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May 9th, 2011:

Now Available: Copperwood Double #1

Copperwood Double #1: Drumlin Circus and On Gossamer Wings

I am pleased (and you wouldn’t believe how relieved!) to announce the availability of the first Copperwood Double, Drumlin Circus / On Gossamer Wings, in both print and ebook editions. The ebook edition is available from Amazon’s Kindle store in mobi format, and from B&N in epub format, both at $2.99. No DRM in either case. And because there’s no DRM, you can download the free app Calibre and use its excellent conversion utilities to convert mobi or epub to any of several additional ebook formats. The print edition is distributed through Ingram/Lightning Source and is thus available from online retailers who work with Ingram, which would be basically all of them. $11.99. (Note: The print book is not available from This was a major decision that I’ll talk about in a future entry.)

If the cover image above seems bizarre to you, well, you’re younger than you look. The grayhairs among us know precisely what I was reaching for: The Ace Doubles of the period 1952-1973. Each volume consisted of two short novels from 25,000-50,000 words in length, bound back-to-back and inverted, each with its own cover image. Ace did not invent the physical print/bind arrangement, which is called tete-beche (head-to-tail) and has existed for almost 200 years. They did make it a mainstay of recreational reading for two decades, and most of us back then had a pile of them.

A lot of people thought it was a weird idea (and many made fun of it) but we forget that the short novel as a form essentially vanished from SFF after Ace stopped publishing doubles. The magazines won’t publish something 40,000 words long, and 40,000 words is too short for a conventional print book unless you’re way out there in small and very small press. So there was this huge hole between 20,000-word novellas and 80,000 word novels. I fell into that trap in 1981, when my Firejammer clocked in at just under 30,000 words. I shopped it, but unless you’re Larry Niven no one’s going to seriously look at something that length.

I like the short novel as a distinct literary form. It’s long enough to develop some ideas and a few interesting characters, but short enough to require a certain focus, and a fairly linear plot line. It deserves to have a place in the SFF world, and two recent developments have conspired to give it one: ebooks and print-on-demand publishing. Ebooks have no strong length requirements, and from what I’ve read, the length of original ebook novels is drifting downward. More to the point, a story can be given the length it needs, and authors aren’t under pressure to pad an idea out to print novel length, or compress it to magazine novella length or less.

Print-on-demand publishing allows publishers to try interesting things without betting the house on the outcome. I will always love print books and still buy them in respectable quantities, but in these troubled times print publishers must be conservative to avoid going broke. (Do I know a little bit about that or what?) The beancounters require that a book recoup its capital costs, which means that books hover within certain boundaries set by retailer expectations. (Remember that if retailers won’t stock a book, customers never get the chance to vote on it. Retailers therefore have what amounts to a veto on print publisher publishing programs.) Slightly whacky things like tete-beche double novels fall outside ordinary bricks’n’mortar retail channel expectations, but POD manufacturing and online ordering make a lot of things possible.

So I offer you a book with two covers, and two authors telling two stories in one world, the Drumlins world that I introduced in Asimov’s back in 2002 with “Drumlin Boiler”. There’s much more to say, and I’ll continue the discussion (with specifics on both stories) in days to come.