Hidden Tales

Media, Reading & Writing

Pulp_Paperback_Fair

Short stories are messy little things, hard to categorise and awkward to collect. As an inveterate short story collector, I know that while it’s nice to own paperbacks with lurid covers and wonderful story collections inside, I’ll also read them in any form I can find, including e-tales.

But although JG Ballard’s short stories are crucial to understanding his thinking, only half of his output is currently available online. Ray Bradbury had a habit of excerpting chapters of his novels as short stories, and trying to read all the bits drives me mad. Shirley Jackson’s tales are still turning up nearly fifty years after her death.

This randomness afflicts a great many authors. The argument is that short stories do not achieve the same level of novel sales, so writers tend to be profligate with them. They take commissions for 10,000 word tales and if the anthologies in which they are printed fail, the stories vanish from sight. They’re hard to keep track of; the total number of stories in my ten collections is fewer by twenty stories than the ones I’ve sold, so where are the others?

I keep files, but inevitably some stories go missing. I have a feeling even my most avid collectors (step forward, Mr Groves) are missing tales like ‘The Girl Who Loved French Films’ and ‘The Well Of Seven’, because I’m having trouble finding them too!

Some of the cheesiest old paperbacks hide the juiciest finds. Christopher Lee put his name to a ton of paperbacks in the 1970s, and there’s no sense in the grouping of stories beyond the general ‘Out Of Copyright’ rule the editor must have slapped on him.

Which is why it’s interesting that paperback book fairs have taken off again. Two years ago I went along to one in Victoria and found myself the only person there. This year I had to queue to get into the same event. What had happened in the meantime was collectability. Now that there are virtually no mass market paperbacks produced, there’s a finite market for such lovely tactile items.

Perhaps the hidden tales will come out into the light. But that’s the joy of collecting anything – suspecting that there’s still something out there.

8 comments on “Hidden Tales”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    It seems fit to ask this question under this post, so here it is –
    How many Bryant & May short stories have there been? I must have read 7-8, but what’s the actual published number to date? It would be great to have a check list, too, but that’s probably far too much work.

    I’m reading a short story now by a British writer that’s set in the Old West, apparently, (haven’t finished it yet)and it’s tough going. To establish authenticity the writer tosses in every word I’ve ever heard in a ’40s – 60s B Western and this puts me off – as if sticking overused words in would establish verisimilitude. At least Dale Evens and the Sons of the Pioneers have not appeared…yet. Hope I’m wrong and it’s all a clever sendup, but I fear not.
    Which raises the question can Brits and Americans write well about each others countries? I’ve read a lot of stuff that just doesn’t work from both pond sides. Kind of a shame, but apparently elderly Westerns and the Doctor films just aren’t the best of resources. Although I must say B. Bardot appeared in Doctor at Sea and then several American westerns and I found the films very true to life, authentic in plot, and I even learned to deeply appreciate niceties of French culture. But that was before her save the wild life period; not that I’m against saving woodland creatures.

  2. snowy says:

    Bradbury completists might want to look at:

    http://home.wlv.ac.uk/~in5379/storiesdb.htm

  3. Janet Wilson says:

    You must know ‘Vault of Evil- Brit horror pulp plus!’?

  4. snowy says:

    As it is related[ish], by way of:

    Ray Bradbury ✔
    Short stories ✔
    Collection ✔

    http://archive.org/details/OTRR_X_Minus_One_Singles

    Can be enjoyed in the browser or downloaded to a ‘generic MP3 player’.

    Also includes work from Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Frederik Pohl and Theodore Sturgeon

  5. J. Folgard says:

    Hey, this is a nifty forum, thanks Janet! Tons of wonderful cover artwork, and I’ll probably end up checking out even more classic and/or obscure mystery and horror fiction. I swear it’s like a drug sometimes -oh, well!

  6. stephen groves says:

    Hi Chris ,

    The Well of Seven is in Zombie Apocalapse 2 (FIOHTBACK )

    For “The Girl who loved French Films” the hunt is on ,Tally Ho !

    All Best

    STALKY

  7. Mim says:

    R Chetwnynd Hayes is one of my favourite mostly forgotten short-story writers. I snap his books up when I can find them, but they go for a scary price nowadays. I do have one of the Christopher Lee books; it’s enjoyable in a ‘good burger’ sort of way (it’s not exactly good for you, but it’s fast and tasty when you want something quick!).

    :-/ The boon in people buying old Penguins for the green covers has severely hampered my buying of old crime novels. But there is, indeed, always something out there.

  8. J. Folgard says:

    I’ve discovered Chetwynd Hayes via the ‘Monster Club’ and the odd short story in various anthologies, mostly Stephen Jones’ excellent selections, and I’ve been hankering for more since -but when it comes to affordable, easy-to-find collections by him, it’s disheartening to see there’s none… Jones has a best-of volume listed in the ‘coming soon’ section of his website, but there’s no publishing info whatsoever, and I found no trace of it on Amazon -I’ll just wait & see.

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