Classic SF on Loscon Program

John Hertz, the Loscon 38 Fan Guest of Honor, invites you to join his discussions of selected classics of science fiction.

As John defines it, “A classic is a work that survives its own time. After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”

Now’s the time to pull out the copies in your collection or check whether they’re available online, read them and come prepared.

Here are John’s previews of the three works being discussed at Loscon 38:

Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles (1950)

Bradbury has said this is fantasy, not science fiction.  His poetry, his satire, his reproach — above all his poetry, without which stinging bees would starve — are in full bloom.  Of course he satirizes the Martians too, who in all their beauty have folly.

James Blish
Jack of Eagles (1952)

In Blish’s novel of paranormal powers, they prove to be within science; an organization treating them as mystical proves to be powerful, tyrannical, and unsound — as an ordinary man must discover for himself.  Never mind what pq – qp equals.

Pat Frank
Alas, Babylon (1959)

It may seem to focus less on technology than, say, Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959), or even Burdick & Wheeler’s Fail-Safe (1962).  Take a closer look.  The author’s sense of character and event develops much from simple themes.

Loscon 38 takes place November 25-27 at the LAX Marriott in Los Angeles.

[Thanks to John Hertz for the story.]

Denvention 3’s Classics of Science Fiction

Denvention 3 accepted John Hertz’ suggestion to program discussions of the “Wonders of 1958,” selected classics of science fiction. Read up and join in! The list of books and John’s notes appear on the Denvention 3 website. But let me save you a click —

Mile Closer to the Stars – Classics of Science Fiction
Book discussions led by John Hertz

We are in the golden-anniversary year of 1958, a golden year for science fiction. We’ll celebrate with five Classics of SF book discussions on books published that year and still famous, often reprinted, worth re-reading or first reading now. Look for them in the program grid as “Wonders of 1958.”

James Blish, A Case of Conscience and The Triumph of Time
Some call Conscience Blish’s finest book. Is it science fiction? Is it a story? Is its best moment when the Pope says “What did you do about it?” In the same year came the last of the four Cities in Flight novels. Is it a success standing alone? How does Time compare to Conscience?

Algis Budrys, Who?
This penetrating study of identity, loyalty, uncertainty may be both more bleak and more hopeful than it seems. If there is a sermon, it is preached by silence. Budrys is known for his deftness and timing; here too are poetry, a fundamental grasp of tragedy, and the surprises of love.

Robert Heinlein, Methuselah’s Children
By painting portraits Heinlein repeatedly asks the next question.  What if your lifespan was two hundred years?  What if you didn’t care?  If you are hunted, should you run?  Where should you go?  Here too is the first and perhaps best of Lazarus Long.  Extra credit: compare the carefully rewritten 1941 version in the July-September Astounding.

Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
Spiders are the good guys, and our hero is a woman.  The first Hero was a woman too, go look up Leander.   Indeed this is a very classical book; it preserves the unities of time, place, and persons, which is mighty strange, considering.  There’s slashing drama, and if you’ve never been a party girl, it might not be what you think.

Jack Vance, The Languages of Pao
With four worlds in the spotlight, one populated by fifteen billion, this is a story of one boy and one man.  Knowledge may be power.  Concentration and diversity may each be extreme.  The characters say linguistics is the science here; perhaps it is really cross-cultural study, or patience.  Vance’s own language is the gold.