Thursday, 3 December 2015

An Opening Paragraph

Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288.

How does an opening paragraph set the tone for the ensuing narrative? Poul Anderson's "Flight to Forever" could have begun, "It was raining..." Instead, we read:

"That morning it rained..." (p. 207)

What morning? We do not know yet but this phraseology sufficiently alerts us that something important is about to happen. This is not just any morning. The opening paragraph continues:

"...a fine, summery mist blowing over the hills and hiding the gleam of the river and the village beyond." (ibid.)

Not a storm, then. But it might be the quiet before a storm? We begin to be informed about the protagonists' physical surroundings. The paragraph continues:

"Martin Saunders stood in the doorway letting the cool, wet air blow in his face..." (ibid.)

We get the viewpoint character's name and more information about his surroundings. He is in a building overlooking the river and village.

"...and wondered what the weather would be like a hundred years from now." (ibid.)

Why does he wonder that? Not only about future weather but also specifically a hundred years hence? This is our first indication in the text that he is about to time travel. The title at the head of the page is "Flight to Forever." And I have not yet mentioned that, between the title and the opening sentence, we read:


"No Return"

So there is "...a fine, summery mist..." but also a sense of impending doom...

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