Saturday, 31 August 2013

70s Saturday Sci-Fi Scans

If you have spent any time browsing Wikipedia, you know of the Wikipedia Effect - that is, you quickly look up some fact on Wikipedia (say, the year Wayne Gretzky joined the Oilers) and three hours later you're six degrees of separation away (say, the history of nylon). Unfortunately there's a wiki out there that is eleventy times worse for this, TV Tropes. Let me warn you, clicking on that link will suck up your entire Labour Day weekend!

Despite the name, TV Tropes covers movies and books and catalogs all sorts of archetypes, metaphors and literary devices creators use. Just take a look at....

Citizen of the Galaxy


Brought to Sargon in chains as a child - unwanted by all save a one-legged beggar - Thorby learned well the wiles of the street people and the mysterious ways of his crippled master...


Hunted by the police for some unknown treasonous acts committed by his beloved owner, Thorby risked his life to deliver a dead man's message and found himself both guest and prisoner aboard an alien spaceship...


Unaware of his role in an on-going intrigue, Thorby became one of the freest of the free in the entire galaxy as the adopted son of a noble space captain...until he became a captive in an interstellar prison that offered everything but the hope of escape!

I wouldn't call myself a huge Heinlein fan. Some of my favourite works were those that were adapted for old time radio, such as "Journey" and "Green Hills of Earth". Starship Troopers, the movie, is still on my bucket list, I abandoned The Moon is a Harsh Mistress three quarters of the way through, and am still A Stranger in a Strange Land virgin. 

The back cover copy was irresistible, though. Citizen of the Galaxy is so full of tropes that I wonder how many went over my head when I first read it years ago. The trouble with reading is that one can read a writerly work in a readerly way - sort of a Point A to Point B - where the more writerly approach is more thinky, for lack of a technical term. You know it's happened when you read reviews about a book or movie that you loved for its ideas, only to find others were puzzled because it didn't deliver the readerly experience. A writerly work will have layers of meaning to uncover, as the book's TV Tropes page lists. It's also a good reminder that even with all the cliches and archetypes out there, not to get discouraged because an idea has been "done before". It's all been "done before" as long as people have been making stories :-) 

Bonus trivia: The cover art was created by Darrel K. Sweet, and I'll send you to yet another database to discover his decades of SF&F cover art. Don't lose track of time now!