The short story is in trouble. Once upon a time, authors such as Isaac Asimov, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain and Ray Bradbury made a tidy living from churning out short-form fiction. Today, though, most markets pay the monetary equivalent of a venti Frappuccino. Why has the short story, that foundation upon which none less than Flannery O'Connor built her reputation, fallen upon hard times? The reasons are legion, but an immediately evident one is value: Readers have a hard time dropping dough on slim volumes whose contents are almost guaranteed to be hit or miss. It's a rare collection that can delight with every selection -- at least until the advent of Anthology Builder.
The brainchild of speculative fiction writer Nancy Fulda, Anthology Builder lets readers select up to 350 pages of content for $15 from authors both classic and up-and-coming. Edgar Allan Poe, George MacDonald and Nathanial Hawthorne rub shoulders with Eric James Stone, M.K. Hobson and James Maxey. You can design your own cover or pick from over a hundred original pieces of art. If narrowing down the options feels a bit daunting (it did for me), you can browse a library of pre-edited anthologies. Options include It Ends in Fire: Early Apocalyptic Fiction and Other Worlds' Nightmares: A Collection of Secondary-World Horror.
How does the final product stack up? I was pleased with both the content and presentation of my volume, ROF Resurrection: Stories from Realms of Fantasy. With heavyweight paper and a slick, perfect-bound cover, it felt more like something from a bookstore than a print-on-demand publication. It had only one downside, but unfortunately it was a big one -- nagging typographical errors. Not a story I read was free from absent commas, open parentheticals or missing quotation marks. They weren't big errors, just noticeable enough to divert my flow of thought. A shame, really, because otherwise Anthology Builder offers a top-notch product that fills a much-needed niche.
(Picture: CC by Sarah and Mike ...probably)