The Big Time
Have you ever worried about your memory, because it doesn’t seem to recall exactly the same past from one day to the next? Have you ever thought you might be changing because of forces beyond your control? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream? If you have, then you’ve had hints of the Change War.
It’s been going on for a billion years and it’ll last another billion or so. Up and down the timeline, the two sides—”Spiders” and “Snakes”—batle endlessly to change the future and the past. Our lives and memories are their battleground. And in the midst of the war is the Place, outside space and time, where Great Forzane and other Entertainers provide solace and R&R for tired time warriors.
Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) is best known as a fantasy writer, but his achievements and influence are also considerable in the horror and science fiction fields. One of his major SF works is the Change War series, about rival time-traveling armies locked in a bitter, age-old war for control of existence; the battles frequently alter the course of human history. The most important work of Leiber’s Change War series is the Hugo Award-winning novel The Big Time, in which doctors, entertainers, and wounded soldiers find themselves treacherously trapped with an activated atomic bomb inside the Place, a room existing outside of space-time. It’s not one of Leiber’s strongest novels: the cutesy-girlish narrative voice is unconvincing, while the demands of describing time travel and time paradoxes inevitably strain the prose. But The Big Time is a tense, claustrophobic SF mystery, and possibly the ultimate locked-room whodunit.
In addition to the Hugo, Nebula, Derleth, Lovecraft, and World Fantasy Awards, Fritz Leiber received the Grand Master of Fantasy (Gandalf) Award, the Life Achievement Lovecraft Award, and the Grand Master Nebula Award. —Cynthia Ward