The Short Story Review [ISSN: 0741-0786] was an independent San Francisco-based literary journal operating between 1983 and 1989. Chris Gabbard founded the journal and was its chief editor. He had considerable and indispensable help from Stephen Woodhams, who served as Fiction Editor. The two of them had studied creative writing at San Francisco State University under Gina Berriault, Leo Litwak, Michael Rubin, and Herb Wilner. The editorial board consisted of Elea Carey, Beth Overson, Leza Lowitz, Lynn Gray, Anthony Caquelin, Tema Goodwin, Susan St. Aubin, Cathy Jacob, and Ted Rajfur. Ted Rajfur also illustrated a number of the stories. Lynn Gray and Judith Slater conducted most of the interviews.
The Short Story Review played a small part in the short story renaissance of the 1980s. “The 1980s were the golden age of the short story,” writes Bob Hoover of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.*1 Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tobias Wolff, Richard Ford, Mary Robinson, and others reawakened interest in what had been a dormant genre.
Showcasing emerging short story writers as well as authors of established reputation, The Short Story Review began operation at roughly the same time as several other literary magazines in the San Francisco Bay Area, most notably Wendy Lesser’s The Threepenny Review, Jay Schaefer’s Fiction Network Magazine, and Howard Junker’s Zyzzyva. With the partial exception of Fiction Network, The Short Story Review differed from the others by focusing exclusively on the short story as a formal literary genre.
The editors’ aim was to cater to the local community of fiction writers in the same way Joyce Jenkin’s Berkeley-based Poetry Flash served the bay area poetry community. Indeed, the editors were eager to carve out a niche for a young generation of short story writers in a region strongly dominated by the poetry of the aging Beat generation.
In addition to providing a venue for original short stories (it regularly published manuscripts from its slush pile), it actively solicited new work from well-known authors. Along with original fiction, it included interviews with writers, reviews of recently released short story collections produced by small presses and major publishing houses, and a monthly calendar of local fiction readings.
By selecting medium-length, minimalistic pieces written in spare prose and in the mode of literary realism, the editorial board attempted to follow in the tradition of the genre’s masters: Anton Chekhov, James Joyce, Kate Chopin, Eudora Welty, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and Flannery O’Connor, to name a few.
Over the six years of its existence, it appeared under three names. From December 1983 until June 1985, it published monthly as Fiction Monthly and was distributed free. Because financial constraints forced retrenchment, from fall 1985 to spring 1986 it appeared less frequently and under the name FM Five. Thereafter it came out quarterly as The Short Story Review and was sold in bookstores. Throughout its duration it was printed in tabloid format, and the number of paying subscribers, to whom the periodical was mailed, at one point peaked at several hundred, with subscribers in all fifty states as well as in Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.. Lining up several hundred paying subscribers was no small feat for a non-commercial little magazine
The Short Story Review was the first literary journal to publish work by Chinese-American writer Amy Tan. On the advice of author and then San Francisco State University creative writing instructor Molly Giles, Tan sent an unsolicited manuscript titled “End Game” to the journal, and the editorial board pulled it from the ‘slush pile’ and printed it in its Spring 1986 edition (3.4). A literary agent subscribing to the review contacted Gabbard for Tan’s phone number. The agent then obtained a $50,000 advance for Tan from a major east coast publishing house. Later renamed “Rules of the Game,” the story became the basis of the best-selling 1989 novel Joy Luck Club*2 and the 1993 film Joy Luck Club
Other notable authors it published were Antonya Nelson (“Affair Lite,” 6.1), Rudolfo Anaya (“The Place of the Swallows,” 1.3), Dagoberto Gilb (“Night Work,” 3.4), Herbert Gold (“Meester Boris,” 1.4), Alice Adams (“Computers Are Human Too,” 1.7), Nicholasa Mohr (“I Never Even Seen My Father,” 5.3), Paul West (“Brain Waves of a Stone Age Man,” 5.2), R. A. Sasaki (“Wild Mushrooms,” 5.2), Judith Slater [Vannice] (“Single Lives,” 2.10; “A Christmas Story,” 2.4), Toni Graham (“Skin and Bone,” 3.2; “Haunted,” 4.2), H. E. Francis (“Traveling,” 2.3, “Interval,” 6.2), Arturo Vivante (“Taste of the Rainbow,” 2.7), Mark Coovelis (“Love Is Something Else,” 5.1), and Alvah Bessie (“Remembering Jack London,” 2.5).
Additionally, it featured interviews with Anne Rice (2.1), Bobbie Ann Mason (1.6), Lee K. Abbott (4.1), Paula Gunn Allen (2.8), Madison Smartt Bell (3.4), T. Coraghessan Boyle (5.2), Ron Carlson (4.3), Denise Chavez (5.4), Carolyn Chute (3.1), Tom Clark (poet) (3.3), J. California Cooper (3.2), Michael Covino (3.4), Harriet Doerr (2.10), Dagoberto Gilb (4.4), Amy Hempel (4.2), Amy Kaufman (4.4), W. P. Kinsella (5.3), Ron Loewinsohn (2.6), Tim O’Brien (4.2), Shannon Ravenel (editor of Best American Short Stories) (4.1), Lynn Sharon Schwartz (5.1), Gilbert Sorrentino (2.4), Alice Adams (1.7), and Tobias Wolff (3.3).
