Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Another Post About Short Fiction

I write two different things for public consumption: Papa Pat Rambles, which you are reading right now, in which I wander all over the place; and my book reviews on Amazon, in which I write about, well, books.

Evidently, I sometimes get them confused.  It's not that big of a deal on the occasions in which I include book reviews in my blog, because those are extended and expanded; sort of a Director's Cut of my book reviews.  However, I have been told that when I get particularly chatty on Amazon, it interferes with the book review.

I think that's what happened with a book review I did recently for "Cold Hands And Other Stories," by the polymath Jeff Duntemann.  Here's my evidence for that statement: after nearly a month, the review has not received a single " helpful" vote, and I almost always get at least one vote (that single helpful vote might come from the respective authors, but I have no way of knowing that). A couple of times a month, maybe as much as once a week, I check my ratings out, and part of that is vanity.  When I started reviewing, my reviewer rank was  14,360,604; I like moving up just for its own sake.  However, I also have altruistic motives.  I stated my motivations for writing reviews from the very beginning, and that was to promote the works of good writers, and to provide them with meaningful feedback.  That hasn't changed.  And since Amazon uses the rating of the reviewer to assign a book's ranking, I am a more effective promoter of books if I have a higher reviewer writing.

(By the way, I discovered another benefit to my reviews about a year or so ago: it actually makes a wonderful outlet for my need to write.  I couldn't tell you if there is a novel, or even a decent collection of short stories inside me, but there is a powerful urge to write.)

Therefore, it was with some chagrin that I discovered my review was a pitiful little orphan, drifting away in the cold vacuum of Things Ignored.  And, with some reflection, I believe I know why: it's because the first half of the review isn't a review.  Instead, it's a reflection on why I like short fiction.  Now, I still believe that what I wrote is worth writing, but I wrote it in the wrong forum.  And that's what I'm trying to correct now.

Within the limitations of speech recognition software, I'm gonna try to combine some new material with some of the material in the review, and come up with two separate documents.  This document is going to talk about why I like short fiction, and the other document will be the condensed review over on Amazon.

And if there is any bizarre if wording to be found, it's because my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grand mother of Woodstock, Georgia, is in the kitchen rattling pots and provoking the children to go to bed.  Yes, I did say provoking, and upon reflection I believe that's the best term.

I was extremely fortunate to be born into a home where parents and stepparents alike were readers.  There were always books around the house, and with a sister who was four years older, there were lots of age appropriate books as well.  That's a blessing I was glad to transfer to my children, and it's no accident that Vanessa is a bit of a bookworm herself.

A love of short stories lasted long enough to raise me up to the point where I could read longer works. This is no easy task, because all throughout school I was dragging around the chains of undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. In the late fifties and up into the early seventies, no support was available in school, because it wasn't recognized as a legitimate issue.

I always loved reading; but was turned off by heavy thick books. I just didn't think that I would be able to handle reading novels. Now, if all there had been to read was novels, maybe I would have been able to persevere. But fortunately for me, in the late fifties and early sixties there were a lot of excellent short stories that were available. I grabbed every collection I could find, turned to the table of contents, and did the math, subtracting the beginning page of one story from the beginning page of the next story, because the first story I wanted to read was the shortest story. Can you tell a story, complete on one page? Those were the ones that I loved the best. The Third Galaxy Reader, which one of my parents purchased, will forever hold a place high on my list of memorable informative books. I keep meaning to grab up one of the hard copies that are available on Ebay, but just haven't gotten around to it yet.

I LOVE reading a short fiction.  However, REVIEWING short fiction is HARD.  Some of the best short fiction turned upon a gimmick or a pun.  You just can't say anything about the story without giving it away; in fact, I have heard authors of short fiction complain about changes in the title imposed by editors, because the new title gave away the twist.  Even if the kernel of the story isn't a gimmick, you can blow away the visceral impact of a short story by an ill considered sentence: "a soldier in a post-apocalyptic world discovers he has been guarding books."  Last September, I had to review a short story and the only thing I could write was "gay zombie bluegrass band," and even that might have been too much.

Even with the drawbacks to the reviewer, I'm hoping indie publishing results in a proliferation of short fiction.  I know that there are some constraints due to amazon's pricing guidelines, but why can't 10 of us, or 20 of us, come up with the First Annual Indy Short Story Writers Collection?

Awaiting your replies!

1 comment:

  1. I like short fiction because, when work and life are pressing too hard, I can't sustain novel reading. But a good short story still fits the bill. Unfortunately, I often wind up wishing they were longer if I like them.