This weekend some of the top names in science fiction, fantasy, and horror will gather at the Pittsburgh Airport Sheraton for the latest installment of Confluence, the region’s long-running sf convention, sponsored by Parsec, Pittsburgh’s premier science fiction and fantasy organization.
The convention will run three days, July 26-28, and I’m looking forward to being there Saturday to take part in panel discussions on two of my favorite subjects: mid-20th-century science fiction and 21st-century horror.
First up will be “Beyond Campbell: The SF Explosion of the 1950s” (2:00 PM). The panel will be moderated by Eric Leif Davin, past president of Parsec and current Pitt lecturer. Joining us will be writer-editor Darrell Schweitzer and poet Herb Kauderer.
Here’s a summary of the topic from this year’s program book:
In the 1940s, SF was dominated by Astounding, but the field expanded rapidly in the 1950s, starting at the beginning of the decade with two new major magazines: F&SF and Galaxy. The decade also saw more novels (including a major series of YA works) and more anthologies. The panel looks at the major developments and lasting impact of the 1950s.
As one of the panelists, I plan to touch on how the novels of the decade gave us some of the best examples of major sf tropes that continue to be popular today. Consider, for example, the planetary colonization of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950), the depiction of robotics in Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel (1953), the post-apocalyptic dystopia of Walter M Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959), the military action of Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959), and the alien-invasion scenario of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (1959).
But 1950’s science fiction wasn’t just about traditional novels and short stories. Case in point, the decade began with the publication of the science fiction comics Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, which together delivered a 44 issue run of graphic science fiction, the quality of which has yet to be surpassed (IMHO).
In addition, the middle of the decade saw the release of some groundbreaking science fiction films, including the big-screen technicolor wonders This Island Earth (1955) and Forbidden Planet (1956), both delivering the kind of cinematic sf thrills that would not be rivaled for over a decade later.
My second panel of the day will be “The Best of Recent Horror” (5:00 PM). Moderated by Darrell Schweitzer, it will also feature writers A.M. Rycroft, Frederic Durbin, and Christine Soltis. Here, I’m looking forward to recommending some of my favorite stories, novels, and films from the past decade — works that bear out something that editor Ellen Datlow writes in her introduction to the recently published The Best of the Best Horror of the Year: “One thing I’ve realized […] is how much high-quality short horror fiction is being published now, more so than even ten years ago.” I’m still putting together my recommended list for this one, so rather than offering a preview, I’ll try to post a summary of the panel’s discussion sometime after the con. Stop back next week, and I’ll list some of the works covered in our conversation. Or, better yet, drop by Confluence on Saturday and get it all first hand. I’ll hope to see you there.
Confluence will be held July 26-28 at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel, 1160 Thorn Run Road, Coraopolis, PA 15108. More information is available at the convention website.