Monday, July 31, 2023

Because (a little bit) less can be more

More and more (irony alert?), I've come to appreciate the novella format.

To be clear, I haven't stopped liking novels. I have, after all, written eleven and cowritten five more. I've got two new novels in the publishing pipeline for -- fingers crossed -- later this year. But not every storyline belongs in a novel.

First things first: a definition. Per dictionaries, a novella is fiction longer than a short story and shorter than a novel. Well, duh. That's not the most useful of descriptions. In the SF field, encompassing most of my work, the pro writers' organization (SFWA, aka the Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers Association), has a precise -- if arbitrary -- delineation: a novella is fiction in the range of 17,500 to 39,999 words. Novels, obviously, start at 40K words. Realistically, most book publishers require 80K or more words in a novel; most zines draw the line for novellas at 20-25K words. 

Amazon link
Why my appreciation? Novellas are a format long enough to: tell a complex, multi-layered story. Incorporate rich world-building.  Give characters significant depth. Provide room (when it advances a particular plot) for multiple point-of-view characters. Even, if/when appropriate, to include sufficient back story to connect nicely with an author's other works in a broader fictional universe -- while standing alone in the process. Within length limits that demand the discipline to exclude anything unnecessary. 

All that usually doable in a few weeks to no more than a couple months. On rough average, it takes me a year to write a novel.

Why a declaration of appreciation now? Call it fallout from assembling last year's career-spanning The Best of Edward M. Lerner. I included in that collection, among many more shorter works, three of my novellas -- and kept wishing I'd had page count for more. With that thought recurring (and recurring, and recurring ...), my mind turned to one of the most unusual among my books. 

The Sherlock Chronicles & The Paradise Quartet -- as you've perhaps inferred -- contains two back-to-back novellas. (If you're old enough, this is where you might channel Ace Doubles.) The book had been available for scarcely a year when publisher (and editor, and author, and all-around Good Guy) Eric Flint passed away -- scarcely a year ago -- and the book went out of print and electrons. While it's recently republished by the fine folk at ReAnimus Press, the book's short first run still saddens me.

Amazon link
The Sherlock novella is near-future, in which a bored AI fills its idle nanoseconds solving crimes -- and finding itself in ever more existential situations. The Paradise novella is harder to capture in a sentence. It's far-future. Post-apocalyptic. With generation ships and lost colonies. Also, with its own existential perils. I like both these novellas. A lot

(Oh, here's another thing at which novellas excel: exploring -- in time or space or implication -- ideas previously touched upon in shorter works. Thus it happens that both novellas in Sherlock/Paradise began in shorter stories. Those two nuclei are included in -- (and so, comprise a small part of -- Best of.) 

ANYhow ... perhaps by sharing, I've exorcised the "had to leave 'em out" demon. If I've piqued your curiosity, feel free to click the links under the nearby covers.

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