Monday, 6 June 2016


We are familiar with the difference between prosaic and dramatic dialogues, e.g.:

Gratillonius said, "Yes."

Gratillonius: Yes.

Prose differentiates speech from narrative with inverted commas. A drama script differentiates characters' names from the text by italicizing the former. When I was in primary school, one pupil thought that it was legitimate for a prose narrative to recount a conversation by switching to the dramatic format. It was explained that that format was used for plays.

In The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter XXI, section I, and again in section 5, Poul and Karen Anderson summarize a group conversation by resorting to the dramatic format. However, they do not italicize names and do retain inverted commas. Thus, a hybrid literary form. In section 1, Dorianus is described, we are told that he spoke in Latin and what he said but then -

"Gratillonius: 'Wait, wait...'" (p. 409)

The dramatic dialogue continues, interspersed with a few narrative passages, until -

"More cries rang out.
"'Quiet!' ordered Gratillonius." (p. 411)

In section 5, after Bacca has "purred":

"'Since you have such respect for the law and our Emperor...'" etc (p. 423), the format switches -

"Glabrio: 'Outrageous...'" (ibid.)

The dramatic dialogue between Glabrio, Gratillonius, Murena and Bacca continues until we have a familiar pause and commentary:

"There was another silence. The wind blustered." (p. 425)

The wind, almost personified by now, blusters like some of the human characters. Then the dialogue returns to a prose format:

"At length Murena asked, 'Has anyone anything else to say?'" (ibid.)

We continue to read, having enjoyed a brief excursion from narrative into drama.

At the end of The Day After Judgment, James Blish switches from prose narrative to drama but I think that, in this case, it is a way of expressing profound cosmic changes. Reality has changed around the characters and, of course, changes them in the process.

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