A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Joe Hill’s Gunpowder is on the short list for the British Fantasy Award. If there is any justice, this great science fiction novella will win, and other awards will follow from this side of the pond.
I like novellas best. I have friends who just love to sit down with big, fat novels and who become addicted to series. I have other friends who love short stories, who say they just don’t have time to devote to a “whole book.” Of course, I have other friends (curse them) who don’t read at all. I read short stories and big books and even, occasionally, series, but I like novellas best.
For me, 20,000-25,000 words is just the right length for a science fiction or fantasy story, long enough for the author to establish a plot and develop a charismatic character, or even several, but short enough that I haven’t forgotten those characters’ names as I approach the climax. I can usually read the tale in one sitting, so I don’t let the vicissitudes of life get in the way. And I know that, when I reach the end, I won’t be surprised to discover that I need to read the next volume to find out what happens to those characters.
Unfortunately, it seems most major publishers don’t agree with me. And, in these economic times, many book buyers are even more concerned with the cost per page than the quality of what they read, so the fiscal reality is that not many novellas see print, except those published by (all gods bless them) small presses.
[Just a bit about Gunpowder below the fold...]