Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Novella Files: Introduction

A novella is, by definition, a short novel. Actually they are very short novels - the average length is a mere 20,000 - 40,000 words. The average SF/F novel, by contrast, is somewhere in the 80,000 - 150,000 range, though even longer books are increasingly common. But in the 1960s, the average novel was only 60,000 - 80,000 words. So, really, the modern novella is quite a bit closer to the old novel length than say, your average Peter F. Hamilton door stopper

Don't worry - I'm not yelling at clouds here. If people didn't want 300,000 word tomes, there wouldn't be a market for them. But I suspect there are a lot of people, like me, who've read enough pedantic descriptions of hyperspace engines or magic systems for one lifetime. Not everything needs to be explained in exacting detail. 

Perhaps this explains the recent resurgence of interest in both the novella and short novel, exemplified by the success of's imprint, which since 2014 has focused on this category. But outside Tor, there aren't a lot of outlets for the SF/F novella - a few small press, a few literary magazines (like F&SF or Uncanny). Even those don't really focus on the novella, but rather the short story. 

If you ask me, this needs to change, because the novella is a form of immense beauty. It combines the plot and character development of the novel with the economy of short fiction, compressing potentially larger stories into a framework that allows for no wasted space, unnecessary exposition or infodumping. "Artful economy" is what has always attracted me to literary fiction, the notion of saying more with less - and using "negative space" expressively. It is up to the reader to fill in the blanks. 

Does that sound as exciting to you as it does to me? If the answer is "yes," then get set, because we here at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together are about to ramp up our celebration of the unheralded novella! Starting now, we will be reviewing novellas and short novels using a variation on the dossier format that we have employed for all our special series. It will look like this:

Subject: [reference in NOAF format] 

Accolades: [major awards or nominations]

Genre: [science fiction, fantasy, horror, other]

Executive Summary: [plot]

Assessment: [opinion]

Score: [our usual x/10 system, but without the bonuses/penalties]


We will cover novellas and short novels, new and old - from genre-defining golden age classics to cutting-edge modern ones, and everything in-between. Needless to say, I am excited to shine a spotlight on the wonderful, underrated novella! 


POSTED BY: The G--purveyor of nerdliness, genre fanatic and Nerds of a
Feather founder/administrator, since 2012.