I love a lot of things.
An abnormal amount, you might say. Books. Dogs. Beards. Hockey. Beer. Snow. Quesadillas. The cold side of the pillow. Joe Abercrombie. You get the idea.
When it comes to my choice of books, I also have a lot of preferences and sub-genre choices I like more than others. I try not to let that cloud my judgement when I’m picking books, or reviewing them, or ignoring them. However, there is one thing I’m a complete, total, irrevocable sucker for.
There’s just something about expounding on your own story, characters and worldbuilding via bite-sized nuggets of glory that screams to me. How many times have you been reading a book, and thought to yourself, “Man! I would LOVE to know more about Little Timmy’s adventures in Worldplace!”. You know you have. Don’t lie to me.
One of the glorious realities, about fantasy and sci-fi in particular, is that the authors tend to have huge imaginations. They create amazing, made-up worlds with magic, creatures, and unique touches and histories. Many authors craft up massive worlds on a spectacular scale, with long, right histories. The unfortunate reality is that they are limited by the amount of this detail they are able to fit into their novels without bloating them, or stalling the story.
Enter the savior – novellas!
Oh my, yes. 50-150 glorious pages of pure frivolity. Of author self-indulgence. Of delicious, delicious content!
I think a lot of people enjoy a nice short story – many authors cut their teeth in writing by pumping out dozens of short stories, practicing their writing with smaller ideas, quick chunks that aren’t a massive investment, but can be brilliant. I read quite a few short story compilations, especially as anthologies of top authors become more and more popular. I like them.
However, I prefer a nice storyline expansion 10-to-1 over a unique story.
“Why?!” I can hear you asking. “Why wouldn’t you want to read something new? Something different? Why would you just want more of the same?”
Because if I like a book, I want more of the same. When I’m reading through something like Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle series, I was thinking to myself “God, I would love to hear more about the messenger runs that he keeps alluding to in the books.” Imagine my surprise when I researched, and found out about Brayan’s Gold and The Great Bazaar, little bits of wonderful. They were exactly what I was looking for – just easy-reading chunks of story that, while not integral in the slightest to the main book, helped to enrich the world of the full novels.
- Peter V. Brett (Demon Cycle) – Brayan’s Gold, The Great Bazaar, Messenger’s Legacy
- Django Wexler (Shadow Campaigns) – The Penitent Damned
- Brian McClellan (Powder Mage) – Forsworn, Hope’s End, The Girl of Hrusch Avenue, Servant of the Crown, The Face In The Window, Return to Honor
- Brent Weeks (Night Angel) – Perfect Shadow
- Michael J. Sullivan (Riyria Chronicles) – The Vicount And The Witch
- John Scalzi (Multiple Stories) – Unlocked, Questions For A Soldier, God Engines, Sagan’s Diary
- Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles) – The Slow Regard of Silent Things
There are many more of these out there, and I love them.
As a burgeoning book collector as well, novellas offer a unique opportunity, both for authors and for collectors. Some authors seem to sign contracts through their normal publisher for planned novellas, however many other authors reserve the rights to their novella stories themselves, and therefore have some flexibility in how they release them. Some do e-book only, often even for free, as a method of getting new readers to their stories – this is what Michael J. Sullivan did with his short story The Vicount and the Witch, which he released free on Amazon and his website as a taster for his stories.
However, on the collectability side, authors can also choose to use a specialty publisher, such as Subterranean Press, to release limited prints of their novellas, usually in signed and numbered for uniqueness. This is a fun way of doing things, as it gives collectors a unique book, generally very high quality, and allows the authors to make some extra money for their time.
Authors are also left with the ability to self-pub their own novellas, as Brian McClellan is doing with his Powder Mage novellas. This gives the author a lot more sales and creative control, and makes for a much more unique book on your shelf.
Regardless of how they are presented, produced or published, I eat these up every time. If an author I enjoy announces a new novella featuring the worlds or characters of their novels, I am ecstatic, and get my hands on them as soon as I can. In the end, I hope that other authors see the success of these novellas, and decide to take a break from their normal writing to spit out some extra content for us fanboys.