Style as Exposition

Cordwainer Smith, an unsung giant of the golden age of SF, had a way of using neologisms and his uncanny prose style to craft gorgeous, lucid stories. This is the first paragraph of his first published short story, “Scanners Live in Vain”, written in 1945, when he was 32:

Martel was angry. He did not even adjust his blood away from anger. He stamped across the room by judgment, not by sight. When he saw the table hit the floor, and could tell by the expression on Lûci’s face that the table must have made a loud crash, he looked down to see if his leg were broken. It was not. Scanner to the core, he had to scan himself. The action was reflex and automatic. The inventory included his legs, abdomen, Chestbox of instruments, hands, arms, face, and back with the mirror. Only then did Martel go back to being angry. He talked with his voice, even though he knew that his wife hated its blare and preferred to have him write.

“I tell you, I must cranch. I have to cranch. It’s my worry, isn’t it?”

It is available online in its entirety.

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