The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

A short Hugo-winning novel, The Big Time benefits from employing a limited number of characters at a fixed place over a few hours of narrative time, as if adhering to the dramatic unities of place, action, and a much modified sense of time. Initially, the narrator provides exposition leading up to a mystery. He then attempts to solve the mystery and rescue the group from disaster. The story is told as if to inform or to forewarn a newcomer to the temporal context the novel describes. The events reveal a greater sense of the problems associated with altering history.

Greta Forsane, an entertainer, tells of an experience at the Recuperation Station that reveals to her much about herself. The station is also manned by Sid, the officer in charge; Doc, a drunken veteran; Maud, an older party girl; Lilli, a recent addition; and Beau, second in command. They work for the Spiders, their side in the Change War. Their duties include healing wounded soldiers, operating the machinery that allows pickup and delivery of soldiers, and entertaining soldiers while they rest and recuperate. According to a previous plan, they pick up three soldiers on a scheduled arrival: Eric, a Nazi; Mark, a Roman; and Bruce, a Briton from the early 1900’s. All characters are people who were resurrected from different times and places and brought into The Big Time. The arriving soldiers were engaged in a conflict in Saint Petersburg in 1883, attempting to kidnap an infant...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Leiber's technique in The Big Time is unusual. The son of actor parents, himself an experienced actor, Leiber chose to set his novel...

(The entire section is 107 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

American science fiction has traditionally tended to view the world in black and white terms. There are almost always clearly defined good...

(The entire section is 515 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Big Time and the other stories in the Change War series concern an ongoing war fought by two time-traveling armies known only as...

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Future war and time travel are two of the most common themes in science fiction, as is the idea of going back in time to change history....

(The entire section is 91 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Big Time initially appeared in the March and April 1958 issues of Galaxy Science Fiction before seeing slightly revised...

(The entire section is 172 words.)