Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction

30 July 2015

From The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog:

1968, Samuel Delany attended the third annual Nebula Awards, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). At the ceremony that night, “an eminent member of the SFWA,” as Delany later put it, gave a speech about changes in science fiction, a supposed shift away from old-fashioned storytelling to “pretentious literary nonsense,” or something along those lines. At the previous Nebula Awards, the year before, Delany had won best novel for “Babel-17,” in which an invented language has the power to destroy (his book shared the award with Daniel Keyes’s “Flowers for Algernon”), and earlier on that evening in 1968, Delany had again won best novel, for “The Einstein Intersection,” which tells of an abandoned Earth colonized by aliens, who elevate the popular culture of their new planet into divine myths. Sitting at his table, listening to the speech, Delany realized that he was one of its principle targets. Minutes later, he won another award, this time in the short-story category, for “Aye, and Gomorrah . . . ,” a tale of neutered space explorers who are fetishized back on Earth. As he made his way back to his seat after accepting the award, Isaac Asimov took Delany by the arm, pulled him close, and, as Delany (who goes by the nickname Chip) recalled in his essay “Racism and Science Fiction,” said: “You know, Chip, we only voted you those awards because you’re Negro . . . !”

It was meant to be a joke, Delany immediately recognized; Asimov was trying, Delany later wrote, “to cut through the evening’s many tensions” with “a self-evidently tasteless absurdity.” The award wasn’t meant to decide what science fiction should be, conventional or experimental, pulpy or avant garde. After all, where else but science fiction should experiments take place? It must be—wink, wink—that Delany’s being black is the reason he won.

. . . .

Delany came of age at a time when the genre was indeed characterized by gee-whiz futurism, machismo adventuring, and white, heterosexual heroes. From the beginning, Delany, in his fiction, pushed across those boundaries, embraced the other, and questioned received ideas about sex and intimacy. And, within a few years of publishing his first stories, he won some of the field’s biggest awards. Delany’s career now spans more than half a century, and comprises dozens of novels and short stories, many of which have challenged every notion of what science fiction could or should be. Even now, when graphic sex and challenging themes are hardly unusual, Delany’s rapturous sexuality and his explorations of race within the trappings of science fiction have the power to startle.

. . . .

Delany’s novels and stories have taken place in outer space and the future and other alien worlds. His plots are speculative: the race to harvest an energy source from the sun, the struggles of a libertarian society on one of Neptune’s moons, the plight of slaves in a pre-industrial world of magic and barbarism. But he does not believe that science fiction is the right genre for his concerns any more or less than another genre would be. “Nothing about the sonnet is perfect for the love poem, either,” he said. “Genre simply provides a way for the reader to look for things that have been done. A form is a useful thing to use. It has history and resonance. It informs you as to the way things have been done in the past.” In the preface to “A, B, C,” Delany writes that, “though the genre can suggest what you might need, it can never do the work for you.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world

5 July 2015

From The Guardian:

In 1959, if you were walking the sand dunes near Florence, Oregon, you might have encountered a burly, bearded extrovert, striding about in Ray-Ban Aviators and practical army surplus clothing. Frank Herbert, a freelance writer with a feeling for ecology, was researching a magazine story about a US Department of Agriculture programme to stabilise the shifting sands by introducing European beach grass. Pushed by strong winds off the Pacific, the dunes moved eastwards, burying everything in their path. Herbert hired a Cessna light aircraft to survey the scene from the air. “These waves [of sand] can be every bit as devastating as a tidal wave … they’ve even caused deaths,” he wrote in a pitch to his agent. Above all he was intrigued by the idea that it might be possible to engineer an ecosystem, to green a hostile desert landscape.

About to turn 40, Herbert had been a working writer since the age of 19, and his fortunes had always been patchy. After a hard childhood in a small coastal community near Tacoma, Washington, where his pleasures had been fishing and messing about in boats, he’d worked for various regional newspapers in the Pacific northwest and sold short stories to magazines. He’d had a relatively easy war, serving eight months as a naval photographer before receiving a medical discharge. More recently he’d spent a weird interlude in Washington as a speechwriter for a Republican senator. There (his only significant time living on the east coast) he attended the daily Army-McCarthy hearings, watching his distant relative senator Joseph McCarthy root out communism. Herbert was a quintessential product of the libertarian culture of the Pacific coast, self-reliant and distrustful of centralised authority, yet with a mile-wide streak of utopian futurism and a concomitant willingness to experiment. He was also chronically broke. During the period he wrote Dune, his wife Beverly Ann was the main bread-winner, her own writing career sidelined by a job producing advertising copy for department stores.

