As you could probably tell from reading Mel’s review of Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go, which appeared in this year’s Best American Short Stories, we’re pretty pumped about tomorrow’s BASS panel event hosted by Harvard Bookstore. For my own preview leading up to the event, I’ve considered some subjects here that series editor Heidi Pitlor discusses in the preface to this year’s edition of BASS.
By Shane Solar-Doherty
Since 2007, Heidi Pitlor’s first year as series editor of The Best American Short Stories, a lot has changed. E-readers have grown vastly more popular; reputable lit journals have folded and new ones have been trying to fill the holes; publishers’ budgets have been cut and established editors have lost their jobs. All of which makes Pitlor’s job more difficult when, at the end of a year, she has to sit down and sum up the events of the past twelve months in about three pages.
The preface to this year’s edition of BASS packs in a lot. Being that this is the last BASS of the first decade of the 21st century, Pitlor sums up the 2010 edition in terms of where we were a decade ago. In 2000, Katrina Kenison, then the series editor of BASS, read submissions from about fifty more journals than Pitlor did this year; ten years ago, John Updike, Saul Bellow and J.D. Salinger were all still kickin’ it; lit journals Story, DoubleTake, and Ontario Review were still publishing at the beginning of the decade, but since they’ve gone under, it’s been left up to McSweeney’s, Tin House and One Story to pick up where they left off.
In illustrating her point about struggling journals, Pitlor points to an article by Ted Genoways in Mother Jones, in which Genoways cites the struggles that The Southern Review and New England Review have had in trying to stay afloat. Genoways’ February 2010 article, titled The Death of Fiction?, explores much more than just those two journals’ troubles. Genoways adamantly encourages young writers to take risks with their writing, to explore themes that will challenge both reader and writer, and to step out of the comfort zone that academia allots them. He suggests that lit journals are flopping largely because no one’s reading them anymore, not even writers. As a result, Genoways thinks “writers have become less interested in reaching out to readers – and less and less encouraged by their teachers to try.”