Vacation in the Golden Age, Episode 38: August 1942


These last few weeks have been rather busy for me. I’m in the midst of reading several books for the book review column I’ll be writing for InterGalactic Medicine Show in June and July. I’ve also been busy researching in preparation for the interviews of various writers I’ll be doing over the Nebula weekend. And I’ve been squeezing in a little fiction-writing of my own when a few spare minutes present themselves (which is rare, I will admit).

But often the most relaxed part of my day is my lunch hour, when I set aside all of that other business, pick up the issue of Astounding that I happen to be reading, and disappear into the 1940s for an hour or so. I look forward to that hour each and every day.

In case anyone is curious about what my workspace looks like when I am actually writing up these Episodes, here is a photo I snapped while working on this one.


In the photo, roughly from left-to-right, you can see the August issue of Astounding, my iPad which has my notes from the issue. A tube of Pringles, my computer on which I do the actual write-up, a bottle of Dogfish Head 90 minute Imperial IPA, a copy of Alva Rogers’ A Requiem for Astounding, Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion, and Fantasy Commentator, all of which I uses as references during my write-up phase.

Editorial: Life as we know it

Campbell’s 1-page editorial this month discusses the way we perceive things and how our perceptions are distorted by the environment in which we evolve. He uses, as his example, the frequencies of light we can see as oppose to, say, what a creature that evolved under a hotter sun (type O or B) might perceive. His discussion is not uninteresting, but I had some difficulty seeing the point in context to anything else. I suspect it was spurred by a comment I seem to recall in last month’s Brass Tacks column, where someone mentioned the phrase, “Life as we know it.” He concludes, however in typical bold Campbell fashion with the following assertion:

We humans have enough of a problem generating light for our uses; be glad Sol wasn’t a blue-violet sun, for we’d probably never have gotten the necessary technical civilization developed.  No primitive group can evolve light-sources giving ultraviolet light, and I wonder whether a high technical civilization could evolve without any source of artificial light.

It seems to me that this is a bold assertion given the title of his editorial, “Life as we know it.” I’m fairly certain the phosphorescent creatures at the bottom of the sea had not yet been discovered when Campbell wrote his article, but it seems to me he should have known better than to call attention to “life as we know it” and what it means, and then make an assertion based solely on “life as we know it” without leaving room for life as we may not know it.

Waldo by Anson MacDonald

Blurb: The called them “broomsticks” because the aircars were practically invisible, except for a drive shaft and the passengers. It was bad, though, when they began failing for no know reason. But scientists went off the deep end when a hex doctor made their broomsticks fly again!

Robert Heinlein, in his Anson MacDonald guise, is back one last time (or so it would seem based on Campbell’s warning) with a complete-in-one-issue novel. At least, that’s how “Waldo” is listed in the Table of Contents.

It marks the first occurrence (in this Vacation) where we’ve seen a complete-in-one-issue novel. The novel spans nearly 50 magazine pages, well more than a third of the overall issue (and at my typical 10 pages/day of reading, took me five days to read). I suspect, given the wordage, today “Waldo” would be considered a long novella, but listing a Novel in the contents of Astounding was, well, novel at the time, I suppose.

“Waldo” was an interesting story, but not a particularly great one like “Beyond This Horizon” (Episode 34 and Episode 35) or “Methuselah’s Children” (Episode 25, 26, and 27). It is also a kind of strange story where Heinlein seems to be exploring ideas on the very fringes of science–something that was probably right up Campbell’s alley.

Waldo Farthingwaite Jones is a weakling hermit of a man who lives in “Freehold” a space station in orbit around Earth. He is a brilliant engineer and rather tyrannical around others, but his doctor since he was a child, Dr. Gus Grimes, still gets along with him. Waldo was weakened by a kind of malaise from which he never completely recovered. People hesitate to ask for his help, but the men running NAPA are under the gun. For some unexplained reason the “broomsticks” that power flying cars are failing and causing accidents. The problem seems to be increasing. So Dr. Stevens, who is responsible for this area, has to seek out Waldo through Waldo’s doctor (“Uncle Gus”) and enlist his help in solving the problem of these dying broomsticks. Waldo eventually agrees to tackle the problem and through a series of events, learns that a strange old man has been able to fix the broomsticks simply by drawing on them with chalk. It doesn’t seem possible but it works. It turns out that the old man reaches into the “Other World” to make use of the power there. Improbable as it seems, Waldo is able to reproduce this effect in his laboratory and fix the broomsticks. He is further able to use the technique to produce an unlimited source of energy. And finally, he uses the ability to will his strength back to him, becoming far less bitter and a far more pleasant person in the end.

