I enjoy reading short fiction. There, I said it.
Saying something so innocuous shouldn't be a big deal, but I've heard sentiments that make it sound like a crime. Reasons I've heard for avoiding short fiction—a term I mean to include short stories, novelettes and novellas—range from "too short to contain anything of substance" to "they always leave me wanting more." The first notion is just false; the second excuse I would cite as a great reason to read short fiction in the first place.
Read last week's exclusive SF Signal at Kirkus on giving SF a try.
I would love to know whether any readers out there read short fiction, but first, here are some reasons why you might want to read short fiction...
Read More from Your Favorite Author
Some readers like to focus on an individual author, especially when they find an author they like. But what do you do when you've read all the novels your favorite author has written? Simple. Turn toward their short fiction.
In the speculative fiction field, authors often write short fiction works that take place in universes that they've already established, giving fans a chance to revisit their favorite world. Even if they don't return to that familiar playground, chances are that whatever you find in appealing in their longer fiction will also fuel their short fiction...and you'll find new worlds to explore.
Find New Writers You Might Like
Has this happened to you? You're looking for something new to read, browse the bookstore shelves and see that one of your favorite authors has a new book out. So you buy it and read it. Then the same thing happens again. And again.
While there's nothing wrong with reading books by your favorite authors (see previous reason), an argument can be made that continually reading books from that same group of writers will prevent you from being exposed to the full spectrum of all that literature has to offer. The same valid argument exists for reading outside the genre itself; read far and wide.
Reading short fiction is one way to broaden your reading horizons. Pick up a short fiction anthology and—within a single volume—you'll find work by several different authors and be exposed to a variety of styles and ideas. Hesitant? Try an anthology that includes one of your favorite authors.
Sample a New Sub-Genre of Speculative Fiction
Have you heard people raving about a specific sub-genre of speculative fiction? Want to try a steampunk book or a paranormal romance novel but don't know where to start? Want to discover why zombies are all the rage? Short fiction is an excellent format for sampling something new and different. For collections of similar stories, pick up a themed anthology and see how several different authors interpret the same theme. You'll be surprised at the variety of stories that stem from the same seed of an idea.
Stay in Touch With the Latest Literary Trends
They say that literature is an ongoing conversation. That is, a story is influenced by, or a reaction to, other stories that came before it. Don't be left out of that conversation. Short fiction stories are the sound bites you need to stay in touch. For a great overview of what's going on in the field, check out any "Year's Best" volume. Sure, they are simply one editor's picks for the best, but the current crop of short fiction editors is surprisingly adept at distinguishing worthwhile stories that are lauded by the majority of readers. You're in good hands.
Your Turn: Do you read short fiction? Why or why not?
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also like bagels.