The Future is Japanese is coming soon! This week, in fact. And to celebrate, we’re having our traditional giveaway essay contest! The Future is Japanese is an anthology of short stories, and the occasional novelette, so that will be our theme.
Take me home!
Once upon a time in the United States, the short story was a major part of literary culture. There were dozens of dozens of pulp fiction magazines covering every popular genre, including the ones we still read—science fiction, mystery, romance, western—and those that have faded into either the mainstream, or security, such as pulp magazines purely about boxing, or airplanes, or mad scientists and criminals pretending to be supernatural menaces. And of course, there were important slicks such as The Saturday Evening Post, which would publish F. Scott Fitzgerald one issue and Ray Bradbury the next. The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, and all the other major magazines had fiction features. (In Japan, incidentally, many book publishers also publish magazines, and the short story is still commercially significant, and an important way to “break in” to the field directly.)
Then it all went away. There are a tiny handful of genre fiction magazines remaining today, and most of they paid the same rate they did fifty years ago. It’s not that the magazines didn’t keep pace with inflation, it’s that they kept pace with both inflation and their own plummeting circulation numbers. Most general-interest magazines got rid of their fiction sections (and honestly, most of their substantive reporting) decades ago. Now it’s all top-ten lists, celebrity photos, and weight-loss tips. Even Atlantic Monthly spun its fiction off into an annual special issue, keeping it segregated from the rest of their offerings.
Recently, there’s been a bit of a comeback. Online publishing made fiction magazines easier to start, if not maintain, and there’s been a recent resurgence in interest of the fiction anthology—especially themed anthologies the size of phonebooks. And increasing numbers of people are self-publishing short fiction for e-readers, as “samples” for novels, or just for kicks. But what will happen to the short story in the future? Do you even read short fiction? (If you’re entering this contest, I hope you do!) Write me a little essay about the short story and where it’s headed, and you can be one of four winners of The Future Is Japanese. Be sure to leave your essay as a comment on this blog entry, and check back often to view the conversation. On Friday May 18th, and noon Pacific, we’ll announce the winners! So play today!