Friday, 27 April 2012

African short stories and the Internet

As I browsed the Melbourne City Library recently, I saw a book facing out, probably placed by a librarian who recommended it. The book was The Granta Book of the African Short Story. That sure looked interesting, but I didn't want to carry a book on public transport because I had my hands full already.

Next day, I wandered into my local library, and there, facing out on the 'recent returns and new books' display, was the same book. Obviously I was meant to borrow it.

So I'm reading it.

In the introduction, Helon Habila says:
With the coming of the Internet to many parts of urban Africa in the late 1990s, a new avenue for publishing was discovered and the African short story finally began to get its long-overdue moment of recognition. [This follows a discussion of the emphasis on novels at the expense of short stories.] The traditional publishing landscape, with its excessive restrictions, was suddenly superseded. The Internet is today doing what the newspapers and magazines did to the development of the short story in Europe and America at the start of the industrial age. It is worth pointing out that the Internet, due to its own peculiar restrictions, seems actually to favour short stories over novels, thereby reversing the restrictions that traditional publishing had placed on African fiction.

Food for thought. Is the Internet giving the short story new life everywhere in the world? I hope so.

In my opinion, eReaders also favour short stories. It seems ages since I bought a BeBook Neo. I didn't use it for a long time, until I had the bright idea of transferring to it the stories I download from my subscription to Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now I can sit comfortably at the table with my eReader propped up on my Book Seat, or lie in bed and take in a short fantasy or sci-fi story.

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