1. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Hybrids between a short story collection and a novel

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Birmingham, May 1, 2013.

    I've read some of "I, Robot" many years ago, and recently started reading "World War Z". These two stories have two unique structures in my eyes, and I just wanted to know if it's because they're rare or because I haven't been paying attention.

    "I, Robot" is told as an interview with Susan Calvin, a woman who appears in some of Asimov's short stories (just like Multivac, and the famous three laws of robot behavior).

    Calvin, now an old woman, tells the interviewer about six or eight stories that happened to her, to people she knew, or people unrelated to her but related to the subject they discuss (shockingly, the subject is robots).

    Asimov could have easily just written those stories, dump them as an anthology with individual, somewhat interconnected stories, and let us enjoy it as a collection. However, he added Calvin and the interviewer as sort of a glue to unite these works of art into one work. That's what I mean by hybrid between a novel and a collection.

    Max Brooks' "World War Z" goes even further. It is told from the perspective of a member of some UN council that gathered the raw data about the Zombie war and analyzed it. That member decides to put out his own book of reports that are beyond the dry statistics, but about the stories of these people. So you have a collection of reports, basically. Tons of interviews, dialogues and monologues, each one from the perspective of a different person with a different history, demographic background, and experience of that war.

    It's sometimes overwhelming to read, because although these stories are VERY short, there are just so many of them. Brooks united here two things he experienced as a child. One was his obsession with zombie movies, and the other was a book he read filled with testimonies on WWII.
    World War Z is very dark, very realistic, and aside from some problems (including two characters who are basically caricatures of the big bad evil capitalist and cynical hateful government crony), it's a pretty good book. And the stories are mostly told in a very specific order, so you can see, through the eyes of the people who tell them, how the war gradually evolves. So even though it's not written as a novel, you still get the facts of the big picture slowly dripped into your brain with every individual story. He truly did design it to be a hybrid.

    I've tried writing something similar before knowing about the structure of Brooks' book. It sucks to have an idea and then finding out that someone had it 5 years before you did. If it's 50 years before you did, then fine. You could say you either didn't know, or were inspired, or whatever. But having it just a couple of years later sucks. And I'm not talking about plot here, but about structure. And still, luckily, my vision is different than Brooks' vision, so it won't be an identical structure. Certainly not a similar plot.

    So, I return to my original question: What books do you know about that are hybrids between a novel and a collection?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You mentioned Asimov's I, Robot. Did you know that his Foundation Trilogy is also a hybrid? Those books were originally written as a series of novelettes and novellas, and published in Astounding Science Fiction as such. Asimov later collected them into the trilogy, and they flowed so well together that it looked like, well, three connected novels.

    Right now I'm working on a series of science fiction stories that, together, will fit together in a structure that approximates that of World War Z. I hope to publish these in magazines, then gather them into a book. There's something appealing to me about working that way.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Keep in mind that Asimov was writing in a different literary market. Even so, he published first to magazines. The collections (including the Foundation novels) were assembled after he was well established.

    The same was true of Larry Niven. He's well known for his collections like Neutron Star and All the Myriad Ways, but that was after he was well established for many of those same short stories before they were assembled into novels. Likewise Spider Robinson.

    It's harder now to sell a collection than it was back then. The market prefers novels, for the most part. So you will probably have to be even better established than those writers were at the time before your publisher will want to put together a collection.

    Once you are a popular author, whether in short stories or in novels, your options expand tremendously.
     
  4. jeepea
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    jeepea Member

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    Although it's not science fiction, Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio is a collection of interconnected short stories. A single character appears in most of the stories and there is an overall theme. I don't think the stories were published before the book came out. It really is a wonderful book as Anderson was a great writer who is known to have influenced Hemingway.

    John Steinbeck's The Pasture's of Heaven is also a series of short stories taking place in the same little valley with repeating characters. I don't think any of these stories were published before the book came out either. The book has a great pastoral quality that is very soothing and life affirming.
     
  5. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Thank you. I'll try to keep Steinbeck in mind. I loved On Mice and Men. And I also love the structure. Now, just curious, did he actually have a story keeping them as a glue, or just the stories one after the other? Like Calvin telling her story to the journalist, etc.

    minstrel, that's an interesting idea, to first give them to magazines and then publishing it. This is, you gotta sort of know they'll publish all of them. Mine have different genres, atmospheres, age appropriateness. I'm sure there are magazines who would pick and choose and refuse the best ones, simply because they don't want to hurt the fragile souls of potential readers.
     
  6. jeepea
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    jeepea Member

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    The book doesn't really have any glue except that characters appear in more than one story. The stories appear one after the other with no obvious connection to each other. There is a short two page story at the beginning which acts something like a prologue and sets the stage for the rest of the stories. I hope this helps.
     

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