There is the usual Heinlein wit buried in the story. As for instance, when Steven’s is asked to seek out Waldo’s help and doesn’t feel like he’ll be successful:

“Try to see Waldo.”

“O.K. If you don’t hear from me, just send my severance pay care of Palmdale Inn, Miami. I’ll be the fourth beachcomber from the right.”

Gleason permitted himself an unhappy smile. “If you don’t get results, I’ll be the fifth.”

And there is the usual page-long historical exposition that we’ve come to know and love Heinlein’s Future History stories. There is even, it seems, one subtle attempt at a jab at one of his earlier works, when someone asks:

Why waste taxes on roads when ninety percent of the traffic is in the air?

which to me seemed a deliberate reference to Heinlein’s own “The Roads Must Roll” (June 1940, Episode 12). But the story takes an unusual turn with the introduction of Gramps Schneider and his ability to reach out the “Other World.” For a while, it seems almost like the story belongs in Unknown and not Astounding, as Campbell hinted at in his blurb last issue. But slowly, it dawned on me that what Heinlein was talking about when he referred to “Other World” was a multiverse. He describes it as such in all but term itself two-thirds of the way through the story:

In the first place Schneider had used the phrase “the Other World” time and again. What did it mean? Literally? A “world” was a space-time-energy continuum; and “Other World” was, therefore, such a continuum but different from the one in which he found himself. Physical theory found nothing repugnant in such a notion; the possibility of infinite numbers of continua was a familiar, orthodox speculation.

This notion of drawing power from an alternate universe as a means for seeming like perpetual energy or motion is not unique to science fiction, but “Waldo” may have been the first to express it. It was done very will in Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, and again in Robert J. Sawyer’s Hominids.

But where the story really seemed to go off the deep end for me was when Waldo began to believe he would strengthen himself by tapping into this other world. The fact that will-power alone could pull from the world was something I wasn’t able to buy into and the fact that Gramps made the deHalb engines work again by drawing on them with chalk sounded eerily familiar to a Dean Drive. Indeed, at least once in the story, someone points out to Waldo that he’s invented a perpetual motion machine.

Perhaps the best and strongest part of “Waldo” was the title character himself and the transformation he makes over the course of the novel from a reclusive, ill-tempered weakling genius, to a strong, smart and savvy, and no-so-reclusive inventor. Unlikely as the circumstances were that led to that transformation, it was still nice to see.

Deadlock by Lewis Padgett

Blurb: The indestructible robot was a swell little gadget in that time of feudal corporations. But–most went mad, and were still indestructible. The rest–

Lewis Padgett makes “his” Astounding debut this month with “Deadlock.” Padgett had produced a few stories for Unknown before coming over to Astounding and in fact, Padgett is technically not new to Astounding either. Lewis Padgett is one of the pseudonyms for the husband-wife collaborative team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. The name Lewis Padgett is taken from their mother’s maiden names. Moore’s last appearance in this Vacation was back in February 1942 (Episode 32). “Deadlock” marks Kuttner’s first appearance in this Vacation.

“Deadlock” is the story of a pair of special robots and the strange behavior they express. In attempting to give intelligence to robots, they all seem to go mad. But Thor somehow managed not to go mad and indeed, can follow instructions, make intelligent recommendations and seems to be an asset to the Company that created it. It is also indestructible, made from a special alloy. And yet, Thor managed to create a device capable of destroying it, and in testing out the device to see that it works, Thor destroys itself. So another robot, Thor II, is created to determine what the gadget that Thor I created actually does and what it’s purpose is. Eventually, the men who built the robots discovered the secret: robots were going mad because they were built with a logic that tells them they must figure out any problem. Since the robots were indestructible, each would eventually feel the need to figure out how to destroy themselves, and that was why Thor I created the device that he did.

All of this is set upon a rather interesting future background where the world is run by massive corporation at war with one another. We’ve seen this before in this Vacation, in L. Sprague de Camp’s serial “The Stolen Dormouse” (April-May 1941, Episodes 22 and 23). But whereas there were some basic rules of behavior in de Camp’s vision, such rules seemed to be lacking in Padgett’s vision and in some cases, the war for corporate domination of the world fell to guerrilla tactics. Or as Padgett describes it:

No wonder, in this day of gigantic corporations that fought each other tooth and nail for economic supremacy. It was vaguely feudal, for if a company went under, it was annexed by its conqueror, and vae victis.

I think this is still an early Padgett work and not at the same level of some of their later stuff, “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” for instance. But there is a fascination with mysterious gadgets evident in this story that is a featured theme of “Mimsy” and it will be interesting to see if that is a theme that Kuttner and Moore develop over time in their Padgett stories.

