Armchair BEA 2014: Novellas and Short Stories

I never really liked reading short stories because they felt… too short. Often the vignette was just enough to whet my appetite and I was disappointed that they ended so soon. Usually, I only read novellas or short stories that were spin-offs of series I loved. A good example of this is The Spiritwalker Trilogy. Kate Elliott posted short stories and extras that take place in the same world but have no place in the books. Most of them can stand-alone but they’re so much fun in context.

By contrast, I struggle with short story collections. I read and loved Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older but my major criticism was that it felt disjointed. I was trying to read it like a novel and it simply wasn’t working. My bad.  Long Hidden (edited by Older and Rose Fox) was easier for me to read because the distinct styles and stories forced me to consider each story individually. Even so, I kept commenting on how certain stories would work well in different forms (picture books, stage play, novel). The notable exception was “Each Part Without Mercy” by Meg Jayanth. That story was everything I love in an epic fantasy but bite-sized. Loved it.

I feel short stories and anthologies are an acquired taste. I am trying to learn to read and evaluate them on their own merits rather than comparing them to other forms of writing. I know there is great short fiction out there and I don’t want to miss out!

The next anthology I plan to read is We See a Different Frontier.

Do any of you have trouble reading short stories? Why or why not? Leave a comment below!

Also, there’s still time for Canadians to enter my Long Hidden giveaway!

16 comments for “Armchair BEA 2014: Novellas and Short Stories

  1. June 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    “I never really liked reading short stories because they felt… too short” *high five* We’re the same! Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, though. Maybe we ARE missing out on some great (short) stories…

  2. May 29, 2014 at 12:42 am

    I hear ya re: short stories set in existing worlds. They can sometimes be easier to digest because the background has already been established–those details aren’t irrelevant, but instead developed elsewhere (in the main books). Stand alone shorts can be harder to access because they are (in my solitary opinion) more about concept than exposition.

    For my part, I love a good short story that can make a reader not really care out the origins or ending for a character or situation….one that grabs quickly truly keeps a reader in the (relatively brief) moment.

  3. May 28, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    So glad you are willing to give short fiction a fair shake! :) It’s not so much the plot as the emotion you’re left with. It’s like a kiss from a stranger!
    I’m going to have to read ‘Each Part Without Mercy’ you made it sound amazing :)

    • Léonicka
      May 29, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Ooooh “kiss from a stranger” is a fantastic way to describe it!

  4. May 28, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    I enjoy short stories. I usually only read them if they are a part of a series I’ve read though.

  5. May 28, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I struggle a lot too with short stories. I find that I enjoy them a lot if I read them individually, but as part of a collection, I never enjoy them much.

  6. May 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you again for being so kind about Each Part – ah, it makes me want to write a novel!

    Can I add my voice to the clamour around We See A Different Frontier? I think you’d adore it. So many of the stories percolated into my consciousness; it was a real revelation in terms of what it was *possible to write about*. I also discovered Benjanun Sriduangkaew through her story in it – and gosh. Worth the price of admission alone.

  7. May 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    I enjoy reading short stories but they’re so difficult to write! I’m struggling with one now that keeps trying to become novel-length.

  8. May 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I used to feel the same way about short stories as compared to novels — short stories in SFF have to do all the world-building in a much shorter space and I couldn’t get into them the same way as I immersed myself in series of novels.

    But as I read more good, sharp short stories I started to change my mind — for me, it was work by Asimov, Garcia-Marquez, and Joyce. I also started reading more folk tales! A lot of meaning can be explored in a short work. However, I still don’t sit down and read a bunch of short stories the way I might do for 50 pages of a novel. I have to take a break between each work & think about it.

    I suspect, too, that the collection the stories are in is a factor. If it has a unifying theme, so you meditate on how each story handles the concepts or parameters differently, makes it a much stronger collective reading experience, IMHO.

    We See a Different Frontier is on my reading list as well!

  9. May 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Good point about short stories not working when you try to read them as a novel. I might have to adjust my readerly expectations to enjoy them more.

  10. May 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve read the short stories of Alice Munro, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe…er, and there are more but do ya think I can think of any? Oh yes…Ray Bradbury. Love all of their work. I think a short story, well done, will stand alone and should have the complete beginning, middle and end with character arc and plot that you experience in a novel. It should leave you feeling satisfied and done and ready to move on to the next one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…it really could just be that the form is not to your liking, like some of us like fantasy, some not, some like contemporary fiction, some like magic realism…some not. Great discussion!

  11. May 28, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I usually don’t read short stories unless they are part of a series I’ve read, so you are far more adventurous than me!

    • Léonicka
      May 28, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Ha! To be fair I’ve only read short stories written or recommended by writers I trust and respect. So I’m not THAT adventurous yet.

  12. May 28, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I love reading short stories. I agree, it is like beer. It is an acquired taste. But when you read short stories, you have to approach it like poetry. It is powerful within its own right. I am a part of a 12×12 Short Story group. We write short stories and submit them to the group monthly. The group is made up mostly of writers of Indian descent. (Indians from India.) These ladies are phenomenal writers. Before this group, I seldom read short stories. Now, I find myself scouring bookshelves, Amazon, and other retailers looking for anthologies to whet my appetite. I get what you are saying. But when you do not have a week or so to indulge and commit to one book, short stories serve the purpose.

    • Léonicka
      May 28, 2014 at 11:23 am

      This is such a great point. I appreciate that I can finish a short story in one sitting!

      • May 28, 2014 at 11:43 am

        Exactly. That is the purpose. I am pulling out a few written by the late DR. MAYA ANGELOU in honor of her writing life.

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