I’ve just purchased these two “Ace Double” paperbacks, containing stories written from 1958 to 1962.
Those cover images aren’t upside-down by mistake — with a “double”, you read one story which ends in the middle of the book, then flip the book over and start reading inward from the other direction.
The individual stories are 120-140 pages long, at about 250 words/page, so today they’d be called novellas. Using the prices on the covers and an online inflation calculator, the books sold for $3.29 and $3.04 in today’s dollars.
I’m not terribly familiar with most of the authors. A Bertram Chandler‘s “Rim of Space” eventually got expanded into a series, so there’s more to read if I like it. John Brunner‘s most famous work is Stand on Zanzibar, but I can’t remember if I’ve read it. I need to get hold of a copy and see if it looks familiar. Calvin Knox was a pen name of Robert Silverberg. I’ve read at least one of his short story collections, possibly several of them. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Milton Lesser.
Why did I suddenly decide to pick these up? Probably because I’m a fan of shorter works, but I’ve been having bad luck with short stories recently (see the star ratings I gave to the stories in 49 magazines, my first side quest, and my second side quest). I’m being extremely unscientific by choosing these doubles, as I’ve changed two variables simultaneously: the length of story and the time period when it was written. If I detect a change in quality, I won’t know which factor is responsible.
I may go back and do some more comprehensive reading of older sci-fi short stories, but I’ve had mixed results lately. It seems like the smart thing to do would be to search out some modern novellas. I might do so in the future, but it’s going to take some effort.
A number of indie authors put out novella-length stories, but too often, they are serial-style cliffhangers leading into the next novella. I have no problem reading twenty books in a series, but I want each story to come to a conclusion. I drop a series when I realize the author can’t conclude.
On the traditional-publishing side, Tor tried to push novellas a little while ago, but it’s likely they’ve scaled back their efforts since. My problem with Tor is that they usually tout the social/political correctness of their offerings, rather than their value as entertainment. I was inclined to say maybe that’s just marketing, maybe the stories are good, but then I remembered this.
I’d love to hear back from you guys about whether you have any interest in reading novella-length stories. Drop me a comment below if you have an opinion, or if you’ve ever read one of these paperback doubles.