Sunday, 17 April 2016

"Beautiful country..."

When reading a collaborative novel, I do not often wonder which author wrote which passage. However:

Poul Anderson deliberately appealed to three or more senses in descriptive passages;
SM Stirling learned such techniques from Anderson;
in Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's Go Tell The Spartans, we find -

"'Beautiful country,' he said contentedly..."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, The Prince (New York, 2002), p. 706.

In the following passage:

tall, gold-green grass;
dense wild rose and semibamboo ("semi-" because Sparta is a terraformed planet);
big fire-gold and scarlet maples;
fallen leaves muffling hoof beats;
afternoon light making the ground a flaming carpet;
hollow sounds indicating kilometers of giant caves below;
springs and pools;
on the horizon, gleaming peaks higher and longer than the Himalayas;
chill clean air, "...smelling of green and rock..." (ibid.);
good game country with imported pheasant, duck, rabbit and venison.

Yes! It is worthwhile to pause and analyze such passages.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Yes, I agree, this use by S.M. Stirling of three different senses for descriptive passages in his books was plainly learned from studying the works of Poul Anderson. After all, he said so himself, when commenting on this blog that many of the themes and tropes he uses were inspired by the example of Anderson.

Alas, this kind of careful, even meditative use of description irritates many readers these days. Too many want only action and drama, not careful delineation of background and character. I would put this kind of stress on action/drama down to the influence of TV. And I've seen complaints by some readers that writers like JRR Tolkien and Poul Anderson pay too much attention to "mere" description.