I’m no literati, nor do I play one on TV. (For the uninformed, literati isn’t a type of vampire, although maybe it should be!) But when I look at the ongoing shift in publishing from print ‘n paper to eBook, there seems to be more and more of an inevitability about it. This is good in some ways and maybe not so good in others. The debate is ongoing.
Having said that, I’m going to hit on a literary form today that I think might receive a real boost from the advent of eBooks, Kindles, Nooks and all that downloadable jazz. I’m talking about the short story.
Short stories, at least those written for a readership older than the age of 5, have always struck me as something of an elite (but not in a bad way!) form. You find them in literary magazines or The New Yorker or rather austere looking anthologies. They’re connected with names like Raymond Carver and Larry Woiwode. They’re not traditionally geared toward a mass market. Or at least, they haven’t been. There wasn’t much point, when all’s said and done. Not enough money in it, to be blunt.
But today, with technology that negates a lot of the traditional printing costs that made shorts a non-starter, can allow you to carry a library of 3,500 books that weigh less than ten ounces total and can fit into your purse…well, publishers have options, writers have options, and most importantly, readers have options.
When I ran across that little gem, I knew I was going to read the story. In fact, Jump has the distinction of being the first e-book I ever purchased. It’s not going to be the last. But make no mistake, it is a short story. (Published by Echelon Press Shorts, in conjunction with Echelon Explorations) Jump clocks in at a lean, mean 3,288 words. And yes, it’s certainly affordable, even by eBook standards, which are pretty darned affordable already.
What it also offers, is a style that’s very accessible to the every-reader. It starts smack in the middle of the action, has an engaging spunky heroine with a nice way with internal dialogue, and it keeps you guessing as the story progresses. It also contains some very useful information, such as: if you think you might be accosted at knife point on a bridge in the middle of the night, a mini-skirt is probably not appropriate attire. Food for thought there, definitely!
I asked Jen what her thoughts were about short stories in general. “I love shorts,” she says. “With writing and editing and kids, I rarely have time to sit down and read a full novel. Shorts let me get a story in when I have a moment! Even in the past I always loved them and was a big fan of the Sword and Sorceress Anthologies.”
Jen brings up a good point and a simple truth. A lot of people seriously don’t have the time to sit down and churn through a full length novel. In fact, in a lot of ways—ways I don’t necessarily approve of, mind you—we’ve become a society that embraces brevity. We text. We tweet. We LOL at each other. Our attention spans are, perhaps, getting a little shorter then they ought to be.
That might not be great news for society, but it does make me believe that short stories, and even novellas, are well positioned to fill an ever widening niche among reading consumers. Jen seems to think so. Jump is (as of this writing) at number one on the bestseller list at OmniLit. And while she has her first full length novel coming out in May of this year, it will be preceded by more shorts scheduled for March. I’m looking forward to them!