Vale LiNQ (and by the freaking way...)

This message arrived in my inbox the other day.

With deep regret I'm writing to say there will be no 2008 issue of LiNQ. The general editor has unable to gain funding, and the University has not provided staff support or other assistance. We are therefore unable to produce any further issues of the journal.

With LiNQ now confined to memory, Queensland has lost yet another literary publication and short story publisher. It's telling that, although potential submitters for the 2008 edition have been advised of the closure, the web site remains static.

I should mention at this point that I've had it up to here with "the death of the novel". Novels are doing just fine, last time I looked. You want to see the death of a literary form? Check out the short story. No one's bemoaning its death -- it's been on life support so long most people have forgotten about it. And the power to the life support system is gradually draining away.

Does it have to be this way? Of course not!

Most publishers seem to be motivated primarily by fear. Fear of low sales, fear of being swallowed up by Uncle Rupert, fear of Borders, fear of Amazon, fear of new work, fear of challenge, fear of readers, fear of thought, and of course fear of the digital world.

I don't put all publishers in this pile, by the way and I'm happy to shine a light on the notable exceptions: Vignette Press of course is front and centre, but feel free to add more publishers in the comments.

But, of the litany of publishers' fears, the one that's always bugged me is the fear of the short story. For many years, the conventional wisdom had it that shorts don't sell, so don't promote them. The fact that this strategy ensured the short stories wouldn't sell had the added benefit of making the decision-maker look smart. Then someone had the brainwave over their bowl of Froot Loops: It would be so much better if we just don't consider short stories at all.

So in a world where the pop song is reducing in size to the length of a ringtone, where television shows can be cut up into bits for watching on a mobile phone, and where even in-depth articles and analysis are chunked into smaller web-sized tastes, traditional publishers are still heaping more and more door stop size wodges of fiction onto an indifferent market.

Somehow, the idea that a work of fiction could reduce to the size of the average train trip or the average morning ablution, seems heretical to the average fiction publisher.

And, one by one, the last markets available to short story writers are taken out with the economic rationalist's weapon of choice.

All the while, the solution has been patiently waiting for its moment. The world wide web was, after all, originally design for the publication of text and images.

More to come...