Jackdaw by Ross Rocklynne

Blurb: the beings of that strange world liked puzzles; they liked logic. But the puzzle of the ruined civilization, with but one living man left, involved something they could not comprehend. They were logical.

It has been well over a Vacation-year since we last heard from Ross Rocklynne and his “Time Wants a Skeleton” (June 1941, Episode 24). He is back this month for his sixth–and in my opinion, best–appearance in this Vacation so far with his novelette, “Jackdaw.” I will admit I was at a bit of a loss going into the story. The title baffled me. I had no idea what I “jackdaw” was. But it didn’t particularly matter because what I found myself reading was a wonderful tale of archeology and exploration–told entirely from the view point of alien life forms.

Belgarth is a member of the Emonso, a race of aliens that are the oldest and wisest in all of the universe. Their civilization has evolved to the point where their fundamental purpose is in solving puzzles. And Belgarth has just returned with an interesting one. He had been roaming about when he discovered signs of a civilization on the third planet of a yellow sun. Most of the civilization seemed to have been destroyed, but he encounters a sole survivor who ultimately kills himself in what is interpreted initially as a desperate attempt to shower the Emonso with “explosions” of some kind. Belgarth leaves earth and returns to his home world in order to drum up interest in the puzzle. This is does, and when he returns to Earth some two hundred years later, despite all their efforts, it remains a puzzle that the Emonso cannot solve. Indeed, at one point his boss, Orth, has a jewel stolen from him by a bird–a jackdaw. Belgarth thinks this is peculiar behavior but Orth says:

“The brains of most creatures of this type are all thalamus–all emotion. This one apparently likes to collect pretty things, even if it can’t find any possible use for them.”

And the story concludes rather brilliantly with:

The jackdaw cawed its threats at the moment the two wise creatures from Emonso disappeared into a four-dimensional matrix. Having scared its enemies away, it came back to peck jealously through the trivia in its nest.

We have seen a few other stories in this Vacation in which the entire viewpoint in the story was an alien viewpoint–most notably by Rocklynne himself in “Quietus” (September 1940, Episode 15). “Jackdaw,” however, is a far more successful attempt, even if today, some of the technique would draw frowns from contemporary writers and fans because of the anthropocentric world-view that these “aliens” from Emonso have. (They do, for instance, smoke cigars, of all things!)

But despite the seeming happiness at the discovery of knowledge for the sake of knowledge by the wise and old race of the Emonso, there is a bitter sadness that runs through the story, echoed by one passage in the middle that jumps us forward, briefly, millions of years to a rather bleak and depressing outlook unknown as yet to our protagonist:

The planet Earth swings heavily in its lonesome orbit. It has been millions of years–perhaps a billion–since Belgarth landed his ship there. The cities, the roads, the cultivated lands–all are gone. There is no iota of evidence which could prove that once a race of beings had its inception there. There is no iota of evidence that could prove that once the Emonso landed there. For the Emonso have long since forgotten Earth, even as the record of their own history has entirely been destroyed by the corrosive action of time.

Wise civilization or foolish, young civilization or old, the universe will outlast us all in the end, and there will be no one left to remember.

Bombing is a Fine Art (article) by Willy Ley

Blurb: Aside from the fine art of finding the target, piloting the plane, and dodging ack-ack hardware in the sky–there’s a fine art in the design of each of those cans of sudden or gradual destruction the bombardier sows.

For someone living in the United States for Great Britain in the summer of 1942, Willy Ley’s article on bombing must have been a godsend for at least two reasons. First, it takes the mystery out of bombs, bomb design, and bombing technique and lays it out clearly enough for anyone to understand. Second, it takes some of the fear away from bombing. Using clear, cold logic, Ley describes why, for instance, poison gases are unlikely to be used; and how targets are selected for maximum value–not just destruction.

For someone like me, the article was purely fascinating. It is, perhaps, Ley’s finest so far and it has moved him up in my mind as a science and non-fiction writer second only to Isaac Asimov–and that by a small margin. Asimov wrote of Ley that he was one of the few men he’d met who–like L. Sprague de Camp or Frederik Pohl, were driven by logic and reason and that comes across well in this current article.

Ley begins at the beginning, talking about the first modern use of “bombing” as an attempt to lay siege to Venice in the mid-1800s. Bombs were attached to balloons with slow burning fuses, but this proved impractical for two reasons. First, there was no control of hitting a target, only the length of the fuse; and second, the wind could and did blow the balloons back over the bomber’s territory. But bombing evolved rapidly and was used successfully in World War I.