. . . .

Dune (400 pages in its first hardcover edition, almost 900 in the paperback on my desk) was rejected by more than 20 houses before being accepted by Chilton, a Philadelphia operation known for trade and hobby magazines such as Motor Age, Jewelers’ Circular and the no-doubt-diverting Dry Goods Economist.

. . . .

Though Dune won the Nebula and Hugo awards, the two most prestigious science fiction prizes, it was not an overnight commercial success. Its fanbase built through the 60s and 70s, circulating in squats, communes, labs and studios, anywhere where the idea of global transformation seemed attractive. Fifty years later it is considered by many to be the greatest novel in the SF canon, and has sold in millions around the world.

. . . .

This setup owes something to the Mars stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, as well as the tales written by Idaho-born food chemist Elmer Edward “Doc” Smith, creator of the popular Lensman space operas of the 1940s and 50s, in which eugenically bred heroes are initiated into a “galactic patrol” of psychically enhanced supercops. For Smith, altered states of consciousness were mainly tools for the whiteous and righteous to vaporise whole solar systems of subversives, aliens and others with undesirable traits. Herbert, by contrast, was no friend of big government. He had also taken peyote and read Jung. In 1960, a sailing buddy introduced him to the Zen thinkerAlan Watts, who was living on a houseboat in Sausalito. Long conversations with Watts, the main conduit by which Zen was permeating the west-coast counterculture, helped turn Herbert’s pacy adventure story into an exploration of temporality, the limits of personal identity and the mind’s relationship to the body.

Every fantasy reflects the place and time that produced it. If The Lord of the Rings is about the rise of fascism and the trauma of the second world war, and Game of Thrones, with its cynical realpolitik and cast of precarious, entrepreneurial characters is a fairytale of neoliberalism, then Dune is the paradigmatic fantasy of the Age of Aquarius. Its concerns – environmental stress, human potential, altered states of consciousness and the developing countries’ revolution against imperialism – are blended together into an era-defining vision of personal and cosmic transformation.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Rockets, robots, and reckless imagination

5 July 2015

From The Herald (of Pakistan):

When I was a boy, I had a ‘family teacher’ who came to our house. This gentleman taught several of my cousins, my siblings and me for years. He was a hard-working man, not sparing the rod (or electric wire for that matter) and taught us many things: learn by rote, regurgitate on paper. Don’t worry about understanding what the essay says or implies; memorise it. Reading storybooks is a waste of time better spent ‘rattafying’ blocks of text. Stories in magazines such as Bachon Ki Dunya, Bachon Ka Baagh and Jugnoo, or involving Amr Ayyar, Tarzan, Chan Changloo or Chaloosak Maloosak zipping off in their space ship to exciting new worlds are especially no-no.

Fantastic tales are stories for children, we were told. To be discarded as one grows up, if not before.

My parents supported my teacher’s methods because they thought he was right. I grew up in a joint family (read tribal) system, and our elders were (are) old-fashioned. Education must be instilled into our youth with a vengeance, as children are incapable of learning any other way, they believed. A bit of caning, a dash of slapping, a flourish of the chappal — and all would be well.

Of course, they were wrong.

Of the children my respected teacher taught – 20 or so – for more than a decade, hardly any put their education to use. Not one pursued a professional career: entrepreneurship, media, arts, civil service, education, public health or law — or if they did, it was at for-profit colleges to ‘get degreed’ for societal purposes. Nearly all of my cousins ended up joining their respective family businesses: garments, shoes, shopkeeping, construction or renting out farmland.

I expect many readers are familiar with such stories. How many years are wasted all over Pakistan studying everything but learning nothing? Why does it happen?

My answer: The students and my respected teacher had no imagination.

Lack of imagination meant they had no vision and no conviction. They weren’t even interested in the possibility that any of the three attributes might be useful.

