The Really, Really Big Book Of Short Stories

Books

When I decided to stop writing short fiction, it was for a number of reasons. I was overloaded with contracted novels. Short genre fiction was fun to do but financially worthless and too many anthologies were edited without any sort of critical judgement. A good editor can lift an anthology head and shoulders above the rest and create literature. They can thread tales together as if they were a novel. A bad editor goes through their virtual rolodex, calls up old friends and takes pretty much whatever they send in. Over the years I have collected perhaps six perfect anthologies in my collection, my favourite being Alberto Manguel’s ‘Black Water’.

I’d started many years earlier by writing the kind of traditional horror stories I’d read as a child, then moved into a kind of liminal fiction space where my stories became bleakly comic and surreal. The literary horror field died – I’m sure some will argue otherwise and I’ll happily be pointed to effective modern stories that aren’t pastiches – but I carried on writing stories for a while, although they took up too much time and invariably went out to small or independent presses.

The final story I wrote was called ‘The Washing’) and written for the excellent Maxim Jacubowski. It meant that I now had a canonical collection of 156 short stories totalling 1,800 pages. A vast, unpublishable tome, yet I perversely still want to produce it as a hardback artefact, a collectable object for the discerning reader who would like to own such an object. Tracking all the stories down and then laboriously clearing the rights took me over five years.

One problem was that audio and e-rights would be off the table for this huge collection – it would exist only as a treasury printed on paper, hopefully with a stunning design. Unliftable and unreadable, unless you were in a comfortable chair at home. Who in their right mind would want to publish such a thing?

Nobody, it turns out, so if I do go ahead I’ll probably team up with a designer and use a good self-publishing platform. There’s probably no market for it at all, other than the author’s vain desire to see such an object exist. But having been placed at the mercy of some incomprehensibly awful editors (two at Hachette and one at Anderson Press) I know what I want from this.

Meanwhile, as everyone on the planet is stuck at home with the exception of those in Mykonos, Santorini (enjoy your kebabs, folks) and er, Africa (no census takers) I shall be operating a public service and posting several stories from this jumbo jet of a book over the next few days.

18 comments on “The Really, Really Big Book Of Short Stories”

  1. John Howard says:

    Fabulous. Oh and by the way, there is someone here who has the wonga, readies, spondulicks etc, etc, in his pocket waiting to fork out for said tome.

  2. Jo W says:

    I’ll blow the dust off my piggy bank and start saving now. After all, I can’t get out and about to fritter away the pension, can I?

  3. Liz Thompson says:

    Ready to pre-order!

  4. Jan says:

    Chris would u consider putting a couple of your horror tales on here over the next week or three? Maybe over a couple of days or more?
    Why do reckon horror just sort of faded away? Was it for the lack of an audience who were busy playing scary video /computer games instead? Also in the growth in young adult fiction that’s where horror seemed to have migrated to. Lots of horror there. That’s also where the real dystopian sci fi has also wandered off to at the same time.

  5. Stewart Macdonald says:

    I’d certainly buy it!

  6. Andrew Holme says:

    Jan, I’m a librarian in a secondary school and you’re right about dystopian sci fi colonising YA fiction. Two points. First, it makes it easier for me to slip ‘ The Handmaid’s Tale’ etc. into students hands earlier than they might normally read them, “… if you like Hunger Games, try this…” Secondly, I think there’s no doubt that grown ups miss out on some wonderful books because they might think, ” oh, it’s written for kids.” Two heads up, the marvellous Patrick Ness and his ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy, and any Peadar O Guilin book. Try ‘The Inferior’, and ‘The Call’.

  7. Jonathan Oliver says:

    Put me down for one too. Sounds ace!

  8. chazza says:

    I’ll certainly have one but you may consider a swan song folie in the vein of the massive Taschen edition of Helmut Newton complete with its Phillipe Starck support…

  9. Roger says:

    You tempt me to start buying books again…

  10. Vincent C says:

    For me, the bigger the book the better – here’s one that has the right idea:

    https://www.millenniumhouse.com.au/title-earth-plat.html

  11. Jan says:

    Thanks for that Andrew. I am really a fan of YA fiction primarily because I spend a lot of working time just waiting around basically. Because this fiction is condensed and fast paced it’s perfect for quickly dipping into and back to 10 or 60 minutes later. No rereading catching up required.
    Easy read.

    When I thought about what it was made up from there was horror, teen romance, humour and sci fi. All morphed a bit but recognisable!

    Am reading J P Smythes “Australia” trilogy at present but will put your recommendations on me list.
    Cheers

  12. Jay Mackie says:

    Could you upload ‘The Washing’ onto here Chris as I don’t think I’ve read it?
    I think I speak for most of your loyal fans Chris in that a definitive volume of all your ever published short fiction (and any other unpublished bits from your archives floating about) is a great idea, and the natural conclusion if you decide to close the door on writing short stories for the various reasons you have outlined.
    It does seem a niche market now in physical copy (although I have noticed a bit of a revival in the volumed format in recent years ie. Black Books of Horror, Corona Books of Horror (apt name at the moment!)
    apart from the hundreds of horror story collections as e-
    books available to download – on a massive scale of varying quality from the many I have.
    From what you say, self-publishing such a definitive volume of approximately 1800 pages with kick-ass cover art might be the only way to bring it to fruition, but would be soooo worth it. But it shouldn’t be an issue anyway and your existing and past publishers should not hesitate in bringing this to light. Like you say changing times and I guess publishers have to be increasingly selective about their schedules and decisions nowadays sadly.
    We’re all behind you Chris and eagerly await any further news on this exciting venture. Hope it comes to light and you’d have a lot of pre orders for it!

  13. Jay Mackie says:

    Could you upload ‘The Washing’ onto here Chris as I don’t think I’ve read it?
    I think I speak for most of your loyal fans Chris in that a definitive volume of all your ever published short fiction (and any other unpublished bit from your archives floating about) is a great idea, and the natural conclusion if you decide to close the door on writing short stories for the various reasons you have outlined.
    It does seem a niche market now in physical copy (although I have noticed a bit of a revival in the format in recent years ie.

  14. Colin says:

    How about a Kickstarter project for the book?

  15. Davem says:

    I’d buy it Chris

  16. Wayne Mook says:

    Yeah, kickstarter would be good.

    Sadly Charles Black died a while back, he was terribly young.

    The Black Book covers were made by another friend Paul Mudie, The Third Book cover got into a little trouble, a nice switch of victim at the ceremony.

    If the book is as big as the one in the picture I think I’ll need another book shelf/building to put it.

    Wayne.

  17. Bob Low says:

    Wayne – really sorry to hear about Charles Black. I loved the Black Books of Horror, and you had me looking out the third one to check the cover – nice bit of Equal Opportunities Sacrificial Offering going on there! The covers are all reassuringly lurid, but it has to be the fourth for me.

    As for the collected complete short stories of C Fowler – count me in.

  18. Kristina says:

    I’m ready to pre-order!

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