Tor.com, the Macmillan imprint enjoying almost unequaled status in science fiction circles, has just announced its Inaugural Novella List, dedicated to producing shorter long fiction, with the first titles due to appear in September 2015. Tor’s announcement reads:
Last summer Tor.com announced the formation of a new publishing program, dedicated to publishing the best novellas and short novels from emerging writers as well as established authors. Following an extensive period of reading and commissioning, we are excited to announce our inaugural list. All of the books published under the new program will be made available in ebook, print on demand, and audio formats via online retailers. Your local brick-and-mortar store will also be able to order these for you.
Just as a reminder, a novella is regarded as a work of 17,500 to 40,000 words, although debate persists about this, and some shorter and longer works might be included under the category. For instance, George Orwell’s Animal Farm or Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s would probably be considered by many as full books, even if they arguably fall within that definition. Certainly, they work as fully argued and plotted works of fiction that establish their own world. And most readers would likely buy such works as standalone publications without feeling short-changed.
Asked by io9 to explain and justify the new focus on shorter works, a Tor representative explained:
When the book wars sweep across the galaxy, and the blood of publishers runs down the gutters of every interstellar metropolis, the resource we fight for will not be paper, or ink, or even money. It will be time. For our readers, time is the precious commodity they invest in every book they decide to purchase and read. But time is being ground down into smaller and smaller units, long nights of reflection replaced with fragmentary bursts of free time. It’s just harder to make time for that thousand-page novel than it used to be, and there are more and more thousand-page novels to suffer from that temporal fragmentation.
Actually, in this Game of Thrones era, I don’t find that argument so convincing. After all, the pressure on our precious time has arguably been there for decades now, and longer novels or series continue to get written and get read. What may be more convincing as a justification for this new focus is the changing role of magazines and serial literature. As Tor continues:
Science fiction and fantasy were born in penny dreadfuls, came of age in magazines, and novellas have been essential to their development, from The War of the Worlds to The Shadow Over Innsmouth to Empire Star. Tor.com wants to carry that fantastical history into a future that is beginning to outgrow its magazine predicates
Cynically, you might also say that e-publishing has allowed more separate publication of novellas than ever before. Although a world with more works like The War of the Worlds and Animal Farm is hard to argue against.