Perhaps I Should Explain…

…why I write and then collect my own short stories, instead of offering them to anthologies to be published, like certain of my colleagues.

You see, it’s simple: I liked anthologies when I was a kid, because I had no idea what I was going to get. Even as a teen, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed reading stories by writers I’d never heard of before. I still remember, when I was about nine or ten, reading a short story about some kids trying to keep a snowman intact by storing it in an old abandoned refrigerator. Sadly, the refrigerator’s insulation was no match for the summer heat, so of course it melted (SPOILERS, sorry). That story had me in tears. I know, ridiculous, but it did. I was reading it in the basement bedroom I shared with my brother, and I was the only one awake (I was a light sleeper even as a child), and was just in tears thinking that this group of kids, who had come to love this snow-friend of theirs, had to deal with the fallout of discovering that they weren’t able to save him. Of course, the next winter rolls around, but still, pathos galore.

And that was a story I had no preparation for. Very moving. I’ve read a lot of short stories since then, and a few of them have moved me almost as much. One or two short stories and novellas over the years have gotten me like that, too. The Bridges of Madison County actually had me in tears, too (shutupdon’tjudgeme).

But the main point I’m trying to make is, I haven’t really enjoyed reading anthologies as much as I did as a kid simply because I’ve read a few too many that blew it for me. I know some editors and anthologists have impeccable taste in stories and can be trusted, but I just can’t get invested in anthologies the way I once did. I discover one or two writers and have to go searching to see if they’ve published anything else, and almost invariably, unless they’re Big Name Authors, it’s a strike out.

That’s not as big a problem these days, because with the internet and self publishing through Amazon and the like, it’s much easier for writers to get their work out there. But that still leaves the problem of sifting through ten or twenty stories I’m not crazy about to get to the one or two that really connect for me. I know it’s sacrilegious to suggest this, but my reading time it very precious to me, because I have trouble reading much these days, and I simply can’t afford to spend hours sifting through stuff I’m not crazy about.

Now, short story collections are another kettle of fish. I find a writer I like, who maybe published a few short stories in some anthologies I stumbled across, or a Big Name Author who has a real flare for short stories, or who came up during the old pulp era and did most of their early writing in that format, and I grab the collected volume, because I know what I’m getting; a collection of (perhaps) unrelated stories written by someone whose authorial voice and pacing I enjoy.

So for me, the idea of being part of an anthology, though a little appealing to the small child in me that remembers reading Canadian Children’s Annual and such things, isn’t really a career goal of mine. However, writing collections of short stories is something that has proven to be a really nice way for me to explore a number of ideas that want to be written, but don’t want to be festooned with subplots and such. I enjoy writing novels most of all, but short stories have found their place in my repertoire. But the only place you’re likely to read them, at least for the foreseeable future, is in one of my collections.

The current collection is called The Back Roads of Limbo. The page has one line descriptions of every story in the book. That might seem like I’m giving too much away. Perhaps I am. I don’t know. All I know is, the book covers a LOT of ground, and I couldn’t think of a more oblique method of explaining the book, except to say that they are all products of my imagination.

There is, as far as I can tell, no cohesive theme to the collection. It took me about a decade to write all of the stories in there. I didn’t consider myself a short story writer back when I first started writing them, so I didn’t really build up a body of stories until a year or two ago, when I looked at what I had and realized I had part or most of three collections: The Back Roads of Limbo (general); Poison Pen Letters From Limbo (horror); and Hot Nights In Limbo (erotica).

I’ve since started a few other collections which are slowly coming together, and I’ve also been working on the second LinkTales collection, which will, like the first volume, collect interconnected stories intended for the LinkWorlds RPG series that never quite happened.

There is one project I tried starting, called Author Unknown (sorry, I haven’t put up a page for it yet; perhaps later today), which was going to be an anthology written by myself and a number of my semi-pro writer friends, based on a character I hadn’t really introduced to folks yet, so it was sheer folly of me to try inviting friends to write for it. So I’ll end up writing that myself as well. It’ll be a novel series disguised as a television series. I think it’ll be fun to write, for someone who will probably never get to write for television.

And that’s my bit about short story writing, and why I collect them and sell them myself instead of waiting for Ellen Datlow to do it for me. Aside from the fact that Ellen has no idea who I am. Frankly, the problem is most folks don’t know who I am, and these short stories of mine seem like a pretty good introduction to the worlds I play with. I could be wrong. I have been told that short story collections don’t sell. Ah well. I can’t just not write the stories, and they can’t all be novels, either. I guess we’ll see.

Time I made an effort to get back to work. I have Departure, The Good Girl, LinkTales II, and The Approximate Distance To Limbo all open right now, so hopefully some work will get done on one of them before I have to… *looks at the time*… drat, I have to go clean at Mom’s in an hour or so. *sigh*
Ah well… maybe tomorrow.


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