By John Hertz: We’ll do three Classics of SF discussions at Loscon XXXVII, one book each. You’ll be welcome to join in. Each book is well known in our field, worth re-reading or reading for a first time now.
Our working definition is, “A classic is a story which survives its time” – there are classics in other media too, but these happen to be stories – “which, after the currents change which might have buoyed it, is seen to be valuable in itself.” If you have a better definition, bring it.
What Mad Universe (1949)
Let us enjoy this wonderful book. What are its best moments? Seeing the run-down Space Girl in the criminals’ bar after the dazzling Betty Hadley has explained the costume? Realizing that a man who can write will always be able to earn his way – maybe? Discovering why things are so strange?
Mission of Gravity (1953)
Called a perfect hard-SF novel by many thoughtful readers, this is a remarkable character study – of its alien protagonists, for whom the human visitors we so sympathize with are the author’s foils. He was active as both fan and pro. The title is typical of his puns.
The Time Machine (1895)
Of our three classics, this is far the oldest – and best known outside our field: why? The title is one of those brilliant coinages which, once uttered, seem so obvious they pass into everyone’s use. We in fact see only two times; the more gripping is narrated in a way which, upon reflection, is quite suspect. And the Time Traveller never returns for lunch.