I get a lot of feedback on what is and isn’t obscure in fantasy and science fiction, so I was really keen on hearing this panel put on at Ravencon. Steve White is absolutely on fire, weighing in on “Planet Vietname” Syndrome in military science fiction, praising Traveller and BattleTech developer William H. Keith to the skies, and declaring that Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is not science fiction. Jack McDevitt has an absolutely astonishing comment on the classic Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” Good panel, well worth a listen…!
But as you can imagine what really stuck out to me was what wasn’t mentioned. And granted, I’m not one to get overly technical when it comes to the terms “epic” or “romance”. But while E. E. “Doc” Smith gets his due here (albiet with an almost painful set of caveats), I have to say I was struck by the dearth of comment on the incredibly rich and influential stream of science fiction that includes Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom stories, C. L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories, Leigh Brackett’s Stark novels, Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure series, and E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest novels. The true core of the science fiction tradition really has been written out of the narrative. To hear them talk about Star Wars and what makes it epic and why it works, though… it’s as if those movies simply came out of nowhere with no significant literary antecedents whatsoever.
It’s really strange to me that something like this could happen to an entire field so quickly and so completely without people really being conscious that it even occurred.
But it did.