Contrast in Styles - Asimov and Lovecraft

  1. BionicGriff

    BionicGriff Where is everybody?

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    I just finished reading "Pebble in the Sky" by Isaac Asimov, while at the same time I began listening to "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by H.P. Lovecraft, read by the Cthulu and Friends Podcast.

    What a contrast in writing styles.

    I've read multiple people on the Chrons state their affection for Asimov's writing specifically for how clear and concise it is. As I've been reading through the Foundation "super series" I've been trying to put my finger on just exactly what people imply when making that statement. I've found Asimov really only provides the reader with enough detail to allow the story to remain clear and move forward, allowing the reader to fill in what gaps remain with their imagination. Lovecraft on the other hand has a writing style so drenched in detail, I think some could make the argument it can almost distract from the story. I don't think this is a weakness though, as it seems to me that the environments within Lovecraft's writing are almost as important as the story itself for setting up mood and foreshadowing, whereas Asimov on the other hand uses environments more so as a vehicle to carry the events within the story forward and provide a sense of place for different events to occur.

    Obviously neither style is "better" then the other, but I'd be curious to see where peoples preferences fall between the two.
     
    Apr 5, 2017
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  2. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Maybe an analogy would be helpful. For certain types of music, the best instrumental line-up might be a large orchestra, while for some other types a single instrument would be best. I don't believe that everything is relative, but this is probably a situation in which the best is a matter of the situation.

    And yet, different as their stories are, there are, I'm sure, commonalities between them. Both, for example, have the vocabularies, the verbal resourcefulness, that (we feel) they need. Both seem to me pretty good at judging how short and how long to make a story (which seems to me to contrast with some writers who write far, far too much). A good test is rereadability -- and these two authors must be among the most reread of American authors in a given year.
     
    Apr 5, 2017
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  3. BionicGriff

    BionicGriff Where is everybody?

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    I think you hit the nail on the head. Two different styles in the hand of masters will both create great stories.

    So which style do you prefer reading?
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  4. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Asimov's style is suited to more situations than Lovecrtaft's. His simplicity and plainness suit nonfiction articles, popular thrillers, memos for businesses, etc. Lovecraft's style suits only Lovecraft, and not even Lovecraft 100% of the time. But I could give up reading Asimov ever again without much of a struggle, while Lovecraft is an old fave.
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  5. clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    Pretty fair analysis. Some authors are narrative driven. Asimov may fit into that mold. Lovecraft liked to paint detailed pictures of his scenarios. Neither is what I would call a "character driven" author. There are some writers who can morph from one style to another. Asimov tried to get his characters more detailed in the later robot novels, but it wasn't exactly a paradigm shift.
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  6. BionicGriff

    BionicGriff Where is everybody?

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    Thanks for the insight, can you think of any notable science fiction or fantasy authors who's styles you would identify as "character driven"?

    I'd be interested in reading and comparing some different writing styles.
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  7. clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    C. J. Cherryh comes to mind.
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  8. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Algis Budrys, in the excellent "Rogue Moon" (SFWA Hall of Fame 2B) and Who? I read these again and again.
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  9. BionicGriff

    BionicGriff Where is everybody?

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    Thanks for the suggestions, I'm going to look up both of these authors (and titles), and get them in my short list. Appreciate the input!
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  10. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    There's a whole lot of Philip K. Dick that I haven't read, but in A Scanner Darkly and Time Out of Joint, for example, the story is, I would say, character-driven. Also see John Brunner's The Whole Man. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. Walter M. Miller's "Conditionally Human" novella. For character-driven fantasy, get hold of C. S. Lewis's excellent and not-often-enough-read Till We Have Faces. But for character-driven sf, go first, I'd say, to those two Budrys items.

    I might feel guilty about so much that isn't on Asimov or Lovecraft, but this thread was started by you, and you asked! So ----
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  11. clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    I should have been more complete in my earlier comment. C. J. Cherryh is a prolific author. And her output can easily incorporate more than one "style". I would recommend her early Faded Sun trilogy and her ongoing Foreigner series.

    Should also have mentioned Jack Vance. His Lyonesse trilogy would be a good starting point if you are okay with fantasy.
     
    Apr 6, 2017
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  12. BionicGriff

    BionicGriff Where is everybody?

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    Haha, no worries. Just looking for discussion, that's what I got!
     
    Apr 7, 2017
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  13. Galactic Journey

    Galactic Journey The Traveler

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    Lovecraft and Asimov are a generation apart! They also were steeped in completely different traditions -- Asimov was a Campbell protogee, Lovecraft as Captain Pulp.

    Lovecraft is interesting in that he only really had a few story ideas, but he kept rewriting them until he had them perfect. Like a sculptor chiseling out a block of marble.

    In the Mountains of Madness is unique, though.
     
    Jun 29, 2017
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  14. Randy M.

    Randy M. Well-Known Member

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    Galactic -- I agree that a generation apart (and, really, maybe a bit more than a generation), especially those generations, was a big gap in relative experiences. You could add in the difference between small town and big city, between sociability and not. And Asimov was indeed a Campbell protegee, learning early on to use contemporary vernacular, pare away excess description and get to the action of the story, even if the action was thinking through a problem, which actually makes him more "Captain Pulp" than Lovecraft.

    HPL, largely self-taught using what books were available to him, was steeped in 18th and 19th century literature, and tried to emulate that kind of writing. That era wrote stories that were much more detailed and concerned with setting.


    Randy M.
     
    Jun 30, 2017
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  15. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Jun 30, 2017
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  16. Galactic Journey

    Galactic Journey The Traveler

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    That's amazing. Thank you!

    So many destroyed communities, memories.

    Randy, yes -- Asimov and Lovecraft could not have had more different life experiences. It's no wonder their writings read utterly differently.
     
    Jul 1, 2017
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