I’ve never been a great fan of short stories. It’s not that there’s a lack of engaging short stories in the world, but the ones I enjoy always feel like they end too soon. I’ve always been much more attracted to books with a high page count because if I like what’s going on enough to spend my time reading about it, I want to really dive in and see everything.
Horror stories have always been a bit of an exception to my reservations about short fiction. Generally speaking characterization is less important in horror. That’s not to say horror stories can get by with bad or no characterization. The reader does need to know and sympathize with the characters enough to worry about all the horrible things that might happen to them, but generally the terrible things are as important as the characters themselves. It’s the nature of the genre.
For that reason, Stephen King has always been an exception to my disinterest in short fiction. If you browse him at a bookstore it can seem like King is prone to writing tomes large enough to produce concussion induced amnesia if you drop them on someone, but a lot of his early work was apparently short fiction that he could sell to magazines. Skeleton Crew, his collection of short stories, was a prized possession of my teen years and has some of the creepiest stuff I’ve ever read. He also often uses the novella form as a compromise between the short story and the long form novel. I’m a little vague about what exactly constitutes a novella, but the medium length fiction is often a good way to include detail and more development without inducing reader fatigue before the end of the story.
Just recently I’ve started becoming more open minded about short fiction. I can’t decide if it’s just an artifact of being older, or more likely a result of less free time and more competition for my entertainment. There has also been a little outside influence in the form of my new Kindle. The Kindle store seems to be making great use of its electronic publishing medium to sell short and medium fiction. I don’t know much about the publishing industry, but I imagine it isn’t very cost effective to physically manufacture short books, which is why shorter fiction has generally been found in magazines or bundled with similar work in anthologies. Electronic publishing should remove a lot of those barriers and the Kindle store has quite a bit of short and novella length fiction available for purchase individually.
I’m going to be reviewing several pieces of short and medium fiction over the next few days. I was browsing the Kindle store looking for 11/22/63, Mr. King’s newest novel, when I ran across a couple of his recently published novellas. Same goes for another, less commercially successful author I enjoy reading.
I’m always on the look-out for new things to read, and I’m in a bit of a horror fiction phase right now. Please feel free to make recommendations in the comments. Short stories or novels are welcome.