ere is a list of names any science fiction reader ought to be familiar with. Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, James H. Schmitz, Jack Vance, Leigh Brackett, Jack Williamson, Edward E. Smith, Ph.D., Edmond Hamilton, Catherine L. Moore, A.E. van Vogt, John W. Campbell and Henry Kuttner. Here is another list of names, not quite so familiar but just as important: Neil R. Jones, Ross Rocklynne, H. Beam Piper, Nelson Bond, Richard Shaver, Lan Wright, Raymond A. Palmer and Rog Phillips.
What do all these people have in common? They all wrote science fiction, of course, and wrote it very well. Each one of them wrote stories about space travel and exploration. Stories about other worlds, filled with adventure and wonder and grandeur, against which they measured the human spirit, and its capacity for discovery, for failure and triumph.
But more than that, each one of them developed of himself or herself, something unique and real, a voice that no other writer in or out of science fiction could or should even try to match. Every one of those writers dug down deep into the mind, the personality, the brain, the spirit, and found a way of expression that was strikingly different from the way any other writer ever had.
In Prelude to Space, Islands in the Sky, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and his Rama novels with Gentry Lee, Arthur Clarke has consistently explained to us the value of science in understanding and expanding our environment and done so in a way that has ranked him alongside H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon. In The World of Null A, Voyage of the Space Beagle and Mission to the Stars, A.E. van Vogt has hurled us into the currents of time and space, bombarded us with the sheer force of ideas, confronting us with the immense size and scope of the human imagination. C. L. Moore has written of the treachery of love, and in her Northwest Smith stories taken the songs of our past and our spirit into the future. Leigh Brackett has consistently told us of the value of being a human being in the simple struggle for survival.
And each has presented whatever message the writer felt compelled to deliver in a way no one else in the entire history of human kind could.
As I write this, it is little over a decade since our astronomers first discovered a planet outside the solar system. Now the number of such planets approaches three hundred.
The solar system is no longer a place just of planets like Earth, Mars and Jupiter, and moons and a scattering of asteroids. There are dwarf planets like Vesta and Pluto, now, and the icy objects in the Kuiper belt. The galaxy has grown in size, the number of its stars in the billions, the number of its mysteries threatening to grow even larger than that.
And the writer who would tell of those mysteries must fill the lungs to capacity with the atmosphere of Earth, and the spirit of humanity, and the wonder of self, and leap brashly into the emptiness of space, and gather from it all the things found there or possibly found there to fill the mind, the imagination and the spirit.
And the unique and individual self.