Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Charlie Stross posted an interesting entry today wherein he reviews the history of the length of sf novels and how length has evolved through a series of things not to do with writing, such as distribution channels and printing/binding methods. As examples, he explains why his Accelerando was made to fit into a few score fewer pages in its US edition versus its UK edition, and why his Merchant Princes series consists of more volumes than he had originally envisioned. It's interesting reading if that's the sort of thing that's your bag.

He speculates that if ebooks become the major sales channel, this could aid in a revival of fiction formats that have been eclipsed by what we see as the "regular"-length novel, such as the novella, the Dickensian serial and the "gigantic shoebox-sized monster." This interests me because I, too, have been thinking that a revival of the novella in particular would be fun as a development for sf. I don't know if there's a lot of future for it in print, but I am trying a couple of projects this year (they'll be in ebook formats as well): Derek J. Goodman's Machina (pre-order info on the books page) which is a 236-page trade paperback short fiction collection with just four stories in it, one of them a nearly-30K novella. The next will be the first (and hopefully not the only) "Double." The two stories that will comprise the first one are, by word count, novellas rather than novels, and that was the case with plenty of stories in the old Ace series, too. Future volumes may have longer stories, but I will probably cap them at perhaps 50K. This is a decent yet reasonably short chunk of reading, a nice length for a lot of sf stories. It offers more to delve into than a short story but without being an epic. Not that I don't like a big, long epic just fine, but I think there's room for mid-range material, and if the new methods and the smaller publishers (like me) make possible getting more of it published, then I think that's probably a good thing for the genre.

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