Today's In Defence of Short Stories comes courtesy of Fox Hill, who's recently had her first short story "Underside Walk" published in The Edge of Propinquity. She resides in Potomac, Maryland where she is studying to be a librarian. She writes more than she would care to admit, and shares a room with a rather busy cat. She's currently working on her first novel [Boo! - Ed.], and a variety of short fiction [Yay! - Ed.]
Catch up with Fox at her Goodreads Profile page - I have, and can confirm that Fox seems to have both a great taste in books, and the ability to read more books a week than almost anyone I know.
Take it away Fox...
Short stories are a dying art, or at least a dying market. The reasons for this fact are many: the magazines that used to carry them are largely going out of print, the ease of self-publishing is such that many are going towards the novel, short stories often don't hold the same allure as anything long-form as they are less likely to get the big (or even small) screen treatment. The cruel irony of it is that many writers now believe that short stories should only be written as publishing them makes it easier to sell a novel. So why, then, why try to defend short stories? The simple answer: because they're well worth defending
Not every plot needs a novel, or even a novella. Like the short film, or the television miniseries, short stories tell the narrative in a succinct manner that allows for the maximum impact to the gleaned from it. The joke is just short enough to not become tired, the shock is revealed the moment before you would have discovered it for yourself. Extension would ruin the story, and rob it of the precise aspect that gives it strength.
Short stories, in some ways, are far more demanding than anything long form. They require one to second-guess, and examine the plot; what can be cut, should, and whatever remains better be clear. A good short story remains in the mind, and makes one wonder about the circumstances surrounding it. Often, upon finishing a novel, the world closes off in several ways; the story is done. For short stories, however, the world may remain open, for all that was afforded was a simple glimpse of a few possibilities.
Long form projects often explore multiple themes; short stories, by their very nature, can never explore so great a number. The strength of short stories is the depth to which they can convey a smaller number of themes. The brevity, and the hyper-focus that short stories can employ to make their points are both tools lost upon anything long form. A good novel can feel like a revelation, a truly good short story can feel like a punch in the gut.
At the end of the day, it's to be remembered that short stories and long form works are two very different entities. When one is popular, the other tends to be out of style; these fads come and go, and are more a commentary on the culture in which the works are produced than the worth of the mediums themselves.