Science Fiction: Ten Explorations

By C. N. Manlove | Go to book overview

6

Robert Silverberg,
Nightwings (1969)

Robert Silverberg is probably one of the most prolific writers of science fiction in the genre. 1 In his early days, which means the mid-1950s, he was able to turn out on demand for magazines as many as twenty stories a month: scarcely a day seems to have gone by without his being able to produce 7000-8000 words of copy (for him first was final draft). He himselfallows that much of this early material was of little value. But from the mid-1960s he began to produce science fiction works of real originality, and this became even more marked with what he has portrayed as a great divide — the burning in 1968 of part of the mansion in New York that he and his family had made their dream home. After the burning, he found that the original creative torrent that had poured forth words had reduced to a trickle and he was forced to a plod (in his terms only). It was from this point that he began to control and order his style much more than previously, and his science fiction became subtler and more resonant, in such works as The Masks of Time (1968), The Man in the Maze (1969), Downward to the Earth (1970), Tower of Glass (1970), A Time of Changes (1971), Son of Man (1971), The World Inside (1971), Dying Inside (1972), The Stochastic Man (1975) and Shadrach in the Furnace (1976). 2 It was in the immediate aftermath of the fire that he wrote 'a curiously lyrical novella, "Nightwings", to which I added a pair of sequels some months later to constitute a novel'. 3 The novella won a Hugo award in 1969: and with its thoroughness of imagination, its originality of speculation and its sturdy realism it deserved it. But the novel fully lives up to and extends the promise of its original.

Silverberg's science fiction of this period is distinguished by its moral concern and its stress on human relationships; he tends to play down the specifically science fictional element, 4 and to deal rather with human situations than with the kinds of exciting adventure that formed the staple of his work up to the mid-1960s. 5

-100-

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