For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

Steve Aylett: The Short Form Interview

I’m not sure what most writers’ goals are when writing long fiction – to make money, apparently, and avoid expressing anything original or interesting.

Author of story collections Smithereens, Toxicology, and more.

The Interview

What draws you to short stories?

They tend to be quite concentrated and rich – certainly mine are. They don’t waste time. Also they can work like an equation, which is good for the purpose of satire. I’m unusual in that I carry all of this over into my novels too – rich, concentrated, no waste.

Are there any misconceptions about the form?

Some people think a short story is too short to get really ‘involved’ in, and therefore not worth the investment. In fact it can be a very deep hit. 

Some people think a short story is too short to get really ‘involved’ in...

What role does it play in a writer’s development, and in the field of literature as a whole?

It should teach discipline and storytelling, but unfortunately most writers get very loose and baggy when they go over to the longer form. The stuff loses focus. Mine doesn’t. 

How do a writer’s goals differ between writing short fiction vs. long? Does the short form allow more freedom to experiment?

I’m not sure what most writers’ goals are when writing long fiction – to make money, apparently, and avoid expressing anything original or interesting.  

What is the perception of writers who predominantly write short stories?

I’ve no idea. 

Recommended by Steve Aylett

Learning to Be Me
Excerpt

“Understanding,” the lecturer told us, “is an overrated concept. Nobody really understands how a fertilized egg turns into a human. What should we do? Stop having children until ontogenesis can be described by a set of differential equations?”

We read it in Gedanken Fictions.

Originally published in Interzone 37.

The Sugargun Fairy
Excerpt

The next morning Stalin Rani awoke and the universe stretched over her eyes like a piece of orange bubble gum. She saw a crack in the cosmic egg, elephants mating in a thunderstorm and a broken toilet. She coughed until something hard and black lurched out of her mouth.

Understand
Excerpt

My new language is taking shape. It is gestalt-oriented, rendering it beautifully suited for thought, but impractical for writing or speech. It wouldn’t be transcribed in the form of words arranged linearly, but as a giant ideogram, to be absorbed as a whole. Such an ideogram could convey, more deliberately than a picture, what a thousand words cannot. The intricacy of each ideogram would be commensurate with the amount of information contained; I amuse myself with the notion of a colossal ideogram that describes the entire universe.

As Above, So Below
Excerpt

I took one of the baby Mandelbrot sets in my hands and peered at it. It was warm and jittery as a pet mouse. Even though the little globster was vague at the edges, it was solid in the middle. Better than a graphic. I cradled it and touched it to my face.

We read it in Complete Stories.