Hal's Worlds: Stories and Essays in Memory of Hal Clement
by Shane Tourtellotte
Review by Colleen Cahill
Wildside Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0809550733
Date: 18 October, 2005 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Writing under the pen name of Hal Clement, Harry Clement Stubbs won many awards and the respect of the science fiction community, but was above all things, he was a teacher. His books and stories were an adjunct to his forty year career as a high school science teacher and many of the contributors to Hal's Worlds speak often of his help not only with questions on science, but also on writing. Clement had a writers group, popular know as Hal's Pals, and the first section of the book is by members of this group. In remembrance, Sherry Brigg offers us "Fat Power", a story that was read by Clement during its creative stage. The tale of two over-weight scientists fighting for recognition in a world obsessed with being thin strikes a cord with us today and as Sherry states, "Hal's influence can be clearly seen in the benignity of the aliens in this story!" Clement's gentleness is commented on again and again, but he was never dull: Tania Ruiz recalls him as "serene, gentle and wise–with a wicked and dryly-delivered sense of humour." Even mundane events in Clement's life inspired his writers group: Anne Warner took an annoying incident where Clement's keyless remote to his car refused work and turned it into the darkly humourous story "I'm afraid, Hal..." Ramona Louise Wheeler's "The Sailor of No Specific Ocean" was also reviewed by the writers group and this tale of a lone survivor of a tragic space accident features a Captain Stubbs as one of the lead characters. All of the members of Clement's writers group acknowledge the privilege and debt they owe their mentor and Matthew Jarpe voices the feelings of all of Hal's Pals when he states "I want to grow up to be like Hal."
Part two of this book brings us memories from Clement's fellow writers, with Ben Bova, Allen M. Steele, Jack Williamson, Joe Halderman, Julie E. Czerneda, Michael A. Burstein, Paul Levinson and Stanley Schmidt recounting their moments with Clement, often at conventions either on panels or in hallway discussions. As Ben Bova so apply points out, Clement was "The dean of 'hard' science fiction writers... a great teacher... one of the finest gentlemen of our time... [and] an enthusiastic convention-goer." Known for his love of cons, Clement is the only person who has won the Skylark Award twice, an award Michael Burstein describes as for "a professional in the field [of science fiction] who has also made a major contributions to fandom." Clement went to conventions because he enjoyed them: as Allen Steele states "He didn't show up to push his books ... or to have his ego stroked, and he most certainly wasn't there to get drunk or chase girls. He went because he loved fans, period."
Several authors include a literary tribute to Clement in this book, such as "Extended Warranty" by Walter H. Hunt, a first contact story that features the Clement as the first successful human ship to travel to another star and return home. Michael Swanwick describes his Hugo winning novelette "Slow Life", which is reprinted in Hal's Worlds, as "an advertizement for Clement's novel Half Life" and his salute is evident in the naming the mother ship Clement and the lander Harry Stubbs.
The final section of the book is "Hal's Words", including a printed interview of Clement by J. Michael Straczynski, another interview by Darrell Schweitzer, a reprint of Clement's story "Oh, Natural" and a few words for Mary Stubbs, Clement's wife of fifty-one years. These sections bring us another side of this author, but as always, we get the view of a man who was intelligent, gentle and kept a twinkle of humor in his eye.
It should be noted that writing was not the only talent Harry Stubbs had: he also painted under the name of George Richard and the cover of Hal's Worlds is one of this multi-dimensional man's works. Editor Shane Tourtellotte has done a wonderful job of bringing together a work that, along with Hal Clement's writings, gives us an insight into a giving man who was a husband, friend, father, patriot, scientist, writer, and teacher, one who will be missed by those many lives he touched.