So let's play my favorite game: Categorize! That! Interstice!
In one corner, we have the novel, that 800-pound gorilla that goes back to, I don't know, Homer or Gilgamesh. It's the sort of story that follows a single or related set of protagonists over the length of an entire work. In the other corner, weighing all of, let's say, less than 15k words, is the short story, which can join together into a Voltron-like monster in a few ways. Let us pull petals and count the ways (and note the major differences):
- the short story collection: here, the stories are linked by some connection, such as
- author (George Saunders's Pastoralia);
- topic/focus/theme/setting (John Joseph Adams's By Blood We Live, a vampire anthology; various Best Of collections organized by venue or genre);
- Note: the stories here are easy to remove and print elsewhere;
- Note: while these stories could be removed and reprinted, many of them impact each other and deepen the experience; stories in this sort of collection usually swirl around a set of themes/motifs and/or characters/settings/events;
- Note: the individual stories here are generally fragmentary, but not exactly incomplete; for instance, Tristram gives us some complete stories or moments, but they aren't all that significant except when put into the whole. Yet, the book's reluctance to engage in a single protagonist (or protagonist group) keeps the book from following in the mainline tradition of the novel. (See also postmodern novel and anti-novel.)