After providing a history, Ley gets into the technical design. He outlines 3 types of bombs: poison gas bombs, incendiary bombs, and high-explosive bombs. He tackles each of these in such a way as to move logically from one to the other. He dismisses poison gas bombs almost from the start by making the case that the two types of poisons in use–Phosgene (COCl2) and Mustard Gas (S(CH2CH2Cl)2)–can be thwarted by gas masks, and mustard gas can be washed away with water and lime compounds within 20 minutes of contact without ill effect. But even more compelling is the economics of his argument:

It would, therefore, require and enormous amount of bombs to gas a target from the air, weight for weight about five hundred times as much as it would need TNT to reduce the same target to rubble. And even then, the bombardment would not cost a single life if the men in the target–say an important factory–wore gas masks all through the raid and for some time after.

Ley goes on to discuss the other bombing types and notes,

The crudest type of bombing now in existence is the all-out mass assault against cities with demolition bombs and incendiaries. But so far it has always failed–Barcelona and London are still the prime examples–possibly because of its crudeness. The idea was, of course, to terrorize the population and to frighten it into revolt and surrender. Instead, it has always increased the will to resist.

Ley discusses other related areas of interest, for instance, the value of targets to the cost of bombing and gives a detailed example of how the British choose their targets carefully. He then moves into bomb delivery and even here, he makes the physics of the process clear to a laypeson:

We will assume that the bomber travels at an altitude of twelve thousand feet with two hundred forty m. p. h. when the bomb is released. In a vacuum the bomb would need close to twenty seven point five seconds to strike the ground; because of air resistance, it needs about thirty seconds. Moreover, the vacuum path would carry the bomb some two hundred feet farther than the actual trajectory in air. The range, in this example, is actually nine thousand seven hundred eighty feet–from an altitude of six thousand feet it would be about seven thousand six hundred feet–in other words, the bomb strikes close to ten thousand feet ahead of the point of release. But during the thirty seconds the bomb needs to travel along its curved trajectory, the airplane has traveled two miles and the bomb strikes the ground about a quarter of a mile behind the plane.

He discusses the advantages and disadvantages of bombing over artillery (the latter can almost always produce more kinetic energy, weight for weight, because of the velocity of the shells). And then he speculates on the future trends in bombing, predicting the use of higher explosives and more penetration bombs.

Interestingly, Ley makes no mention of atomic bombs, this despite the fact that they are common in science fiction stories of the day, and further, that as a scientists with a background in rocketry and physics, he must certainly have drawn conclusions about their use. Perhaps an example of self-censorship that was already in effect among many physicists of the day?

The Link by Cleve Cartmill

Blurb: Even the first and lowest of true men may have had a certain indefinable something about him that made the animals of the world hate–and fear–him!

Cleve Cartmill makes his debut in Astounding with a short story about an ape-like creature, Lok, who has been kicked out of his tribe because he is hairless and smells different from the others. Lok discovers that he has an ability the others don’t have–the skill to remember the past and apply those memories to the future. This gives him a sense of power he uses to fearlessly challenge other animals of the jungle, most of whom bow to his superiority and a let him pass.He encounters a tiger and snake and alligator and other animals. He learns from what he sees, and in the process, learns how to use tools like a stick to his advantage in combat. His desire grows to return to his tribe and lead them. Lok does return but they still do not accept him, even his own mother. Lok kills a dozen of them with his stick–including the old one–before finally being chased away. He then discovers a female of the tribe trapped beneath a fallen tree, and he rescues her and takes her back to his cave.

“The Link” was a fun read, but one cannot read it and immediately think of the far superior “The Day Is Done” by Lester del Rey (May 1939). In considering why del Rey’s story is superior, it seems to me that what del Rey does is very subtle in his story, where Cartmill is more blatant in his description and in semaphoring the points he is attempting to illustrate. This, at times, makes Lok seems like a cardboard character, where as Hwoogh is a character that we can recognize. This is not to say that “The Link” is a bad story. It was a fun read and attempts to illustrate something slightly different from del Rey’s story: the “discovery” of memory as a tool for planning future action. Then too, whereas Hwoogh was a dying breed in “The Day Is Done,” Lok is the new breed in “The Link.”

One thing that bothered me slightly about the story was the dialog. It sounded more or less natural, but it was essentially animals talking to one another, as if (a) they could talk; and (b) they would all speak the same language. For instance, this passage form the beginning when Lok encounters the tiger:

After a time, the cat said, “I could eat you.”

Lok returned the steady, yellow gaze.