Is it a shock to anyone that Pakistan has been in the grip of an existential crisis for the last 60-some years? Outlining the root causes and effects of it is outside the scope of this article, but I will take a moment here to make a (seemingly) preposterous claim: Encouraging science fiction, fantasy, and horror readership has the potential to alleviate or fix many of Pakistan’s problems.

. . . .

There are innumerable advantages to reading fiction, but my focus in this article is on speculative fiction, often understood to be science fiction, fantasy, and horror. (Hereon, I will use science fiction as an umbrella term to include all aspects and sub-genres of speculative fiction, including hard and sociopolitical science fiction, fantasy of all sorts, magical realism, slipstream, surrealism, fabulism, the uncanny and horror).

The literary tradition of science fiction (or fantastika, using literary critic John Clute’s term) is ancient; some might say it goes all the way back to the Epic of Gilgameshwritten in The Land Between the Two Rivers (Mesopotamia). From more recent times – the last two thousand years – we can include Ovid’s Metamorphosis, quite a bit of Shakespeare’s oeuvre, Dante’s Inferno and, from the Islamic world, Alif Laila Wa Laila (A Thousand and One Nights), Dastan-e-Amir Hamza, Talism Hoshruba, Shahnameh by Firdousi, and so on, all the way to present day novels and short stories.

. . . .

I think most science fiction writers, readers and critics would agree with this: Science fiction is the literature that explores the boundaries of knowledge. While I won’t go into details here, that definition is mostly applicable to speculative fiction’s sub genres, including magical realism, fantasy and horror; it’s just the class of knowledge that changes within each.

. . . .

Except in the rarest of circumstances, no child is born without curiosity, hope and imagination. Much like self-preserving reflexes and instincts, these are evolutionarily designed to help the infant anticipate and respond to stimuli, seek out, learn, worry, and delight. We know from scientific studies that imagination and pretend-play aid in cognitive and social development. They not only arm the child to deal with the real world, but also play a part in establishing the identity of the child as separate from others, teaching them divergent thinking (a thought process that generates creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions), cognitive flexibility and self-regulation, which include reduced aggression, civility and empathy.

Any of those sound like a good idea to teach your average Pakistani?

. . . .

Mimetic fiction often reports much and resolves little. Science fiction in its imaginative glory seeks to report and resolve and recreate a world filled with possibility. It provides us with so many lenses to look at the world around us, lighting up minds with revelation — until one exclaims that they have had a vision of a brave new world, or another jumps up screaming eureka! and runs naked down the street, letting the sun of discovery and hope beat down on their naked shrivelled skin.

. . . .

We Pakistanis are living in a country that has become the perfect dystopian setting, and we are so visionless and inured to the grim dark that we simply do not care. Reading escapist, fabulist or symbolical fiction is one way to regain hope, mutual tolerance and empathy.

Link to the rest at The Herald

Sad Puppies Roundup

11 June 2015

From TeleRead:

It’s been some time since our last few posts covering the Sad/Rabid Puppies Hugo Awards controversy, and a few interesting developments and articles have come out since then, so it’s time for a roundup.

First of all, Jim C. Hines has put a lot of time and effort into compiling a comprehensive history of the whole Sad Puppies movement, dating back to Sad Puppies’ first appearance several years ago. While there is not exactly any love lost between Hines and the Puppies, Hines has done his best to back up anything he says about them with complete quotes from the Puppies’ members (particularly founder Larry Correia and current organizer Brad Torgerson), and provided links to the source of each quote so people can go and read the quotes within their complete original contexts.

Eric Flint has also continued his discussions of the Sad Puppies affair, by responding at length to a Sad Puppy commenter on his blog, and also responding to a message from Torgerson, and to an article in Breitbart championing the Puppies’ causes. (He also penned another piece relevant to the Puppies, but I’ll get to that shortly.) In Flint’s opinion, the Puppies’ rhetoric does not stand up to the actual state of the science fiction publishing industry, or to the Puppies’ behavior.

. . . .

To be fair, the post was made at a time when moral indignation about the Puppies’ “hijacking” the Hugo Awards ballot was at its height, and a lot of people were throwing that sort of hyperbole around. Not many of them were taken to task in such a way, but then, none of them were actual employees of Tor, who also publishes a number of authors on the Sad Puppy slate.

