind that fiction can and should be both. Doppelgangers in particular have been used in fiction by talented pop-lit writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Fyodor Dostoevsky to Joseph Conrad. (Do we believe Nels Hanson is in sterling company? Yes.)
Read Mr. Hanson’s deep, noirish tale “The Double” and see what you think.
I was dead. I lay on the cold pebbles. The water flowed over me. With drowned eyes I saw the stars flicker like wet candles past the dark surface of the creek.