I'm a writer.
That first sentence wasn't a complaint. Or not much of one. After all, worse things could happen to a person than being a writer. You could be, for example, an actor, where the odds are even worse, the pay inequity between the top and the bottom even wider, and the rejections far more personal (and usually delivered to your face).
So I count myself lucky. And I'm even luckier than it might seem: I'm a novelist. I could have been born a short-story writer. Oh, I know the advantages of writing shorts. Your head isn't buried in the same damn thing for months or even years. Each individual rejection means less. You can explore ideas that are interesting but not plottable enough for a longer form. You can play with style, perspective, or narrative form in a way that might be annoying, cloying, or just plain too precious at book length. You can take strange risks.
But where do you sell short stories nowadays? Especially if you are thinking you ought to be paid...? There are many places to publish short stories on the web--if you want to give them away--but the classic outlets for short stories, the magazines, have progressively published less fiction.
There were loud cries of dismay a few years back when The Atlantic--which, along with The New Yorker and Playboy, were the flagships of non-academic short fiction in the US--announced it would no longer be publishing short stories on a monthly basis, but would instead convert to putting out an annual Fiction Issue.
Well, after that long preamble, here's the good news. Although The Atlantic has not decided to expand the fiction content of it's monthly issues, it has decided to publish short stories on the Amazon Kindle, beginning with one from Christopher Buckley and another from Edna O'Brien.
As the article mentions, this opens up some interesting possibilities. In effect, stories will now be published on a a stand-alone basis, without the associated content of a magazine, but with the imprimatur of the Atlantic's editorial staff. And the Kindle is a more flexible medium than print; it can just as easily handle short-shorts or stories that would have been too long for magazines, but too short for publication as a book. This development even offers some hope for the novella--arguably the most perfect of fiction forms, but one that has never really been able to find a market in the world of print.
Some things about Kindle make me nervous in a sci-fi paranoia way (I'll post again on that later). But The Atlantic's move strikes me as cause for celebration. I don't like short stories, but I do enjoy reading them, and am happy to see someone giving writers some incentive to produce them.
Not that short-story writers seem to need any encouragement. The supply of short stories seems to have no relationship to whether or not anyone is buying them (or even reading them). The short-story coat of arms ought to read Ars Gratia Artis...except for the fact that MGM Studios already uses that as their motto.
Even if deciding to remake the movie Fame calls into question their devotion to that principle. After visiting a brothel that catered to, umm, specialized tastes, Voltaire famously observed that "Once is philosophy, twice is perversion." Well, sometimes even once isn't philosophy. Or Art.