2018-06-06 16:53:31 UTC
Some time ago, I was informed by this group's resident troll that I'm
an idiot because I consider the Pern series science fiction.
!!!!!EXTENSIVE!!!!!!! use of psionics? Check.
Problems with the physics of transportation? Check.
(Flying dragons vs. FTL via "inertialess" matter.)
Casual attitude towards orbital mechanics? Check.
(That silly periodicity of Threadfall vs. moving planets around to
smash worlds with.)
Stories in which major historical events revolve around the deeds of
a handful of manly men and, um, womanly women? Check.
Stories with weird sexual issues occasionally obtruding? Check.
"But wait," you object. "The Lensmen don't have dragons. They
include dragons instead."
No, they don't have dragons, Girls in our society have long dreamt
of My Little Pony; for quite a while now, boys haven't. To see what
boys dream of instead, just check the back pages of the magazines the
Lensmen series (and Pern) originally appeared in. And then it's
The Lens, which is given considerably *less* scientific-sounding
explanation than the dragons, is the ultimate Super Decoder Ring *and*
Membership Card. Smith goes out of his way to explain it thus, over
and over again; he could hardly have been clearer without advertising
in those back pages himself.
More seriously, I distinguish, as usual, among modes, traditions, and
market categories. Both Lensmen and Pern have consistently been
published in the science fiction market category, as specifically
distinguished from the fantasy one at that. Both in fact began 
in the same magazine, though under different editors and a different
title. The Lensmen series is widely recognised as influential on
later writers of science fiction; in that sense, as well as some
others, I suspect it's more successful than Pern, but I also suspect
I've heard a great deal less about influences on writers who grew up
after Pern got going than about influences on older writers. I think
both series seriously belong in the science fiction tradition and
market category. Whether they belong in the science fiction mode
depends on how you define that mode, and I think defining literary
modes is a pretty pointless activity, but I admit that it's easier to
define the science fiction mode in such a way that neither the
Lensmen books nor Pern qualifies. And of course the easy way out is
important to this group's resident troll.
(It's also, I suppose, easy to read sexism into this whole thing:
the Lensmen series is science fiction while Pern is fantasy because
the Lensmen series *is*, rather blatantly, for boys, and Pern isn't,
though it also isn't all that obviously for girls. But this is all
rather vague, and I suspect sexism isn't actually the issue.)
Regardless, I'm not actually joking here. Whether you consider these
series science fiction like a sensible person, or fantasy like a
crabbed, stupid mode obsessive, they're essentially equivalent in
the relevant ways. I'd be mildly surprised if McCaffrey didn't have
the Lensmen books *somewhere* in the back of her mind in making Pern,
at latest when she came up with the later series's overplot.
 Well, modulo the retconning of <Triplanetary> into the Lensmen
series, anyhow. The original version of that appeared before
<Galactic Patrol> in <Amazing>.
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>