With the arrival of ‘singles’, short stories individually bought online, it’s tempting to create your own perfect anthology of short stories, an individual ‘Best Of’ tailored to your tastes.
I touched on this subject in recent posts, then realised just how many themed anthologies I own from the 1970s. On my shelves there are collections of stories about the Chamber of Horrors, freaks, strange legacies, witchcraft, satanists, the end of the world, betrayals, affairs, apocalyptic events, black humour and deals with the Devil, but none have been published in decades – surely it’s time for a return of these gems?
The question is, why are anthologies of short stories dying out? The answer, it seems to me, is the lack of imagination on behalf of publishers in appealing to specific audiences. Why not group tales into subjects, as was done in the 1960s and 1970s?
I was wondering why I could think of no great collections of stories set on board trains. There was a US collection in the 70’s, with a demonic train on the cover, but I can’t find any notes on what it was called. A new volume of short stories has just been published; ‘Rustblind and Silverlight’ from Eibonvale Press is indeed a ‘slipstream’ collection of train stories, but not one I’ve yet had the chance to read.
I mentioned ‘Car Sinister’, with some superbly eerie tales of cars (I don’t like cars at all, and find ‘Top Gear’ disturbing for reasons that go beyond the inherent creepiness of Jeremy Clarkson). I also mentioned ‘Poolside’, a collection of terrific swimming pool stories printed on beautiful waterproof stock (drawback; it weighs a ton). This volume ends – of course – with John Cheever’s astonishing and unsettling story ‘The Swimmer’.
Lately I’ve contributed to anthologies about underground trains, haunted houses and magic, but there should be more. These three are from the increasingly imaginative publisher Solaris Books, and have been critical successes. Now, what about fairgrounds, cinemas, phobias, identities, media, travel, childhood, shopping, religion, animals?
Which theme for a collection do you think would sell well? And who would you add to it? And finally, speaking of the short form, one of its masters Shirley Jackson is about to be back on the metaphorical shelves this month with a series of previously unpublished books. I seem to recall that after her death, manuscripts were found in a box at her house.
Here’s ‘Poolside’ undergoing the wet test. From this point in on my journey the blogging may get a little rocky…