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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Esquire Contest Contested

Esquire has decided to take a break from hawking cologne, Grey Goose Vodka, and Scarlett Johansson to promote something else: Fiction. The magazine is having a fiction contest that is “open to all” and the prize is publication in the magazine plus $2,500. There are some eccentric rules, so make sure you check out the website before you get out your Macbook. I am crossing my fingers that a new voice wins the prize and breaks into the market for the first time. It doesn’t even have to be me.

Short story-philes will recall Esquire as the former home of the legendary editor Gordon Lish, responsible for some of the early publications of Richard Ford and Raymond Carver, just to name a couple. The magazine has not published fiction regularly recently, and it is a roll of the dice whether each issue will even contain a short story. While the contest and an announcement about a new online presence for fiction at appear to be lauding fiction, it seems to me that this is the prelude to moving fiction online and taking it out of the print magazine entirely.

Should we deride or celebrate? If it is stopping publication of fiction in its printed form but continuing to do so online, it is taking a different tack from say, the Atlantic when they stopped publishing short stories a few years ago. Esquire seems to be taking advantage of the infinite space of the net by stopping-but-not-stopping. In my mind, the question is whether fiction won or lost this round, and I’m not sure. Maybe lost in the short run if fiction disappears from the print version. But it could win in the long run if stories are on the web, where more and more people are turning when they want to read something.

Is online publication The New Ghetto or is it the Savior of us all? I’m interested in your thoughts. In the meantime, I expect you to be submitting your entries. Good Luck.

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