Angered Puppy supporters immediately deluged Tor and Macmillan with angry emails demanding action, and Sunday night Tor publisher Tom Doherty posted a statement to, noting that Gallo didn’t speak for Tor in that matter and had been taken to task for it. The public statement is weirdly bland and unobjectionable, and reads like it was actually written by lawyers rather than an individual. (Which it probably was.)

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Absent something startlingly new, PG is probably finished with the Hugo Puppy Affair.

“Let’s talk about genre”: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation

11 June 2015

From The New Statesman:

Neil Gaiman Let’s talk about genre. Why does it matter? Your book The Buried Giant – which was published not as a fantasy novel, although it contains an awful lot of elements that would be familiar to readers of fantasy – seemed to stir people up from both sides of the literary divide. The fantasy people, in the shape of Ursula Le Guin (although she later retracted it) said, “This is fantasy, and your refusal to put on the mantle of fantasy is evidence of an author slumming it.” And then Michiko Kakutani in the New York Timesreviewed it with utter bafflement. Meanwhile, readers and a lot of reviewers had no trouble figuring out what kind of book it is and enjoyed it hugely.

Kazuo Ishiguro I felt like I’d stepped into some larger discussion that had been going on for some time. I expected some of my usual readers to say, “What’s this? There are ogres in it . . .” but I didn’t anticipate this bigger debate. Why are people so preoccupied? What is genre in the first place? Who invented it? Why am I perceived to have crossed a kind of boundary?

NG I think if you were a novelist writing in 1920 or 1930, you would simply be perceived as having written another novel. When Dickens published A Christmas Carol nobody went, “Ah, this respectable social novelist has suddenly become a fantasy novelist: look, there are ghosts and magic.”

KI Is it possible that what we think of as genre boundaries are things that have been invented fairly recently by the publishing industry? I can see there’s a case for saying there are certain patterns, and you can divide up stories according to these patterns, perhaps usefully. But I get worried when readers and writers take these boundaries too seriously, and think that something strange happens when you cross them, and that you should think very carefully before doing so.

NG I love the idea of genres as places that you don’t necessarily want to go unless you’re a native, because the people there will stare at you askance and say things like, “Head over the wall to Science Fiction, mate, you’ll be happier there . . .”

KI . . . or, “Come over here if you want but you’re going to have to abide by our rules.”

. . . .

NG Yes. One of the things that fascinated me about The Buried Giant is there are several places in it where people fight with sharp blades, and people are killed, and in each case it happens at the speed that it would have happened in real life and ends as abruptly and, often, unsatisfyingly: the character falls to the grass with what looks like a red snake slipping away from him, you suddenly realise, “Oh, this is blood,” and you’re thinking, “This is not how a reader of fantasy expecting a good swordfight would have expected this swordfight to go.”

KI If I was aware of genre at all during the fight scenes, I was thinking of samurai films and westerns. In samurai movies mortal enemies stare at each other for a long time, then there’s one flash of violence and it’s over.
What do you reckon would have happened if I’d been a writer steeped in fantasy? Would I have had people talking while bashing swords?

Link to the rest at The New Statesman and thanks to Will and several others for the tip.

America’s Largest Sci-Fi Publisher Gives in to Reactionary “Sad Puppies”

10 June 2015

From Gawker Review:

Earlier this year, two campaigns variously made up of traditionalist sci-fi fans, neoreactionaries,Gamergaters and other flavors of angry white dude hijacked the nominations for one of sci-fi’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo. Now one of the biggest publishers in sci-fi and fantasy seems to have come out in support (or at least appeasement) of those same groups, known as Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies.

Tor Books, America’s largest SF/F publishing house, reprimanded one of its employees for coming out against the Puppies on her personal Facebook page, and apologized to the groups—who stand for removing social justice issues from science fiction—on her behalf.

Back in May, associate publisher/creative director Irene Gallo linked to an announcement that Tor plans to publish The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Hugo-nominated author Kameron Hurley, and said she was proud to help make the Sad Puppies even sadder.

. . . .

When the Puppies and their supporters learned of the message over the weekend, they were pissed. They started tweeting about Gallo and spamming her with angry Facebook comments.

Tor took notice.

