Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches
by Mike Resnick & Joe Siclari (Ed.)
Review by Ernest Lilley
ISFiC Press HC ISBN/ITEM#: 0975915630
Date: August 2006 List Price $30.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Mike Resnick & Joe Siclari deserve a hearty round of applause for putting together this collection of Worldcon GOH speeches. They "moved heaven and earth" to get permission to use all the ones they found, and their efforts were handsomely rewarded by a collection of 30 speeches for this volume. They're hopeful that they will find or get permission for still more, which could then come out in a companion volume, if a thinner one.
Right from the start you can see that these speeches were something special. When Frank R. Paul got up at the first Worldcon held in NYC in 1939 to address the gathered fans you can tell that there was electricity in the air, and not just from the radio waves that the fans, many of them "ham" operators, were playing with. "Fellow Science Fiction fans: I am mighty glad to be here among as fine crowd of live-wires and go getters that has ever assembled under one roof...I always pictured you Science Fans just as you are. Always ready for any adventure and to argue any question at the drop of a hat." Sound familiar? Paul goes on to talk about the open mindedness and savvy science knowledge of the fan, noting that he bets that "no fan was fooled by it when they pulled the Martian Invasion stunt on the Radio." Reading these lines I felt as though I were there in first fandom, and it's a heady feeling, I assure you.
Edward E. "Doc" Smith's speech from the following year has a completely different tone, but one that makes you just as proud to be part of this grand enterprise. He talks about how unique the SF Convention is, especially when compared to the dry things that academics and tradesmen attend. In general they get paid to attend theirs, and gladly escape to the surrounding bars as soon as possible, but we come to ours with unparalleled passion. He tackles the job of comparing and contrasting scientific fiction with fantasy and generally inflates the egos of his listeners...until he lowers the boom on them for bickering over divisions within the genre, making a quick leap to the perils of Communism and Fascism, which may seem vastly different on the surface, but both serve to rob "John Q. Citizen" of his rights. It's a warning for us to be careful about our assumptions, and to guard liberty closely...all coming from an author (of whom I am a fan, though not uncritical) who has himself been accused of fascist fiction.
Robert Anson Heinlein was GOH three times (1941, 1961, and 1976) though only his first speech is here. In "The Discovery of the Future" he refers to Forry Ackerman, who may have introduced him. This has a certain poignancy to it, as the attendees of this year's speech just days ago (See: Connie Willis' 2006 Worldcon Guest of Honor Speech) saw that same worthy fan on stage receiving an award for his long devotion to the genre. RAH goes on to talk about why we read SF, and the difference between man and animal that lies in our ability to consider past, present and future, all the domain of SF.
It's tempting to sit here and regale you with tales from these speeches. Reading the past masters of SF is one thing...but to hear them come alive on these pages is quite another. A.E. Van Vogt speaking after the end of WWII. Robert Bloch giving fans the strait dope on why he believes they read the stuff. Hugo Gernsback looking back on twenty five years of world shaking SF. John W. Campbell holding fans to the task of finding new ways to extend the limits of knowledge without simply throwing money at the problem. The thoughtful consideration of global revolutions by a young Robert Silverberg in 1970. Harlan Ellison on why you'll never see his actual speech in writing (because it's extemporaneous stand-up shtick). Kate Wilhelm on reality fiction. Haldeman, Bear, Pratchett, Vinge and more...they all deserve a thoughtful read, and each has some really good points to make. I can hardly begin to make their points for them.
I can only hope that you get a chance to read this collection for yourself. For anyone who considers themselves a student of the genre, this is absolutely required reading. Fork over your $30 and get a copy, or bludgeon your school librarian to buy one, but do whatever you need to in order to read this collection.
From: Donald Ducker
I was born in 1949, discovered science fiction(Thru my father's "Astounding" magazines in the attic) in 1959 and with: Sir Arthur C Clarke's short stories(I thought he'd been to the moon and Mars and was just telling us about that), Robert A Heinlein's juvenile novels and Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone"-I had indeed seen the future and have never looked back!
Again-GREAT! book and I look forward to the companion volume.