The Future of the Short Story: A Tentative Approach
Foretelling the future of the short story is a risky task. Former predictions incite one to wariness. H. E. Bates, who predicted that World War II would prove a great source of inspiration for short story writers, had to admit his mistake: "When I prophesied in The Modern Short Story in 1941 that the inevitable distrust and dislocation of war's aftermath would lead new writers to find in the short story the essential medium for what they had to say, I felt certain I was right: time has proven me wrong" ( Beachcroft 1968, 213).
Is the future of the short story, in fact, predictable? In considering it, we implicitly assume that the term short story applies to a particular literary genre; but does it still correspond to a short prose narrative in English which is not fairy tale, detective story, or science fiction, as it did about a century ago? Already critics such as Clare Hanson have decried the inappropriateness of the term short story. Anyone can claim its reconsideration in terms of postmodernism and deconstruction.
However, for Europeans (and more precisely for the French), the short story, even translated as la nouvelle de langue anglaise, is a typical product, which is in full expansion. It has several times happened to me, when asking French publishers if they would accept des nouvelles, that the publishers would query, "Sont-elles traduites de l'anglais?" ("Are they translations from English?"-- meaning English or American). If they were not, the publishers would decline publication without even looking. Short stories in English, untranslated, whether from Great Britain, the United States, or any other part of the world, enjoy at present a growing fame in France. This is confirmed by the Parisian booksellers whom I recently contacted: NQL International, FNAC International, Village Voice