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!