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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Novels, Novellas, Novelettes?

Posted by Smurov, Guest Author, on 06/22/07 at 12:40 PM

(One day John Holbo took a nap and had a bad dream.  He awoke to the realization that one can’t have valves with Smurovs.  Now his Valve has one.)

Responding to Chad Orzel’s puzzlement concerning the difference between novellas and novelettes, one of his commenters writes:

Definitions in Literature are not as crisp as definitions in Physics.

Too true, too true; but not necessarily a bad thing.  For example, here’s how the society devoted to the most scientific of literatures defines the difference:

3.3.1: Best Novel. A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.

3.3.2: Best Novella. A science fiction or fantasy story of between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words.

3.3.3: Best Novelette. A science fiction or fantasy story of between seven thousand five hundred (7,500) and seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) words.

3.3.4: Best Short Story. A science fiction or fantasy story of less than seven thousand five hundred (7,500) words.

Those are crisp definitions, but only because science fiction lacks anyone with an Oulipo-streak.  Imagine a collection of short stories each 7,499 words.  By definition, they would not be novelettes; but what if they were paced like novelettes? What if two of them were interconnected—same characters, different times—would they now be a 14,998-word novelette?  Would three be a 22,497-word novella? Six a 44,994-word novel?  The OED offers little aid:

novelette, a story of moderate length having the characteristics of a novel.

novella, a short novel, a long short story.

How would you characterize the difference between a novella and novelette, or a short story and novella, or either (or both) from a novel?  What are the generic differences between them?  The number of characters?  The duration of the events narrated? 

UPDATE: For the record, Smurov is not John Holbo - although we admit it was a plausible inference. Smurov is some other guy.


Comments

IIRC the definitions aren’t actually that sharp, and there’s a 10% (or something) margin to allow for people (say) nominating a short story as a novellette. The Hugo administrator has a certain amount of discretionary power as to what ends up where. This also applies to the long-form and short-form dramatic presentation categories; which is how a 2-part Doctor Who episode ends up under short form despite meeting the criteria for long form. Or something. I’m sure Kevin Standlee will be along shortly to explain it more clearly.

By Niall on 06/22/07 at 03:55 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Predefinitional matter, OED:
farce (fA:Rs), n.2 Also 6-7 farse, 6 Sc. farsche
[a. (in 16th c.) F. farce, app. a metaphorical use of farce stuffing: see prec.
The history of the sense appears to be as follows: In the 13th c. the word (in latinized form farsa, farsia) was applied in France and England to the various phrases interpolated in litanies between the words kyrie and eleison (e.g. ‘Kyrie, genitor ingenite, vera essentia, eleison’); to similar expansions of other liturgical formulae; and to expository or hortatory passages in French (sometimes in rime) which were inserted between the Latin sentences in chanting the epistle. (The related vb. L. farcire, OF. farcir to stuff, hence to ‘pad out’, interlard, was used in the same connexion in the expressions epistola farsita, un benedicamus farci. See Du Cange s.vv. Farsa, Farsia, and Burney Hist. Music II. 256.) Subsequently the OF. farce, with similar notion, occurs as the name for the extemporaneous amplification or ‘gag’, or the interludes of impromptu buffoonery, which the actors in the religious dramas were accustomed to interpolate into their text. Hence the transition to the modern sense is easy. (The Eccl. Lat. farcire, referred to above, have been anglicized by mod. writers on liturgical antiquities as farse n.  v.)]

By nnyhav on 06/22/07 at 04:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

you been fooling with that valve again boy ?
nobody else got him a valve

By on 06/22/07 at 07:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

you been fooling with that valve again boy ? aint
nobody else got him a valve

By on 06/22/07 at 07:52 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Looking for differences between genres we couldn’t find accounting words. Maybe finding a poetical or textual analysis.

By on 06/22/07 at 07:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Niall, that’s good to know.  I still think a generic account would be better—although difficult to quantify so neatly.  Perhaps a taxonomy based on Henry James, whose works describe these structural differences so well?

nnyhav, are you calling me a farce? 

theredhackle, I don’t know what you mean.

