17.12.12 | Ben Eastham
The short story is the most versatile of literary forms, and the most neglected.
In this country, it is too often treated as a minor art, condescended to by readers, editors and critics who act as if the novel is the only legitimate format for prose fiction.
Rather than a condensed or abbreviated version of a novel, a good short story is instead written in an entirely different mode, with different effects upon the reader. Where the traditional novel is tasked with the invention of a coherent world, the short story plunges its reader into events, relieved by the emphasis on brevity of the necessity to coherently explain and justify every development through the establishment of a back story.
If the short story can be classified, it is simply as a work of fiction to be read in a single sitting. The immediacy that this creates, allied to the form’s natural inclination towards the fractured and fragmented, makes the short story the perfect form for a contemporary readership used to reading fragments online, to dipping in and out of a narrative. It is disappointing then that the short story is so little-promoted in this country, and largely ignored by publishing houses who treat a short fiction as little more than an advertisement for the writer’s ability to craft a commercially viable novel.
There are exceptions of course—and Granta, Areté, Ambit and Litro are among the independent magazines flying the flag for the form. The White Review, with the generous support of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, hopes to add to their efforts through the establishment of a short story award with a £2,500 first prize.
Entry is restricted to unpublished writers, and we aim particularly to encourage inventive and ambitious new styles of writing. We would encourage illustrated or graphic short stories, cut-ups (see Matt Lomas’ ‘A Letter That Never Reached England’ in issue 4 of The White Review), traditional plot-driven narratives, science-fiction, anything that takes full advantage of the myriad opportunities offered by the form.
Submissions are open until 1st March, and the award will be judged by Booker-shortlisted novelist Deborah Levy, editorial director at Jonathan Cape Alex Bowler and literary agent Karolina Sutton.
For more details, visit: http://www.thewhitereview.org/the-white-review-prize/.
Ben Eastham is an editor at The White Review.