On Monday, 79-year-old Tor founder and president Tom Doherty gave Gallo a public dressing-down on the publisher’s blog and apologized to the Puppies for “any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused.”

Doherty asserted that “media coverage of the two groups initially suggested that they were organized simply to promote white men, which was not correct,” and listed a handful of women and people of color on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies’ slates.

Link to the rest at Gawker Review and thanks to Cora for the tip.

John Scalzi, Science Fiction Writer, Signs $3.4 Million Deal for 13 Books

26 May 2015

From The New York Times:

John Scalzi, a best-selling author of science fiction, has signed a $3.4 million, 10-year deal with the publisher Tor Books that will cover his next 13 books.

Mr. Scalzi’s works include a series known as the “Old Man’s War” and the more recent “Redshirts,” a Hugo-award-winning sendup of the luckless lives of nonfeatured characters on shows like the original “Star Trek.” Three of his works are being developed for television, including “Redshirts” and “Lock In,” a science-inflected medical thriller that evokes Michael Crichton. Mr. Scalzi’s hyper-caffeinated Internet presence through his blog, Whatever, has made him an online celebrity as well.

Mr. Scalzi approached Tor Books, his longtime publisher, with proposals for 10 adult novels and three young adult novels over 10 years. Some of the books will extend the popular “Old Man’s War” series, building on an existing audience, and one will be a sequel to “Lock In.” Mr. Scalzi said he hoped books like “Lock In” could draw more readers toward science fiction, since many, he said, are still “gun-shy” about the genre.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the executive editor for Tor, said the decision was an easy one. While Mr. Scalzi has never had a “No. 1 best seller,” he said, “he backlists like crazy.”

. . . .

 He said Mr. Scalzi sells “a healthy five-figure number of his books every month,” and that he “hasn’t even begun to reach his full potential audience.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Karen and several others for the tip.

PG did a little arithmetic (always a dangerous thing).

$3.4 million is a lot of money, but divided between 13 books, it translates into an advance for Scalzi of about $222,700 per book after deducting his agent’s fees. Again, after agent’s fees, over ten years, he’s looking at $289,000 per year. Not shabby, but not breathtaking.

PG would have no difficulty naming a significant number of indie authors with higher annual incomes. Tradpub multi-book contracts typically divide a significant portion of the advance payments (sometimes all of them) into per-book payments as each book is published or accepted for publication, so, in terms of annual income, Scalzi is likely to average pretty close to  the $289K annual number over the course ten years of advance payments.

Tor says Scalzi sells “a healthy five-figure number of his books every month.”

Let’s look at a couple of possibilities for “healthy” and see how Scalzi would do if he sold a less-than-healthy five-figure number of books every month as an indie author.

If each of Scalzi’s 13 new indie books sell 1,00o ebook copies per month, that’s a total of 13,000 copies each month. (PG’s getting better at math all the time). Again, PG would have few problems naming a significant number of indie authors with much less name recognition than Scalzi who consistently average sales of more than 1,000 copies per title each month.

To make the math easier, we’ll assume that, instead of taking the Tor contract, Scalzi indie pubs his 13 ebooks and sells them on Amazon for $2.99 each.

At 1,000 books per title per month, these sales would generate about $327,000 per year in indie royalties for Scalzi (no agent necessary). If we increased the sales of these 13 books to a more-healthy five-figure annual total based on 2,000 copies per title per month, Scalzi would be looking at $653,000 per year in royalties. And, unlike advances, which will cut off after the last book is published, that $600K+ per year won’t fall off a cliff after ten years.

Now certainly Scalzi’s indie income would start smaller and serious indie income would be back-loaded while presumably the advance income he will receive from Tor will be more front-loaded with Scalzi receiving payments from Tor before the books are sold. Performing any sort of front-loaded vs. back-loaded analysis is definitely beyond PG’s meager math skills.

However, if “healthy five-figure monthly sales” are 40,000 or 50,000 or 60,000 per month, indie royalties blow past the Tor advance like a buttered bullet.

The Scalzi/Tor advance was big enough to generate an article in the Sunday New York Times, but compared to the earnings of similarly-talented indie authors, PG says it’s not very impressive.

