I just finished reading the short story "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov. For some reason, Asimov's writing style reminded me vaguely of the young adult romance novels I used to read in my teens. I think the reason may be the excessive description of character movements and changes in their expressions accompanying dialogue. Some examples:

  • Aton 77, director of Saro University, thrust out a belligerent lower lip and glared at the young newspaperman in a hot fury.
  • Aton 77 found his voice, and though it trembled with restrained emotion, the careful, somewhat pedantic phraseology, for which the famous astronomer was noted, did not abandon him.
  • The husky telephotographer of the Observatory, Beenay 25, thrust a tongue's tip across dry lips and interposed nervously, "Now, sir, after all - "
  • The director turned to him and lifted a white eyebrow. "Do not interfere, Beenay..."
  • Aton dashed the newspaper to the floor, strode to the window, and clasped his arms behind his back.
  • "You may leave," he snapped over his shoulder. He stared moodily out at the skyline where Gamma, the brightest of the planet's six suns, was setting. [...] "No, wait, come here!" He gestured peremptorily. "I'll give you your story." The newsman had made no motion to leave, and now he approached the old man slowly. Aton gestured outward. "Of the six suns, only Beta is left in the sky. Do you see it?"
  • Aton's upturned face flushed redly in the sunlight. "In just under four hours," he said, "civilization, as we know it, comes to an end. It will do so because, as you see. Beta is the only sun in the sky." He smiled grimly. "Print that! There'll be no one to read it."

How would you describe this kind of writing? Do you agree that Asimov's style is characterised by this particular kind of over-description? I read Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder" right before "Nightfall". I thought the two were markedly different, and although I can't exactly put my finger on how, I think it may have at least something to do with the lack of this kind of unnecessary, minute description alongside dialogue. I've been reading about Asimov on the internet and the general consensus actually seems to be that his stories are pretty light on description, although this description might be the kind to do with the physical setting.

  • 4
    You have to keep in mind that Asimov was only 21 when he wrote that story. Asimov himself said Nightfall was "clumsily and amateurishly written" and showed "ample signs of pulpishness in the writing".
    – Ubik
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 16:37
  • Thank you for your comment, Ubik!
    – user392289
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 6:32


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