shining the spotlight on short story collections
The five short story collections on the shortlist for the £5000 Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story have just been unveiled:
Congratulations to all the shortlisted, an interesting list pitting four rather big names in literary fiction, all of whom are either MAN Booker Prize winners or nominees, and published by large publishers, against Chris Beckett – a small-press-published author of a collection whose stories, says the Edge Hill website, “feature, among other things, robots, alien planets, genetic manipulation and virtual reality, but their centre focuses on individuals rather than technology, and they deal with love and loneliness, authenticity and illusion, and what it really means to be human”. Elastic Press must be hopping up and down with glee!
Last year’s shortlist did seem to me rather more eclectic:
Tiny Deaths is the first collection by Doctor Who writer Shearman, The Separate Heart is Simon Robson’s debut collection, Walk the Blue Fields is Clare Keegan’s second collection, Jane Gardam is the author of too many novels and short story collections to mention, and Old Devil Moon is Christopher Fowler’s 10th collection of dark short fiction.
It is wonderful that there is a prize for short story collections, don’t get me wrong, but we have reviewed so many excellent small-press published collections and debut collections by exciting and talented new writers over the past year, it is a shame that they didn’t get a stronger showing on the shortlist this year.
I understand that picking 5 is an impossible task, perhaps the Edge Hill prize organisers could take a leaf out of the Frank O’Connor International Award for the Short Story‘s book: they publish a longlist that includes every book entered that fits the eligibility criteria. This year’s longlist will be announced next week, and if last year is anything to go by it will include 50 or so short story collections (among them, in the interests of full disclosure, my own collection, The White Road and Other Stories). This will be whittled down to 5 books for the shortlist – but the longlist was published last year in the Guardian and all the books received a much-needed boost.
All of us aim to spread the word about great short stories, and the Frank O’Connor Award longlist accomplishes this simply and effectively – we can’t all be winners, but just the fact of getting published is an achievement worth celebrating! Good luck to all!