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[personal profile] realthog

. . . there was a writer called Fredric Brown. He wrote a bunch of significant hardboiled novels, of which The Screaming Mimi is the one that, for obvious reasons, comes to my mind first. He also wrote lots of f/sf stories, including many that fell into the category of short-short -- that is, he told a complete story in just a few hundred words. Probably the best known of these, "The End", is only about (from memory) fifty words long -- it may be even shorter.

These weren't flash fiction, at least according to my (admittedly fuzzy) understanding of that term. They were full-scale stories, just very short. Roger Robinson's two anthologies of drabbles contain a few extraordinarily short stories -- just 100 words -- that fall into the same category. (The John Brunner one is a classic.)

The point I'm meandering toward is that Fredric Brown was able to publish these extremely short stories. Magazines and, I assume, anthologies were prepared to publish short-shorts; he wasn't the only one doing this (remember Damon Knight's "To Serve Man"?). Yet, had Brown been writing them today, he might have had some trouble finding a market. Me, I've more than once suffered sight-unseen rejections because stories were less than -- gasp! -- 1000 words long. I'm sure that far better authors than I am must have come up against this same arbitrary barrier.

I mention this because I've been looking at a story I wrote a year or so ago, when I did a bit of quick moonlighting from the film noir encyclopedia: I had time to write the story, but not to fart around trying to find places that would let me submit it -- because, you see, it weighs in at a triumphant 780 words or so. Today, I read it and still liked it really quite a lot. I immediately went to check the guidelines of a mag I thought would be ideal for it. Forget about an under-a-thousand-words restriction: they look at nothing under two thousand words.

So what's happening to all the modern equivalents of those Fred Brown stories we love so much? Do they just get stuck up on their authors' blogs, and therefore become entirely lost by tomorrow? Quite a few years back, I recall, Stefan Dziemanowicz tried to do something about this with his "365" anthologies for Barnes & Noble Books; I think those are still in print. They're amazing bathroom books.

Today I was looking (in completely different context) at the guidelines for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. They specifically mention short-shorts as a category in which submissions are welcomed. Is f/sf missing something?

Look, Mr Shakespeare, 14-liners are out. Go back to Liverpool.



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