1) You know what I can never get enough of? Awesome short stories.
2) You know where you can get short stories by the virtual truckload? On the internet, that's where.
3) You know how many of those stories I actually enjoy reading? Not too many.
How, then, to wade through the whole World Wide Web and find the good stuff, the great stuff, the gems you know must be out there somewhere?
The answer is, the same way anybody tries to pick stories they love out of an endless flow of slush: ruthlessly.
As any aspiring writer knows, slush readers for big magazines or anthologies don't have time to read each story the whole way through - and they don't need to, because the first few pages of a story are a good enough indication to cull a huge portion of the slush. Well, if I too want to enjoy, say, one story out of every two or three, instead of one out of thirty, then why shouldn't I do the exact same thing?
Here, then, is my little project: I am scouring reputable sources of short fiction, and compiling files containing only the first few pages of many stories. These I read at my leisure, and I make note of which stories I'd like to finish reading, and which I've had enough of, or simply don't entice me to continue.
I would never glance at so many stories if I intended to read them start to finish. On the other hand, reading on the webpages themselves, I would hardly stop to consider at what point I've lost interest, and reading through the entire thing would practically be less effort than slush-reading. But this way, I've got a big honking file of story beginnings, and I can read the rest of whatever grabs me. The rest don't take up more than a couple minutes of my time.
Now that I've explained what I'm doing, I'd like to know if anybody else would be interested in joining in. Would you, too, like to receive batches of stories you can pick your favorites out of? Are you interested in sampling a lot of stories, but don't know how many of them you'll actually like? If so - let me know. I'll count you in and I'll keep you posted.
Notice I'm not even mentioning critiques or recommendations here. That's practically the whole point - instead of reading reviews and trying to figure out whether a story's worth the effort, why not spend the same amount of time reading the story itself? You won't find a better, more personally-tailored review than that!
Here's two batches I've made so far:
Stories are all linked within the Word document, in the story title.
Here's my hope - that with a few different people involved, lots of people can compile story batches that everybody can use.
Compiling a batch is easy - just pick a good story source, and start copy-pasting. Three pages seems about right to me, give or take, or half the story for the shorter pieces. Try to cut off somewhere that looks reasonable - end of a scene, or somewhere that looks like you can at least stop for a breath. Don't go too long - I prefer to err on the side of brevity.
If you'd like to whip up a batch, please tell me! Send me a link, or email me the file. I'll add it to the others here. If there's interest in the project, I might set up something a bit more respectable and well-ordered than an LJ post.
Here are a few well-respected archives of short fiction: