By John Hertz: We’ll take up three Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLIV, one discussion each. Come to as many as you like. You’ll be welcome to join in.
Our working definition is “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.
Each of our three is famous in a different way. Each may be more interesting now than when first published. Have you read them? Have you re-read them?
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)
Three men who discover a country peopled only by women find “daring…. broad sisterly affection … fair-minded intelligence…. health and vigor … calmness of temper” (ch. 7). Of course it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted. How does she do it?
Robert A. Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy (1957)
Fans know the Heinlein Double Surprise: something strange happens, then something really strange happens. Here’s a quadruple, each so carefully portrayed we’re ready to believe it’s the story. What’s this for? And we could sing “all the lonely people”.
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Hard to Be a God (1964)
Centuries after Communism has inevitably prevailed on Earth, students follow other planets – but if they interfere, they’ll ruin the progress of historical materialism and bring about catastrophe. How’s that for a Prime Directive?