Book length (was Re: tad williams)
kat_lists at katspace.com
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!)
"It's only Neutron. We call him that because he's so positive."
-- This Island Earth
_--_|\ | Kathryn Andersen <kat at katspace.com> <http://www.katspace.com>
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