By on 06/22/07 at 08:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

We need some serious nominalism here.

Novella=~novellette=~long short story.

If something too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel is really good we need to call it something. If it’s fucked, we just say it’s fucked without assigning a genre.

By John Emerson on 06/22/07 at 09:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

(In accordance with prophecy.)

By Niall on 06/23/07 at 02:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

First thing we have to decide is whether we’re talking about genre a form or genre as mode (see Ian Duncan).  Realism and romance, for instance, are more often discussed as modes; lyric and epic as forms.

In the end, genres are nothing more than a body of conventions, so they exist—if they exist at all—in the intersection of author, text, reader, and society.  Which means that there will always be plenty of exceptions.  It’s like in descriptive grammar: the second you say that all nominative absolutes function in one way, someone comes along with an exception.  With genre, it’s even worse, because artists are perverse rule-breakers who take joy in consciously making hybrids, mutants, and other literary freaks of nature.

I still like Poe’s definition of a short story: a tale short enough to be read in a single sitting, conveying one overall effect.  We might also turn to production to define the short story: if it was published as a stand-alone work of fictional prose in a magazine, newspaper, or journal, it’s a short story.

Personally, I’d see the novella as like the short story in its single, overall effect, but like the novel in that it isn’t intended to be read in one sitting.  *Death in Venice*, or *The Death of Ivan Ilych* are perfect examples. 

Novelette is, of course, a female novel.  (Check under the binding, if you know what I mean.)

The novel is neither meant to be read in a single sitting nor meant to produce a single, overarching effect.  As a stand-alone work of art, it is published all at once.  If it is not published all at once—that is, if it is published serially—its parts are meant to be joined up in the reader’s mind to form a stand alone work of art (unlike stories published in subsequent issues of a magazine by the same author).

Poems are about girls or death, and they rhyme.  Otherwise, they are “high school poems,” and they are about death *due* to girls, and they can easily be set over music by The Smiths or The Cure.

By on 06/23/07 at 07:38 AM | Permanent link to this comment

are you calling me a farce?

It is not my wont to throw stones, nor even lefthanded compliments. I merely suggest ambling down the road that the term travelled down the ages: Boccaccio’s ‘novels’ (or Cervantes’ Novelas Ejemplares), then something somewhat short of 17-18c romance, and then, per Cuddon: “In the 19th c. the concept of the ‘novel’ was expanded.”

By nnyhav on 06/23/07 at 12:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Those are crisp definitions, but only because science fiction lacks anyone with an Oulipo-streak.

Stanislaw Lem?

By ben wolfson on 06/24/07 at 06:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have been reading science-Fiction for over 51 years. I own about 4,000 works of Sci-Fi.
I have read about 6000 short stories and over 400 novels.
I do not know if that makes me an expert on this subject. Many of my novels are a bit over 100 printed pages, and, as I will not count the number of words I have arrived at this:
There is not difference between a novella and a novel.
Anything over 100 pages is a novel, any short story over 50 pages is a novellette.
I feel that the word novella was invented to save on printers ink.
I would like to hear your comments.
If you comment just here, then please also send me an e-mail in case I do not check this for some time.
By the way, my favorite author started out being an avid ahort story writer, and now writes mostly novels. He has not written for some time so perhaps he will read this and write even with the help of his wife and other friends.
It also annoys me that most used book stores will not carry collections or anthologies as they say that they do not see.
Thank goodness for the internet.

By on 06/30/08 at 12:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

We need some serious nominalism here.  And
Those are crisp definitions, but only because science fiction lacks anyone with an Oulipo-streak.

Stanislaw Lem?

By vBulletin on 01/18/10 at 02:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Those are crisp definitions, but only because science fiction lacks anyone with an Oulipo-streak.

http://www.vbulletinci.com

By Mr.Who on 02/18/10 at 12:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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