ellen datlow (ellen_datlow) wrote,
ellen datlow
ellen_datlow

What Stephen King thinks about the state of short story

What Ails the Short Story

I read this several days ago and immediately shot off this response to the NY Times. As they haven't contacted me, I assume they won't be running it. If they in fact do, I'll remove it from here:


To the Editor:
I’ve been editing short fiction for over twenty-five years and unlike Stephen King I’ve read (and published) many well-written, insightful, and exciting stories during that time. So I’m perplexed by Mr. King’s complaint in his essay “What Ails the Short Story” (September 30) about the contemporary short story being “showoffy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open, and worst of all, written for editors and teachers rather than for readers.

His comments especially trouble me because nowhere does Mr. King mention the continually entertaining and fertile grounds from which he sprung—science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Yes, the short story (mainstream and genre) is suffering from a lack of visibility, but entertaining and literate short fiction is indeed being published —just check out some of the original anthologies and magazines regularly publishing literature of the fantastic, such as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine, Subterranean Magazine, Cemetery Dance. During the twenty years I’ve co-edited The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror I’ve read hundreds of dark fantasy and horror stories and neither I nor my fantasy co-editors have had any trouble filling our 250,000 volume with stories that excite us and our readers.

Ellen Datlow
Co-editor of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the forthcoming Inferno.

And for those interested, here are the comments about the essay that the NY Times allowed until they reached 164. ( I added an adaptation of my letter, plus later on, under my initials--some short story writers to read). You'll see that they range (as expected from "yes, he's absolutely correct" to "no, he's wrong" to everything in between, plus nasty comments about his own writing:


comments on King essay
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