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The short fiction is not a second thought, but a bold statement

26 Oct 2011 in international | questo post è lungo 603 parole

Short Fiction Week

_Dario Tonani
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_Dario Tonani is an Italian Science Fiction / Steampunk writer. Awards: Tolkien (1989) Lovecraft (1994, 1999), Italia (1989, 1992, 2000). In English, you can read Cardanica
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Dario Tonani | @dariotonani

Novels can have pauses, faults: a long story wins by points. A novelette, as Julio Cortazar wrote, needs to win by knock-out. Do you agree?

Absolutely! And you need to have the right fists to do it. It isn't that obvious that all boxers are so well equipped. If I may say so, there's something "muscular" in a short story, that is absent in a long one - especially in a novel - and it couldn't be otherwise. A short story is pure hyperventilation, both for the author and the reader, and it cannot endure a long run. Everything has to be concentrated, distilled, compressed, even distorted, as if caught up at speed. I think of a car barreling down a highway: the road may be the same you take at 30 mph for a family trip, but when you're going fast your vision shrinks of several degrees; and you have to firmly keep the wheel in your hands and concentrate hard. In a short story each page is drenched, in a novel they can only be just damp. 

Is there a literary bias against the short form of fiction?

Short stories have always been chastised more by the publishers and critics than by the readers. In fact, the public seemed to appreciate a lot when - in the ebooks - short stories started to appear as freestanding items and not collated in anthologies. Some critics still persist in the prejudice that a short story is an incomplete novel or at least a plot that the writer didn't deem worth developing further. How wrong! The short story/novelette is not a second thought, but a bold statement, even an act of courage, I would say: "This is a tale that must be told straight and drank at one gulp"...

Plot, setting, ideas. What are in your opinion the perfect ingredients of a novelette/novella?

A tale is nothing else but... a profession of common sense: if you want someone to get hooked by what you write, you have to start from the basics. Choosing the right words, the pauses, the accelerations in the plot, the descriptions of the surroundings. A story is made of bricks; if the bricks are crooked, broken or piled up haphazardly, the result will be a ramshackle building no one will want to set foot into. Not for a minute. What is the most important element of a building? I would say the coherence of its components, the harmony of all its parts, the overall robustness. Sometimes I look for these in the athmosphere I describe, some other time in the ideas. I'm an architect that sometime builds bridges and some other towers.

Would you suggest 3 must-read novelettes/novellas?

When you read a novel you tend to remember almost everything of it. But in the case of a novelette you easily forget at least the title. After all, after a knock-out blow... Anyway, I would say all the short fiction by Dick and Ballard. But also Sterling, Di Filippo and Stross.

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