March 14th, 2010

Summary: "Novella Chapbooks", 2009

Summary: "Novella Chapbooks", 2009

[revised to include Beth Bernobich's very nice Adrian Dee novella from PS Publishing, Ars Memoriae.]

This year I saw no less than 22 books that fit my definition of "novella chapbook", by which I really mean single-story chapbooks, because the stories are sometimes shorts or novelettes, and even though in general they aren't really chapbooks but slim trade paperbacks (or sometimes these days e-books). And in one case the book was really a dos-a-dos production featuring two stories.

A total of 22 stories, 18 novellas, 4 novelettes. Almost 560,000 words.

10 of the stories (45.5%) are SF, and 10 (45.5%) are by women.

The books, in rough order of length:

Catherynne M. Valente, Under in the Mere (Rabid Transit Press)
Marly Youmans, Val/Orson (PS Publishing)
Kage Baker, The Hotel Under the Sand (Tachyon)
Uncle River, Camp Desolation and the Eschatology of Salt (PS Publishing)
Patricia Russo, Hearts Starve (Not One of Us)
Elizabeth Bear, Seven for a Secret (Subterranean)
Jenny Blackford, The Priestess and the Slave (Hadley-Rille)
Kage Baker, The Women of Nell Gwynne's (Subterranean)
Eric Brown, Starship Fall (NewCon)
John Scalzi, The God Engines (Subterranean)
Beth Bernobich, Ars Memoriae (PS Publishing)
R. A. MacAvoy, In Between (Subterranean)
Dave Hutchinson, The Push (NewCon)
Peter M. Ball, Horn (Twelfth Planet Press)
Eric Brown, Gilbert and Edgar on Mars (PS Publishing)
Derryl Murphy and William Shunn, Cast a Cold Eye (PS Publishing)
James P. Blaylock, The Ebb Tide (Subterranean)
Stephen Baxter, Starfall (PS Publishing)
Tansy Rayner Roberts, Siren Beat (Twelfth Planet Press)
Charles Ardai, Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye (Dorchester)
Andy Duncan, The Night Cache (PS Publishing)
John Scalzi, Judge Sn Goes Golfing (Subterranean)

First I want to celebrate the publishers of these -- novellas are a form dear to me, and a hard form to sell. These chapbooks are a great way to get them into print. For years PS Publishing (UK) and Subterranean (US) have been doing yeoman work publishing new novellas -- and as you can see they published a lot last year. NewCon Press (UK) and Twelfth Planet Press (Australia) are newer small presses also doing wonderful work, both with anthologies and these chapbooks. Rabid Transit Press is now doing a novella per year -- Under in the Mere was their second. Hadley-Rille's novellas (there was at least one more in 2009) are on historical subjects. Tachyon is another of the field's stalwart small presses. John Benson's main project is his magazine Not One of Us -- I suspect Hearts Starve is a one-off, from one of his regulars, but very welcome. And the Charles Ardai story is a bit different -- a novelette serving as more of a promo for a series of novels Ardai is doing. But a lot of fun!

From top to bottom these are worthwhile stories ... I can say that each of them is interesting and worth a look, in numerous different ways. So, just the highlights. Three are already award nominees, each quite worthy. Kage Baker's The Hotel Under the Sand is nominated for SFWA's Andre Norton award, for best YA book, and it's a neat story of a girl marooned on a desert island where she finds a buried hotel with a mysterious history. Both John Scalzi's The God Engines and Baker's The Women of Nell Gwynne's are nominated for a Nebula as Best Novella. The first is a very dark story of a strange universe where one God rules other gods, and enslaves them to power the starships used by His people -- in this story one faithful captain leads an expedition to find new worshippers for his Lord as unrest nibbles at the borders of his realm. The second is a bit lighter, about a brothel in Victorian London with a secret mission -- using steampunkish tech and feminine wiles to advance the interests of Britain and more importantly, perhaps, their secret society devoted to longterm social progress.

Two more novellas were among my personal favorites of 2009: Dave Hutchinson's The Push, about a colonized planet and the sudden discovery that the local indigenous race is intelligent; and Peter M. Ball's Horn, about a detective investigating some terrible murders apparently involving a feral unicorn.

I don't have time to say much more about the rest of them -- as I say, they are all solid work -- other personal favorites include Elizabeth Bear's novella and Andy Duncan's novelette.