Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dark Tides of the Shadow Lords: The Moon Sword Sagas, Episode Five: The Dirty Urchins

Yeah, fantasy. We all know it. And admit, we love it. We love reading about, oh, things. Fantastical things, impossible things, castles and knights and all that epic bullshit. It makes us happy in our secret, elf-strewn hearts. Nothing wrong with that. Ta.

During the dinner in Austin, mentioned earlier, there was a conversation. I didn't think much about it at the time, because it was a subject that I've mulched in my head previously, and when it came up I just did a copy/paste from my previous musings and everyone seemed pleased and all, and that was it. But since then it's been re-mulching, in a sort of persistent way, so I'm going to kick it out here.

The conversation was this: The Bloated Epic. I'm not going to name names, because I'm a professional and a new professional and I don't want to step on toes. Tad Williams. Damn it! Damn! I didn't...Tad, if you're reading this, I love you. I read the whole Dragonbone Chair madness, and most of Otherland (I stalled, through no failing of your own. I'll get back to it.) and now I'm starting Shadowmarch and it's going well. But the books are too long. And it's not just Tad. There are a lot of very successful authors who are writing very, very long books. Books are not Cadillac Escalades, people! They don't need to be up in your grill with the word count. There is no need for bling, or spinners, or any of that. And I carry a knife, so I don't need to feel as if I can defend myself with your book if I'm beset by hooligans on my way to Starbux.

The hypothesis was forwarded that publishers were going to start producing reasonable-sized fantasy novels. I disagreed. Not to be contrary, though I am, but because I think Market Forces stand in the way. I disagreed because publishers do not set prices based on wordiness, and people who have become accustomed to paying $8 (that's $12 and an NHL franchise to our Canadian readers) are not going to want to start paying the same price for a book half as long. And if one publisher starts selling half sized (basically double-priced) books, that publisher is going to fail.

But it's a double-edged sword. (Again, the fantasy imagery creeps in like some kind of NINJA!) The double-edginess is this: What if you're a new author. You can't write the bloat! Readers won't buy it! Who wants to commit to reading 780 (1235 in Canada) pages from someone you've never heard of? Zero readers, that's who. And zero readers is many, many less than you need to accomplish sell-through.

So what do people think. Can we bring back, say, 80k word fantasy novels that are still epic. Say, produce more of them? If I were doing this full time I can honestly say that I could write a novel every four months. With time for breaks, that's two books a year. See, the thing with the big novels is there's so much time between them...at least a year, maybe more. I had to stop reading GRRM's thing because it simply collapsed under its own weight. Its own wait, too. Too many characters, too many threads, too little continuity. That would have been better as one book every six months, across four series. Much better. Made more money too, I'll bet.

Anyway. Oh, one more thing. Fuck Pirates. I'm sick of 'em. Pirates are over.


At 1:27 PM , Blogger colin said...

So the obvious solution is to sell shorter novels by lesser-known authors for less. Doesn't that already happen? Maybe the big name authors can keep writing enormous tomes, or maybe they can write shorter, cheaper stuff, and more of it.

(The logical end of that train of thought being unknown twits, and soon-to-be-great novelists, who write short stories and post them on the internet for free.)

I dunno, I'm not really in the loop as far as trends in book sizes or pricing go, but I get the feeling that the bloody-long book is a fashion as much as anything. It may, hopefully, fade out on its own. I like a long book once in a while, but I like short books, too.


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