radondoran: Perry the Platypus in a musketeer uniform, wielding a saber (Default)
So the other day I was doing a Google search for ["isaac asimov" "red hair"], I don't remember exactly why, probably looking for examples of redheads in his works to see to what extent he plays on stereotypical tropes about redheads (I think the answer is a lot, and I'll probably talk about that in a post sometime…)… But anyway, I found this Random House study guide for schoolchildren reading I, Robot, and one of the questions caught my eye:
3) What do Mike Donovan and Gregory Powell look like? Without letting them look at their books, have your students describe the two in as much detail as possible. What color are their eyes? How tall is each one? What race are they? Then ask your students to prove their descriptions from citations in the book. Asimov gives only one physical detail about the two (in "Catch That Rabbit!"): Donovan has red hair. (emphasis added)
And I was like, um, hello, probably-now-Dr. Darryl Stephens of UC Berkeley, that's not true at all!

So I set out to find out exactly what we do know about Powell and Donovan's appearance. Now, it is true that we don't get a lot of physical description of the two field-testers--we certainly don't get vital stats like in Lucky Starr or height comparisons to the centimeter like in The Robots of Dawn.

But we do get a few details, and we can use them to hypothesize a few more. (And for some questions, we have to make wild guesses--but that's fun too.)


Read more... )

So, how would you answer Stephens's question? What do you think Powell and Donovan look like? Have you ever tried to draw or write them, and how did you approach the question of their appearance? Are there other characters, in any fandom, that don't get a lot of physical description, for whom you have to infer or make up details?


*"Runaround", "Reason", "Catch That Rabbit", and "Escape!". "First Law" is a spoof--and anyway, it contains no physical description of Donovan and no explicit mention of Powell at all.

(For completeness' sake, here is a table with all the lines from the stories containing physical descriptions of Powell or Donovan that I used in this post.)
radondoran: Perry the Platypus in a musketeer uniform, wielding a saber (Default)
"To Sun-center with the Sirian cobbers!"
Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr series has all kinds of fun things going on with the dialogue. Probably a good deal of this arises from the fact that it's a kids' series, and so the characters weren't even free to use the mild damn and hell that show up in the Robot stories. That, coupled with the fact that the series takes place in a spacefaring society circa the year 6945, means that the dialogue is absolutely packed with fictional slang.

Most of the fictional slang is classic Asimovian astronomical future slang: "Great Galaxy!", "what in space", "Mars-forsaken". But there's one prominent word that shows up in the series that doesn't arise from outer space, and does not to my knowledge usually show up in real twentieth-century American English either. This word is cobber, the insulting noun used by Lucky Starr's Martian sidekick John Bigman Jones.

This post will go over some observations about possible real-world origins of cobber, and some analysis of Bigman's use of the term in the books.


So what is a cobber, anyway? )


And how does Bigman use the word? )

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Um, yeah, so anyway, that's about everything I've discovered about the word cobber. If anybody's reading this, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the word, or about ridiculously specific linguistic elements from your own fandoms, or whatever!
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