Authorial Editing, Retrospective Reading and Short Story Publishing: New Approaches to Christos Tsiolkas


This essay examines Christos Tsiolkas’s short stories. Tsiolkas’s stories are less widely known compared to his novels and often unsettle the view of his writing popularised by his best-selling fourth novel, The Slap (2008). The stories collected in Merciless Gods (2014) suggest new ways of thinking about Tsiolkas’s often criticised writing style and his reliance on first-person male narrators. The stories in Merciless Gods also tend to have a more varied and interesting provenance than the single author collection of the successful novelist. This essay therefore considers the original publication contexts of Tsiolkas’s stories and their post-publication editing history. Finally, this essay contextualises Tsiolkas’s stories in relation to some of the structural dynamics of Australian short story publishing over the past three decades, including authorial publishing subsidies, multi-author theme anthologies, and the expansion of university creative writing programs. This suggests that Tsiolkas’s path to Merciless Gods is not unusual for a writer who came of age in the 1990s and achieved success as a novelist in the following decade, even though these dynamics are not necessarily the same for Australian short story writers today.

What happens when a successful novelist publishes their first short story collection? This essay answers this question in relation to Christos Tsiolkas’s Merciless Gods (2014). While Tsiolkas has received increasing critical attention in recent years, there has been less interest in Tsiolkas’s short stories compared to his novels. Over the past decade or so it has become commonplace to refer to Tsiolkas as a ‘household name’ in the Australian literary world, but primarily as a novelist and secondly as an essayist and political commentator (Gildersleeve 6). Tsiolkas’s reputation as a novelist was secured largely by the release of his fourth novel The Slap (2008), which won or was shortlisted for a variety of literary awards in Australia. In interviews Tsiolkas tends to identify himself as a novelist: ‘I think in terms of the novel’, he said more than once when promoting Merciless Gods (Cathcart). In contrast, Tsiolkas has said that…

The full text of this essay is available to ALS subscribers

Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.

Published 28 October 2021 in Volume 36 No. 3. Subjects: Authorship, Editing, Gender - Literary portrayal, Narrative structure, Narrative techniques, Narrative voice, Publishing history, Textual criticism & editing, Christos Tsiolkas.

Cite as: Azzopardi, Mark . ‘Authorial Editing, Retrospective Reading and Short Story Publishing: New Approaches to Christos Tsiolkas.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 36, no. 3, 2021, doi: 10.20314/als.b36f5355c7.