Q: What is a short story?
A: A short story.
Q: What is a short story writer?
A: A writer with a career death wish.
Q: What is a short story collection?
A: A collection of discrete short stories.
Q: What is a linked short story collection?
A: A collection of stories that are discrete but also connected somehow.
Q: Why not just write a novel?
A: Why not just read cereal-box advertisements?
Q: Why not just stop writing fiction and get a real job? Anyway, I digress. What is a novel in stories?
A: A linked short story collection.
Q: Sounds pretentious.
A: The terms are meant to distinguish a collection of discrete stories from a collection whose stories are connected. A better term all around would be one that doesn’t include “short” or “story” or “short story,” since these words make people run away.
Q: Right? What’s with short stories? They just get started and then all of a sudden, they’re done. You can’t really sink your teeth into them. Why would anyone write them?
A: Because the form is rather tricky and rewarding and has a long and interesting history.
Q: Ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, you’re serious.
A: Yes! Alice Munro just won the 2013 Nobel Prize for a collection of stories.
Q: Alice who? Ha ha ha ha ha. Just kidding. What is a short story cycle?
A: A collection of stories where the stories are discrete but connected and also either build on each other or express conceptual tension.
A: Yeah, hairs are being split, but some people like that sort of thing.
Q: Should I now leave you to compose sort-of-okay literature in compressed and discrete form?
A: Yes, please.