I have read a lot of material on this subject, and I believe the short story is far from dead. That said however, I do believe that it is undergoing a process of ongoing metamorphosis. Short stories, are to me the very soul of storytelling, before novels and books, people told stories over camp fires, over dinner, or to their companions while out drinking in taverns and public houses. Thespians of old, regaled audiences with stories and plays in the streets of the towns and cities alike. This to me is the short story in its true original form, and it is still done today.
In order to explain the metamorphosis that it is undergoing, I must first tell you a little about the history of the written short story. They were at their peak in the 16th to early 17th century, they were an amusing distraction to the people of the middle ages, who found the need to escape life, and were starved for entertainment. But this all began to change with the emergence of the Novel towards the end of the 17th Century, this and the fact that more variations or imitations of older, well-worn material were produced, thus limiting the market with re-told classics, with little new material, and imagination. This along with and a growing fascination with drama, song, poetry, and the steadily on the rise as more people becoming literate, the short story was temporarily left behind, as novels, plays and poetry took root in culture. This decline I feel was most evident in England, as very popular publications such as the popular jestbooks, by the Palace of Pleasure (an anthology of stories, mostly European) which where astoundingly popular, for century’s suddenly falling from grace.
This trend unfortunately continued until short stories made its come back during the 1900’s and remerged as the modern short story. Which became prolific in magazines, anthologies, and journals. All three of which are still around today. The decline in more modern times, I believe is linked to the decline in market magazine readership, which started around the 1960’s as people began to change their medium of entertainment, from radio, books, newspapers, and magazines to television. But the decline recently accelerated in the 1990’s with the explosive growth of online and mobile real-time access to news and information.
Aha! I hear you all cry, but you said that the short story was changing, but here you have said that is declining, so which is it? You see, short stories, have made the jump from, word of mouth to paper form, and now onto a digital platform.
“a story is a thing that can be read in one sitting”
–Edgar Allan Poe
Like music, the short story is perfectly suited for those people on the go, and with the large varieties of mobile platforms from the kindle, to tablets or even audio books, more and more people are listening and reading to short stories as the commute to work, or travel in general, the same can also be said for novels, novelettes and novella’s. The change to an online medium has also made it possible for small independent publishers and self published authors, to have a chance to produce anthologies of short stories, as they where previously unable to due to extra production costs and fee’s. Technology has inadvertently provided a new way to connect story tellers and fans, and in a roundabout way helped more short stories & Literature get to the masses.
so cant the short story survive?.. I think that’s a yes!.
Until next time, read more books!...