John Gardner and Lennis Dunlap, in their textbook The Forms of Fiction, Random House, 1962, posited the existence of the following forms of short fiction: the sketch, the fable, the yarn, the tale, and the short story. In brief, here is a look at their thought: The sketch, they define as a description of a person or place, occasionally, an event, e.g., Hawthorne’s The Gray Champion. As a rule, the element most consistently stressed in a sketch is atmosphere. Primarily, the difference between a sketch and a short story is that short story does use plot and thus may explore its theme more fully. The fable is analogical, epigrammatic, economical, and absolutely concrete. It has no room for elaboration of character or setting and, originally, had no room for a concluding statement. Consider Aesop’s The Wolf and the Lion or Kafka’s The Country Doctor. In a fable, surface is relatively insignificant and exists for the sake of the meaning it carries. The yarn is a bizarre or comic story related in a manner suggesting a storyteller working in the oral tradition employing verbal and structural repetition, digression, asides to the reader, homely expressions and exaggerations as he embellishes, out of memory and imagination, incidents, characters or settings. Consider Beowulf and Mark Twain’s Baker’s Bluejay Yarn. The tale, like the yarn, usually deals with extraordinary occurrences, either supernatural or natural. Whereas the comic or grotesque effect of the yarn may depend in part on the interplay of the reader’s awareness of reality and the narrator’s distortion of it, the success of the tale depends upon the reader’s willingness to put mundane reality out of his mind altogether, a willing suspension of disbelief. Consider Snow White and Isak Dinesen’s Sorrow-Acre. The short story may have the form of sketch, fable, yarn, or tale but it also has a more complex structure and less adherence to convention. Consider Guy de Maupassant’s A Piece of String, Tolstoy’s Three Deaths, and Trilling’s Of This Time, Of That Place. We, who spend so much time agonizing over the meaning of sff, what fits where and why and who says so, may find this quite different look at categories of fiction a shock to the system. I’ve spent a good couple of days looking at my own output and have discovered that each story I’ve written fits into one of these categories without fail and without argument. That makes one way of looking at what I write as not so much sff, but fables, and yarns, and tales. I’ve done some sketches, it turns out - Two Hands is an example - but not as much as the other categories. The interesting point for me is that I was not aware that what I was writing fell into one of these categories. For those of us dealing monthly with a flash fiction contest, the distinctions may be useful. I can imagine a contest requiring production of a story in one of the categories, say write a yarn about….’ They produced the text in 1962, damned near a half-century ago, and I wonder if their notions still resonate today.