Roald Dahl’s SF

Speaking of Roald Dahl, I’ve been re reading some of his short stories following the rewriting debate. I’d forgotten that he’d written SF. I’m thinking of stories such as Royal Jelly and, more topically, The Great Automatic Grammatizator which goes some way towards predicting the effects of software such as ChatGPT.

What I’m particularly noticing is a marked difference in his regular style and that of his SF stories. These have more in common with the SF that was current when he was writing (certainly the SF that I was reading when I first encountered Dahl.)

In those days SF tended to be about people solving a problem: why did the robot behave in a such a way? Why did the people on the planet disappear? There is this element to Dahl’s SF stories: a premise is extrapolated and then unravelled by the hero.

But compare this with Dahl’s regular stories. In these the protagonist is more likely to take risks. They create the problems, rather than solving them. They jump off a ship to make it slow down so they can win a sweepstake. They use identical dogs to raise the odds at a greyhound race. In these often macabre stories the tension is built internally to the protagonist, rather than externally.

There’s a very different feel to these stories, one that I’ve been thinking about over the past few days as I write myself.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.