Books used to once be a luxury item – only for the rich and powerful – as each one had to be written out by hand. Then came the glorious invention of the printing press, which opened up books to the masses. Short Stories were around the whole time – and indeed earlier, back to oral-telling traditions.
Their height lay in the time period between the 1890s and 1950s – the pulp magazines. They worked on the principle of being cheap – cheap pulp paper (hence the name), cheap ink and cheap authors. Best remembered for lurid stories and sensational cover art, they proved a staggering success. There were dozens of them, often specialising on a specific genre. Their peak was during the 1920s and 30s, when some titles were selling up to a million copies and issue. They were a cheap method of escapism from the difficulties of the time.
The pulp format sadly declined after that, as competition from other sources began to eat away at it – radio, comics, movies, television and the paperback novel. The collapse of the pulp industry had a terrible effect on short stories – they were its single largest outlet for them. Writers who had supported themselves writing shorts had to look elsewhere, such as novels.
That was the past though. The future is now.
Economic rationalism shunted short stories aside in favour of longer and longer novels – until a new player emerged on the scene. Ebooks. Once more short stories can be economically viable. Once more the pulps are viable.
A monthly collection of short stories would be an ideal way to share the joys of short stories again, to introduce new writers and of course to entertain people who live busy lifestyles – and it could be done cheaply and sold cheaply, just like with the old pulps. I have heard that there are a few already out there, which I do plan to check out at some stage.
Of course what I would like to do most is start my own – but that runs into problems. My skills are in writing – things like art, book-keeping, marketing and the like are way outside my fields of expertise. One can dream though…
Keep an eye out though; we could see the pulps and short stories make a big come back – and everyone would be the better for it.