Judges for the Man Booker, Britain's prestigious literary prize, have been arguing over its short list. Not only over which books to nominate -- that's normal for any juried award. These judges are arguing over the novels' conceptions of time. Three of the six are written in present tense, which at least one judge finds "faddish."
Is it? If a fad is a short-lived popular craze, then no. Some fiction has been written in present tense for at least thirty years now. And some people have always disliked it -- I remember Gene Wolfe telling me once that he would immediately stop reading any story in present tense. (It's possible he has changed his mind since then). More and more fiction uses present tense, including Suzanne Collins' enormously successful HUNGER GAMES trilogy. Why?
The classic argument is that present tense gives more immediacy, the illusion that story events are happening right now, rather than being recounted after they're long over. I'm not sure that's true, because I'm not sure readers even notice tense any more. I'm trying to remember what tense my own six award-winning stories are told in, and I can only recall two of them (one in present, one in past). And I wrote them!
Give me some help here -- do you notice present tense? Does it distract you? Enhance the story? Does it seem more "modern and fresh"? Do you loathe it? For short stories? For novels?