This year, and last year also, Harper's ran a set of microfictions by Diane Williams.

Harper's is one of—what? Two? Three wide-circulation glossies still publishing fiction in every issue? And they elect to run microfictions….

I'm officially astonished by this.


Ten years ago, I wrote page-length fictions in the same way I've always taken photographs—just for my own pleasure. I never considered sending them to journals. I wouldn't have known what to call them if I had.

And now Harper's is running very short fiction.

Do you see what I mean?

Change can escape notice in different ways. It can happen too slowly. Or it can happen too quickly to be believed.


Q: So this is boomtime for vsf?

A: I'm going with yes.

Q: How so?

A: By my count, more than eighty web journals are represented in the Long Shortlist this year. And in the Wigleaf Top 50 itself, stories from thirty-nine different journals appear. These are both records.

Q: Boomtime in terms of the number of markets then…

A: More markets means two things. If the total number of readers stayed the same, it would mean that the pie would have to be split more thinly. But I see more markets as drawing more readers for vsf—both on the internet and in general.

Q: You said "two things."

A: I also see the rise in the number of internet markets for vsf as encouraging more diversity of approach. And when you consider that vsf, as a narrative genre, is already probably the youngest and least set in terms of its conventions, what you have is a real openness.

Q: "Real," you say. Why not "forbidding"? Don't readers need to know what to expect before they can properly appreciate something?

A: Well, I think that a good number of readers of vsf may be looking for something new. And I think that the writers—in this year's Wigleaf Top 50, for example—are happy to try to provide that. If you look up their bios, you'll see that many of them are practiced and credentialed, which is often the case in an award annual. But they're not coasting. They're trying new stuff.

Q: How can you know?

A: I'm making the argument. I'm doing that because I've seen writers responding to the immediacy that the web offers. Writers here read each other, mostly. They spur and embolden each other. This is another facet of the boom.

Q: All this emphasis on the new. What about the old? What about story?

A: Isn't it an adage by this point?—All great writing is new somehow. And if you want story, start reading. Go to the links. If you want music, design, news of the blood. Go. It's all there.


Three necessary acknowledgements:

I'm grateful to Lisa Lim, for her artwork on the main page (and for putting me into retirement as a designer of graphics).

I'm grateful to our Associate Series Editor, Ravi Mangla, who shared the work of the reading and helped make the Long Shortlist great in its own right.

And I'm grateful to Brian Evenson, who took on this project despite having other commitments which likely served as a good argument against it, and who, in his selections, has made something that readers are going to want to return to.

This year's word on eligibility: the Wigleaf Top 50 are chosen from a Long Shortlist of 200 stories. Stories have to be at or under 1000 words to be eligible, and must have been posted sometime during the previous calendar year. Stories in blogzines are not considered (unless the blog is part of a larger journal with external hosting). Reprints are not considered. Stories appearing in journals based outside the U.S. are not considered (unless that journal's billing is explicitly international). Stories that are not published and/or archived in HTML are not considered. Stories without unique HTML urls are not considered, unless they are part of sets by the same author. And stories written by Wigleaf editors or appearing in Wigleaf itself are not considered. If you're an editor and want to make sure that your mag's vsf is considered for the next Wigleaf Top 50, please shoot us an email.

Scott Garson is the author of American Gymnopédies and the editor of Wigleaf.

To link to this directly: http://wigleaf.com/10top50foreword.htm

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