Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

Book Bloat

I’ve been considering book bloat.  Literary logorrhea.  Volume avoirdupois.  The fantasy and science fiction best-seller lists seem increasingly dominated by physically hefty books of  massive page counts, generally installments of on-going series.

Fine.  That is what sells.  Many publishers refuse to even consider a manuscript submission that weighs in at under 90,000 words.  A larger book can demand a higher price.  Series fiction ensures repeat business.  And authors enjoy a large canvas to paint in ever more detail of the their painstakingly crafted universes.

For that matter I enjoy reading some of these encyclopedia length series.  A large book, a long series, allows for greater immersion.  Of course I am reluctant to pick up a book if the cover indicates that it is ‘part one of an ongoing series.’  I’m already committed to enough of those.  And frankly, some of them smack of pay-check cashing or hint at the author’s drift, lack of focus, or growing boredom.  I fear many of these are begun without a definite end in mind.  That suggests a violation of the unspoken agreement with the reader.

And the page-counts!  World-spanning epics can use (and abuse) the room to explore a cast of thousands, to delineate entire histories.  But more intimately focused novels, bildungsromans and character-centric fiction also display book bloat.  Without the same eventfulness of the epics, these books are often in danger of descending into navel-gazing.

So I’m thankful for used-book stores, for old paperbacks from the days when publishers were willing to put out a 185-page novel.  I like the smell of the yellowing paper of an old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel.  (I just picked up “The Mucker” yesterday.  I’ve been looking for a copy.)  I like to know that – in between 1,000 page behemoths – I can still enjoy an entire story told  in a single, slim volume.

Oh well, just the grousing a pulp-writer in a world of slicks.

What series is currently absorbing your attention?