Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Society Celebrates 20 Years: Gerald So

In the first week of April 1996, the members of shortmystery-l-digest voted to become the Short Mystery Fiction Society, with goals of better representing mystery & crime short stories in the public eye.

In honor of the Society's establishment and our twenty years increasing publication and regard for the form, President Jan Christensen has invited members' reflections on joining the Society and why they've remained members and fans of the form.

Here's my reflection:

I've always had an affinity for short stories. One of my favorites is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", which I first heard as a sixth-grader on a field trip to a high school production with sound effects of the heart beating through the stage floor.

In the summer of 1993, between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I committed myself to writing as a career, giving up video games so I'd have more time to read. After a handful of thrillers, I branched out to crime fiction, and it's been most of my reading pleasure ever since. I joined Shortmystery along with other mystery fiction lists such as DorothyL and spenser-l, hoping to soak up knowledge of the genre that way as well.

I became actively involved in the SMFS in 2001. Fellow member Kevin Burton Smith had brought me in to edit the original fiction section of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, and I submitted our stories for the Society's Derringer Awards. In my eight years at Thrilling Detective, four of our stories became Derringer finalists and three won.

In the meantime, I'd created and moderated my own discussion lists DetecToday (about P.I. fiction since 1980), Spenser's Sneakers (about Robert B. Parker), and CrimeSeen (about TV and movies). They gave me the confidence to run for SMFS president in 2008.

Like my friend Kevin, who some years earlier had taken over running the SMFS's public website from Robert K. Foster, I had goals of improving overall organization. Upon winning the 2008–10 presidency, I created the SMFS Blog to centralize information from the Society's message archives and previous websites and publicly record policy decisions during my term. Knowing such an overhaul would meet resistance, I was open to feedback onlist, via the group's Polls feature, and by offlist email.

My vice president Jim Doherty had his own goals for the Society, creating and presenting physical Derringer awards at Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention), resuming and rededicating the Golden Derringer lifetime achievement award in memory of the esteemed Edward D. Hoch, and establishing a Hall of Fame to honor deceased writers of importance to the form. Some of these ideas met resistance as well, but undoubtedly they've raised the Society's profile and that of short mystery fiction as a whole.

Jim and I didn't run for re-election, wanting to yield to members with fresh ideas for the Society, and to see how well our term's accomplishments stood without us.

2012–2014, I served as longtime member Tom Sweeney's vice president, taking on more of a support and advisory role. Toward the end of that term, we created the SMFS Anthology Plans group, which yielded the first SMFS-member anthology, Flash and Bang from Untreed Reads, in October 2015.

Today I maintain the SMFS Blog and @SMFSocy Twitter account, and remain active in the Anthology and Awards Plans groups. I think my experience with the Society proves anyone's talents can contribute uniquely to a larger cause. Through the Society, I've been able to do more for the cause of mystery & crime stories than I ever thought possible. I encourage you to get involved.

Gerald So was fiction editor for The Thrilling Detective Web Site 2001–09. He served as SMFS president 2008–10 and vice president 2012–14. He currently edits The Five-Two crime poetry weekly.

Join the celebration: Email G_SO at YAHOO dot COM the text and links to be included in your blog post.

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