Why Short Stories are the Norwich of Fiction

For international readers let me just give you an idea of what Norwich is to the rest of England - for domestic readers feel free to refine or disagree.

Norwich: frequently derided as the dead end of ambition, also not a city for the rich (with the notable exception of the Duke of Norfolk who seems to have a local copyright on the concept of wealth excluding all other Norwich dwellers), has none of the kudos of other larger out-of-London-but-not-so-well-off cities such as Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow. The people are subsequently very ordinary folk - but really properly ordinary in that being loud or flashy - such as a Geordie (from Newcastle) - is very much frowned upon. Stay quiet, stay unnoticed, these are the ways of Norwich.

Subsequently all the really beautiful parts of Norwich, its music and literature (the first book written by a woman in English was produced there), the abundance of comfy nooks and crannies: these are all played down - so much so that many English people have never heard of the place despite it be the capital of the second biggest county.

Consider all these features put together and I submit to you that Norwich is the direct equivalent to short fiction in the literature world. You can't make money there, in all likelihood you'll never be heard of but the beer is plentiful and sites amazing. Short fiction has a few tower giants - like Joseph Conrad - but generally these are from another age.

Finally consider this - the ultimate joke is the A11 conduit to anything and everything that the 'Fine City' has to offer. It is the only major route into and out of the county, in any other area it would be a motorway. The A11 not only is a single lane system - it actually has traffic lights on it to stop the traffic (*facepalm*). To relate this to short fiction should be obvious after all if you walk into the newsagent at Heathrow airport you won't find any collections of short stories or magazines with short fiction in them. On the other hand there is a feeling that this bottleneck to the popular appreciation of short stories is on the change - they should be ideal for rail commuters (Norwich to London: 1h 45m) and the advent of eReaders and the micro-cost publication which might sell a single short for 75p (or a buck or a shekel or a rubel or a yuan) might overturn this.

So if the slow road into Norwich changed would it change the above definition of the place? And if that was true does the changing access to short fiction mean that it will no longer be a Norwich, no longer the dead end of ambition?

Remain vigilant dear reader, for the times they are a-changing.

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  1. Interesting take on the commercial position of short stories here:



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