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My preferred genres is fantasy, and nowhere is the difference between short stories and the longer form more apparent.  For some time now fantasy has been dominated by the 1000 page multi-volume epics that can take decades to complete.  (The Wheel of Time, for example stands at 13 volumes, with a 14th to come, the shortest at 250K words, and the first published in 1990.  21 years later and it still hasn’t been concluded.)

These mega-epics weren’t always the way – during the days of the pulp magazines short fantasy stories were all the rage. Authors like Robert E Howard (creator of Conan of Cimmeria, Krull the Conqueror and others), Fritz Leiber (creator of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser) and others wrote short stories, novelettes and novellas. C.S.Lewis’ Narnia series are actually what would be called novellas, and the grand-daddy of the epic novels – The Lord of the Rings – is only as long as single volumes of current day series.

I have nothing against those series – I’ve read them (or at least most of what has been published so far) and have always wanted to write one myself. However my reading tastes had changed as I’ve had less time to devote to reading and I have gravitated more and more toward the short stories, and have delved back to older authors like Howard and Leiber.

The style of writing long and short stories is vastly different – short stories are purer. That doesn’t make them better – just that they have to be distilled down compared to novels. Those 1000 page epic need a lot of padding, casts of thousand, pages of purple prose descriptions and dozens of plots to reach that length. Short stories only have the one, simple plot for the most, and don’t have the space for long, flowery description – they have to do more with less.

It is for such reasons that I currently prefer short stories, both reading and writing them.

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