Ian Sales shares my bafflement at the veneration accorded to works such as Asimov’s Nightfall
I’ve complained before about the undeserving admiration given to many science fiction novels and short stories of earlier decades. [...] [M]any “classics” of those days do not fare well when compared to modern works.
I recently reread ‘Nightfall’ by Isaac Asimov [...]. I’ve long been aware of its status as a “classic”, of its reputation as one of Asimov’s best stories. So I was surprised on my recent reread to discover that it’s, well, it’s pretty bad. Asimov’s prose was clunky at best, and it’s not his best in ‘Nightfall’. [...]
By all criteria, ‘Nightfall’ fails as a good short story. And yet it’s still regarded as a classic. Some people will even suggest it’s a good example of science fiction. Rubbish. It’s built around a single, not very interesting idea – a world has never seen darkness… and then it gets dark. Wow. [...] ‘Nightfall’ contains a very obvious idea and it appears to me that many think the sheer in-your-face nature of it overrides all the story’s faults. Which should not be the case. A story should be considered a classic for a number of reasons – continuing relevance, good writing, originality (in ideas and/or deployment), rigour (of world-building, of story), meaning, impact upon the genre, impact upon the reader…