Tuesday, 5 April 2016

"Stars thronged..."

"Stars thronged, the Milky Way torrented..." (The Man-Kzin Wars, p. 74)

(My laptop does not recognize the verb "torrented" but readers have no problem with it.)

Poul Anderson found many ways to describe the galaxy as seen from space. Two kinds of writers could profitably imitate Anderson. An established hard sf author would be able to write a perfect pastiche and a new writer would be able to practice many effective techniques while finding his own voice. (Aristotle wrote Platonic dialogues, which have not survived, before developing his distinctive philosophy.)

(i) New combinations of words to describe stars and galaxies.
(ii) The Pathetic Fallacy, understated but also dramatic.
(iii) Always appeal to at least three senses in descriptive passages.
(iv) Write about competent problem-solvers who suddenly realize the solution but do not divulge it to the reader until it works.
(v) Use scientific knowledge to describe each new planetary environment in detail - What color are the plants? Which human dietary requirements do they lack? What is the local equivalent of grass?
(vi) Describe seasons and the weather.
(vii) Understand both sides in any conflict.
(viii) Address basic issues of human freedom and social organization even in action-adventure fiction.
(ix) In successive works, address each concept from different angles.
(x) Either avoid cliches or make them work for you.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree with the list of ten points you made describing characteristics to be found in the works of Poul Anderson. And it was the tenth which caught my attention: because I remembered the dozen or so stories Anderson wrote for PLANET STORIES. Anderson INVERTED or made the cliches that magazine was fond of work for him in unexpected ways. The example I've thought of being "Captive Of The Centaurianess."