THE EDITOR’S WORD by Mike Resnick
Welcome to the thirty-seventh issue of Galaxy’s Edge. We’re pleased and proud to present stories by a number of new and newer writers, including Floris M. Kleijne, Sean Patrick Hazlett, J.W. Alden, Larry Hodges, Brian Trent, J.P. Sullivan, Nick DiChario, Brennan Harvey, Thomas K. Carpenter, and George Nikolopoulos, plus old friends Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mercedes Lackey, Joe Haldeman and Orson Scott Card.
In addition we’ve got our Recommended Books column by Bill Fawcett and Jody Lynn Nye, our science column by Gregory Benford, our literary column by Robert J. Sawyer, and the Joy Ward Interview, this issue featuring Jody Lynn Nye. And finally, we have the fourth section of our serialized novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Hugo winner Charles Sheffield.
Science fiction is changing. Nothing new about that. Science fiction is always changing. But go to a convention and you’ll find that these days it’s changing a little more than usual in terms of gender, race, politics, social values, award nominations, major guests, even panel topics.
Par for the course. You go, you experience a con, you go home and you put it out of your mind except for the enjoyable or stimulating parts.
Or maybe you don’t.
Maybe you’re Barry N. Malzberg, author of more than a hundred novels (most of them science fiction), four-hundred stories (most ditto), and who indeed graced the first twenty-six issues of Galaxy’s Edge with his column.
Barry had never been to a convention until 1967, when he spent one day at Nycon III, the Worldcon, which was Carol’s and my third Worldcon. (We all had to start somewhere.) To say that he was shocked and surprised by what he encountered would be an understatement.
But as it turned out, it also was the impetus for a truly hilarious novella titled Gather in the Hall of the Planets, which was originally half of an Ace Double, and was later reprinted in The Passage of the Light, a NESFA Press collection of his recursive science fiction (i.e., science fiction about science fiction).
The plot? Simple.
Sanford Kvass is a science fiction writer who has spent quite a few years in the field. A week before his first-ever convention—a Worldcon, of course—he is visited by an alien who explains that they have a problem and he is the key to solving it.
The problem? Whether to conclude that the human race is totally useless and to destroy it, or to give it a chance to evolve into something worthwhile.
How will they decide? A test.
And what is the test? There will be an alien disguised as a writer or fan at the upcoming Worldcon. Kvass has one chance, and only one, to identify the alien and tell him to unmask. If he’s right, we all get to survive; if he’s wrong, it’s goodbye humanity.
That’s the set-up, and it barely takes four pages. The rest of the book follows Kvass at his first convention. There are parodies of Harlan Ellison, Frederik Pohl, Anne McCaffrey, Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm, Randy Garrett, Ted White, and many others. Kvass attends panels, the masquerade, the room parties, and his conclusion after evaluating every facet of science fiction that can be observed at a Worldcon is that far from being able to identify an alien, he cannot—based on the attendees’ comments and behavior—identity a single normal human being.
It’s a classic, and depending on your attitude, carries as much social punch today as it did half a century ago.