A brief explanation of Armchair BEA for all our readers:
Sadly, the GeekyLibrary Crew did not make it to New York for Book Expo America (BEA), but we are participating (off and on) in Armchair BEA, which may be the next best thing. It’s a virtual conference for book bloggers, complete with daily topics (such as Novellas and Short Stories), twitter chats and more.
And on to the topic!
Novellas, such as The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow, are shorter than full length novels. They’re longer than a ‘novelette’ and a short story.
I read so fast that I used to think of novellas as not worth it. I mean, I am the person who was overjoyed that the 4th Harry Potter, Goblet of Fire, was longer because I finished the Prisoner of Azkaban too fast (However, I did feel Order of the Phoenix was too stretched out and better editing would have improved it).
My reading tastes have changed. Novellas are an art form.
I recently read Sleep Donation by Karen Russell (author of Swamplandia!), which is about a weird dystopian future where sleep insomnia is a deadly epidemic and sleep donation banks, similar to blood donation, are saving lives.
Although I highly doubt the science of this sci-fi novella would pass, the eerie atmosphere left a strong impression on me long after reading it. Sleep Donation was published this spring by Atavist Press and is available exclusively in digital format. A GeekyLibrary review of Sleep Donation is forthcoming.
If novellas are an art form, short stories are even more distilled and pure examples of art. The month of May happens to be Short Story Month, and although I often roll my eyes at those type of labels, the short story form is just not given enough credit.
We’ve reviewed a number of short story collections and I’m currently reading Bless Your Mechanical Heart (Update: review is now posted). I marvel at how a story that is so brief can be so emotional wrenching.
Aside from emotional, others can be funny, quirky or thoughtful.
However, not all short stories can manage that, but even if the story itself is bland and boring, I can think of one reason to still appreciate short stories.
The Number One Reason to Love Short Stories
I, like many voracious readers, am notorious for the “one last chapter” phenomenon that occurs at bedtime.
The joy of finishing the whole book seems well worth it… at night. Once the alarm goes off and I have to drag myself to work, I rather regret the fact that I stayed up all night reading.
So aside from their value as an art form, I appreciate short stories because of what they have done for my health. I finish the chapter and the story has also ended. I set the book down and get a full night of sleep.
I do like this trend toward a robust market for novellas. An author with a cool idea, but not a novel-length cool idea can publish without padding out stories. I’ve been hearing great things about Sleep Donation.
They are indeed an art form – much more difficult to write succinctly than to write at length.
I personally really love The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson as well as the prequel novellas for the Throne of Glass series. I tend to like novellas a bit more than short stories as a general rule, but I’ve been proven wrong before. 😉
It is hard when novellas are only published digitally. Palacio’s Julian’s Story was one my students really wanted to read, but we haven’t figured out how to check out e books yet, and most of my students don’t have devices to read them on anyway. They are great for readers who do have devices, though.
Short stories at bed time — brilliant! I need to try this….
Love this idea, too!
I really need to read more short stories….I’m always happy when I do, but I just don’t run across a lot that are recommended.
Hope you are having a great Armchair BEA!
I don’t think short stories get a lot of press, unfortunately. Wish I knew about more good ones.
@Katherine Nabity: I totally recommend Sleep Dontation— I also read it while sleep deprived (we were launching the new theme for GeekyLibrary), and that made it all the more creepy.
@BookerTalk: I realized this more everyday.
@Emily: I’ll have to check those out!
@MsYingling: When I read Sleep Donation, someone was borrowing my e-reader and I ended up reading it on my iPhone! Not as bad as I expected, though. Much harder to share digital books though because of access.