The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 6, No. 1

Letter to the Reader

by Adrienne Brodeur

Dear Reader,

“The short story is dead.”

“The last thing the world needs is another short-story magazine

“Nobody wants to read stories anymore.”
     These were typical of the words of “encouragement” that Francis Coppola and I received when we launched Zoetrope: All-Story five years ago this month. At that time, nobody – including me – guessed that bringing a new slant to old-fashioned storytelling would have such broad appeal, or that Zoetrope: All-Story would establish itself as a destination for the best short-story writers of the end of one millennium and the beginning of the next. And, even with all our hopes, we didn’t dream that we’d beat the odds – and the venerable old-guard magazines – to win the National Magazine Award for best fiction in 2001. It has been a great joy to watch Zoetrope: All-Story take form and flight, find its voice and its audience, and receive its measure of recognition.
     From the start, I’ve had the extreme good fortune of finding – or being found by – wonderfully talented and devoted people, especially my core team: Justine Cook, Samantha Schnee, Holly Rothman, Gheña Glijansky, and Lea Carpenter. Together we learned the diplomacy required to work with great designers such as David Bowie, Julian Schnabel, and Helmut Newton; the patience to woo the likes of Gabriel García Márquez; and – our favorite – the joy of discovering unknown writers such as the inestimable Melissa Bank, the formidable David Benioff, the talented Adam Haslett, and many, many others, and watching their careers soar. And, while we were confident of our choices, it wasn’t until you, our readers, gave the magazine such a remarkable reception that we fully understood that our mission also had tremendous popular appeal.
     With our fifth anniversary, we wanted to present a special issue, one that looks to the future. It was Francis himself who suggested utopia, and we set out to commission stories specifically on that theme. Aware of the inherently contradictory meaning of the word “utopia” (in Greek, “eutopia” is a good place and “outopia” is not a place at all) and of the twentieth century’s trajectory of failed utopian experiments, we put the challenge to the writers to imagine anew an old ideal and invited them to explore any aspect of utopia they wished. What we found in these stories is that utopia can only be seen in a glance, never looked at full on, never entirely captured. Utopia can be imagined but never reached, and each of these stories provocatively tackles the innate human desire to conceive a perfect world. And, while we could not have foreseen the tragic events of September 11th , which cast a new light on our issue, these six stories highlight the permanent relevance of aspiring to a better world.
     February also marks the move of Zoetrope: All-Story from its birthplace in New York City to its new home in San Francisco. But rest assured, that wherever it lands, Zoetrope: All-Story will continue to find wonderful short stories to inform and entertain you. It is with pride that I join its writers, guest designers, readers, and well-wishers in marking this fifth anniversary and anticipating its next achievements.

     My warm regards,
     Adrienne Brodeur
     Editor in Chief