Classics of Science Fiction Discussions
by John Hertz
We’ll discuss three Classics of S-F at Sasquan the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, one discussion each. Come to as many as you like. You’ll be welcome to join in.
We’ll start with “A classic is a work that survives its time. After the currents which might have buoyed it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.” If you have a better definition, bring it.
Each of our three is interesting in a different way. Each may be more interesting now than when first published.
- R.A. Lafferty, Past Master (1968)
- Sasquan is the Worldcon in Lafferty’s centennial year. He was one of our most original voices. Here Thomas More is brought five centuries across time and space, maybe to help – as defined by whom? Judith Merril said the story “magics me with humor, anger, and love … unpredictable corner-of-the-eye perspectives and perceptions … above all … with … word-music.” You might like this book note by me.
- C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
- Weston, who clothes himself in the trappings of science, is a 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.” We never do hear about the space drive.
- A. E. Van Vogt, Slan (1946)
- Van Vogt, praised as a stylist by no less than Harlan Ellison, won readers of the day with more sophistication than they may have noticed. Beginning in the aftermath of the main action – jump-cuts, breathtaking speed, reversals – a Bildungsroman that starts with its hero nine years old – dialogue and development that in fact barely hint – unemphasized satire of persecution and opposition, of supposing the worst.
Past Master and Slan are each first novels after much at shorter length; Out of the Silent Planet is its author’s first s-f novel.
Have you read them? Have you re-read them?