DYING INSIDE was impressive because Silverberg showed such commitment to his material. He gave himself to this book as in no other of his books I've read. (Spent more time on it maybe). THE WORLD INSIDE, on the other hand, despite its surface realization, betrays a certain lack of conviction, a lack of commitment. Silverberg was interested in David Selig, heart and soul; I think he was only intellectually interested in Urbmon.
DYING INSIDE, by the way, is on a little fist of books that greatly impressed me when I read them in sequence: Jack Vance's EMPHYRIO; Philip K. Dick's A. Lincoln Simulacrum (titled WE CAN BUILD YOU in book for DYING INSIDE; and Barry Malzberg's BEYOND APOLLO.
They have several things in common:
They are among the authors' best hooks, perhaps their best to date; they seem to be the most 'worked-overT' the most painstakingly composed; and they are all melancholic, even despairing. Or. put another way, they reflect a maturity, a coming to grips with defeat or with limitations, that seems to me new to the older authors and to SF as well.
If science fiction is in the doldrums just now, as Alexei Panshin says it is, perhaps it is just recuperating from the painful knowledge that perhaps the universe isn't, after all, Just another Wild West for the white man to conquer. Perhaps man is just supposed to find himself in it, like a child lost in the forest.
*Just suppose that Bob Silverberg maybe is a real telepath, one slowly losing his powers as he grows older. The DYING INSIDE is his autobiography in a way, written from first-hand with only the names changed. With the Swami's record of SF novels, who'd suspect? And what a marvelous prank to play on 'normals' who would never believe the truth!
Am I joking? Ask the Man himself
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SPECULATION 31 arrived the other day, and of course I read it with much interest -especially Brian Stableford's essay on my work. I have no wish to comment in detail on the piece, neither to amplify nor to defend myself; it seems in no need of footnotes by, of all people me.
I'll simply express my pleasure at the care and sympathy with which he has examined my entire s-f output, and my delight at having him make explicit certain themes -such as the underlying "humanity,, of all intelligent life - which have been so implicitly buried in my work that even I hadn't been aware of all the connections he draws. I learn a lot from fanzines sometimes.
The review of Asimov's GODS THEMSELVES leaves me with a sense of futility at having once more to try to correct the incorrectible, but, anyway: Isacc's starting point was not a careless reference by Robert Silverberg to "Plutonium 186" but rather a spoofing reference, a light-hearted reference, which I made during a convention panel while trying to exemplify the typical pseudoscientific nonsense that hack writers resort to.
Even though I'm not a former biochemist like Asimov, I'm aware that Plutonium is a transuranic element with no isotopes lighter than, oh, 232 or so and Isaac is aware that I'm aware of it too, and it was to my vast chagrin that he doodled up that little introduction to his novel lightheartedly intimating that I had been serious about Plutonium-186.
I'm not a hard-science specialist of the Clement or Anderson school, but I don't like being made to look more ignorant than I am, and I Spoke Grumpily to Isaac about that introduction. But of course it's in print in millions of copies.
You can stop worrying about the difficulties of keeping up with the Silverberg output, by the way. In all of 1972 I wrote only a scattering of short stories; it's a year and a half since I finished my last novel (DYING INSIDE) and I have no immediate desire to tackle another big work. The short stories represent a considerable departure from my work of 1966-70, and I suppose people will be talking about a new "new" Silverberg soon.
They please me a good deal, but they're damnably hard to write, each one being a complex experiment in form, and I doubt that anyone will ever accuse me of being too prolific again. (I don't entirely enjoy spending six weeks on an 800D-word story, but that seems to be the condition of life for me these days, incomprehensible though it may seem to those who are accustomed to a new novel from me every few months. It's incomprehensible to me too. Perhaps I'm still heading, by slow stages, toward total silence.)
*And a word from another writer, about Fred Pohl's speech at the 1972 Briths Convention (Spec-31).
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