Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Where are the short SF/F books?

(Note: this is a republish from a topic on my original blog--now dubbed "the crime fiction blog," posted on 10 March 2008. I'm planning on reposting some of my old SF topics from that blog over here now that I have a forum that is SF-specific.)
Over at SF Signal, there was a discussion last week framed around this question: Q: Are science fiction book series a barrier to gaining new readership? Here is the extended version of the question: If you take a look around your local bookstore's SF section, you can't help but notice the preponderance of book series on the shelves, especially in the fantasy arena, which seems to specialize in doorstopper series. Inevitably, the store won't have all published books in the series, leaving the customer out of luck if they decide to buy right then. There's a great discussion including some answers from folks in the field. Go check it out.

I posted this response:

In this discussion, folks have focused on THE BIG BOOK. That is, a tome that is the size of a small brick, that a reader would have to wade through just to see if he likes it. Personally, I have not even started Jordan's Wheel of Time series for the mere fact that I'd be reading nothing else for months on end. And the more I look at bookstore shelves of SF/F, the more I see huge books.

So here's my question: what ever happened to the smaller book? The 200pp-300pp book? Is it the market that has driven smaller books away, what with $8.99+ cover prices for a paperback and north of $27.00 for a hardback?

Over in the mystery field, there's a line of books under the Hard Case Crime imprint. Those guys want to bring back old-school pulp fiction, complete with new cover art in the old style. All the books are $6.99. Almost all of them are 200-230pp long. All can be consumed quickly and carried around in my back pocket. And, for me, reading an old, formerly out-of-print book by an author like Lawrence Block or Ed McBain caused me to seek out other books by these authors.

Is there a SF/F version of this out there? I'd like to think so. And I'd like to write for and read books from an imprint like that.

Any Ideas?

2009 Update:

As mentioned in my post from yesterday, Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughter is a short SF book. I haven't read it yet but the book is only 250 pages long. From what I've heard, Judson establishes his future history between the lines, where things are mentioned but not explained in detail.

Are there more out there?


  1. I highly recommend Sean Williams' Cenotaxis published by Monkeybrain Books. It's only 128 pages and brilliant.

  2. Two words: John Scalzi. A few more words: Old Man's War.

  3. Lou - thanks for stopping by. I'm putting Cenotaxis on my summer reading list.

    Bill - I have Scalzi's Old Man's War cued up. In fact, it might be my next book. I'm finishing up a book for NewMysteryReader this week. Thank you for stopping by, too.

  4. It's a very good question and I'll be checking back to see if there's an answer. My love of sf entirely comes from the 200 page books rather than doorstoppers.

  5. I read Old Man's War in about 10 days. Same for the sequel, Ghost Brigade. Fun stuff to read -- fast paced, page-turners. I already bought the next one, The Last Colony, but I need to finish reading Dave Sedaris' "When You Are Engulfed In Flames" just so I'm not reading SF all the time.