Classics of SF at Westercon 76

By John Hertz:  We’ll discuss three Classics of Science Fiction at Westercon 76 in Salt Lake City, 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?

I. Asimov. Foundation and Empire (1952)

A great man; a great plan; what can go wrong? Or, better for us since we’re discussing it, how does the author show us? Not only is skim milk masquerading as cream, but cream masquerades as skim milk. I’ve said Watch this author use dialogue to paint character; one of SF’s finest moments may be the single word “Obviously”.

E. MacGregor, Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars (1951)

This little jewel may be just about perfect. Why are there seven noisy children? Why is our hero the sort of woman who thinks she’d better get supper ready? Her car breaks down after eighteen years; the man she’s offering a ride to says”Where are your tools?” Of course they’re in the car, it’s 1951.

R.L. Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

The best treatment l know of this masterly story is in Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature (1980), a book well worth while. We’ll do the best we can. The doctor’s name rhymes with “sea pill”, not “peck, Will”; it’s Scots, as the author was.


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7 thoughts on “Classics of SF at Westercon 76

  1. I’ve read at least two of those books; the one I’m not sure about is Jekyll and Hyde.

  2. I have read one and my library has the other two, so I requested them.

  3. I remember Miss Pickerell from elementary school reading, but am not sure about this particular one. Is she carrying a Geiger counter?

  4. No, but there is an entire other book called Miss Pickerell and the Geiger Counter. I assume I read several in the series, but couldn’t tell you which ones other than Goes to Mars.

  5. I have ebooks of Miss Pickerell Goes To Mars, …and The Geiger Counter, …Goes Undersea and …Goes To The Arctic. I really needed to re-read those someday. (I don’t think I’ve read any of them since the early 60’s. They were fun.)

    Those are the four books that were written solely by Ellen MacGregor. There were others that were written by Dora Pantell (including Miss Pickerell On The Moon, which I had at one point) after MacGregor died in 1954.

  6. Now that I bother to look, it seems that Goes To Mars is the ur-Pickerell, as it were.

  7. Miss P. Goes to Mars was my first ever SF book. I know because my mom made a big deal about it. And if there had been, at that time, any SF for even younger readers, she would have gotten that for me too! 🙂

    I have read all three, but not for a very long time, so it is with very low certainty that I say Miss P. might be my favorite. I may have been too young when I read Jekyll and Hyde, though; it probably deserves a re-read.

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