My short stories tend to be very unlike my novellas, which, in turn, have a different flavor than my long, generally complex novels.
The short pieces—when they are not Analog tales about technical gimmickry—are often attempts to express an epiphany… a hanging note that rings in the reader’s mind after the story is put down, resonating in the sound of the language itself. Bradbury does this so very well. James Joyce was a great master. I dare try my hand at their art without needing to believe I can ever match them.
The novelette (7,500 to 17,500 words) and the novella (17,500 to 40,000 words) fill the span between short works of fiction and novels, a treasured zone allowing richer expression of character and setting without requiring the vast complexity or filler material of a novel. I love the novella form.
My novellas tend to deal with myth, or contain mythic elements. This is not hard to see in “The Loom of Thessaly,” but it was also true for the first two portions of my book The Postman, which appeared as separate novellas in Asimov’s SF Magazine, in 1982 and 1984. Comprising together the first half of the novel, they are the reason why The Postman has a more mythic tone than my other full-length works.
If science fiction has been kind to the short story, it has saved the novella. The vast majority of the tales of this length professionally published in the U.S. appear in the SF magazines and anthologies.
“The Loom of Thessaly” has always been one of my favorite pieces—despite the horrible pun that it features, near the end. I am one of those who believe that there is such a thing as progress… that we are slowly getting better. One way we do this is by sympathizing with those who lived in the past, who struggled in almost total darkness toward the dim glow of dawn, to bring us where we are.
What comes next is another tale about fate, or destiny, but a much lighter piece. It was written primarily for fun, although it is also a tale about justice.