ATTN JMS: Influences?

 Posted on 10/27/1995 by to

Have not read Rice's "The Adding Machine" or seen it, but from the
apparent time period, it's likely of the school of playwriting that has
most influenced my work in general, mainly in terms of style.

I somewhat tend to moderate my writing style between the fairly
straightforward and simple to slightly more theatrical in nature, more of
the Serling/Chayefsky/Corwin mode. I like playing with language, and
English is a terrific language to play with. There was a time in this
country when literate syntactical construction was something honored; now
everything tends to be more toward the y'know, I was, you know, hanging
around the corner store, y'know, and Bob comes up to me, and he says....

If you look at the original Twilight Zone, some episodes of the
original Star Trek, the Outer see a kind of reflective
writing that delights in slamming nouns and verbs together to see what
kind of explosion you get when the syntax hits critical mass.

It saddens me a bit now that anybody who sounds too literate is
often put down as showy or being theatrical. Listen to the speeches of
Kennedy and Churchill and FDR, look to the great orators of our long
history of a nation, from Lincoln to Jefferson. Their use of language,
of an idea well formed and delivered, propelled this nation toward its
current destiny, forged one country out of dozens of squabbling states.
I listen now to politicians, hoping and waiting for the one who
understands that the words have to dig into our souls and take root,
must have power and the purity of language well-used. And I just don't
hear it anymore...which is perhaps why we have consensus takers and not
leaders these days.

It saddens me that literacy has become suspect, and degraded, given
how many millions of years of evolution spent developing the ability to
create language. The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by
our facility with language. The less precise the useage, the less clear
the process of language, the less you can achieve what you want to
achieve when you open you mouth to say something. We have slowly
bastardized and degraded and weakened the language, abetted and abided
by a growing cultural disdain for literacy, a cyclical trend toward

So I write my characters as sharp, and as witty, and as intelligent,
and as literate as I wish I would be under those sorts of circumstances,
which of course I never am. Maybe to remind people of the power of
language...mainly because I just love the sound of words carefully
stitched together. My dramatic conceit is that in 2259, we have had a
moderate rebirth of formality, and the kind of literacy you would often
see in letters from the turn of the century, and the 1930s. Because it
allows me to write it the way I want.