Saturday, 4 February 2017

Words And World

Language is like either clear or stained glass. We look either through or at it. Someone writing about Isaac Asimov said that Asimov's prose is totally like clear glass. The reader attends only to the content. In Poul Anderson's works, we appreciate the content, imaginative narratives with rich characterization imparting much scientific and historical information, but also Anderson's uses of language, in particular his vivid descriptions and the prevalent but understated pathetic fallacy. Read everything twice, the second time pausing to savor the descriptions of stars seen from space, of seasonal changes or of alien landscapes.

The process of writing focuses the writer's, if not also the reader's, attention on choices of words. In a recent post, having typed the phrase, "timeless treasure," and the adjective, "topical...," I cast about for a second alliterative noun. I like the phrase, "Where were we?," because each word is a diminution of its predecessor. And that should be the title of the next post.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

What you said about Asimov's manner or mode of writing was a big reason why I eventually became so dissatisfied with his fictional works. His flat, plain, colorless prose eventually irritated me as just plain BORING. Esp. his later works.

In fairness I should add that I think his short stories were better, probably because his methods of advancing plots by TALK alone did not matter so much in them. And Asimov's favored mode of writing probably worked best in his non fictional books.


Baloo said...

And the other end of the glass spectrum from Asimov would of course be Jack Vance, a joy to read no matter what the content.

Paul Shackley said...

Hello and thank you.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Baloo!

Many thanks for commenting! I do appreciate reading something by a new guy on the block.

Alas, I've read too little of Jack Vance to adequately comment on his methods and style of writing. The author I thought of as being the exact opposite of Asimov (besides Poul Anderson, of oourse) was Avram Davidson. His stories were ANYTHING but flat, plain, colorless, boring. I'm esp. fond of the stories Davidson set in his Triune Monarchy of Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania featuring the multiply learned Dr. Engelbert Eszterhazy.


David Birr said...

I'm a big Vance fan myself. An article on another site included the following statements:

"World building is an objective in and of itself. In *Lyonesse* we learn the exact layout of Suldrun's garden, the names of the plants, how it looks at several times and day and times of year. For the grand plot it would suffice to simply confine Suldrun to her garden. Vance will build up a history, a religion, a race, a river or a plain, never necessarily needing it to advance the core story.
"Vance will seriously create societies and planets to mention them in passing without any relevance to the nominal story."


"One reviewer commented that part of the charm of Vance's work is the incongruity of 'dull, stupid, ignorant' people who from time to time use implausibly erudite turns of phrase."

That incongruity wasn't sloppy characterization. Not from a writer as skilled as Vance.

Vance and Anderson were close friends, by the way.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, DAVID!

This discussion of how painstakingly careful and detailed Jack Vance was in his writing reminded me that JRR Tolkien was equally perfectionist in his writing of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But Vance seems to have differed from Tolkien in being able to COMPLETE more than one fictional "world."


Anonymous said...

Hi. I am on a PC at the Public Library because the 2nd hand lap top on which I have been relying has expired and it will take a few days to replace it. Shortly after that, I will be away from home without a computer for a week. Meanwhile, I am mentally drafting future posts.
Paul Shackley.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Understood! I've wondered what "happened" to you. I'm glad it was just your old laptop giving up the ghost. I hope you get a GOOD laptop soon.