Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Murray Leinster: some informal notes on his stories

I've only read may be a dozen on his stories - all but "First Contact" during the last month. Some elements seem to recur often in his stories; I collect what I can recall here. Plus some opinions.

My posts on individual stories in days to come should substantiate specific comments below.

Good points:

  1. Going by originality, influence & the skill with which his stories are told, he obviously is one of the most important authors of science fiction. Going by number of posts I regularly see on his works relative other well known authors, he seems to be one of the semi-forgotten greats; he deserves to be read far more widely than he is.
  2. I've yet to see any really depressing story from him. While many of his stories do address grim subjects, they rarely make grim reading. Plus there are some outright hilarious reads.
Neither of his bad points seriously came in the way of my reading - but I haven't seen them noted in the few articles I've read on him, so may be they are worth mentioning.
  1. If your skin color is not white, he can occasionally be obnoxious. Or at least irritating.
  2. He's often very prejudiced in racial matters. It could be a sign of times he lived in, but I've difficulty relating to his distinctions between "civilized" people, "savages", "primitives", & some other adjectives with wrong connotations. And occasionally in ways irrelevant to subject at hand.
  3. Several of his otherwise very innovative stories have just too many coincidences - often convenient coincidences. This may be a curse of the innovator - too much energy spent getting the very original going. This has sometimes cut down the fun for me - particularly visible in stories that have been widely imitated.
  4. A tendency to repeat the same statement many times in the story using slightly different words.
Other themes:
  1. Romance: A lot of his stories have it as at least an important theme, though not a primary one.