To be clear, PG bears no animus toward Mr. Scalzi and wishes him the best of luck and booming sales with Tor. However, having recently discussed royalties with a number of successful indies who don’t have Scalzi’s name recognition, PG says the indie path is far more lucrative.


Fantasy cannot build its imaginary worlds in short fiction

21 May 2015

From The Guardian:

Recently Damien Walter wrote about the tyranny of fantasy serial mega-novels. He suggested that fantasy novels now tend toward the enormous because of market forces — because everybody in the publishing and television industries is looking for the next Game of Thrones, and a new author who can open a factory of imagination that will lead to commercial success. I don’t think that’s the reason behind the size or format of fantasy books at all.

Last year, I was teaching on a short fiction course and agreed with the convenor that I’d do genre fiction while he covered high literary, New Yorker-style stuff. But although I read truckloads of fantasy, and write it, it was very difficult to find fantasy short stories that don’t lean in some way on an existing corpus of novels. There’s a very good reason for that, and it’s nothing to do with market forces – and everything to do with the requirements of the genre itself.

High fantasy of the George RR Martin kind hinges on world-building. When there really is a whole world to build, and not just a historical period or a particular country, world-building does not take a few paragraphs in a short story; it takes chapters. Add to that the anvil on which creative writing schools hammer their students now, show don’t tell, and these details take even longer to convey. A very fine example of this is Robin Hobb’s Farseer series. The plot is simple. It’s about a prophet who wants to change the world by bringing back dragons. But each book is more than 600 pages long, and it’s not pointless rambling allowed by an editor who simply wants to sell three books for £20 per hardback rather than one.

. . . .

However, Hobb’s stories don’t take place in the real world. The two main characters are not ordinary people who can be sketched and left largely to the imagination of the reader. One of them can see the future and refuses to disclose, for cultural reasons and out of general pig-headedness, whether he’s even a man or a woman. The other is a royal bastard born into political circumstances that deny him an ordinary family and any other truly meaningful friendships beyond that of this wonderful lunatic. They live in a world where there is magic in the air and the stones, and a dragon buried in a glacier. All those things which are not mentioned in literary realism but are important for its context – government, geography, fashion, everything – are equally important in this trilogy, but they are not already understood by the readers. To bring it all to life requires a lot of space, and a huge amount of detail.

If you take out the detail of fantasy and boil it down to the skeleton of its plot, the result is nearly always a lot of unexplained magic. That has a quite a peculiar effect.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Karen and others for the tip.

2015 SFWA Election Results

20 May 2015

Author, Artist and Queen Jaguar M.C.A. Hogarth has been elevated to dizzying heights in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

From SFWA:

Ballots have been tallied and certified.  The current board serves untilJune 30th. On July 1, 2015 current Vice President Cat Rambo will start a two year term as president, and current Secretary Susan Forest  continues for two years in that post. Current Chief Financial Officer Bud Sparhawk was re-elected for one year as is newly-elected Vice President M.C.A. Hogarth.

Link to the rest at SFWA

PG says congratulations to Maggie.

Fantasy must shake off the tyranny of the mega-novel

19 May 2015

From The Guardian:

The triumph of George RR Martin has made publishers greedy for multi-volume stories, but not all authors can write them – and why should they?

. . . .

Money talks, of course, and ever since Tolkien laid down the basic three-part formula, his vision has gradually expanded into the multi-volume moneyspinners of today. If every reader has to buy 15 separate volumes of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time at £8.99 a pop, that adds up to a 44m-copy pay day for his publishers. But this commercial appeal is clogging up the genre with tome after tome of schlock, as anyone who has had the misfortune of being trapped in a confined space with only a Terry Goodkind novel for entertainment can confirm.

Series novels are common in many genres of fiction, none more so than crime, mysteries and thrillers. The formula of a lone detective investigating a new murder in each book has changed little in the decades between Agatha Christie and Lee Child.

. . . .

Fantasy novels have grown so vast that even the serial concept no longer quite captures what they are doing. In a recent essay, the sci-fi novelist Eric Flint suggested the term “mega-novel” to better express what fantasy serials of this kind are doing. While they may be broken into separate volumes for commercial reasons, these are really just very big novels, often with multiple heroes, each surrounded by their own cast of supporting characters. They’re not just big and long, but structurally complex in a way that requires that extra space.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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