Thursday, April 30, 2015

The fantasy book doorstop. Please just stop.

This is an example of when I read something out in the wild forums of the Internet and my two cents sort of became a buck-fifty.

The subject? Why most current fantasy novels are fat door-stoppers made of paper and pulp as the saga goes on for thousands of pages.

My reply (edited into a less rambling format.)

Don't blame the genre, blame the business.

Back in the 70s novels were a lot smaller. The two volume set for Chronicles of Amber, was a total of 772 pages for a collection of 5 stories. Yep, 150 pages a piece. (The entire run was 10 stories at 1,500 page maintaining that average.) And finishing a series like Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" ( about 1,200 pages )  was a commitment.  

But then Wolfe was always a bit indulgent.

Then some time in the late 80s, publishers convinced themselves (because noon of them used research to shore up their wack-a-doodle ideas) that if a reader at a Waldenbooks mall store (or at the airport) didn't know Writer A from Writer B, then the reader would pick a thicker book. They assumed that the reader hoped they'd be getting more story for the buck with the thicker forest-killing  tome.

Perhaps because the fantasy genre had long already been in DTOGO mode (Do a Trilogy Or Go Home) that it slid easily into making bigger books and rambling stories. It doesn't help that once an author gets popular, editors seem loath to trim their tales. (I think the Yiddish Policeman's Union is about 100 pages too long.)

So if you want lighter, tighter fare  I suggest going back and discovering the old Sword and Sorcery/New Age stuff like Zelazny, Moorecock, Butler, and last - but never least - Le Guin. All of them have tighter, shorter reads that all buck the Tolkien template.

And for some of us, the "Fantasy novels are too padded" ranks right up there with "Why doesn't MTV show music videos anymore?" i.e., a meme that's old enough to drive a car and probably buy its own drinks.

My inspiration for digging up this reply up was finding a publisher who wanted LESS than 60,000 for a submitted novel. That, right there, felt like a breath of fresh air.



    I agree, in fact I've been saying this for years.

  2. There's hope. Some say that for some genres, like Romance, the Novella is seeing new life.

  3. What can you tell me about that publisher? Might they be interested in a series of fantasy novellas?

  4. It's been a while, so I had to look it up. Evidently it's, but they are calling it an imprint, but it doesn't have a separate brand or name. I think they are closed for now, Submissions Guidelines

  5. Even if not their turnaround time is painfully slow. I will look into it though. Thanks.