There is no doubt that, as Stephen King once alleged, the short story has declined in popularity. Once a staple literary form, evolving from the pulp magazines of the early twentieth century and morphing into the multitude of more respectable magazine media led by the once dominant Saturday Evening Post, the short story was a highly paid and sought after creative endeavor.
Even the less commercial marketplace through a large network of small literary magazines was once a highly prestigious and well-read enterprise. The short story was the entry-level form for most literary wannabes. I attended creative writing classes at The New School in the forties and fifties with Mario Puzo, William Styron and others of equal talent who cut their eyeteeth on the short story form. It was considered the curtain raiser to the big first novel.
The good news is that it is coming back big time thanks to the Internet and the declining time allotment to reading that is fast becoming a national affliction. Call it another manifestation of unintended consequences, but the short story form is the writing example of choice in the more than 200 university writing courses in the United States and the thousands of ancillary writing courses that dot the instructional landscape.
Short story writing contests are exploding on the Internet, including my own Warren Adler Short Story Contest, which has just ended its third successful installment. It is an extraordinary explosion of creative effort. Writers are being taught by example the efficacy of compression in the artful creation of character, plot, narrative drive, description and mood that is at the heart of the short story process.
Writers with unquenchable dreams of becoming the new Poe, Chekhov, Maupassant, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and countless other masters of the short story are honing their skills at a fast clip and creating a marketplace that, in my opinion, will grow into an explosive avalanche of awareness and a path to greater recognition for themselves as well as offering special joys and insight for the reader. Indeed, for many novelists, including myself, the short story was our first ticket to a literary career and continues to remain so.
I am not alone in my affection for the short story form and my attempt to promote its value and expansion as a literary enterprise. Thanks to Mr. King, and other practitioners like him, the short story renaissance will, in my opinion, not only regain but exceed its place in the literary pantheon.
Warren Adler is the author of 30 novels, including The War of the Roses and his latest, Funny Boys.