Post-Now: Futures of the Short Story, the Short Story of the Future
Recent discussions and debates in literary and creative writing studies have invited fiction writers, scholars, and readers alike to re-evaluate the form and the function of the short story. The rise and prominence of online literary magazines and e-texts have forced writers to adapt to lower word counts and the challenges of on-screen reading: writers have responded with fragmented and braided narratives that eschew the “long-read” short story published in venues like The New Yorker or Paris Review. Handheld gaming on consoles like Nintendo’s 3DS and Switch systems have brought genres like the visual novel to the West—transforming short-form narratives into portable and interactive hybrid works of literature.
These technological shifts are only two recent changes to how we create and engage with short stories. Current political events have also pushed the form to adapt. The Western tradition of the realist short story is proving insufficient to depict the present age of disinformation, rampant conspiracy theories, and authoritarian ideologies in the United States and elsewhere. The result is a surge of short fiction that leverages the conventions of genre fiction—from fabulism, to horror, to surrealism, to fanfiction, and beyond—to react to post-truth modernity. Texts like Matthew Salesses’s Craft in the Real World (Catapult, 2021) and Felicia Rose Chavez’s The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop (Haymarket, 2021) bring the same scrutiny to creative writing pedagogy and the instruction of the writer’s craft: both of these texts assert that the so-called rules of form, style, and technique are inseparable from social contexts, culturally coded conventions, and institutional expectations. Salesses, Chavez, and others contend that, in order to write the stories of the future and prepare the writers of the future, we must reevaluate and interrogate our conventions, our practices, and the many histories of the short story with the aim of opening this familiar form to future innovations.
The Short Story Permanent Section of the Midwest Modern Language Association invites paper proposals on these questions: what are the futures of the short story, and what might the short story of the future look like? We invite papers that consider these questions in any of the contexts listed above, or in the contexts of the MMLA’s “Post-Now” CFP for the 2022 conference. Papers will be presented at the MMLA's annual meeting, from November 16-21, 2022, in Minneapolis, MN. (See https://www.luc.edu/mmla/convention/ for further convention details.) To be considered for this panel, please send an abstract of 200-300 words, along with a brief bio, to Patrick Henry (firstname.lastname@example.org) by April 15th, 2022.