David Langford enjoys some literary faux pas
Along time ago in a publishing industry far, far away, magically gifted Jedi known as copy editors would often save authors from serious prose embarrassment. Alas, too many copy editors fell prey to the Dark Side of Downsizing, and writers now need to take more care. Or their favourite sentences are showcased in my newsletter... Can you imagine these noises? “He walked in and heard a sound like a tomb.” (Lee Child, Tripwire.) “An eerie soundless shriek of terror ripped from the convulsed shroud.” (Terry Brooks, The Sword Of Shannara.) “The sound of Eddie’s voice had been an injection through the ear.” (William McIlvanney, The Papers Of Tony Veitch.) “...a noise so soft and invisible it wouldn’t mean anything unless you knew what it was.” (John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation Road.)
Did these chaps consult a dictionary? “Luckily, the wall beside me was irregular with protuberances, and I was able to pack myself into one of them.” (Hugh B Cave, “The Door Of Doom”.) “Rugolo glanced at the greenness carpeting the plain, which he had taken to be a variety of grass or moss, forms of verbiage common on many worlds...” (Barrington J Bayley, Eye Of Terror.)
How many people can do these tricks? “Under his beard, Torin frowned.” (Keith RA DeCandido, Dragon Precinct.) “Arcadia’s head moved sharply back of itself.” (Isaac Asimov, Second Foundation.) “...slowly a crimson flush spread around his ears. Eventually his earlobes, unusually large and awkward, were illuminated like traffic lights.” (Anne Holt, Death Of The Demon.) “A hand took his, pressed it firmly, looked him straight in the eye.” (Neil Gaiman, American Gods.) “He rose to his spare elbows.” (Charles E Gannon, Fire With Fire.)
Know any pets like this? “Like a cat scenting an approaching storm, she had left with a pair of suitcases ...” (Chris Fowler, Soho Black.) “His ginger hair with its generous dashes of grey sat on his head like an electrified cat.” (JD Robb, Strangers In Death.) From Miss Manners’ Book Of Extreme Etiquette: “But one does not scream with a beer barrel tap inserted deep into one’s jugular vein...” (Jack Oleck, The Vault Of Horror.) One certainly does not. One has standards. Whose eyes can do these tricks? “Dorothy’s eyes were turned inward to her long-buried memories.” (Debra Ginsberg, The Neighbors Are Watching.) “The eyes follow me down the street, pinching the back of my neck.” (Veronica Roth, Insurgent.)
Cruel and unusual punishment? “If they were captured wearing the enemy’s uniform, they would probably be tortured to death before being shot.” (Giuseppe Filotto, “Red Space”.) Powerfully evocative similes and metaphors? “They stared at me, squinting as if I were holding a supernova.” (Catherine Asaro, Undercity.) “...a face pink and stern as frozen strawberry custard.” (Ayn Rand, Ideal.)
What would doctors make of these symptoms? “Not for the first time, a cold fist appeared deep within her stomach.” (Becky Chambers, The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet.) “His brain began to sway on its base, as the landslide of possibilities unreeled before it.” (AE van Vogt, “Juggernaut”.) Without comment: “Connie had a wry, compact intelligence, a firm little clitoris of discernment and sensitivity ...” (Jonathan Franzen, Freedom.) “Daniel sat back, steepling his long fingers across his waistcoat. He bought them from a little shop in Brixton Market.” (Paul McAuley, Something Coming Through.) Enough, enough!
David Langford is, as usual, fleeing a mob of outraged authors.
"TOO MANY COPY EDITORS FELL PREY TO THE DARK SIDE OF DOWNSIZING"