from the tale-of-two-stories dept.
What do science fiction classics like Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle, Simak's City, and Sturgeon's More Than Human have in common? Each of them is a "fix-up" - a novel constructed out of short stories that were previously published on their own. "This used to be one standard way to write a science fiction novel—publish a series of stories that all take place in the same world, and then knit them together into a book," says Charlie Jane Anders. "Sometimes a great deal of revision happened, to turn the separate stories into a single narrative and make sure all the threads joined up. Sometimes, the stories remain pretty separate but there are links between them."
The Golden Age science fiction publishing market was heavily geared towards magazines and short stories. And then suddenly, there was this huge demand for tons of novels. According to Andrew Liptak this left many science fiction authors caught in a hard place: Many had come to depend on the large number of magazines on the market that would pay them for their work, and as readership declined, so too did the places in which to publish original fiction. The result was an innovative solution: repackage a number of preexisting short stories by adding to or rewriting portions of them to work together as a single story. There's also something kind of beautiful about a novel in stories says Anders. You get more narrative "payoff" with a collection of stories that also forms a single continuous meta-story than you do with a single over-arching novel—because each story has its own conclusion, and yet the story builds towards a bigger resolution. Fix-ups are a good, representative example of the transition that the publishing industry faced at the time, and how its authors adapted concludes Liptak. "It’s a lesson that’s well-worth looking closely at, as the entire publishing industry faces new technological challenges and disruptions from the likes of self-publishing and micro-press platforms."