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message 1: by S.C. (new)

S.C. Flynn (scyflynn) Great SFF Sentences

Earlier this year, Claire Armitstead in the Guardian newspaper posed the question whether genre fiction sentences can equal those found in literary writers such as Joyce or Beckett. Science fiction writers like Gibson, Banks and M. John Harrison were mentioned as possible genre sources for great sentences.

I have thought quite a lot about this since then and I think that genre fiction did not show its best side in the ensuing debate. But then, Ms Armitstead only put the question to a bunch of Guardian readers (joke), whereas I am lucky enough to be able to call on the collective mind of the SFF community!

So let's show what our genres can offer and then go back to planet Guardian with the genuinely greatest sentences in SFF.

I will start off with a brief selection from Theodore Sturgeon's novel "More Than Human", because I have just re-read it and noted candidate sentences along the way. I think these are examples of simple language creating beautiful imagery and often embodying deep insights:

1. A drawstring could not have pulled the fat man's mouth so round and tight and from it his lower lip bloomed like strawberry jam from a squeezed sandwich.

2. The sap falls and the bear sleeps and the birds fly south, not because they are all members of th same thing, but only because they are all solitary things hurt by the same thing.

3. Wrong as a squirrel with feathers or a wolf with wooden teeth; not injustice, not unfairness - just a wrongness that, under the sky, could not exist ... the idea that such as he could belong to anything.

4. The corn stretched skyward with such intensity in its lines that it seemed to be threatening its roots.

5. The open mouth was filled with carrot chips and gave her rather the appearance of a pot-bellied stove with the door open.

6. So it was that Lone came to know himself; and like the handful of people who have done so before him he found, at this pinnacle, the rugged foot of a mountain.

7. The blood was beginning to move in my hands and feet and they felt like four point-down porcupines.

8.He was as uncaring as a cat is of the bursting of a tulip bud.

9. You were the reason for the colors on a bantam rooster, you were a part of the thing that shakes the forest when the bull moose challenges; you were shining armor and a dipping pennant and my lady's girlde on your brow, you were, you were ... I was seventeen, damn it, Barrows, whatever else I was.

10. And here, too, was the guide, the beacon, for such times as humanity might be in danger; here was the Guardian of Whom all humans knew - not an exterior force nor an awesome Watcher in the sky; but a laughing thing with a human heart and a reverence for its human origins, smelling of sweat and new-turned earth rather than suffused with the pale odor of sanctity.


message 2: by MrsJoseph *grouchy*, Bad Girls Deadlift (new)

MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 5312 comments S. C. wrote: "Great SFF Sentences

Earlier this year, Claire Armitstead in the Guardian newspaper posed the question whether genre fiction sentences can equal those found in literary writers such as Joyce or Bec..."


I tend to ignore those kinds of articles. I know what I get out of SFF so I could care less.

I've been getting harassed for not reading "serious books" for the majority of my life...

The Guardian will have to do better than that, lol.


message 3: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 125 comments Besides, since you have actual stories in SF and F, the writers have to play attention to the sentences' fundamental purpose, to induce us to read the next sentence.


message 4: by S.C. (new)

S.C. Flynn (scyflynn) More Great Science Fiction and Fantasy sentences:

http://wp.me/p4T72p-9P


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 1381 comments I like Steven Kings opening sentence from The Gunslinger: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

Your quotes mentioned Tolkien and there are some great quotes, like: "We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) I didn't realize Sturgeon was so purple. Reads more like Bradbury. When I read Sturgeon I enjoy the writing, sure, but it passes by more smoothly, in context, than those isolated quotes that make me feel blanketed in velvet.


message 7: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 125 comments That's the other problem with sentences. They tend to sound a lot stupider out of context than in it.

They certainly lack the punch they packed with it, most of the time.


message 9: by colleen the convivial curmudgeon, Not a book hipster! (new)

colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) | 2976 comments "Gentlemen, please," said the Patrician, He shook his head. "Let's have no fighting, pease. This is, after all, a council of war."
~ Jingo by Terry Pratchett


message 10: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 125 comments “Then what is magic for?" Prince Lír demanded wildly. "What use is wizardry if it cannot save a unicorn?" He gripped the magician's shoulder hard, to keep from falling.

Schmedrick did not turn his head. With a touch of sad mockery in his voice, he said, "That's what heroes are for.”


Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn


message 11: by Yavanna (new)

Yavanna | 8 comments I have always loved these:

"In Genua, stories came to life. In Genua, someone set out to make dreams come true. Remember some of your dreams?"
(Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad)

[I've always read the last line with the feeling that nightmares are meant. Not the daytime-dreams of being rich or able to fly, but the nightmares you had that left your skin crawling]

Also this one:
"Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind."
(Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man)

"The intelligence of the creature known as a crowd, is the square root of the number of people in it."
(Terry Pratchett)

“It has been said that civilization is twenty-four hours and two meals away from barbarism.”
(Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens)


Also, if movies count, I got these two:

Kay from the movie "Men in Black":
"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."

Terminator 2 has this great sentence:
" I know now why you cry, but it is something I could never do."

(before Arnie put himself down into the red hot liquid metal to destroy himself and thus destroy Skynet forever, to save human kind)


message 12: by Cuniculus (new)

Cuniculus Potterton | 101 comments "Alcyone laughed and wheeled her beast up and around in a great arc, and they were flying, and he was young and joyful and in love and his sweetie was here with him, and she loved him, too. All the world was theirs and bright with possibility. So it couldn't last. Who the fuck cared?"

Michael Swanwick - The Dragons of Babel


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) Genua - yeah, I'm sure Pratchett meant nightmares.
Intelligence of a crowd - love that.


message 14: by Mary (last edited Jul 08, 2017 04:52PM) (new)

Mary Catelli | 125 comments The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.


― Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn


message 15: by Felina (new)

Felina | 821 comments Mary wrote: "The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door..."

Ooo I like this. I've never read this but I do own it. I'll have to dig it up.


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