There are more than a million books published around the world every year, with short story collections accounting for less than 1 percent of them. Still, the last two years have seen the publication of some of the most intriguing anthologies by authors of all backgrounds, making 2008 and 2009 very successful years for short fiction. In the long run, it remains to be seen if the short story will gain the publishing upper hand. Maggie Tiojakin reports.
Short stories are hard to write, that’s true; but they’re even harder to sell, and that’s a fact.
Ratih Kumala is known for her quirky and sometimes disturbing stories that appear regularly in leading national dailies, including Kompas and Suara Merdeka. She’s the author of three novels – Tabula Rasa (2004), Genesis (2005) and Kronik Betawi (2009) – as well as a collection of short stories, Larutan Senja (2006), distinguishing her as one of the most promising young writers today.
The 14 stories included in Larutan Senja (Potion of Twilight) feature some of Ratih’s best writing to date, recounting anecdotes of a world driven by faith (or the lack of it), mysticism, fantasy and (some) horror. Yet the anthology is almost impossible to find in local bookstores and available for purchase only through the Internet. This is despite the fact that Larutan Senja was listed as one of the few notable books in the year of its publication.
“Our editorial department has often expressed a great interest in publishing short story collections,” says Hetih Rusli, a senior editor at publisher Gramedia Pustaka Utama. “But our marketing department has always been more than a little hesitant to put them out there because they never sell as well as we expect.”
Nevertheless, according to Ratih, the lack of interest on readers’ part in purchasing anthologies of short stories may also be attributed to the fact that local short stories are readily accessible in newspapers’ weekly cycle.