Does literature really matter? Why should we read fiction? In an era of internet news, prestige television, and social media, what do made-up stories tell us that we can't learn somewhere else? At Chronicle, these questions form the litmus test for everything I do. My tasks, which include finding, filtering, categorizing, and editing the stories that come in to Chronicle, are all about providing a range of short stories that are both entertaining and meaningful.
Literature matters. It allows us to leap over the wall of self, to inhabit the mind, body, and soul of another. Through fiction, we can experience someone else's life from the inside looking out. By putting us firmly in the shoes of another, we learn not just about the life and times of somebody who's different than us, but about ourselves. Fiction allows us to live hundreds of lives. It builds context for our experiences. It acts as a mirror for our own consciousness, allows us to test ourselves against the yardstick of another.
Of course, there are many different types of fiction narratives. So-called "high brow" literature isn't always easy to read. It isn't always entertaining, either - in fact, some of the best books of the last hundred years are notoriously boring (I'm looking at you, Moby Dick). So if literature teaches us things that television cannot, it is also significantly more difficult to absorb. The fact is that reading Infinite Jest or Middlemarch requires practice and patience. It often goes unacknowledged that reading is a skill that requires practice. We sometimes assume that literacy merely means the ability to translate written words into a literal understanding.
But reading, like any skill-based activity, has a huge range. One of my dreams for Chronicle is that it helps people discover that they love literature. I believe that by putting beautiful, meaningful short stories in the pocket of our users, we have the opportunity to move the literacy needle. If we can succeed in our goal of making literature fit into the schedules of the modern person, then we will be doing our small part in securing a future for not just short stories, but all great works of fiction. Practicing reading doesn't have to be a focussed activity. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, and suddenly the idea of picking up a novel doesn't seem quite as daunting as it used to.
I'm very proud of the stories we've been able to gather for Chronicle so far. It's a joy for me to bring these flash pieces into the small pockets of free time that we all have today. Whether you're an avid fan of JJ's science fiction or you had your heart broken by Dan Belmont's historical piece, I'm so happy that you're here. Literature matters: keep reading.