Show vs Tell

February 1, 2010

The latest Asimov’s has an essay by Robert Silverberg exploring what that writing advice means with respect to Science Fiction. Show, don’t tell. He explains well what is meant by the phrase and then points out some points in the history of science fiction where emphasis was placed on telling and others where the emphasis is on showing. He settles on Heinlein as a great example of showing done right in science fiction.

The essay stands out in my mind mostly because the first story in that same issue forgoes infodumps entirely. I enjoyed “Helping Them Take the Old Man Down,” even though I had to read the entire novelette to appreciate it. It made me wonder how I could express the spectrum of show vs tell when tagging this story. I’m often at a loss when something that sets a story apart is what it’s missing or what it avoids. I want to tag this story “very few infodumps” but that feels clunky. Hmm.

Well, I obviously picked up a copy of Asimov’s. I was inspired to do so as I continued entering Escape Pod stories into TagShadow. Escape Pod is largely a reprint market and thus I’m also entering data for other magazines and anthologies.

The following TagShadows have seen significant changes due to these additions: Asimov’s, 2008 and Escape Pod.