Miss Snark, the literary agent, says--multiple times--"Show me, don't tell me," when she's talking about partials on manuscripts she might be interested in representing.
I've been thinking of this while struggling mightily to "get into" a particular SF series (The Saga of Seven Suns) that OmegaGranny pressed upon me during one of my recent visits.
Perhaps part of the problem is that I started with book two, A Forest of Stars. Perhaps. But he's constantly telling, not showing, in a very awkward manner, shoehorning bits and pieces of backstory in in odd places, and it leaves me cold. His ideas are certainly grand, with a wild intergalactic sweep--space opera with vile evil alien villains, mysterious machinations, killer robots trying to weasel their way into the humans' graces (but why are they not also weaseling into the "good" alien race's graces, as well?) preparatory to genociding them.
But if the vile evil aliens are so vile and evil--show it, don't tell me by saying, "the vile hydrogues were swooping down upon the EDF ships blah blah blah". I'm reading the story, and so far, the hydrogues don't seem vile and evil to me--they seem cold, mysterious, unfathomable. They perform horrific acts--that should be enough to make them unpleasant characters; you don't have to hit me on the head with adjectives modifying the race name to make me realize these are The Villains.
(I'm not even going to talk about the scene where some folks are working on a fiery planet, and alarms go off, and it turns out that--omigod--a comet is heading towards them. And this comet will [maybe] hit them in...a week. Okay, I am. Folks, lissen up. If a comet is heading towards you, you've got months to deal with it, not just a week. And even if you've got just a week, why the hell would you sound alarms?! Aren't alarms usually used for something that's going to occur, like, right now?! The scene is just tossed in there for drama, and it's stupid drama. The book is littered with stuff like that. Oh, yeah, and travel between worlds in some parts of the book seems to happen really quickly, whereas in other parts of the book, it takes a long time. Yeesh.)
To top it all off, the "good" aliens aren't really that "alien"; they're like human beings with some sort of species-wide telepathic bond and tentacular hair, who pretty much act just like humans would act in almost every situation.
Now, I admit that sometimes "showing" can be overwhelming. One of my favorite SF writers is CJ Cherryh. Cherryh's typical M.O. is to toss you right into the middle of some byzantine political setup on page one, and you spend a lot of time while reading the rest of the book trying to figure out who's on what side, what the sides are all about, and how the hero(ine) is going to get out of this mess. It can be hard to cope with, but the "showing" is rushing you along, driving the story.
And, my word, but Cherryh can do some awesome, weird aliens, with weird, alien motivations. By the end of one of her books, if you stick with it, you'll find yourself almost thinking like the aliens.
Her fantasies are equally byzantine and engrossing, and nothing like typical Tolkein knock-offs.
So, anyway, I'm slogging through this book, and find myself thinking that I should just find an OCR, scan the damned thing into the computer, and re-write it, it's that irritating. Mind you, it's not bad enough that I'm going to toss the book entirely. It's fine for a chapter or two while the dotter is slipping off to sleep, and usually sends me to sleep, too.