Other writers whose work appeared were Francis Amos (“The Melon Furrows,” 5.4), Barbara Baer (“The River Seder,” 3.2; “Half the Wooing,” 4.2), Rosaleen Bertolino (“On the Desert,” 2.3), Corinne Demas Bliss (“American Authors Incorportated,” 2.10), Fred Bonnie (“A Settlement of Wages,” 5.1), Hannah Brown (“The One with the Most Earrings,” 5.4), Stephany Brown (“The Girl That I Love,” 6.2), Anne Calcagno (“Martine,” 1.7), Steve Cantwell (“Goin’ West,” 6.2), Melinda Dart (“Sunset,” 2.9; “The Handy Man,” 2.9), Richard Cortez Day, (“Men Are Like Children, Like the Beasts,” 3.4), Emory Davis (“The Uninvited Guest,” 4.4), Lisa Drew (“Flora’s Taste,” 3.3), Margot Duxler (“Music,” 3.1), Peter Fish (“Imperial Beach,” 2.1), Carol Gamble (“Jehednick’s Comet,” 3.1).
Molly Giles (“What Do You Say,” 2.5), Jonathan Gillman (“The Bounty,” 6.1), Avram Gimbel (“The Challenge,” 1.4), Jean Gould (“Retreat,” 1.4), Geoffrey Green (“Dreamless,” 3.3), Myron Greenman (“Lightening Kenneth,” 1.7), Joan Harvey (“Underneath Mrs. Thing,” 2.8), Catherine Jacob (“Long Distance,” 4.3), Ronald Johnson (“Billie,” 1.5), Robert Kelly (“The Hole,” 5.3), Robin Kirk (“Yesterday,” 2.2), George Liles (“Doing the Necessary,” 2.5), Lynn Lauber (“Deer Crossing,” 3.3), Fred Manzo (“Earning Points,” 5.3), Isabelle Maynard (“Sweet Revenge,” 1.5), Don Meredith (“Einstein’s Bike,” 3.2), John Murray (“The Chapati Principle,” 1.1-2; “Not At All,” 1.3), Jane Nudelman (“Izzy and the Duchess,” 2.6; “America Is for The Children,” 2.1), Chris Packard (“Minnesota Close-Up,” 6.1), Tom Parker (“The Woman Who Hated Short Stories,” 2.2), Peter Pickering (“The Fat Man,” 1.5), S. L. Pugh (“Suicide Bridge,” 6.2), D. L. Pughe (“Hoot,” 1.2), Paulette Roeske (“From This Distance,” 6.1), Tom Ruane (“Ghosts,” 5.4).
Lisa Ruffolo (“Words of Love,” 5.1), Jeanne Schinto (“Civilization” 4.1), Hillel Schwartz (“An Attribution,” 3.1; “Good Company,” 4.1; “Sleeping Beauty,” 5.1), C. E. Shue (“Company,” 6.1), Ray Skjelbred (“Do You Need This Light,” 1.1; “The Dinner Party,” 1.3; “The Man Who Saw Gaslight,” 1.7), W. A. Smith (“Delivery,” 3.1; “Remember That Road,” 3.3), Susan St. Aubin (“Real Life,” 1.1), Larry Tritten (“The Word,” 2.4), Kirby Wilkins (“Strange Shores,” 1.3; “Sign,” 1.6), Stephen Woodhams (“Coming Around the Horn,” 1.6), and Paul Zakaras (“New Wife,” 6.2).
The magazine’s advertising and subscription revenue never came close to covering the production and distribution costs. Running his family’s successful retail irrigation and plumbing supply in Palo Alto, Gabbard had funded the magazine mostly out of his own pocket. He frequently observed that one pays for the privilege of publishing a literary magazine. When he sold the family business in 1989 to return to graduate school, the editorial board voted to cease operation with the Spring (6.2) issue. Had the magazine survived longer, it might have transitioned to becoming an Internet publication. However, in 1989 no sign had yet appeared that there would be such a thing as the ‘web.’
The Thomas G. Carpenter Library at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville houses a complete run of The Short Story Review. Questions about the holdings can be directed to Special Collections Librarian Aisha Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org). Questions about the journal itself should be directed to Dr. Chris Gabbard at the English department of the University of North Florida (email@example.com).
*1 Hoover, Bob (Nov. 4, 2003). “Writer looks forward to short fiction’s revival.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://old.post-gazette.com/books/20031104moody1104fnp1.asp
*2 Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1989. 4.