Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Novella Project - Kick-Off Post

Happy New Year, welcome to 2024 and a brand new Nerds of a Feather project!

You may remember, a few years ago, we ran The Novella Files, a project aiming to shine a light on the oft-overlooked novella format that was much neglected in SFF, save for the odd Tor offering and a smattering of small press or literary magazine examples. So it's hardly news to say that we at NoaF love novellas.

But things have definitely changed in those few short years. There's been a boom of novellas, heralded and headlined by the Tor-published examples, who have come to dominate the awards shortlists wherever there's a novella option on the slate. And on the one hand, that's great! The novella is a fantastic format that deserves to have its moment in the spotlight, and Tor have put the money, time and marketing in to make it happen.

But - of course there's a but - there's more out there. What was once a hard format to find is now abundant, diverse and varied, you just need to know where to look for it. It's also far more than just a shorter novel. There's a wealth of playfulness available in the shorter format, and ways of rethinking how you create your story around the constraints of length, just as is true in all shorter fiction formats (or can be). Whether you're using the brevity to up the pace, to restrict yourself to an epistolary format that feels truly immediate, or to enclose the reader entirely in a single character's worldview, there's plenty that can be done by the authors willing to muck around in the sandpit. And they are doing exactly that and more. If you know where to look to find them.

Which is where we come in. Picking up where The Novella Files left off, this project seeks to spotlight the novellas you might not know about, from the presses you may not always think first to check, because there is a wealth and depth of glorious work going on and it deserves to be seen, just as much as the good work the big publishers are putting out.

You'll have seen some examples of this from us already, whether that's Arturo discussing Hamlet Prince of Robots by M. Darusha Wehm, Roseanna on Hybrid Heart by Iori Kusano or Phoebe covering Sordidez by E. G. Condé, because novellas are something we love all year round, but this project aims to focus that a little bit more.

So, over the next few weeks, we will be spotlighting novellas (per the Hugos, a work of fiction between 17,500 and 40,000 words) that were published in 2023 and by any outlet that isn't one of the biggest of publishers. Our aim? Well, awards nomination season is just around the corner, and we would like - we hope - that you might be inspired to pick something up you wouldn't have done before. Investigate an author you hadn't heard of. And if you like it, and if you're nominating... well, maybe that can factor into your decisions there. Are we going to single-handedly change the SFF awards shortlists in 2024? Of course not - nor should we. But if we can inspire you to have a read outside of what you already know, maybe find something you really enjoy and have a think about where that sits in your awards shortlisting, that will already be a win. Maybe you'll still think the major publishers have it. Goodness knows there were some great Tor novellas out there this year (Nghi Vo and Fonda Lee for example keep delivering). But hey... you never know, right?

And certainly we think what we're highlighting is worth a look. 

As well as a run of interesting reviews on a range of novellas, you can also look forward to interviews with various authors, editors and publishers talking about novellas as a format, what they're for, what they're good at, and what small, indie or otherwise publishing has to offer in the market that maybe does something different from the norm, as well as digging into specifics of their craft, their inspirations and the books they enjoy reading too.

On a more personal note, I love novellas. I love that the shortness means I can consume them in a single sitting, while still feeling substantial and significant. I love that so many authors do use it as an opportunity to play with something different, where a whole novel might be too much space to take the risk. I love that there's such a vast and weird variety in them. And I wanted to run this project to share that love. Was it partly borne from a frustration that every year the Hugo slate is Tor all the way? Maybe a little. But the solution to that isn't just grumbling. It's to say, what can we do to fix this? The answer is to make the space to yell about the ones we love that aren't the easy to access options. The ones people just may not have heard of. And to start the New Year off with the positivity and hope that we can share that enthusiasm, and be a part, however small, of trying to craft a more wide-ranging novella landscape in the future.

I hope, in all we talk about in the next few weeks, you can find something you enjoy!

POSTED BY: Roseanna Pendlebury, the humble servant of a very loud cat. @chloroform_tea