John Campbell Jr. and Astounding Magazine

Astounding July 1939.jpg

Last year, I largely covered the formation of the Science Fiction genre, going from some of the notable early authors, and running up to the pulp era. There’s a lot that I haven’t covered, and at some point, I’m going to be going back and filling in some of the holes behind me. There’s an enormous number of authors and editors out there, and there’s always going to be new things to add and explore.

I’d intended to go right from Gernsback to John W. Campbell Jr., but took a detour through some of the pulp authors, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith and C.L. Moore. Now, we’re set up the Golden Age of SF, which a lot of people feel begin with John Campbell Jr.’s work at Astounding Magazine, which is this week’s topic over at Kirkus Reviews. He was a pretty fascinating character, and one who wielded enormous influence on the genre.

Go read John Campbell Jr., Astounding Magazine and the Golden Age over on Kirkus Reviews.

Here’s the sources that I referenced for this post:

A Requiem for Astounding, Alva Rogers: This book is an excellent resource on the history of Astounding Magazine, and was invaluable for helping me set up and figure out what happened at Astounding prior to Campbell’s hiring, as well as what he did right after he began.

The Way the Future Was: A Memoir, Frederik Pohl: I love how I got this book. I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a gift card from someone, and this book was sitting on top of the used book table at the front door. Pohl is an excellent author, and it’s worth checking out his blog as well. He recounts several meetings with Campbell here, which was very useful in understanding how the man worked.

Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction, Brian Aldiss: One of my usual sources, Aldiss has an excellent section on Campbell’s influence and time at Astounding Magazine.

The History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts: Another usual source, Roberts doesn’t really devote as much time to Campbell, but he does highlight the man’s legacy and the authors that he worked with at the magazine.

Ages of Wonders: Exploring the World of Science Fiction, David G. Hartwell: I came across this book at ReaderCon: Hartwell signed the copy for me after I bought it. This looks to be a really interesting book, and Campbell pops up a couple of times here, with some good information on how he worked and a bit about his influence, which was very helpful.

It’s Been A Good Life, Isaac Asimov & Janet Jeppson Asimov: Asimov wrote a number of biographies: this is one of the shorter ones. It’s a good thumbnail of his life, very readable and well-rehersed. There’s a good section on Asimov’s first meetings with Campbell.

Robert A. Heinlein: Learning Curve 1907-1948, William H. Patterson, Jr.: This is an exhaustive volume on part of Heinlein’s life, one where Campbell pops up quite a bit. I didn’t use this source as much, but there were some very good parts that talked about Heinlein and Campbell’s dealing.

Collected Editorials from Analog, John Campbell Jr. and Harry Harrison: This is a free download from Archive.org, and it’s an interesting read. Harrison has some good biographical elements in his introduction, but there’s also an invaluable thing here: Campbell’s own words. I tell you, primary sources are the best.

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4 thoughts on “John Campbell Jr. and Astounding Magazine

  1. A very well known and well regarded french author translates his books (Boris Vian). It makes the translations even better than the originals. Altough I just listened to The Weapon Shops of Isher in the original english and quite enjoyed it. A bit libertarian/right wing, but great.

    • That seems to be pretty typical for people writing for Campbell – he brought in a lot of his own opinions to the stories, and worked closely with his authors.

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