When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.This beginning to the U.S. Declaration of Independence contains over 60 words in a single sentence, much longer than the average sentence employed today. When I used to teach U.S. Government almost 10 years ago, I used to give an in-class group assignment of having students render that sentence and others from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution into modern-day speech. This assignment came about after numerous student complaints about how "difficult" the language was and how they really couldn't "get it" due to the oddness in the syntax and in the words employed.
This lesson came to mind recently when I read Lou Anders' post "Does Nostalgia do SF a Disservice?" Anders continues a discussion that Paul Raven began about the relevance of older SF works (the Asimovs, Heinleins, and their ilk). What I liked about this post is that Anders doesn't make categorical comments; he makes prescriptive suggestions that do not deny the historicity of the older works while at the same time addressing their perceived deficiencies by the newer generations of potential readers.
In a way, the issue here is that of generation gaps. In an ironic way, the languages of SF are becoming less and less mutually intelligble with each passing generation. While it might be expected for most literature and history students to struggle with 16th-18th century English syntax, which are replete with Latinism and other 'archaic' constructions, more and more the jargon and terminology are changing at a pace measured by decades rather than by centuries. Therefore, in a world where the world-views (and the semantics behind the language used to describe such world-views) have shifted so much in the past 50 years, is it any surprise that one reads an Asimov or a Heinlein with the look of "WTF is this shit? OMG, sexism is so not cool!"? Perhaps Chronos has managed to devour his children after all.