In the style of so many 90s TV shows, the short story is making a comeback, and if you think Captain Planet is cool as hell, you ain’t seen nothin’. While huge publishers like Random House, and… booksellers, Amazon, are now discovering something most of us have known for years (that short fiction is the greatest writing there is) there are a bunch of publishers out there who have been promoting the form for longer than I’ve been alive.
In it for the long haul
Starting a lit journal can be a lot like throwing a house party – you don’t know how many of your friends will show up, you have some crazy times and things get broken, then, as supplies start to run low there are a lot of sideways glances and drawn curtains before the final fade to black. So the fact that Ambit Magazine has been running for over 40 years without signs of slowing down is no small feat. A mix of poetry, fiction and essays, Ambit also has a launch for every issue and host regular readings, usually at the Betsey Trotwood.
For me, online ‘magazines’ have always fallen into the don’t-quit-your-day-job category of publishing (often they’re unpaid), and as a reader it can be difficult to sift through endless Google results for ‘short stories’ when so much of it is fan fiction or just plain awful.
But then you get a gem like Fringe Magazine and all of those visited links and furious clicks of the back button were worthwhile. Their tag line (The noun that verbs your world) sets the awesometer at maximum and they manage to maintain this throughout their whole site by avoiding the trap of publishing the same authors over and over again – instead giving us quantum stories like Notes from a Man Trapped in a Giant Bottle.
Discovering new titles
When a publication has a small print run and is only stocked locally, making it about as Indie as you can get without wearing lens-less glasses, discoverability is going to be a massive issue. MsLexia (a female writers only lit magazine from the UK) have a great but by no means exhaustive bank of literary journals, but it’s a bit of a hit and miss as to what is a promotion and what is an obituary.
Still, whether they’re long-standing or fresh daisies, these lit mags represent a largely under-read section of a vibrant publishing industry. Good short stories celebrate every word, maximise every letter and flip the bird at conventions, so it doesn’t really matter who publishes them, it’s just important to get amongst it.