Classics of S-F at Westercon

By John Hertz: We’ll discuss three classics at Westercon LXVII, one discussion each. Will you be there?

For our starting definition, “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.” If you have a better one, bring it.

This year’s Worldcon is the 75th anniversary of the very first, in 1939. We gave no Hugos that year, so Loncon III can and will present Retrospective Hugos for work of 1938 (see Section 3.13 of the Constitution).

The Retro-Hugo ballot has been announced. We’ll take up three of the nominees. We might call them Diamonds of 1938.

Each is interesting in a different way. Each may be more interesting now than when first published.

Have you read them? Have you re-read them?

John W. Campbell, Jr.

“Who Goes There?”

Terse – tense – it touches questions of identity pointed more explicitly by others decades later.  It is of course a detective story, fifteen years before Campbell taunted Asimov into writing The Caves of Steel.  See how he manages the hints, the personalities, the masterly sequence of Kinner – Dutton – Connant – Blair.

C.S. Lewis

Out of the Silent Planet

We never do hear about the space drive. Weston, who clothes himself in the trappings of science, is a harsh caricature. Yet it is he who gets the party to Malacandra; who gets them, almost impossibly, back again. Theodore Sturgeon said “Science fiction is knowledge fiction.” Chapter 9 says “The love of knowledge is a kind of madness.”

E.E. Smith

Galactic Patrol

Samuel Johnson said “The essence of poetry is invention”; Patrol has that. It struck fires still burning today. Its vitality, and its focus through all the coruscations, are remarkable.  So is its thorough handling of its imaginary science. Characterization? Look at Kinnison’s leaving footprints all over Blakeslee.

Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

4 thoughts on “Classics of S-F at Westercon

  1. E.E.Smith is one writer whose style and content just don’t engage me. I’ve tried several times, but find the ceiling far more interesting after reading ten pages.

    I’v read “Who Gos There?” several times.

    Read the C.S.Lewis and like it.

  2. I guess I will be finding out how much I still like Smith’s style when I read the Retro-Hugo nominees. The Lensman series sure blew me away when I was a junior high school kid. A friend of mine in the chess club had described it to me in such incredibly glowing terms I borrowed all the books through inter-library loan. By the time I was in college I had somewhat matured in my view of the story — I wrote a sort of political analysis about it for Roy Tackett’s Dynatron and people responded in letters of comment that they weren’t sure if I’d written a sercon essay or a satire. And I frankly wasn’t decided myself.

  3. Any chance of seeing this political analysis posted by you or, say, efanzines?

Comments are closed.