Episode 215: On Short Stories, the Possibility of Ruts and other matters

Suddenly our intrepid heroes, still mostly living on vacation time,realised that they needed to put out another episode of the podcast. Plans for a leisurely hiatus were abandoned and, somewhat the worse for New Year wear, they sat down in front of their microphones, and began to ramble. 

This week’s discussion starts with a look at some end of the year comments made by Locus Online short fiction reviewer Lois Tilton, which had Jonathan nodding his head in some agreement, and wandered on to his vague thoughts on genre cohesiveness (or something) and ended with thought from Gary on who will we remember this year from the Class of 1915 (or something).
All in all, a typical Coode Street. Next week, finally as promised, Guy Gavriel Kay! As always we hope you enjoy the episode, and will see you next week!

2 thoughts on “Episode 215: On Short Stories, the Possibility of Ruts and other matters”

  1. I think the process of reading a huge volume of stories in a short period of time as done by you, Paul Kincaid before his “widening gyre” 2012 review of some best ofs and Lois experience can overempasise the similarities of stories in ideas, construction and excecution. To my mind there are lots of interesting and exciting developments although some of these will take a while to filter through the genre:-

    1) Non-genre sources have welcomed and appropriated genre ideas and sensibilities – so SFnal work can be seen in major literary magazines and other non-SF sources. Jeff Vandermeer mentioned “The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq” and it has not got much genre coverage but is an example of a work having overt genre elements and being accepted by the mainstream. Also some of these venues such as New Yorker pay amounts that can reward writers for investing more time and energy in a story than current SF markets mainly do.

    2) Crowdfunding (Patreon and Kickstarter models) – Although still developing they have enabled writers to get their own collections published and enabled a much richer range of anthologies to be published than would otherwise been the case. I am not sure whether or not Neil Clarke would have got a publisher to back Upgraded without compromises and I am confident Fearful Symmetries wouldnt have come about without crowd funding and each produced some excellent fiction. The opportunities with Crowdfunding are still being developed but there is lots of potential. I like the idea of a major SF editior (you perhaps) doing something akin to Dangerous Visions wherein the best writers were contacted and challenged to produce not their most “dangerous” work but work of the highest quality that could be seen as game changing or rut breaking stories that move the genre forward and paying top dollar (rather than the “market rate” which often produces solid if unremarkable stories) for the results (which could be funded through crowdfunding with the volume of stories directly relating to the amount of demand). I cannot see a publisher taking the risks to produce a game changing anthology but there is no reason why a crowdfunding campaign couldnt counteract these risks.

    3) Cross fertilisation of ideas from different countries can be slow just as it can be slow for stories in non genre or narrow genre venues can take a while to filter through- We are just starting to see translated SF appearing regularly in major SF venues and it takes a while for these to be read and responded to. Particularly as it might be a while before the gems get discovered (in years bests etc) and read by the widest of writerly audiences.

  2. I’m completely baffled by Lois Tilton’s assessment that Asimov’s “used to vie with F&SF for the honor of premier source of short fiction in the genre”.

    Let me illustrate with a concrete example: From 1981 to 2010 (30 years), 90 Hugo Awards were given in the three short fiction categories. I’m referring to the award years, not the publication years.

    Stories from Asimov’s won 51 of those 90 awards – that’s better than 56%. Fifty-six percent of the premier SF award to stories from one single magazine. There were 9 winners from F&SF in the same period, by the way.

    That’s arguably an even greater dominance than Campbell’s Astounding of the 1940s; certainly it was sustained for much longer.

    Now, you can play the old “Awards aren’t everything” card, but come on – that’s hugely significant.

    So who rivalled whom?

    It’s all over now, of course, for reasons I think Jonathan described quite accurately. Last year, for instance, there wasn’t even a single Hugo nominee from Asimov’s.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love both those print mags and subscibe to both.

    But really, Asimov’s was pretty clearly the leading source of short SF for almost the entire period since the mid-80s. It was more than just a rival or a contender.

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