“Brevity,” as someone once said, “is the soul of wit.” But brevity takes times. As someone else said, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” And still someone else said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”
Which brings us to that venerated literary form, the short story. Some of the best writers in their respective languages and genres have labored in this form. I have too, on and off, over the last twenty years or so of my career. Many of the short stories I’ve been asked to write have been about licensed characters (Batman, Doctor Who, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, etc.), with some originals thrown in along the way.
It’s only in the last few years that I really started to pay more serious attention to the short story, although the short stories I was writing were getting, paradoxically, longer and longer. Five thousand words to seven or eight thousand to twelve or thirteen thousand words…granted, some of the stories were part of shared universes (Latchkeys, ReDeus, Pangaea, all published by Crazy 8 Press), but even my own Leo Persky stories (appearing in R. Allen Leider’s Hellfire Lounge anthologies, published by Bold Venture Press) were getting longer, although a lot of that was due to how much fun I was having writing Leo’s (i.e. my) snarky observations on the world.
But several years back, I submitted a piece to an anthology of flash fiction (five hundred words or less). It didn’t make the final cut, but it did get me thinking about keeping it short, say, under two thousand words. I got to fool around with that in a couple of fifteen hundred word stories for a still-to-be-realized Charlton Neo project and several stories I wrote based on sculptures made by my grandmother in the 1970s. In the first of those Charlton Neo stories, I probably wrote about three thousand words before I finally got to the start of the fifteen hundred words that I ended up using; it was a case of both having the time to make it shorter and finding the story in the rewriting, as well as a reminder of a vital dramaturgical dictum: Always enter the action as late as possible.
In My Shorts: Hitler’s Bellhop and Other Stories is a collection of sixteen of my short stories of various lengths, from the first original I ever sold to the latest piece I wrote, finished a couple of weeks before the book went to press.
And that’s the long and the short of it.