The short story, and its tender home, the "collection," are on life support. Erotica is in its new unfortunate "Harold Robbins" phase, and is largely formulaic. There are dozens of erotic anthologies turned out at great speed for nickels and dimes. The feeling that we were breaking down doors has been replaced with authors desperate to buy a few hinges for their own sanity.Science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin also writes on the alleged death of reading now in the new Harper's - "Staying Awake: Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading." This is not online.
I read what Stephen King's essay "What ails the short story?" last fall, and it is exactly true for erotica:It’s tough for writers to write (and editors to edit) when faced with a shrinking audience. Once, in the days of the old Saturday Evening Post, short fiction was a stadium act; now it can barely fill a coffeehouse and often performs in the company of nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a mouth organ. If the stories felt airless, why not? When circulation falters, the air in the room gets stale.Well, how do other writers feel about that? Isn't King an exception?
Writers know that that the short form is elemental to our craft, it's the foundation of storytelling— but without readers, where do we go? We can only talk to ourselves for so long.
Every long-running series and popular author (including King) has seen their sales contract or collapse in the last fifteen years. When I look at the exhaustive book tour itineraries I went on the 90s, I see that less than 1 out of 10 places I visited is still in operation. Imagine being a cook and watching nearly all the restaurants close except Burger King. That's how it feels.
Don't people still read for pleasure?
Book reading is not in vogue any longer, it's eccentric. No one would even bother to have an obscenity fight over text, because so few people would be in "danger" of reading it.
If I go to a supermarket in any big American city, and ask my fellow shoppers, "Do you know where a bookstore is?" most of them will offer an apology and say they have no idea. A few will admit they haven't read a book since they were last in school, as a requirement.
There is also the quickly thinning ranks of full-time newspaper book reviewers, or even book sections, mentioned in this fall article in CJR.