Interview by Rupert Dastur
Hi Quentin, thank you for speaking to us. What can you tell us about your website Short Edition and where did the concept come from?
It’s a community hosted on the platform short-edition.com that opened in 2011. It counts today 142,000 readers and 9,500 authors: we powered 7+ millions of reads of short stories on smartphones, tablets and computers. Major French media group L’Express invested in us 18 months ago.
You’ve recently launched your short story vending machines – where did you get the idea from and what are the main objectives of the venture?
We were actually not thinking about work, just having a break at the snack vending machine. We thought it would be cool to have it for short stories. Then, a couple days later we decided to hack a prototype: the short story dispenser was born 🙂
Do you have any concern that it might make short fiction seem more throw-away?
Maybe ephemeral but not throw-away, no!
Keep the ticket: you might enjoy read it again later 🙂
If the scheme is successful, do you have plans to roll the machines out further afield?
We have 8 in Grenoble, France and we plan to expand everywhere we can 🙂 If anyone wants to help, they are welcome to contact us at email@example.com
What can you tell about the status of the short story in France today?
Not as appreciated as in U.S., but its reputation is growing!
Many of our readers are likely to know a little about the history of the short story in English, but would you be willing to give a brief run down of the major points in French literature.
In France, it’s nouvelles, it’s a genre only known through well-known novel writers who writes after being successful.
There are a few major nouvelles authors such as Maupassant, or more recently Gary, but this genre is undervalued: literature prize as way less known, journalists don’t like to showcase them and booksellers don’t really like because it’s less profitable for them, so the circle comes back around!
Luckily, some people today are starting to realize the power of writing…
Is there much discernible difference between French and English short fiction, do you think?
I’m not an expert of English literature, but I would say that English short story is more diverse, it covers many forms (flash fictions, novellas…). The nouvelle in French literature, is one isolated genre.
What, for you makes a really cracking short story?
A good original plot, good writing, and often (but not always) an unexpected outcome… Some writers write nouvelles without unexpected outcome, but with a proper atmosphere and a story in sequels, it can work as well. I don’t think there are some clear cut rules in this domain! Good plot and good writing are often enough!
Finally, what do you envisage for the future of the short story?
A very bright future! Because short story suit very well our new way of life and new devices (smartphones/tablets).
Thanks for speaking to us, Quentin. Let’s hope to hear more about the short story vending machine and other creations from Short Edition!
Rupert Dastur is a writer, editor, and founding director of TSS Publishing. He studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and is Associate Editor at The Word Factory, a leading short story organisation based in London. He’s also Events Coordinator for the Society of Young Publishers (London) and Curator for WritingCompetitions.org. His own work has appeared in a number of places online and in print and he is currently working on his first novel.
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