Brevity in Fiction

Considering the title of this article, we’re going to keep this as succinct and brief as possible. Secondly, I’m not writing this as an author, as a publisher nor as some manner of expert in the art of literature. I’m writing this critique simply as a lifelong reader of fiction and more specifically “genre fiction”. Those who would argue that I, as a reader, have no rightful ground to stand on from which I cast my criticisms are exactly those who I aim to address. The Bizarchives is a very young publication, we haven’t even reached our 1 year mark yet. However, I would humbly argue that our strong debut and rapid climb demonstrates the value of brevity in fiction and that the pulp era formula of punchy short form storytelling is as potent today as it was all those decades ago.

We as authors and writers often lament the glory days of fiction. The pulp era where reading was the most common pastime among the common folk and aspiring, talented authors could break into the scene with exciting tales about heroes, gangsters, monsters, airborne dogfights or cowboys. Shootouts, sword fights, horrifying alien monstrosities and grim technological futures. Fantastical settings and concepts that academic critics of the modernist epoch very successfully relegated to the confines of lowly “genre fiction”. And to appeal to the creatures who haunt the institutions authors followed suit. They left behind Solomon Kane, Buck Rogers and John Carter and with them they left behind the casual reader. As “literary fiction” became the staple of the institutions, the style of storytelling became less about experience and action, and more about in depth characterization. Long drawn out contemplative introspection and interpersonal meanderings that embodied a “man vs self” dilemma instead of the traditional “man vs nature” weltanshauung carried by folktales and ancient epics. While the heroes and horrors of pulp were mostly left behind in the subsequent decades by publishers, they didn’t vanish because they can’t. Instead they evolved with the newer, more visually stunning technologies of comic books, animation, video games and film.

Never will I argue to abandon epic long form storytelling. There will always be a place for it. Works such as Dune and Lord of the Rings deserve their rightful thrones as masterpieces. However, I would say to my fellow indie publishers and authors, not as a publisher or author, but as a reader. Let us position ourselves back into the cultural zeitgeist and into the hearts of common man. Those who adored our predecessors and literary heroes. Let us not be anchored by the intellectual baggage of those who’ve never respected us in the first place. What we write and publish is special, meaningful folk art to be enjoyed by those who wish to escape from the monotony of labor and mundane life. Let’s give the people what they want once again but in a format that can compete in the new technological landscape of the virtual space. Between long work hours and a barrage of flashing screens, we need to be more dynamic and adaptable in our approach. Remember, the writing itself isn’t the focus. Language and writing are a technology, a vehicle to convey concepts. The purpose of technology is to become more efficient which is an inescapable reality we now face as the evolution of language through digital means makes the exchange of information faster and sleeker.

Like all technologies, those which fail to keep up with the march of development become obsolete. Too many writers I see take a defeatist position when presented with sales data demonstrating the death of the novel. They throw their hands up and say “welp, people just don’t read anymore” accepting their fate as artists still producing a dinosaur format of a bygone era. I instead see an opportunity to stab back into the culture stream with literature that not only embraces our current circumstances shaped by technology’s influence but also taps into the peoples’ thirst for nostalgia. I argue it is not us who are obsolete but the gimmicks and mediums we still use, forced on us by failing modern and postmodern institutions. Institutions that abandoned us and our readers long ago. Let them drift off to become out of touch, ivory tower dwellers who justify their increasingly deranged worldviews with impractical theory. Theory that any normal person sees as boring poopytalk for nerds and weirdos. Let us go back to our roots of brevity and action. Imaginative tales of horror and heroes stuffed into sleek formats. Novelettes and novellas in 50 page booklets and short story compilations. Bite sized stories with thrilling pace that can be impulsively bought, read quickly, collected and traded. Low price points and portable trim size with stunning art. Fun, excitement, adventure, terror and most of all, brevity.

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