People don’t tend to read short stories anymore, perhaps because literary short stories are so mind-numbly dull. Yeah, I said it: mind-numbly dull! They wander with little plot and they’re excruciatingly introspective. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether they’ve ended or the printers have misplaced a page.
While science fiction and mystery shorts are tightly plotted and dynamic, their magazine and anthology sales have also slumped in the last decade. My theory is that young adults are not venturing into short stories, not just because of video games, but because they remember all the yawn-inducing shorts they were forced to read in high school. The whole short story format has been tainted by literature.
Now I don’t deny that Alice Munro’s Floating Bridge is a master work, clearly deeper in thought and displaying greater literary skill than anything I’ve ever written.
But here’s a challenge: after a long day of work put two readers on opposite ends of a couch. Give one of the them Floating Bridge to read and give the other my short coming-of-age story Railroaded. Now let’s sit back and see who squirms in their seat, fighting to keep awake and read to the end to prove they’re literate. Who reads with interest? Now I’m not talking about two people who’ve worked a cushy eight hours and had a nice dinner. I’m talking about film industry hours–people who’ve just worked 16 grueling hours in harsh weather. That’s the real test.
In fact, maybe I’ll carry out this experiment. I’ve got a lot of friends still in the film industry. Hey Alice! You up for it?