Thursday, June 10, 2010
Open Query Letter: 'VSF' Anthology
[Opening Paragraph: The Pitch]
I'm putting together ananthology called VSF: Very Short Fiction. I see it as the Flash Fiction anthology of the 21st century. I want you to want to publish it.
[Paragraphs Two, Three and Four: One Argument]
Hazuka and Thomas and Thomas' '92 Norton anthology, Flash Fiction, popularized the term, 'flash fiction,' and also an aesthetic – stories that often seem, in their art, flash- or glimpse-like. Such stories can be wonderful, of course, but a lot has happened since then; a lot is happening now.
Here's how I would characterize what we're currently seeing: pretty much every really talented new writer is participating in the exploration of a form whose conventions are far, far less set than are those of the full-length short story.
The VSF anthology will offer:
• a range of lengths under the 1000-word mark. In '92, Hazuka and Thomas and Thomas set the ceiling at 750 words, but most of the stories included were between 500 and 750 words. To capture what's happening now, I think you need an anthology that has a more than token offering of microfiction, and one that's also open to what people are doing in the 750 – 1000 word range.
• a range of styles and approaches. Writing in his intro to the Best American Short Stories volume of '92, Robert Stone had this to say: "As of 1992, American writers seem ready to accept traditional forms without self-consciousness in dealing with the complexity of the world around them." As of now? Writers are doing amazing vsf within what Stone calls the "realist mode," but they're certainly not confining themselves to that, or to any tradition.
[Paragraph Four: Who the Hell are You?]
I'm Scott Garson. This is my blog. Welcome. I'm the editor of Wigleaf and the Series Editor of the Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions annual. My collection of microfictions, American Gymnopédies, was published as part of the WWP very short fiction series. (Jim Heynen's blurb: "Like Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies, Garson’s atmospheric shorts surprised me with their subtle shifts and eccentricities. Linked by geographic places, the collection progresses in tiny increments to become a dance between internal and external geographies. In perception and execution, this is a wonderfully original work.")
[Paragraph Five: Why Aren't You Doing This the Conventional Way?]
I'm not lazy but writing letters bores me. I think I can get a publisher this way. I think it will be the right publisher.
[Paragraphs Six and Seven: A Parting Argument]
This anthology will be landmark and will sell.
It will sell because it will be fucking great. It will be fucking great because it will offer the best of an intense reading experience that most readers are not now being offered. Very short fiction isn't poetry, but it's closer to poetry than the novel and even most short stories. Pick up the average collection of stories nowadays—something like More of This World and Maybe Another—and you get fat, relaxed paragraphs that assume, from the start, readers' willingness to invest in a character that hasn't yet been introduced. This is much like most novels (and is the reason, I think, that readers don't spend a ton of money on collections; if they work like novels, why not read the real thing?). Very short fiction works differently. I won't limit it via definition, but I'll say this: in vsf, each word is a choice. Together they will burn into your brain. You'll feel like you're on drugs. You'll feel like you're on crack. You'll be saying, Please, Mr. Garson. More.
[Paragraph Eight: Polite Adieu and Expression of Good Wishes]
Thank you so much for visiting today, best,