Stephen King writes about the state of the short story in the NY Times.

What happens when [the short story writer] realizes that his or her audience is shrinking almost daily? Well, if the writer is worth his or her salt, he or she continues on nevertheless, because it’s what God or genetics (possibly they are the same) has decreed, or out of sheer stubbornness, or maybe because it’s such a kick to spin tales. Possibly a combination. And all that’s good.

What’s not so good is that writers write for whatever audience is left. In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course, the holy grail of the young fiction writer) not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there. And this kind of reading isn’t real reading, the kind where you just can’t wait to find out what happens next (think “Youth,” by Joseph Conrad, or “Big Blonde,” by Dorothy Parker). It’s more like copping-a-feel reading. There’s something yucky about it.

Not sure exactly what to make of his essay which you can read all of here. Stephen King is not who I want to be when I grow up. And my goal is not to write like him. Not sure I trust his taste or decisions about literature. But I do agree about the copping-a-feel reading of a lot of journals. Just reading to stake out competition. Which definitely happens. Not so sure. Interested to hear what the rest of you think. In the end, writing is a process of discovery that hopefully the reader can enjoy, learn from, be challenged by. But there are no guarantees. And no simplifying, no dumbing things down, explaining or pandering.

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