Not very often do we have the opportunity to bring you an issue full of short stories that stand alone. Much more often, our writers choose to write longer works whose multiple chapters span two or more issues.
DargonZine usually requires that our writers split up any story that exceeds 50,000 words. We imposed that limit about ten years ago, during DargonZine’s earlier days, at a point when 100,000-word stories that filled an entire issue were common. After four such “single-story” issues in quick succession, we learned that those issue-filling works were ponderous and awkward for our readers. Instead, printing two or three different stories at a time gave each issue more variety and made them much more pleasant to read. We wanted to allow longer works, because they give the author room to produce deeper and more interesting storylines. Therefore, we decided that from then on exceedingly long stories needed to be broken up and serialized.
However, splitting lengthy works into multi-volume sets can make for disjointed reading. It can also frustrate new readers when their first issue features part two of one storyline and part three of another. For these reasons, we have tried to ensure that each part of a longer series is able to stand on its own, having sufficient backfill to bring even new readers up to speed on what has occurred in any previous chapters.
Our writers’ preferences unquestionably run to lengthier pieces, and for the most part serialization has worked very well. However, our issues are regularly filled with serialized stories, and that can get a little tiresome if none of the stories in an issue reaches a climax or conclusion.
However, about once per year we are able to schedule an issue without any multi-part stories. I consider issues like this one, where we have three standalone works, a rare treat. Our regular readers don’t have to try to recall the details of previous chapters; our new readers can enjoy their first issue without feeling like they’ve come in partway through a film; and every story reaches its conclusion, giving the whole issue a satisfying sense of closure.
And we have some wonderful short works in this issue. We lead off with the rarest of treats: a short story from our longtime master Dafydd Cyhoeddwr. Dafydd is by far DargonZine’s most prolific writer. His motive when he joined the Dargon Project back in 1986 was to try his hand at writing short stories, for even then his tendency was to write voluminous works. Well, that experiment hasn’t been terribly successful; of the amazing fifty-four stories he has printed in our pages, only two were not serialized, and both of those were still tied into his other works, and appeared more than fifteen years ago! Therefore I take great pleasure in sharing with you the first standalone short story that Dafydd has printed in decades, and the shortest of his three attempts. Of course, those of you who are familiar with Dafydd’s work will know that he’s not cured yet: his Talisman epic continues. Ironically, we plan on making an exception to our own rule and next year we will devote an entire issue to the final chapter in this 38-part saga.
Following Dafydd’s story is another, very short piece by Nicholas Wansbutter. In his five years with us, Nick has published four serialized stories totaling nine chapters, but this, too, is his first standalone story to appear in DargonZine. While Nick hasn’t been with us as long as Dafydd, it’s still exciting to see each of our writers expanding their boundaries and growing as writers.
Jim Owens, one of DargonZine’s founders, provides this issue’s final piece. Unlike Dafydd and Nick, for whom this is new ground, Jim is our undisputed master of the one-part story. In his many years with the project, Jim has given us seventeen single-part stories and only two serials. Jim’s very active imagination fuels his writing, and you never knows quite what you’ll find inside one of his works, but it’s guaranteed to be delightfully unique and memorable.
As these dedicated writers will tell you, writing great short stories is much more difficult than logic would lead you to believe. I hope you enjoy this issue, because it’s a very rare and special treat for us to be able to print an issue with a collection of shorts from these gentlemen, unquestionably some of our best writers.