By John Hertz: We’ll discuss three Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLVIII, to be held November 25-27, one discussion each. Come to as many as you like. You’ll be welcome to join in.
Our operating 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 definition, bring it.
Each of the 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?
Charles Harness, The Paradox Men (1953)
Five crises have fused the Americas together; the Imperator is dead, leaving his widow Imperatrix Juana-Maria Chatham-Perez; there’s aristocracy, and a Society of Thieves rigorously trained who steal from the rich to buy freedom for slaves. Dueling. Research stations on the Sun. A star-drive is being tested, based on the square root of -1 and an acceleration of several million gravities. The hero doesn’t know who he is.
Robert A. Heinlein, Time for the Stars (1956)
The Long Range Foundation starts looking for identical twins – because a very few have proved to be telepathic – and rigorous tests can’t find that telepathy takes any time – so it looks promising for messages from starships traveling light-years away. The ships go. There are adventures. Eventually there are consequences – indirect ones – fruitful ones.
C.L. Moore, Doomsday Morning (1957)
Where others rant, this author lights a lantern: looking, as a Star Trek fan sang, at both sides now. Or more. Moore shows her fictional society, its fictional technology, through the human element; always the human element. And we learn why the actor-director protagonist is told he has to put on his play without changing the script even a little.
I’d love to be there and discuss THE PARADOX MEN, which I have read several times (including the original “Flight Into Yesterday” in Startling Stories.) It’s a particular favorite of mine.
I’ve read TIME FOR THE STARS, of course. And I have a copy of DOOMSDAY MORNING, which I started reading a while ago but put aside and have never finished.
One caveat about The Paradox Men–any edition you’re likely to find is the 1984 revised version, so you can’t really tell how much of it was prescient and how much was retconned. I assume the revisions were mostly just changing megabytes to gigabytes, but I can’t know.
I always preferred the earlier title, “Flight into Yesterday”; it seems more lyrical. You can get a PDF of the original version itself in the complete May 1949 issue of “Startling Stories”, the SF pulp containing it, at both Luminist.org and Archive.org. The Luminist copy seems to have a better scan of the cover. It’s a glorious Earle Bergey painting.
@Dan B.) — yes, the 1984 version is what you’re likely to find now; but I actually have three versions (the Startling Stories original, the Ace Double (slightly revised and expanded), and the NESFA Press version collected in the omnibus RINGS, which I’m pretty sure follows the 1984 text.) All three give a similar reading experience, and the 1984 changes are kind of minor retconning of the sort you implied.
Flight into Yesterday is better. It’s probably a Wollheim. What was it someone said about DAW?…if he’d published the bible,.it would have been as an Ace double, with the old testament retitled the Destruction of Earth and the new testament retitled The Thing with Three Souls.
Anyway, great choices, wish I could be there.
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