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Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches
edited by Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari
ISFiC Press, 309 pages

Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches
Mike Resnick
Mike Resnick sold his first book in 1962 and went on to sell more than 200 novels, 300 short stories and 2,000 articles, almost all of them under pseudonyms. He turned to SF with the sale of The Soul Eater, his first under his own name. Since 1989, Mike has won Hugo Awards (for Kirinyaga; The Manamouki; Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge; The 43 Antarean Dynasties; Travels With My Cats) and a Nebula Award (for Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge).

Mike Resnick Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Starship: Pirate
SF Site Review: Starship: Mutiny
SF Site Review: Dragon America
SF Site Review: Men Writing Science Fiction As Women, Women Writing Science Fiction As Men and New Voices in Science Fiction
SF Site Review: A Hunger in the Soul

Joe Siclari
Joe Siclari has been heavily involved in the running of conventions including Magicon (51st Worldcon, 1992) where he was the chair and SMOFcon where he was a co-founder and chair. He was the DUFF winner in 2005.

ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jayme Lynn Blaschke

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God bless editors, those crazy, obsessive-compulsive sorts who chase inspiration and doggedly champion projects with a Quixotic passion. It's a thankless lot, since even in the best of times genre anthologies -- successful as well as those less viable -- aren't about to make anyone any significant amount of money or fame. If a particular story does happen to catch the reading public's fancy, it's that author who garners the praise and awards, while the editor who initially selected and published it has to be content with taking a back seat (somewhere in the vicinity of the 43rd row). Lonely as that may be, compared to the publishing world of genre non-fiction, that fiction editor may just as well be livin' la vida loca. "Labor of love" doesn't begin to scratch the surface of what's involved bringing a non-fiction genre anthology into print.

Which is why I applaud Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari enthusiastically for Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches, one of those rare books in which the title tells prospective readers exactly what they're getting. Collected here are 31 speeches spanning the history of the World Science Fiction convention, delivered by such genre luminaries as Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell, Jr., Robert A. Heinlein and Kate Wilhelm. It's not a complete representation -- the editors are quite upfront in the introduction about their inability to secure permission to publish some of the speeches, and difficulty in even locating tapes or transcripts of others. Still, this book is a marvelous accomplishment, capturing such a good chunk of the history of the field between two covers. With so much of the early history of science fiction and even fandom preserved only through oral tradition, huge blocks of that institutional memory are being lost as participants in the Golden Age tragically die off. This book preserves a tiny portion of that knowledge base.

Interestingly enough, reading the earliest speeches clearly illustrates that things haven't really changed all that much between then and now. E.E. "Doc" Smith's address at the second Worldcon in New York not only tackles the "fantasy vs. science fiction" debate, but also casts congoers as Slans, being inherently forward-thinking and misunderstood by those who don't read "scientifiction" (and by extension, attend SF conventions):

It seems to me, then, that what brings us together and underlies this convention is a fundamental unity of mind. We are imaginative, but with a tempered, analytical imaginativeness which fairy-tales will not satisfy. We are critical -- sometimes we have been called hypercritical. We are fastidious. We have a mental grasp and scope which does not find sufficient substance in the stereotyped, the cut-and-dried. We feel intensely, and we are not always either diplomatic or backward in putting our feelings into words, and sometimes into action.
The "us vs. them" marginalization is echoed by Heinlein as well the following year in Denver:
We here, the science fiction fans, are the lunatic fringe! We are the crazy fools who read that kind of stuff -- who read those magazines with the outlandish machines and animals on the covers. You leave one around loose in your home and a friend will pick it up. Those who are not fans ask if you really read that stuff, and from then on they look at you with suspicion.
Even in 1978 this perceptual gulf persists, and the always-opinionated Harlan Ellison tackles this strange bit of narcissistic victimhood head on in Phoenix by throwing down a gauntlet:
In short, let's just for once, in the world of SF, walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. For decades SF has trumpeted about Brave New Worlds and what Slan-like futuristic thinkers we are, how humanistic SF is, how socially conscious we are, how SF stories can deal with delicate social issues that mimetic fiction is afraid to talk about. And yet, on the whole, SF fans and pros live in Never-Never Land when it comes to taking part in the pragmatic world around them; they would rather escape into a realm of creative anachronisms than go to the battlements to fight the real wars; the be precise, SF fans and professionals tend to be terribly provincial about the pressing issues of our times, to turn their heads and say it is none of their affair.
Certainly, not every speech collected in this volume dwells on the self-obsessed, us-against-them mindset that characterizes so much of the genre. Doris Lessing offers some thoughtful commentary on her approach of the genre from the outside; Greg Bear shows, via his long memory, that he's just as much a fan as he is a professional; and Terry Pratchett, well, he describes his heart surgery and in the process makes it as uproariously funny as one would expect of Pratchett.

This is a fun book, but more importantly, this is a necessary book, one that preserves the all-too-rapidly fading history of the science fiction community. Some parts are fascinating, some dry and others stale with age, but the editors must be commended for every single part of the whole so that they are inspired to round up those stray speeches not included here and publish a companion volume.

Copyright © 2007 Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Jayme Lynn Blaschke graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in journalism. He writes science fiction and fantasy as well as related non-fiction. His website can be found at www.jaymeblaschke.com.


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