I feel like the novella gets shit on... a lot. Sure, maybe it is unpublishable by itself, unless you are Melville House. (Isn't that the most retarded name for a publisher you have ever heard? Yeah, I get it. It's stupid.) But there is also all this, "it's not a short story, it's not a novel, so what the hell is it?" bullshit. What is that supposed to mean? What is anything? Is a mini-van a car or a bus? It has to be one of them!
I think a good 75% of what I know about writing short stories comes from Philip K. Dick. I'm not going to dig out the introduction to something-or-other in which he said, this, so I am going to paraphrase. And maybe he didn't even say it. But that doesn't matter, because I think he said it, and also it holds true for his stories.
He said, (so I say): "A novel is a story in which you get to know a bunch of character's involved in a situation, and watch them play it out. A short story is a story so short you barely have time to get to know one character, and kind of figure out his situation."
Great! So what do you do if you have a few characters, and you have maybe half of a situation you want them to play out? You write a novella. Isn't it obvious? There are some ideas that are too long for a short story, and hence, are not short stories. If you have multiple characters, or a character doing a whole sequence of things, you do not have a short story. But if the plot is not a clear narrative, or if there is only one and a half characters, or if there are any sort of complications in the typical "a bunch of people do stuff and change" novel format, then you sure as shit don't have a novel. What do you have? You have Salinger's later writing. You have many of Kafka's works. You have Dostoyevsky's The Double. You have Thus Spake Zarathustra, if Nietzsche had known when to stop writing. You have real good literature, not selling itself short, or with delusions of gradeur.
Not to say that Open-faced Mushroom Blastocyst is anything close to these works. (Okay, I think it's a better read than Zarathustra. It had better be!) But I think there is a lot of life in the novella as a form of literature; and furthermore, there are some stories that simply are novellas, despite their attempts to be anything else. My other novella I have finished (I'm actually editing a third), Scab Suite, is actually four short stories, involving the same two characters. Maybe it should even be only one or two short stories, but it is a suite, and they would not work individually with the others.
OFMB was always a novella, however. From the very point of inception. You have a character who is no more than a channel for all the mythology, angst, desire, and paranoia necessary for the founding of a eschatological religion, a love interest whose main role is to play the archetypical love interest, and a entire epic's worth of hallucination and death drive imagery. You sure don't have a short story or a novel. Bingo--your seventy-some pages are pretty much a tailor made novella.
I had a lot of fun writing this. It came very easily. The plot was hashed out at the very beginning, and the gaps just kind of came together as I was writing. Of course, it is not the most readable thing ever. There are parts of it that should not be easy to read--such an experience as the one the character is undergoing are not easy to get through. Hopefully, if I did it right, it will be just hard enough for the reader so that s/he reacts to the text correctly. Well, we'll see.
I decided to release this story in versions--inspired by the "unbook" hypothesis, and others around the Internet who are writing about new POD models and forms. I'm not sure what the response will be to this book, or if there will be one. But because it is sort of an unconventional strategy for a piece of writing (novella form aside, large-scale hallucination is not something as easy to write as it would seem to be), I thought I would try and experiment towards the version direction on the publishing side of things. And that's why I'm giving the book away free. Yes! Hopefully to get as much feedback as possible, I printed up a number of copies at my own expense, and I am giving them away. So far no one has asked for one. That's okay, I guess. There is an awful lot of writing available for free at the present. But hey! They're still here.
I also drew the cover. This is the second cover, for the second novella, both of which I sat down without knowing what to draw. And both of them came out really well, I think. Want to see it closer? Send me your address--I'll send you a copy for free!
This ended up being a note more about the form of the work than it's content, which is cool, because this is probably more important to note than what occurs in the book. However, if you are still on the fence about whether you want to read it, here's a bit about it:
OFMB is an unfolding apocalypse; it is a narrative of specialist, revealed knowledge about the construction of the cosmos and those who dwell with in it, fighting for control. It is a timeless description of orgiastic, organic brith trauma, told through the drug-addled, self-forgotten, fated romance of young persons who don't know a goddamn thing about breeding. They are the prophets of an age that has lost all powers of theological inscription, and must instead start the painful process of learning again to carve the battle messages of the ghostly forces writhing within the unconscious upon their brains and bodies, with their dripping flow of paranoiac ink. Is it a game? Or is it a dream? Neither. It's just a story.
Cool? Cool. Find it, and the other two short stories at www.brutepress.com.
Predictions for 2012
5 years ago