The Newcomer's Guide to Robert E. Howard

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The Hour of the Dragon: Novel or Novella?

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Does The Hour of the Dragon count as a novel or a novella?

The problem with defining a novella is that there are wildly different schools of thought as to whether a work is long or short enough for consideration. In fact, most of the time, it’s up to the individual publisher: for some anything above 40,000 will be considered, while others it’s 70,000. I’ll compare The Hour of the Dragon to several different criteria, to see if it qualifies: the categories for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the RITA Awards, the British Fantasy Society, Lee Masterson, .

The Hour of the Dragon has 72,899 words.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Definition: 17,500 – 39,999 words
Romance Writers of America Definition: 20,000 – 40,000 words
British Fantasy Society Definition: 10,000 – 40,000 words
Lee Masterson Definition: 20,000 – 50,000 words

So from the above definitions, we can see that The Hour of the Dragon is well beyond the boundaries of novella, and into novel status. But is word count all there is? According to Mantex, it’s a more involved process.

A novel can have plots and sub-plots, a teeming cast of characters, and take place in a number of locations. But a novella is more likely to be concentrated on one issue, with just one or two central characters, and located in one place. Artistically, the novella is often unified by the use of powerful symbols which hold together the events of the story

This certainly does not apply to The Hour of the Dragon: there is a wide cast of principal characters aside from Conan himself, there are many sub-plots and parallel actions, and it takes place in a great variety of locations. Even some of the longer Conan stories are pushing that distinction, with many having more than one or two highly important characters, and taking place in many locations. There are other features of the novella featured in the article that could apply to The Hour of the Dragon, in that there is a sense of unity and seriousness – but then, the sheer length of the story would seem to preclude it.

Overall, I would say it’s fair to consider The Hour of the Dragon to be a novel.


Written by alharron

26 December, 2010 at 11:03 pm

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