Why does some literature stand the test of time and some does not?
I started reading a book called Code of the Life Maker the other day. After fifty pages, I can honestly say that I’m intrigued, but there are some things about writing style and content that don’t seem to pull as much weight thirty-seven years after it was written.
So far the style is long-winded and rambling in the dialogue and somewhat slow in the action. That’s not to say that what I am reading is bad, but when two characters are introduced and spend five pages talking about the scientific validity of UFO’s it leaves me wondering why. The chapter had no action of any kind, and I’m not talking about the pew-pew, ‘I’ll be Bach’ kind of action. I’m talking about simple movement kind of action.
The characters sat at a table and talked. The extent of the action was one of the characters leaning his chin on his knuckles.
The other part that I find interesting is not bad, it’s more humorous. The future feels like Starsky and Hutch with Star Trek coms. In addition the main character is a psychic fraud. That is a fresh take and something I don’t recall seeing in any other science-fiction story.
I have to admit, the comparison to Clarke and Asimov in the author-bio didn’t win any points with me. I’ve never been a huge fan of hard sci-fi. I find that most authors have to make a choice between science or character. Even in more modern hard sci-fi, like The Three-Body Problem, I rarely find characters that I fall in love with. Not a surprise as the focal point of such writing is the science.
That aside, I’m reading and enjoying Hogan’s book, but it ain’t no Heinlein.
Back to the primary question, how does writing stand the test of time?
Simple, the story and the characters.
Writing styles will change through the years, but a classic endures because of the story captured by the author. Take Lord of the Rings, the writing style is long-winded, winding, and overly descriptive compared to the writing styles of the 21st Century. If Tolkien tried to write it today it would have a very select audience. However, it fit with his time period and it has stood the test of time because of the story and characters.
Everyone can find a character to whom they relate. Also, Tolkien does a wonderful job of crafting deep characters that become real through the reading. There are very few one dimensional, one-name characters.
The story is well-crafted and compels the reader to follow the journey. The story has become iconic and is referenced more times in our culture than I can hope to find.
So, how does that carry over into science-fiction? You have to look beyond whistles, bells, and science and get into the characters and story.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy will eventually become obsolete when science takes us to Mars and colonization commences. The characters are secondary to the science and as a result, there is little to carry it on into the realm of classics.
As a writer, I hope that my story is built around the characters, their relationships, and most importantly, the father-child relationship.
In book two I’m taking time to delve deeper into Daisy’s character. Where did he come from and what made him who is is today? Why does he drink? Who the heck is Mae?
Soon, my friends.
In the meantime, I’m hoping this quarantine things ends so I can get out to meet my new book on July 9th. It’s hard to do author events when everyone is too afraid to leave their houses. I’m still planning on making it to the Boston Fan Expo. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.
Please stay sane, keep reading, and keep on flying the Black.