At 07:09 PM 5/16/2003 , Ernest wrote:
>It hardly matters anyway, because the plot of _Forbidden Planet_,
>although obviously derivative from _The Tempest_, is not the same as that
>of _The Tempest_ except in its broadest outlines.
>Yes, E. E. Smith's prose was preciously purple, but is it really _bad_?
>I think it's quite enjoyable, in truth.
Bad can still be enjoyable. I know people who enjoy this stuff, but mostly
because they read it in impressionable youth. That doesn't make it any
>I honestly prefer Doc Smith's heavily stylized but exciting pulp style
>to the styles that are in vogue today. I think I might have actually
>finished (say) _Moving Mars_ if Doc Smith had written it.
That might be in large part because it would be shorter and punchier if Doc
Smith wrote it. Not for the quality of the prose. SF prose today may well
be, as you say, largely mediocre: but mediocre is still much better than bad.
>If you want bad writing, try rereading _Foundation_ or its successors
>again. Oy! Asimov at his best was top-notch--I'll put "The Dead Past"
>on the list of best short stories I've read, SF or no--but he was rarely
>at his best.
I've re-read the Foundation books, and I've re-read SF from the 30s. The
Foundation books' prose, while still pulpish, is a significant advance over
the typical 30s product. I agree that it's hardly worth holding up to
praise, either, and Asimov himself in later life would not have done so.
How to identify Asimov's better fictional prose: 1) he wrote it after 1950
[that eliminates the original Foundation books, which despite their
copyright dates were written & published in the 1940s]; 2) he did not write
it at the behest of his publishers [that eliminates the dreadful late
novels, which were all written because the publishers wanted new novels
from him, as well as various lame series fiction]. His best fiction was
some (not all) of his 1950s novels, and much of his stand-alone short
fiction from circa 1950 onwards.
The Niven piece on teleportion is "The Theory and Practice of
Teleportation", in his 1971 paperback collection _All the Myriad Ways_, but
probably not elsewhere. The ideas he discusses in this essay he put to use
in a story a couple years later titled "Flash Crowd" (in his 1973 pb
collection _The Flight of the Horse_, and probably elsewhere). This story
is now considered somewhat prescient, as "flash crowd" is now an
established term for crowds of people who form on extremely short notice,
through word of mouth (spread not by teleporter but cell phone) where
something interesting is happening.
- David Bratman