Novels novels novels. It's all about novels, isn't it? Somehow or other, we've been trained to expect our stories (the written ones, anyway) in big 50,000- to 200,000-word chunks. (We're currently being trained to expect our non-written stories to be a bladder-punishing 150 minutes long, half of which is devoted to CGI cartoons fighting other CGI cartoons. But that's a blog post for another day.)
Let's pause for a moment, though, and resist our conditioning and appreciate the lowly short story. Where would we be without it?
Surprise! That's not a rhetorical question! Cue ominous Movie Trailer Announcer Guy voice:
In a world where the mystery genre doesn't exist.... [Camera pans over the smoking ruins of a major city, its dazed occupants hunting through the rubble for something to read other than singed copies of 50 Shades of Grey.]
Edgar Allan Poe single-handedly invented the mystery in the short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." (He invented the locked-room mystery with a laughably ludicrous resolution, too, but that's not why there's an award named after him.) Nearly half a century later, Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the fledgling genre's greatest ambassador, Sherlock Holmes, who became a worldwide phenomenon via magazine short stories. And then (because -- pay attention, kids -- you always need to back up your assertions with at least three illustrative examples) there were, like, lots more magazine mystery stories that were, you know, super-popular and stuff. (Try to save your weakest point for last.)
I bring all this up because I've neglected the short story myself the last few years, but now I'm making amends. After a holy-guacamole-has-it-really-been-that-long? five-year absence, I've returned to the launchpad of my fiction-writing career: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. You can read a preview of my story here. I like it, partially for the reason some of you might not: It's very different from my novels. In my mind, short stories are the place to experiment and explore. But novels? You want me to explore for 100,000 freakin' words? What if I get lost? It's cold out there! Nah. A novel you write with a map, a compass, a GPS and a tracking collar like the kind Jim Fowler used to wrestle onto thrashing alligators. (At least that's how I try to write novels.)
So I hope you enjoy my latest little ramble through the fiction wilds. I think it took me to an interesting place. If you disagree, no sweat. Hopefully, the next outing will be more to your liking. Now that I've got my hiking boots back on, I don't plan to take them off again....
UPDATE: Exciting news, gang! The last paragraph of this blog post has been nominated for the prestigious Richard S. Prather Strained Metaphor Award. Wish me luck!