This year, and last year also, Harper's
ran a set of microfictions by Diane Williams.
is one of—what? Two? Three wide-circulation glossies still
publishing fiction in every issue? And they elect to run
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
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
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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