With this ninth edition Fiction 100 passes yet another milestone. The eighth edition celebrated the fact that the book had been in print for 25 years, a full quarter of a century, a fact that surprised no one more than it did the editor. With the ninth edition comes yet another realization: Fiction 100 has now been available to college students and their teachers in four decades: the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the first decade of the new millennium. With that realization comes still another: that while the world has changed a great deal since 1974, the aims and structure of Fiction 100 on the whole have not. Then as now I have tried to produce a large book of representative-quality short fiction that could be used in a wide variety of course formats and to do so at a reasonable price.
Another thing that has not changed is the difficulty I have faced in trying to cull the increasingly rich world of short fiction to decide what selections to make. One would think that with a table of contents as large as Fiction 100's such decisions would be relatively easy. They are not. As I long ago discovered, the problem of choice is only multiplied by size. The larger the book, the greater, in fact, the need for principles of selection.
Those that govern Fiction 100 are easily explained. First of all, I have insisted that the stories included must not only have literary merit but must be interesting. Four decades of teaching the short story to college students has persuaded me that any story, if it is to "work" in the classroom, must engage the curiosity, imagination, and intelligence of students and provide them with a reading experience they find pleasurable. In addition, I have tried to assemble a collection of stories, international in scope, that represents a wide variety of subject matter, theme, literary technique, and style, and that, at the same time, serves to illustrate the development of short fictionits continuity, durability, and traditionfrom its identifiable beginnings in the early years of the nineteenth century to the present. To the extent possible, I have also asked that the stories "speak to one another" to make possible classroom discussion having to do with comparison and contrast. Roughly a third of the anthology is reserved for older, well-established storiesthe so-called classics. They are offered without apology; good stories, no matter how often anthologized, are a source of endless pleasure and discovery that no amount of rereading, classroom discussion, or critical analysis can ever exhaust. On the other hand, Fiction 100 tries to present a broad selection of newer and contemporary stories to suggest the direction in which short fiction is moving as one century gives way to the next.
The book's editorial apparatus remains unchanged. It has been kept to a minimum to make Fiction 100 as usable in as many different kinds of fiction courses as possible. There are, of course, the study questions that follow each story. But these are, by intent, neither complete nor comprehensive. Rather, they are designed to be suggestive, to help guide students in their own literary response, and to serve as a springboard for classroom discussion. In much the same way, the Biographical Notes, Short Story Handbook, and Chronological Table of Contents are intended to provide students with additional resources, tools, and information without getting in the way of their instructor's course format and design.
The most significant change over the four decades has been the book's contents. Of the 100 stories in the 1974 edition, only 34 remain. While the majority of these represent older, nineteenth-century classics, nearly half belong to the twentieth century, suggesting that our definition of the "classic" short story is an ever-expanding one. The other 95 storiesfor there are 129 stories in the ninth edition of Fiction 100reflect my own changing relationship with the genre and my response to the many good suggestions from reviewers, colleagues, and students, including my own most recent students in English 2305 at the University of Houston. Many of those students, I hasten to add, have long since become reviewers, colleagues, and friendsanother legacy of these past four decades, and one that I value deeply. All of you have my thanks.
Thanks too go to Carrie Brandon, my editor at Prentice Hall, who, among her other virtues, has one that every author and editor deeply appreciates. She is always there when you need her. I need to also thank the enterprising Fred Courtright, who served as permissions editor during this revision cycle, and whose knowledge and expertise in dealing with the always intricate and time-consuming issue of clearing rights and permissions are simply remarkable. Thanks also go to Joe Barron of P. M. Gordon Associates, Inc., who skillfully guided this ninth edition of Fiction 100 through the various stages of the production process.
If a period crossing four decadesthe considerable portion of an adult life-timeprovides anything in the way of perspective and wisdom, it is this: that editing Fiction 100 through nine editions has been an extraordinary opportunity for which I will always be grateful. Each new edition has been a genuine labor of love.
James H. Pickering