Collecting the Short Crime Fiction Scene

While I pine away for an annual best of anthology for short stories published online there is a way that future generations of readers will remember the vibrant short crime fiction scene, site specific print anthologies. Right now anyway books last and websites fade and the sites that have anthologies will stand a greater chance of being remembered down the road.

Here’s an interesting thing. Next time you’re at a thrift store or a garage sale or whatever keep an eye out for old genre magazines and anthologies. It can be science fiction or fantasy or whatever. Take a look at the table of contents and read the authors names. It’s almost guaranteed that some of the names you’ll recognize and others you won’t. Some of them made it to greater posterity and some didn’t. But here you are, however many years down the road, holding something that contains a story by this person. Some of the folks published in the online zines will go on to greater fame and some won’t; some will publish novels and some won’t. Regardless of what may or may not happen at a future date the scene deserves to be remembered.

I don’t want the online scene to fold and turn into print. I like the online scene BUT I do want to see some of the fiction from online make the transition to print. Some have. As I mentioned above some of the sites have been publishing anthologies of stories that were originally published online. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight the site anthologies that were out there because THEY are the permanent record.

Buy them now, while they are all still reasonably available, because this is the scene as far as future generations are concerned. The legacy is being defined now and your small part in all of this is to remember.

Back in 2005 Anthony Neil Smith edited and released the Plots With Guns anthology. This was soon after the demise of the site and the best of the stories that had been published made their way into it. The introductory essay by Anthony Neil Smith is especially instructive as a primary source documenting the rise of one the earliest of the zines. The finding of like minded individuals, the filling of a gap in the short story market, it’s all here. The anthology also includes some stories that were written by authors invited to participate, like Jim Nisbet. Plots with Guns would resurface a couple of years later but for now the old issues have slipped into the internet archive.

Plotswith Guns anthology

Three years later Thuglit hit us with an annual one, two, three knockout blow releasing three anthologies containing the best fiction from the site. Pulling these anthologies together would get the better of Big Daddy Thug and company leading to the eventual shuttering of the publication. The old issues are still up online but as always who knows for how long. Hardcore Hardboiled came out in 2008 and contains the best of Thuglit’s first year with an introduction by Otto Penzler; Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll came out in 2009 and features an introduction by Sarah Weinman; Blood, Guts and Whiskey came out in 2010 and features an introduction by Max Allan Collins.

thuglit sex thugs rock and roll

blood guts whiskey thuglit

hardcore hardboiled thuglit

In addition to the third Thuglit anthology 2010 has seen the release of two more site specific anthologies.

Out of the Gutter is a print publication that has a foot in the online scene as well with their flash fiction site. The Baddest of the Bad collects some of the stories from the first three issues of Out of the Gutter. The first issue is a rare find these days and the anthology is a great way to get some of those stories. Fun fact: Spinetingler’s own Sandra Ruttan has a story in the first issue.

out of the gutter baddest of the bad

Beat to a Pulp in some ways marked a kind of turning point for the online crime fiction scene. Instead of gathering stories together in issues to be released according to a schedule they utilize the continuous publication format. They publish stories at the rate of one a week. It’s important to note that Beat to a Pulp embraces the pulp ethos by publishing stories in a variety of genres, not just crime. Their just recently announced collection, Beat to a Pulp: Round One, collects the best of the site so far with some original material tossed in for good measure. It features a foreword by Bill Crider and a history of pulp by Cullen Gallagher. Hopefully with that subtitle we will see more Beat to a Pulp anthologies in the future.

beat to a pulp round one

A little more than a decade has passed since the inception of the (mostly) online crime short fiction scene. The above six anthologies are the permanent record as of this writing. So why is a permanent record important? Let me answer a question with a challenge: Try and find a copy of Blue Murder magazine.

So how about it folks. Do you own any of these anthos? If so which ones. Do you plan on buy any of them? Which sites should put out an antho that hasn’t yet?

