Novels get the glory. Movies get the eyeballs. Television gets the binge-watching. And video games are probably bigger than all three put together! But for my money… short fiction really is where the action is.
That really is the most striking things about how times have changed since the seventies. Tabletop games of the period are practically built out of bits and pieces taken from short works: Vancian magic, alignment, displacer beasts, great old ones, cyber-tanks– the list goes on and on! When people sat down to throw dice and pretend to be fantasy and science fiction heroes, short fiction was the primary driver in how they understood the genres to really work.
Even at that late date, science fiction and fantasy were not divorced into their own arbitrary and hermetically sealed genre bins. With their brains filled to the brim with pulp and New Wave fiction, gamers of the period seemed to reflexively mash countless stories together to forge hilariously awesome “anything goes” kitchen sink universes.
I think people have had enough of getting burned by authors like Donaldson, Brin, Jordan, and Martin. People are tired of authors not bothering to finish their epics before they die. They’re sick of the bloat. The cruft. The padding. Doorstopper novels that go on and on and on only to end on a cliffhanger for the next unsatisfying installment. Oh, there’s a market for this stuff, sure. But there’s also an alternative.
People don’t have to choose from a handful of big time authors serving up the same old same old anymore. They can sample all kinds of different stories in all kinds of different styles from all kinds of different authors. They can quickly find new stuff to like that they didn’t even know they would like!
Short fiction rocks. And with gatekeepers finding themselves with significantly less influence and control, we’re set to see a market correction that will create a return to the kind of vibrancy and diversity that fantasy and science fiction could take for granted in the twenties and thirties.
These are the authors that are making it happen. And these are the stories they’re doing it with.
Here’s my list of the best works of 2016:
If you don’t see your favorite there, please mention it in the comments…!