|Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches is, quite obviously, a compilation of some of the past Guest of Honor speeches at previous Worldcons. I say some, because there are literally 40+ speeches not accounted for in this volume. It is stated in the introduction by the editors, Mike Resnick and Joe Siclarii, that this is due to not being able to acquire copies of the missing speeches in time for publication, but they also hint at a sequel.|
If that sequel were to appear, it would be well worth the cover price. The missing speeches include the words of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Roger Zelazny, and Jack Vance. (At least they didn't leave out any of the big names.)
Enough about what this book lacks, what it contains is also worth the price of admission.
Featuring the speeches of "Doc" Smith, Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Hugo Gernsback, Robert Silverberg, and John W. Campbell Jr., Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches is a fascinating read. This book not only tracks the progression of Science Fiction and Fantasy history, it also touches upon our nations history, and offers a unique view into our past.
Robert A. Heinlein's speech in 1941 looks to the war on the horizon, and the uncertainty of the times becomes transparent. A.E. van Vogt's speech of 1946 looks back upon the war at the first post-nuclear science fiction worldcon. In 1963, given sufficient breathing room from the second World War, Murray Leinster sheds light on the effects science fiction and science fiction authors had on the war, including a brief touch on the Naval Research Unit who boasted Heinlein, Asimov, and L. Sprague deCamp as members.
In 1970, Robert Silverberg speaks to the Vietnam War in his guest of honor speech. He speaks of revolution in art, in sex, and in science fiction in particular. He seemingly denounces the New Wave while embracing it; showing a wisdom beyond his years in being able to see both sides of the story.
In 1990, Joe Haldeman's speech touched upon Vietnam also, in a much more personal manner. He spoke of being saved from his own demons by science fiction and science fiction fandom, a release that far too many never found. Though many speeches in this volume were heartfelt and sincere, this is the one that made me cry.
Frank R. Paul's speech from 1939's first worldcon was a motivational speech to SF fandom. Harlan Ellison's from 1978 was a call for equal rights, specifically with regard to Arizona, where the convention took place. George R.R. Martin's speech from 2003 was autobiographical and easy to relate to. Theodore Sturgeon's was engrossing and hilarious.
This book offers a wealth of SF history in a single package, and is incredibly entertaining as well as important historically.
This collection is not a collector's item per se, but it's a book that belongs on every serious SF collector's shelf. I especially recommend it to newer fans, such as myself, who only have a few conventions under their belts. It's a treat.