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Readers are hungry for short stories

30 Oct 2011 in international | questo post è lungo 437 parole

Short Fiction Week

_Paul Di Filippo _

_"Paul Di Filippo is a science fiction novelist and short story writer of wide genrebending influence, [...] Also, the first person to use the word “Steampunk” in a book title." (Warren Ellis) _

_Website | How To Write Science Fiction _

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?

A novelette can be the "Goldilocks and Three Bears" format of fiction: not too hot, like a short story; not too cold, like a novel; but just right in length and effect!  In genre works, having some 18,000 words to play with allows for plenty of worldbuilding space.  And in purely practical terms, readers might prefer the lesser burden of a shorter but still substantial piece of fiction, one which can also be marketed as an independent sales unit for a nominal and fair fee. Also, the writer is not fatigued with an enormous project, like poor George Martin!

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

Not literary, I believe, but certainly publishers don't like short stories. As I wrote in a recent column to be published in ASIMOV'S, the "Big Six" of global publishers have shamefully abandoned genre short-story collections. Thank god for the independent presses! I recently surveyed twenty story collections from 2011, and found an immense range of good material. Readers are hungry for short stories, I believe. As for whether critics give people like Ellison and Bradbury as much credit as they give novelists--well, critical acclaim is always a crapshoot!

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

Ideally, a tripartite balance among all the elements. For instance, in my Linear City books I have what I consider an ingenious setting, populated by empathy-inducing characters doing intriguing things!  Of course, the author can vary any one leg of his tripod as he or she wishes. For instance, Melville's Billy Budd focuses on character.

Would you suggest 3 must-read novelettes/novellas?

Heinlein's Gulf. Here the emphasis is on ideas and action. Sturgeon's And Baby Makes Three. Here we get character development. Vance's The Last Castle. Here, exotic setting is paramount.

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