I read a fair bit of science fiction but I noticed an odd thing the other day – I get through more short stories and trilogies than I do stand-alone novels.
I love short stories for that quick, fast hit of sci fi when you just haven’t got the time to spend on a novel. You can get a whole idea to mull over in the time it takes to commute home. And a lot of sci fi authors are prolific writers of short fiction – there seem to be a lot of anthologies sitting beside editor Gardner Dozois’ annual Mammoth Best New SF series these days. Some of my favourite novel-length authors like Cory Doctorow and Nancy Kress have lots of short stories out there but there are also others who seem to write only short fiction, like Benjamin Rosenbaum and Dominic Green, but whose stories are dynamite.
But I also love the total immersion in story and character that a trilogy (or more) brings. A series can explore characters to the point where you know them at least as well as some of your most loved (and hated) relatives. Stories grow with each new book. Plots are introduced, developed and resolved, changing the characters along the way.
But I do have a problem. I like to re-visit some stories if they’re good and it’s been a few years since I first read them. Not a problem if it’s a short story or a novel. But if it’s a trilogy or more? There’s new fiction being released every week and I have piles and piles of books sitting around, waiting to be read. Do I put all the unread ones on hold and wallow in the trilogy again? Or do I go for it with the new(ish) stuff and leave the time-thief that is the trilogy well alone?
Usually, and this is a really bad habit, I do both. I read several books at once. Which I don’t recommend unless you like feeling like an idiot as you toss a coin to decide which one you’re going to read that day while your partner gives you one of those ‘this could be a deal breaker’ looks.
But, what the hell, we’re all told that multi-tasking is the ultimate smug virtue to have these days so this is my version of it. It’s not science fiction but I’ve just had the last couple of months swallowed up by a re-read of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series ahead of the new HBO production and the publication of the next book, A Dance with Dragons, later this year. And I’ve read some short stories and novels alongside it – but it’s OK, I can handle it, I’ve got it under control.
Next up, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold (slipping – I haven’t read the two latest yet), Nick Sagan’s Idlewild trilogy and C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series (nine books and still more being written).
I’m going in. Wish me luck.