Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Age of Novellas

I came across an intriguing article on my favorite scifi / science blog Io9 here (possibly written by Charlie Jane Anders). It outlines a discussion shared at Worldcon by Stephen H. Segal of Weird Tales magazine, Sheila Williams from Asimov's Science Fiction, Lou Anders of Pyr Books and Neil Clarke from Clarkesworld Magazine. The panel discussed how technology has changed the landscape of science fiction and fantasy, almost providing a blue print for up-and-coming indie writers who will be pioneers in the new publishing era.

Of all the bullet points they nailed, I was most interested in their opinions regarding the marriage of novellas and ebook technology. Segal suggests that we are about to witness a "golden age of novellas" in which the format is more widely accepted by readers due to its shorter length (25,000 to 30,000 words) and relative ease of production. The price point can be adjusted to reflect what many "bargain" readers desire in their ebook pricing while still providing a solid story that has the look and feel of a regular novel.

To me, this is a sort of literary evolution. Sure, novellas have existed for years. But I see this new age of novellas as a sign that literature and technology can be reconciled. And I can only hope that this kind of adaptation will lead to a higher rate of literacy as ereaders and their software become more widely used.

Another fascinating notion suggested by the panel is the possible resurgence of adventure fiction that appeals to a wider (and younger) reading audience. This could mean a renewed popularity in action and suspense stories with less-navel gazing and more plot-driven excitement.

Depending on your literary tastes, this may or may not thrill you. Personally, I look at this resurrection of adventure fiction in the context of a publishing industry that is eager to push more novella-length fiction and I can't help but think that we might be on the verge of witnessing the creation of some incredibly cool YA stories.

You see, some time ago, I posted a blog about creating a serialized project that somehow combined elements of literature, popular television and rock star bravado. That idea has never left my mind, though I've been afraid to wholeheartedly act on it since writing it here.

I've considered breaking apart my first novel "Children of Aerthwheel" into two shorter books for the very reasons that the panel of writers and editors discussed at Worldcon. I've sensed from the beginning that the ebook technology was a perfect gateway for introducing shorter fiction. Maybe the reading public isn't ready for single short stories; but I honestly believe that the average ebook reader would be hard pressed to ignore a wave of slightly shorter novels. Readers, especially younger book-lovers, are desperate for convenience. If this comes in the form of high quality fiction that's easier to finish, what's the harm?

The writer writes, the reader reads. Everyone goes home happy.

I have more ideas regarding this issue, but I want to save them for the next post. Plus, I have a guest post on another blog coming soon and I'd like to be able to talk about these ideas in that particular piece.

Until the next time, here's your homework: leave a comment and tell me if you prefer shorter stories over longer works. And if so, why?


  1. I don't know if I prefer any given length, just that the story is the length it *should* be and not needlessly padded out...

    Anyway I hope the thrust of this post is right, as my next book is a novella!

  2. I agree, James. One of the greatest bits of wisdom I ever learned from a writing instructor was when my senior English teacher in high school said, "I don't care how long or short the story is; just write until it's finished."

    With that said, I think these predictions are interesting in that indie writers have to look at the market for themselves. I'm not one to simply write for an audience. But I know the value in identifying the market and crafting my work accordingly.

    Who knows? Your novella could be part of that new age I mentioned in the post!