Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Literary Passages

"Blish's scale is the whole galaxy, a view that has to be awe-inspiring if he can only make you see it: and he does, I think, more successfully than any previous writer." (Damon Knight)

I agree. I read that comment of Knight's in his A Sense Of Wonder but here I quote it from the back cover of James Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981).

Some of Blish's passages transcend what we expect in space opera and are worth quoting, eg:

" 'This is not a Hamiltonian state. It's stable, self-sufficient, static - a beachcomber by the seas of history. We're Okies. Not a nice name.' " (p. 274)

"Stable, self-sufficient..." sounds attractive; "...static..." maybe less so. "...a beachcomber by the seas of history..." suggests that future events of historical significance occur elsewhere while the Okies scrape a living on the sidelines. Finally, we are given to understand that they are not socially respectable.

"Under Amalfi the city soared outward, humming like a bee, into the raw night." (p. 285)

Elsewhere, Amalfi compares the migrant cities to bees pollinating the galaxy.

" 'Above' there was nothing...It was the empty ocean of space that washes between galaxies." (pp. 285-286)

So there are seas of history and an ocean of space, "...the star-seas that the city sailed." (p. 242). Blish makes us see both.

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