Book length (was Re: tad williams)

Kathryn Andersen kat_lists at
Fri Feb 7 06:10:01 EST 2003

On Thu, Feb 06, 2003 at 08:57:42PM -0700, Melissa Proffitt wrote:
> On Wed, 05 Feb 2003 23:46:07 +0000, christian nutt wrote:
> >honestly, i do believe that length is a weakness.
> I think you're wrong.  Different kinds of fiction, different styles, require
> different lengths.  There are some stories that are padded, yes, and others
> that are too slender to support the weight of the plot.  But length in and
> of itself cannot be a weakness, because that assumes that the only good
> books are the ones Papa Hemingway would approve of--lean of prose, tight of
> description, and terse of speech.  Again, I think this reflects your
> preferences rather than a reasonable expectation of all fiction.
Strangely enough, I'm more inclined to Christian's tastes -- at least,
I've been coming to the conclusion very recently that if a book is
longer than about 300-400 pages, I'm likely to find that it just drags too
much.  So maybe it isn't so much *length* as *pace*.  My recent
encounter with "The Baker's Boy" is one of the chief reasons I draw this
conclusion about myself -- I was frustrated because nothing was
*happening*.  That isn't to say that a longer book can't have a faster
pace, but what seems to be more often the case is that the longer the
book, the slower the pace.

Now, I'm not a gamer, and I've always read more than I've watched, but I
guess I just don't have the long-winter-nights inclination to read
Victorian-length epics.  Maybe it's because I like to get things

> What's more, I'm even prepared to defend the length of epic fantasy series
> (which I don't even read).  My theory is that the people who love those
> books enjoy the total immersion in another world, and the longer that
> immersion goes on, the happier they are.

I don't agree that the length thing of epic fantasy *novels* is about
(or soley about) immersion, because you can still have a good immersion
experience if you have a long fantasy series which consists of a lot of
shorter books.  I loved Darkover, for example.  That's the kind of
series I like, really.  Not an unending serial, but a collection of
mostly-independent but sometimes interlinked novels set in the same
universe.  Sime~Gen is another example.  Mind you, I'm also happy to
read sets of books about the same characters repeatedly -- so long as
each book actually comes to a conclusion.  Like the original first three
Pern novels, which were considered to be a trilogy, and they did follow
on from each other with the same characters, but if it had stopped after
the first book it still would have been enjoyable.

Another example (which I enjoyed as a kid) were the Tarzan books; it was
a series, but, apart from the first few, you didn't have to have read
them all in order, and you weren't left hanging at the end of the book.

Wanting *more* doesn't necessarily equate to wanting thicker books.

>  So we have five million volumes in
> the L.E. Modesitt "Recluce" saga (and let me tell you, if you want to see
> *real* bad writing in action, take a look at that puppy) and the fans are
> happy because every word means they get to live there a little longer.  It
> doesn't mean everyone has to like it; it just means that those books are
> exactly what they have to be to please the intended audience.

Heh.  I read the first "Recluse" book and got really annoyed at her
metaphysics (that is, the whole Chaos versus Order thing) that I never
read another one.  Then I read the first book in the Spellsong Cycle and
the thing that I took away with me was that she managed to take the
beauty out of both magic *and* music -- kind of the opposite to the way
magic + music was treated in Cart & Cwidder (yes -- ObDWJ!)

Kathryn Andersen
"It's only Neutron.  We call him that because he's so positive."
		-- This Island Earth
 _--_|\	    | Kathryn Andersen	<kat at> <>
/      \    | 
\_.--.*/    | GenFicCrit mailing list <>
      v	    | 
------------| Melbourne -> Victoria -> Australia -> Southern Hemisphere
Maranatha!  |	-> Earth -> Sol -> Milky Way Galaxy -> Universe
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list