Taking Notes: "Yesterday's Tomorrows" column in Locus Oct 2009 by Graham Sleight

很久沒做筆記了,主要是最近科幻研究看得很少,本業都快荒廢。T_T 這一次就來記一下閱讀 Sleight 綜覽 NESFA Press 出版的 The Essential Hal Clement 全作品系列(一套三冊,分別是 Trio for Slide Rule and TypewriterMusic of Many SpheresVariations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton)後的分析。

Graham Sleight, "Yesterday's Tomorrows" in Locus 585 (Oct 2009), pp. 31, 55-56.

p. 31
首先 Sleight 從收錄於第二冊的短篇 "Uncommon Sense" (1945) 來認識 Hal Clement 作品的中心思想和世界觀(包括其缺點):
  The point is clear: paying attention to the details of your environment is never a mistake in a Clement story. 〔以下就故事情節分析〕 ......

  However, simple the central conceit, "Uncommon Sense" nicely demonstrates the central idea of Clement's fiction: investigating the world will enable you to make sense of it and, very often, benefit in the process. Cunningham may look, superficially, like a Heinleinesque Competent Man, but he differs in having the kind of detailed curiosity I've described. Heinlein's heroes tend to win out because of the strength of their belief, because they're right but the world doesn't know it (quite) yet. Clement's heroes tend to win out because their faith in empiricism is ultimately rewareded. (The unspoken axiom there, of course, is that empiricisim [sic] is sufficient to solve any problems that may come along. ......) There are a couple more arguments that might be made against Clement's worldview. First is the empiricism tends to trump all other values -- contemporary readers might balk a little at the scene in "Uncommon Sense" where he kills the crab-creatures just on the off-chance that he might find out things about them. The second is that he's not particularly interested in character. ...... But any idea of a more rounded selfhood is very rare in Clement.

接著闡明 Clement 作品中的構想大多來自化學,以及前愛因斯坦時代的物理學,這讓他的作品讀起來有極堅實的基礎。
Many of the central ideas in Clement's work are taken from chemistry and (pre-Einstein) physics -- he took a degree in astronomy and subsequently worked as a high-school chemistry teacher. This gives his work a peculiarly grounded feel, especially when a lot of hard SF today tends to make use of the wilder shores of physics. (Or, more exactly, it often takes the cool and wacky bits from contemporary physics, and then just makes up whatever new ideas it needs to enable the story.) ......
然後討論的是 Clement 最著名的作品──Mission of Gravity
...... What the reader discovers very quickly is two things. Firstly, that Clement has the perfect expository voice: clear, lucid, answering all the questions you might have. Second, so do all his characters. So a lot of information is imparted in dialogue.
p. 55
  In his introduction to this volume, David Langford refers -- I think absolutely rightly -- to Clement's "staunch faith in universal principles and underlying reasonableness." To me, this explains two central things about Clement's writing. It accounts for the extent to which the world is always perceived as something that can be understood through the application of empiricism and science rather than, say, understanding of character or motivation. And it also addresses, as Langford notes, the criticism that Barlennan and other aliens in Clement aren't alien enough, that they behave and reason as humans do. ...... Clement's most central axiom is that empiricism will always work, and that it will always trump whatever else might get in the way of understanding. You'll enjoy his fiction to the extent that you can share that axiom. It may be that, in these clouded and postmodern times, his positivistic clarity is more difficult to accept than it once was.〔Clement 的核心思維所造成的時代限制〕

p. 56
看 Clement 的個人風格喜好,最佳途徑還是看短篇:
  It may be that Clement's particular interests, even more than most SF writers, were best expressed at shorter lengths. The stories collected in Volume 2 of the NESFA edition certainly fulfil the classic pattern of the SF story: a single idea gets set out, explored, and made sense of. ......
最後同樣以 "Uncommon Sense" 的主角 Laird Cunningham 在另一篇作品 "The Logical Life" 中的話語作結:
...... Cunningham says to himself, "The geyser idea was good, but left out some facts that needed explaining." A good scientist, or Clement character, would never do that. At the end, Cunningham proposes an ambitious expedition to investigate the final hypothesis further; his alien friend replies, "I will be quite willing to listen to reason." In Hal Clement's world, there is no higher value.

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