There is no question that the Changewar is one of the great concepts of science fiction; two sides, the Snakes and the Spiders, fighting across the breadth of time and space. The leaders are unseen, the reasons they are fighting are unknown. Each side tries to change events in the past or future to gain control of the universe. Kill Churchill during the Boer War and the Nazis take over America. Kidnap Einstein as a child and the Communists take over the planet. Make the wrong move and the change winds may wipe out your very existence. This is science fiction at its grandest, told by one of the grand masters writing at his best.
The Hugo award-winning novel, The Big Time, introduced the Changewar to readers. It is the story of one brief interlude in the Changewar. What should be a moment of rest and recuperation in a bubble separated from the space/time continuum turns into a nightmare when the device used to control the connection disappears. Was this an action of the Snakes, or did one of the eleven occupants of the Place press the introvert button? Can they find the button and reverse the process, or are they doomed to remain isolated from the universe for eternity? And what should they do about that atomic bomb ticking away the minutes to destruction?
The novella No Great Magic is the sequel to The Big Time. The same characters are involved, but in No Great Magic, as is fitting in the Changewar, they have all changed roles. Instead of a rest stop for soldiers in the Changewar, they are players in a theater company about to play Macbeth in New York’s Central Park. But from the very beginning plans start to change and it becomes obvious that there is more going on than a simple play.
The characters are drawn from across the ages. There is Sidney Lessingham, the leader, an Elizabethan actor, Mark the Roman soldier, Erich who bears a resemblance to the German actor of the same name but who has a much darker future, Beauregard who studied at the University of Vicksburg in a city that had never been besieged by Grant. The Big Time also features a Venusian satyr from a billion years in the past and a tentacled Lunan from a billion years in the future. When you can access all of time, space, and probability, the choices are endless. And of course, there is Greta, who serves as narrator for both tales.
These two stories are some of the most literary science fiction in existence. Fritz Leiber’s parents were both Shakespearean actors and he himself was on the stage. His love and knowledge of the theater is obvious in every line. Quotes and references abound in both stories. The descriptions of the backstage byplay of a theater company could only have been written by one who grew up in that environment. Yet none of this detail bogs down the flow of the story, instead giving it a depth and texture only a master writer could achieve.
Resurrected Press is proud to publish these two stories together in a single volume, The Big Time: With No Great Magic, in the form that they originally appeared in Galaxy magazine in 1958 and 1963. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.
More from Fritz Leiber .
- The Night of the Long Knives: With The Creature From The Cleveland Depths
- The Night of the Long Knives - Editor's Notes
- The Big Time (includes No Great Magic)
- The Big Time (includes No Great Magic) - Editor's Notes