Book You can Eat: On Reading Novellas


Books You Can Eat: On Reading Novellas ist nicht nur das führende Onlinemagazin für Science Fiction und Fantasy in den USA. Sondern auch ein unabhängiger Verlag für Novellen, für Kurzromane also. Welche man davon wirklich gelesen haben sollte, verrät dir Nicolette Stewart in ihrer Kolumne – auf Englisch!


Novellas truly are the perfect gateway drug. Gateway to a new genre, gateway to a new author, gateway to reading anything, ever, when you come home from work with your brain wrung out like a damp, sweaty towel and can't manage much more than a vacant stare and a nod.

At the moment, however, there aren't a lot of people publishing novellas – at least not in SFF. The SFF bookstore shelves are not full of novellas, and the books that qualify by word count have Botoxed fonts and spacing – as if no one would pay 10.99 for a book under a kilo.  Yeah, ok, so a lot of people wouldn't pay 10.99 for a tiny book. We can change! Pinky swear. And if we promise to change, maybe you could drop the price? Maybe? A little? You'll think about it? No? Yeah, ok, ok, writer's gotta eat, publisher's gotta pay the staff. I get it. Take my money, no it's fine, I was only going to spend it on an amazing hamburger, I'll just make do today. Because, yeah, I'd rather have that amazing little book.

The length of a novella – defined as between 17,500 to 40,000 words, which translates to somewhere between 75 and 200 pages depending on the degree of swell – is a good length, maybe even an ideal length. You can finish one in a sitting. You can finish one on your commute. You can read four in a day! Imagine how productive and intelligent you will feel when you tell your colleagues that! (Just kidding. Don't tell them. They already suspect you're a bit strange. Get them addicted themselves first, then tell them about the SFF novella collection you'd be happy to lend them. Baby steps.)

Point is: Some stories take exactly a novella to tell. And VALIS knows I'd rather read a concise, tightly woven little word bomb of awesome then another bloated epic that could have been 700 pages shorter. (I'm looking at you, George R.R.R.R.R.) You can down a novella, appetizer-style, before an epic, 600-page main course. You could sit down to an entire tableful of novellas, tapas-style, and feel superhumanly productive when you finish four on a lazy Sunday. You can read as much or as little as you want, and you can bask in the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a book in an evening. That is the power of novellas. (Use only as directed.)

I like novellas. Obviously. But who's publishing them in the SFF world? (Cue trumpets.) debuted on July 20, 2008. (Hey, the day we first landed on the moon! Hey, Lauren Olamina of Parable of the Sower's birthday! Hey, my birthday! Feel free to send gifts to the Frankfurt office. Space travel vouchers, chocolate frogs, and 1970s wind-up toys will all be accepted.) But I digress. (Am I ever not digressing? I CAN STOP ANYTIME.) (Maybe.) (Yeah, now I'm just fucking with you. I'll get back to the SFF.) The website attracted all kinds of attention by being fucking awesome, publishing reviews and fiction and discussions and podcasts of the fine and obsessive quality you expect from people getting paid to write about things they love with the fiery passion of a thousand dying suns. The free, short fiction on the site is particularly awesome. And the people rejoiced.

Six years later decided to start publishing novellas.

You knew they were going to be good. Or at least, you hoped so. Cause novellas! Cause! Cause yey!

With a large, dedicated audience and a stellar cabal of authors, their novellas immediately started winning attention and awards. Three novellas were shortlisted for the Nebulas this year and two made the Hugo short list (we can discuss whether or not that means anything anymore another time).

Ever the completionist, I decided to ring in my TOR ONLINE column by reading every single one of their novellas, in the order that they were published. Because novellas are awesome. And because I wasn't lying about them being a gateway drug. I never used to seek novellas out, but now I have tasted their sweet, sweet glory, and I'm going all in. Time to go through the Tor. The Tor Tor. (Dear English Speakers: If you are not groaning right now, please consult a German dictionary. Also: I'm sorry.)

I can't promise you that will be my last bad pun. But I can promise you we're in for a good run. If you'd like to read along, I'll be discussing The Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell and Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson in my next column. Hope to see you there.


Today's column was brought to you by short Your Orisons May Be Recorded by Laurie Penny. Featuring: heaven as call-center, angels and demons, the human condition, love, sex, and religion. Read it here.

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