Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Short Shrift

The short story gets short shrift nowadays which is a pity, since it is such a wonderful medium to encourage the new author. Not that it’s an easy one – the short story is a demanding exercise by any standards.

The problem is that the outlet for such material has been withering away over the years and the number of magazines devoted to the short story has declined alarmingly. Those that still exist are often of the more esoteric variety and not terribly appealing to a wide readership.

So many distinguished authors cut their literary teeth on the medium that its overall value to the book world can never be underestimated. Today it seems to have lost its appeal for embryo authors, perhaps because the rewards are, by the standards of the blockbuster novel that gleams in every writer’s eye, pretty skimpy. But if an outlet can be found, what better way to get your talent before the public.

Charles Dickens presented much of his work in serial form in such magazines, one of which he rather conveniently edited himself, but perhaps the shining example was that of The Strand Magazine that ran from mid-Victorian days up until 1950.

Its distinguished list of contributors included W.W. Jacobs, P.G. Wodehouse, H.G. Wells, and W. Somerset Maugham along with Arthur Conan Doyle, whose introduction of the Sherlock Holmes stories set a precedent for the detective mystery. Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, E.C. Bentley, Edgar Wallace, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Georges Simenon all followed in his footsteps, and the magazine was sufficiently highly regarded by Queen Victoria herself that, that rather uptight monarch, was gracious enough to contribute some material.

Thus I was pleased to see that The Strand has been resuscitated under new management, and is encouraging the short story writer to contribute. More power to them for perhaps from there will come a new W.W. Jacobs, P.G. Wodehouse, H.G. Wells, or W. Somerset Maugham and perhaps that break which all new authors seek.

Their website is at


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8:26 pm  

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