Sunday, October 12, 2008

Classic SF

A couple weeks ago I found a great deal at the local library. They were having a clearance sale to make room for new inventory and I picked up a copy of "The Best From Fantasy & Science Fiction Eighth Series", published back in 1959, a collection from F&SF magazine. Wow the styles have changed! Many of the things that are forbidden today were common then. I've only read the first two stories, but there is head-hopping, multiple POV characters (who don't even add anything), "said" synonyms, and -ly adverbs galore (all things that I've been told by dozens of sources to never do). Just a few blurbs, all in a 2-page span:

"whispered inadequately"

"said enthusiastically"

"rolled his eyes lickerishly"

"complained" (instead of said)

"bellowed" (instead of said)

"began" (instead of said)

"chattered" (instead of said)

"protested" (instead of said)

"nodded" (instead of said)

"smiled" (instead of said)

"he said diffidently"

It makes me wonder what readers in another 50 years will think of our writing from the present, and how the styles will change in that time.

Not to mention the totally different view of the sexes. The first story, by C.S. Lewis called "Ministering Angels" is about a crew of astronauts (all men) on Mars, and the new "Aphrodisio-therapy" approved by the government is to send women there to have sex with them as a form of stress relief. It turns out the only two women that are willing to go are an overweight prostitute who's lost all her customers, and a female professor (about 70 years old) who is one of the main advocates of the new aphrodisio-therapy, who can't stop talking in a blustery academic way for even two seconds. Half the crew ends up having a mutiny and fleeing the station, leaving the rest to live with the two women indefinitely (which the ones left behind clearly view as a terrible fate). Very weird to read something written in such a different time, where the mere possibility of a female astronaut even in the far future was so clearly ridiculous.
And the introduction explains that there IS a difference between "science fictioneers" and "Beatniks". I'm glad I read it, or I would always have wondered!

1 comment:

Juliette Wade said...

Cute, Dave!

Yes, I think it's interesting how language standards change. I wonder how that might have to do with the way people understand the purpose of science fiction these days as opposed to back then.