Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The end of several eras

I apologize for have missed my usual Tuesday morning posting. Chalk it up to post-Worldcon exhaustion ...

Neil Armstrong
A somber prelude to each Worldcon's Hugo Awards ceremony is a remembrance of those in the science-fiction community who passed away in the previous year. This con, most sadly, the roll included a non-SF individual who remains an inspiration to us all: Neil Armstrong. The applause for this great American hero was long and loud.

Alas, since his "one small step," the U.S. not only forgot how to send people to the moon, we forgot how to put a person into low Earth orbit. And as reticent as Armstrong was to criticize, when the present administration canceled the Constellation program -- meant to replace the retiring space shuttle, return astronauts to the moon, and eventually carry humans to Mars -- he had reached the limits of forbearance. He said of this "plan":
We will have wasted our current $10-billion-plus investment in Constellation, and equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded. For the United States... to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit...destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature.
Sad to say, his words changed nothing. 

It wasn't only Armstrong, of course. Our community lost altogether too many members in the past year, and I won't attempt to duplicate the list. I must, however, mention Harry Harrison. That's less because Harry was always among my favorite SF authors than because of a personal connection.

Harry Harrison
My first Worldcon (which, like last weekend's event, was held in Chicago) was a bit overwhelming. I was new to fandom and green as a pro author. Harry, in his very gracious way, made me feel like one of the gang. A few years later, I brought my wife to her first Worldcon -- where an admired author, approached for an autograph, was brusque with her. Off wife and I went to the con's SFWA suite, where we happened to encounter Harry. They spoke one-on-one for a good twenty minutes about his many-years-previous West of Eden novels. I don't believe it's an exaggeration to say that Harry saved the con for her.

Harry, we'll miss you. And it's time for me to reread "Bill the Galactic Hero." Whereupon I'll miss you anew.

Stanley Schmidt
And finally ...

It was revealed at last weekend's Worldcon that, after a thirty-four year run, "Hard SF loses one of its all-time great editors, as Stanley Schmidt retires from Analog."

Stan: your readers and authors alike will miss you. But you can ease our loss -- now that you'll have the time once more to be a great SF author.

And so it goes ...

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