Loscon 35
November 28-30 2008, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Loscon

Discussing the Classics

Classics of Science Fiction
by John Hertz

We’ll be discussing three classics at Loscon XXXV (note Roman numeral).

Each discussion will take up one book.  Try as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.  Each book is quite famous — but fame is relative in this wide wide world.  We don’t mean you ought to have heard of or read them, we just mean there are plenty of people who have, and you might meet some.

We propose, A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have pushed it up are changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.  If you have a better definition, bring it.  As it happens we have an American, a Lithuanian, and an Englishman, an A-B-C of science fiction.

 Isaac Asimov
Foundation (1951)
In keeping with our Roman theme, these adventures are set in the decline of a Galactic Empire, ten thousand years or more in the future.  Asimov knew Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and cracked that he had “done a little cribbin’ from the work of Mr. Gibbon.”  But anyone can get an idea; how did he carry it out?

Algis Budrys
Rogue Moon (1960)

Probably his most famous novel; he wanted to call it The Death Machine, maybe we all should now.  Existential, gripping, like Who? (1958) both more and less bleak than it seems, it has love and learning, death and determination; as Nabokov elsewhere said, “the precision of poetry and the passion of science.”

Arthur C. Clarke
The City and the Stars (1956)
Here ten thousand years are an eye-blink.  The City of Diaspar has lasted at least a billion years.  By advanced technology everyone there has lived many times — except Alvin.  He is beyond his teacher, beyond Khedron the Jester, perhaps beyond the Central Computer but it does not tell all.  What if he keeps looking?