Inside Job

Inside Job is Connie Willis’s Hugo-Award-winning novella from 2005, and it goes something like this: Rob is a professional skeptic who runs the debunker’s magazine Jaundiced Eye. His too-good-to-be-true sidekick, the gloriously beautiful, intelligent, wealthy former actress Kildy, helps him expose frauds from psychics, automatic writers, past-life readers, angel-catchers, and the like. Kildy calls him: he’s got to see this act, she says. Ariaura, otherwise an ordinary channeler, has something special going on. And Kildy’s right: during the middle of what would be a humdrum past-life experience, Ariaura begins to talk in a gravelly baritone and call her clients imbeciles and buffaloes. Who’s she apparently channeling? Why, H.L. Mencken, of course, the greatest skeptic of them all.

This is a fast read, a quick, light introduction to Connie Willis’s work. It isn’t as tightly woven as some of her short stories are, and it isn’t as beautifully layered and complex (or as poignant) as some of her novels, particularly Passage, which so far is my favorite among a plethora of great choices. But it’s funny, it’s smart, it’s clever and romantic, and I can recommend it to anyone, particularly if you haven’t read Willis before. She skewers the skeptic and the believer alike, with the greatest cheer and goodwill, and I love it.

One thing I was curious about. I don’t think I have ever seen someone publish one novella alone like this before. It can’t be financially easy to convince publishers to do this. Is it common? Who is in the publishing industry, and can tell me? Juxtabook? Anyone? Is Willis just special? (Well, she is, but…) Any answers welcome!

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5 Responses to Inside Job

  1. Juxtabook says:

    Hi Jenny – selling mostly used books I don’t have much of an insight into publishing so I am not much help I’m afraid. Except to say that if it is good enough it is probably big enough, if you see what I mean. There are an awful lot of ‘odd’ things published, or were, in some ways I think things are more uniform than they used to be. I see a lot of used books that come into the ‘how did that get itself publsihed’ catagory – they have either usually become very collectable because they are very good, or are unsaleable. There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium.

  2. I thought at first this was a Connie Willis book I’d never heard of (well it is, sort of), except that I’ve read this novella published under another title. Can’t remember the other title of course, nor whether it was just the novella by itself or whether it was published with other stories…

  3. Amanda says:

    I haven’t read this one! And I LOVE Connie Willis. I used to live in the town she lives in and got some autographed books. Too cool!

  4. Teresa says:

    Hmmm… I wonder if avisannchild’s comment contains a clue. Might this have been originally published in a volume with other stories? Once it won the Hugo the publisher could have decided it was worth publishing alone and promoting it as a award winner. They could perhaps then get away with charging the same price they would for a full-length novel. Paper costs being what they are, printing a little book and then charging for a full-length book could be not only feasible but profitable, if it would sell. And Willis would–especially if they could proclaim Hugo award-winner on the cover.

  5. Pingback: The Winds of Marble Arch « Shelf Love

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