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Old 09-18-2012, 01:20 PM   #31
Lemurion
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Originally Posted by holymadness View Post
He is not a very strong manipulator of language. His plots are simplistic, as he prefers imagining the contours of alternate universes to creating interesting and intricate storylines. He created no memorable characters in his lifetime.

If we compare him to his contemporaries—Raymond Chandler, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Arthur Miller, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck—there is really no question that he was a minor, minor figure in letters at the time. Had he not popularized science fiction along with Clarke and Heinlein, I think he would be forgotten today.

He has the merit of being a visionary, but not a particularly good writer.

I don't think it should. Some others in the thread are saying that because 1950s sci-fi movies/pulp fiction were cheesy, Asimov somehow has the right to be just as cheesy.

Sci-fi should be held to the same standard as all literature.
Actually, Asimov was a very good writer with a very strong command of the English language.

What one has to remember, though, is that when he was writing his science fiction he was deliberately trying to write unmemorable prose. In fact, he is on record as saying that whenever he wrote what he thought was a particularly good sentence he struck it out.

Isaac Asimov did not want anyone to pay attention to his writing. His belief was that if the reader is paying attention to how a writer is saying something they are not paying that attention to what they are saying. He did not want his writing to draw attention away from his ideas.

He knew exactly what he was doing.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:22 PM   #32
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A tiny addition: As to Asimov and major female characters, remember Susan Calvin (I, Robot).
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:41 PM   #33
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And definitely stay away from anything by John Norman.
Grk. Yeah. Definitely. Todd Akin would be offended by John Norman.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:43 PM   #34
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Whats wrong with babies?
Well, they're noisy, ugly, smelly, and grow up to be teenagers.

Aside from that, nothing. But I do believe that women should aspire to something other than being a plot of dirt to be plowed and planted.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:50 PM   #35
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He is not a very strong manipulator of language.
I think I can agree with this. He didn't write great literature, but fun stories, IMO.
(I think he said about himself that he continually failed to write "great" text, but at the same time he rarely writes "bad" text.)

However, I think he was great at conveying ideas - which, to me, is one of the main purposes of a book.

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He created no memorable characters in his lifetime.
Depends on how you define memorable, I guess.
I could name a few, but perhaps mainly because they're the heroes of the stories.

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He has the merit of being a visionary, but not a particularly good writer.
That doesn't necessarily mean he was a bad writer, I guess?
If comparing writing to food, I'd consider his writing to be oatmeal - it's uniformly bland but you know what you're getting and there aren't any bad surprises.
(Unless of course you can't stand it in the first place. I only once tried it. Yuck.)

Also, it might be worth mentioning that he himself said he never could really escape his growing up with "pulp fiction" magazines.
From what I gather, those were often really bad writing. (Apparently written words on paper not bound as books were new back then. Everything was bought and published.)

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A tiny addition: As to Asimov and major female characters, remember Susan Calvin (I, Robot).
I think it could be argued that Susan doesn't really count as being a female
(Not in terms of body, but mind. Just as well one might argue that she wasn't really human either.)
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:52 PM   #36
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There's no question that he was a major figure. He just wrote in an a genre that was sneered at. People still read his books, they aren't reading him just because he was historically important. He is - and was - a major figure, even if not everyone likes his books.
I'm afraid I disagree; I think the vast majority of interest in his work is historical rather than literary. As a writer he doesn't hold a candle to the luminaries of his era. People may enjoy his work; that doesn't make it good.
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No one said that. What was said was that it is no surprise that science fiction from the 1950's (again, it's actually from the 1940's) feels like science fiction from the 1950's. Someone today may judge it dates and cheesy today, but that doesn't mean that it was dated and cheesy at the time it was written, 70 years ago. There is little writing about the future that won't appear dated 70 years after it is written.
There is a great deal of science fiction that has aged remarkably well. The novels of H. G. Wells, Frank Herbert, and much of Philip K. Dick are still astoundingly fresh and relevant decades—even a century—after their publication.

I believe that because Asimov's futurist idiom focused on gadgets, alternative timelines, and theoretical political structures at the expense of developed characters and human stories, they feel frozen in time: a snap-shot of his thinking but nothing more enduring. In that way he's very similar to Jules Verne, who has not aged terribly well either.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:52 PM   #37
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After I first read Foundation, I wanted to be a psychohistorian when I grew up. That (and the Peter Wimsey books) really shaped the kinds of courses I took in high school and college (alas, i have no head for languages, and so let Lord Peter down).
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:11 PM   #38
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As someone who studied reactor engineering, I have to say that Asimov's walnut-sized nuclear power units are still almost as far-fetched today as hyperspace travel. We just don't have the technology to convert nuclear power to a more useable form on such a small physical scale. So, it's about as futuristic as you can get, and I don't see what the beef is with the idea. Were the units supposed to be siphoning energy from a hidden dimension via mini-blackholes or something?
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:26 PM   #39
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But I do believe that women should aspire to something other than being a plot of dirt to be plowed and planted.
How rude! Motherhood is a wonderful, fulfilling institution.

But we'll each hold our own opinions to keep the peace.
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:35 PM   #40
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Second the complete lack of powerful or relevant, influential female characters..
Bayta Darrell, and her granddaughter Arkady Darrell?
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:44 PM   #41
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How rude! Motherhood is a wonderful, fulfilling institution.
I didn't say it wasn't. I said that women should, generally, aspire to more than just that, just as men should aspire to be more than just fathers.

Breeding is nothing special, after all. Every living thing does it.
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:53 PM   #42
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I didn't say it wasn't. I said that women should, generally, aspire to more than just that, just as men should aspire to be more than just fathers.
I disagree. Those few decades can be unmatchably rewarding and worth all sacrifice.

To each his own .
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Old 09-18-2012, 03:26 PM   #43
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If a book is still read 70 years later, that's an indication that it is a good book. That doesn't mean everyone is going to like it, of course.
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Old 09-18-2012, 03:36 PM   #44
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As a visual person for me its all about the writing and Visualizing the scenes and characters in the storyline
to be honest the parts of Foundation where Harry Seldon was still Alive were intriguing somehow
but I quickly lost interest after that

This notion that some great "vision" can be communicated in the absence of well thought out descriptive writing just does not pass for me personally

its like trying to excuse to an untrained singing voice and bad song writing because the subject matter of the songs are so important or "visionary."

I had such high hopes for the Foundation series....perhaps too high

But reading it was like reading a Junior high school book report about what might have been a great science fiction novel series.

Contrast this to the "Dune universe" of Frank Herbert where his (and yes even his sons writing)
,made me care about the Characters" even about the fate of that universe, I have a clear image in my Mind of what Vladamir Harkonnen or liet kynes looks like. because of
Frank's Descriptive writing
and "God Emperor of Dune" is IMHO one greatest novels ever written in any genre.
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Old 09-18-2012, 03:38 PM   #45
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You're reading a book first published in 1951 and complaining that it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel. File under: useless criticism.
This.

I'm sorry the O.P. found it so horrible, it remains in my top few best SF novels ever written. Tastes vary. To each his own. C'est la vie.
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