Supporting the Short Stories…

Most of my readers, I suspect, associate my name with books that are, shall we say, substantial in length and scope. Some may know that I occasionally have written shorter works, and a few may recall that a long, long time ago, for the first ten years of my writing career, I only wrote short fiction.

At present, I’ve written and had published forty-five short works of fiction, mostly short stories, but including two novellas, and that total doesn’t include the novella I later expanded into a novel. By comparison I just turned in the manuscript for my seventy-fourth novel [Endgames, the sequel to Assassin’s Price].

Back in 1972, when I’d just sold my very first story to ANALOG, I had no idea of ever writing a novel, and I might never have written one if I hadn’t essentially been forced to by Ben Bova, the then-editor of ANALOG, who rejected another story of mine (one of many that were rejected) with the note that he wouldn’t consider another story of mine until I wrote a novel, because he felt I was primarily a novelist, rather than a short story writer. That was an incredibly perceptive observation because he’d never seen any work of mine in excess of a few thousand words.

I took his advice, and as the cliché goes, the rest was history… and lots of novels. But I never lost the love of short fiction, and occasionally wrote a story here and there, usually, but not always, by request for anthologies. But stories, even brilliant outstanding stories, cannot sustain a writer in this day and age, as they could in the 1920s and even into the 1940s. I did a rough calculation, and all of my earnings from short fiction, and that includes the two book collections, total roughly half of what I now receive for a single fantasy novel.

This is an example of why, so far as I’ve been able to determine, there are essentially no full-time F&SF short-story writers making a living wage. So I was very fortunate to have gotten Ben’s advice and just smart enough to have taken it… and equally fortunate that readers have liked the books I’ve written.

All of which brings me to another point. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve agreed to write a story for a kickstarter anthology from the small press Zombies Need Brains, entitled The Razor’s Edge. The neat thing about the anthology is that half the stories are written by name authors and the other half are selected from open submissions. I’ve finished the first draft of the story, and that’s good because it takes me much longer to write short fiction, but it won’t see print unless the kickstarter is funded, which it isn’t at present. Also, you won’t see new stories from other favorite authors, and even more important, you won’t be giving a chance to new authors.

Yes, I’ll be paid, but it’s not much, and I wrote the story for the story, not for the very modest sum – and that’s definitely true for pretty much all the name authors. So… if The Razor’s Edge is something you might like, or if you want to give some up and coming authors a chance, pledge something at the kickstarter [ The Razor’s Edge Kickstarter ]. I’ll appreciate your efforts, and so will a few new authors, some of whom might graduate to writing big thick books that you might also like in the future.

4 thoughts on “Supporting the Short Stories…”

  1. Edmond E. Chasteen says:

    I would strongly suggest you request your publishers list books in print by chronology of story line, vs pub date, updated by the most recent of that series. Look at the confusion of “Recluce.” I have enjoyed re-reading them many times, and even I have trouble tracking (all right, so I am 85.” I do admire the way you seamlessly plug in each new addition. It forces me to read them again just to stay in sequence. (That’s a good excuse, anyway.)

    1. I understand your reasoning, but practically, given my idiosyncrasies in writing, that won’t work. Because I don’t write the parts of a series in strict chronological order, every time I write a new book, the chronological order changes, or gets expanded. That means that the “new” book often wouldn’t be listed at the end, and that would confuse as many readers as the present system does. It also would mean that every book would have a different chronology. This isn’t the publisher’s fault; it’s mine, but I don’t think in a straight line in terms of the events in a series, and if I tried to work that way, there would be far fewer books for my readers.

  2. JakeB says:

    I’ve contributed to the kickstarter. Hoping it gets fully funded!

    1. Thank you. I just got an email saying that it was fully funded.

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