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Shorts Fan

Sometimes, longer isn't better.

I love short stories.

I’m always impressed by how writers can pull off a complete tale in 2000 – 6000 words. Story arc. Character arc. Beginning, middle, and end.

It’s not easy.

The common wisdom (as it was told to me) is for writers to start off with shorts because they teach one how to write with economy. Pare the story to the bone. Later, one graduates to novels. Take a short one has written and add layers of flesh until it becomes a full-fledged book.

Ever the contrarian, I did not start out that way. Not a regret. It just didn’t happen.

Shorts first. Then novels.

What appeals most to me about shorts is that I’m not tempted to stay up all night and read from cover to cover, like I am with novels. There’s another delicious treat just a page away, a whole new world to discover. I can put the book down and it will be waiting for me when I return. This is especially important if I have to get up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Believe me, I am not a morning person even under the best of circumstances.

Morning people tempt me to give in to murderous urges.

But I digress.

IMHO, there are authors whose shorts and novellas are consistently better than their novels. Stephen King is one, especially his novellas. The Mist. Langoliers. Four Past Midnight. Skeleton Crew. Langoliers, I had to get on a flight the next day and I gotta tell ya, I damned near canceled. The stories are lean, nothing extraneous. It’s not so much the place that counts, but the emotional impact of the characters’ actions in that place.

Poe is da MAN.

Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, writing during science fiction’s Silver Age. Bradbury’s shorts are quietly disturbing. Reading them, you know something’s amiss but you’re not quite sure what. And then the story’s end punches you in the face. My favorite Heinlein collection is The Past Through Tomorrow. Big, thick book. And it isn’t until you get to the last story that you realize that all the stories, from the beginning to the end, are connected. Tied by a subtle thread, so subtle you never saw it coming. Funny, I think Asimov’s best shorts were his mysteries. Ben Snow. Black Widowers Club.

But for me, there is only one author who can claim to be The Master. Edgar Allan Poe. Yeah, I’m biased because he’s my love. Talk about lean. Like he’s painted a masterpiece with only a few, deft strokes. The Cask of Amontillado. The Pit and the Pendulum. Although I think the guy should have been halved, but that’s just me. And my hands-down favorite, Masque of Red Death. Bye-bye, Prince Prospero! Even Poe’s poems move me, which is odd because I’m not a poetry fan. At all.

I need a Poe fix.

Like now.

See ya!


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