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

23 Replies to “Collecting the Short Crime Fiction Scene”

  1. I have the PWG anthology, the middle THUGLIT, one of the OUTG, and will hopefully have the BTAP one soon. This is a very timely reminder to people to buy these books. Or they won’t be around very soon. Remember MURDALAND. Not an anthology but a class print act.

  2. While it’s not quite the same thing, quite a few writers are collecting their own online stories into ebook format, so the stories aren’t completely gone. Oh, and Mouth Full of Bullets did a print anthology which is for sale at

  3. I posted a comment, but it seems to have disappeared. I noted that quite a few writers are e-publishing their own online shorts, which isn’t the same, but the stories are preserved. And Mouth Full of Bullets published an anthology from their first year over at

  4. I own all three Thuglits (all very awesome) and have an order on the new BTAP. Pulp Empire also has an antho I’ve been meaning to get my grubby little hands on. Aldo at Powder Burn Flash recently mentioned that they might issue an anthology as well.

  5. great piece.
    i have two of the Thuglit publications and really dig those covers (the dusters and the skeleton head).
    the contents are of a quality that i aspire to achieving.
    has ATON ever put out an anthology. it’s bursting like a top drawer filled with a million socks. the 600 series might be a place to begin.

  6. Brian, this thoughtful perspective really gave me pause. I had not thought of zines as a moment in history, but you’re right, it is. The explosion of short fiction on-line is all part of the evolving printed word. Thanks for for giving me a new insight and respect.

  7. Good post. In the last two years I’ve seen lots of writing which deserves to be recorded in the way that-I think- most of the writers would like. I hope to catch up on all of those anthos in the next year.

  8. Patti – I’ve got a couple of each of the Murdaland issues. One of the stories in issue #1 is a favorite of mine.

  9. Naomi – Yeah, I’ll probably pick up a copy of the BTAP with the next paycheck.

  10. Sandra – Yeah, I like the idea of authors getting their short fiction out there and I actually like the ebook technology in general but it just doesn’t provide the same sense of permanence.

    I didn’t know about the Mouth of Bullets antho on Lulu. I’ll have to track it down.

  11. Chris – I have to admit that I’m not familiar with Pulp Empire. I’ll have to rectify that. With the amount of time that Spinetingler has been around I too have been wondering if we should one.

  12. Nigel – I don’t think ATON has one out. Like that other post I’ve mine that I linked to from a while back I really think that the time has come for an annual best of anthology that pulls from all of the zines.

  13. A9 – Thanks for stopping by. I had a moment a few months back where I realized that the short crime fiction scene had been going on for a decade and no one was recording it’s history. The scene is happening now and I just want people to remember.

    As I said in the comments section of that other post:

    We are at a point now where it could go one way or the other. It can go towards the collections of Pulp era fiction or xeroxed and mimeographed punk zines. The former is well represented and the latter is lost to history and faded memories.

  14. We’re big fans of Needle mag here. The next issue they will start serializing a Ray Banks novella.

  15. Thanks for a great article Brian and the insight into the history of online crime writing scene – I shall come back to this article and re-read as I found it so interesting and full of details I was not previously aware of.

    Sadly I do not yet have any of these anthologies, apart from the first two from Needle, which are terrific. I agree that buying these print anthologies now is a way of keeping a permanent record of the stories penned by so many talented authors. Going forwards I hope to get hold of as many of these as I can – the BTAP anthology looks a good place to start.

    Kind regards.

  16. It’s important for the same reason that any art promoted on the Internet is important. The Internet has been a dual-sided blade that has helped and hurt artists. It has diminished the opportunities for writers to be published in print (and paid well, but that’s another story…) On the better side of the coin, however, it allows writers who might not get “published” because of subject matter or where they are from or who knows what else, to get some exposure. Big magazines can’t take risks because they are worried about their profits and their Board of Directors and anyone else who gets nervous by new, independent art. The Internet is a safe place for the genre to expand and evolve without anyone losing a precious dime.

    I know, this message kind of rambles. I apologize.