- When I taught my Tolkien course this past fall, we speculated about why the
sun comes out so fortuitously at the end of the "Ride of the Rohirrim"
chapter in RotK, thereby conveniently scattering the hosts of Mordor. Even
for Tolkien, the providential coincidence seems a bit thick. But then one of
my students -- very impressively, I thought -- connected this event to Sam's
prayer to Galadriel for "clean water and plain daylight" in "The Land of
Shadow" chapter. She points out that the Tale of Years' entry for March 15
suggests that the two things happen at the same time; in other words, because
Sam prays for sunlight in Mordor, the sun comes out for the Rohirrim, too.
(Another student, before this particular theory was raised, had come up with
a jaw-droppingly complex explanation having to do with weather and
thermoclines and what the winds would have been doing based on some
description of weather *before* "The Ride of the Rohirrim." This earned him
the designation "The Meteorologist of Middle Earth," a nickname he may never
Anyway, I love her theory, and comparing the two passages, it looks as if the
timing could fit. Has anyone else noticed this or commented upon it? Is
this something that every other Tolkien expert knows?
- At 07:09 PM 5/16/2003 , Ernest wrote:
>It hardly matters anyway, because the plot of _Forbidden Planet_,Yes.
>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_?Bad can still be enjoyable. I know people who enjoy this stuff, but mostly
>I think it's quite enjoyable, in truth.
because they read it in impressionable youth. That doesn't make it any
>I honestly prefer Doc Smith's heavily stylized but exciting pulp styleThat might be in large part because it would be shorter and punchier if Doc
>to the styles that are in vogue today. I think I might have actually
>finished (say) _Moving Mars_ if Doc Smith had written it.
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 successorsI've re-read the Foundation books, and I've re-read SF from the 30s. The
>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.
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