The latest issue of Locus Magazine has an interview with newly crowned Grandmaster Robert Silverberg. What I found interesting in the excerpts are his assessments of the short story and novella forms. Particularly the comments about the novella being the perfect length of a science fiction story:
I have said the novella is the perfect form for science fiction in the introduction to practically every collection of my novellas, and I do believe it. The novella allows the detailed working out of a complex science-fictional idea, the portrayal of a culture, the complexities of the character who is enmeshed within that culture. The exploration that I think is at the heart of a good science-fiction story can be done in great detail. At the same time, you don’t have the exhausting and sometimes stultifying process of spinning the thing out to book length. In modern science-fiction publishing, very big novels are expected — for that matter, whole trilogies are expected. In the novella, you can move around within the 80 or 90 manuscript pages and achieve quite a lot. I believe Edgar Allan Poe’s old dictum: one thing happens in a short story. Everything that happens in a short story should depend on that one thing. In a novella, two or three things can happen (or five or six sometimes).
I, too, am tired of the inevitable sequel of an overly drawn out story. Theodore Sturgeon, who I consider to be an absolute master of his craft, writes books that are around 200 pages in length. Short and sweet. At the hands of a more modern writer/publishing team, they would be 500-600 pages and the start of the latest must-have trilogy or, even-worse, series. Bah! Books are best when writers focus on the story, not on the market and the demands of some newbie publisher.