The cat asked, “Why don’t you run into the trees like the others? What are you doing here?”

“I am seeing pictures,” Lok replied.

The cat arched its back and snarled with suspicion, “What is that?”

“Why… why,” Lok faltered, “things.”

I suspect this was simply a technique that Cartmill was applying to give qualities to the animals that a reader could recognize but it came off as an attempt at sounding like an allegory without being allegorical.

There will be more from Cleve Cartmill, who up to this point has had a few stories in Unknown. And in 1944, we’ll even see a Cartmill story create a bit of controversy within the offices of Street & Smith.

Kilgallen’s Lunar Legacy by Norman L. Knight

Blurb: A slightly wacky story concerning the legacy left in a more than slightly wacky family–

Campbell blurb’s “Kilgallen’s Lunar Legacy” as “a slightly wacky story…” and indeed it is. Norman L. Knight returns with a short story and tall tale about an Irish lad who inherits an ocean of whisky beneath the surface of the moon from a slightly deranged uncle. There really isn’t much more to the story then that, although it is an amusing tale and told with the accent and intonations of the narrator made plain in the text. Even Alva Rogers has this to say of the story:

Norman L. Knight in, for him, a surprisingly humorous vein, told of “Kilgallen’s Lunar Legacy,” which turned out to be in bulk of every known intoxicating potable in the solar system cached in a hidden cave on the far side of the moon.

I suspect–for no other reason than the unlikely tones in the story–that this started out as an attempt at a Probability Zero piece and grew too long for it to fit the bill.

Probability Zero

And speaking of Probability Zero stories, here are the four stories that made the cut this month. It seems to me that in creating this column, and seeing the stories that Campbell has selected to appear, what he was really trying to do was provide a place where science fiction can laugh at itself–a place very much like the annual Kirk Poland Bad Prose Contest at Readercon (which, alas, I will miss this year with the deepest regrets). I think this is a good thing. The PZ stories may seem whimsical but they do allow all of us a reprieve from serious science and story telling for something a little more lighthearted. If you can’t laugh at yourself, well…

Time Marches On by Ted Carnell

This story had me at the second paragraph. The narrator and a group of men are standing in a future Central Park.

Yes, there were practically all here, thought Doc Smith, as his gaze moved from one to another of the circle. Williamson, Miller, Hubbard, Bond, McClarym Rocklynne, Heinlein and MacDonald, and many others who had once written about the mystery of time travel–so many hundreds of years ago now.

Yes, that is the Doc Smith narrating the story and I can only imagine how amused Heinlein (and Campbell) must have been to find both Heinlein and Anson MacDonald standing together in that circle.

It turns out that two science fiction fans discovered the simple secret to time travel in 1943 and invented a device that allowed one to travel into the future–but not the past. All sorts of humanity started escaping to the future, virtually wiping out civilization. Smith brought these writers together to figure out a way to prevent this disaster.

When along come the two fans who started the whole mess. The story concludes:

The buried them beneath a gnarled oak tree.

Incidentally, Ted Carnell turns out to be John Carnell, who would go on to edit the British science fiction magazine New Worlds from 1946-1964.

The Image of Annihilation by Jack Speer

Clearly, time travel is a gimmick-of-choice in these PZ stories. So it was a bit of a pleasure to find one that did not involve time travel at all–and yet still manage to refer to science fiction stories (and Astounding within the narrative. In the case of “The Image of Annihilation,” the premise is that an inventor figured out how to cancel matter and energy waves, similar to how other waves cancel each other. In addition to using this invention for “trimming hedges and disposing of old razor blades and bill collectors,” the inventor eventually uses the device to carve a hole in space to the surface of the moon–but that is, as he says,another story.

Destiny and Uncle Louie by Joseph Gilbert

Gilbert’s story is one of a man who wanted to become a mad scientist. This man–Uncle Louie–wanted to build a superhero, among other things. His first invention was a machine that eliminated unemployment: it took a hundred men to do the work of one. Later, he invented a faster-than-light starship that traveled so fast, it crashed into itself before it ever departed. Finally, he invented the superhero he’d been dreaming of, but it seemed to run amok, tossing marshmallows at people and eventually committing suicide on off the Brooklyn Bridge. Why?

Uncle sighed. “It was the glands I used. They came from a sea horse.”

The Anecdote of the Negative Wugug by L. Sprague de Camp

Finally, L. Sprague de Camp has a sequel to his earlier PZ story–the first of the PZers to make a second appearance. It is a fairly complicated story that doesn’t end in a manner that I imagine Campbell was really looking for, but there is one rather funny passage worth quoting:

The wugug combines the characteristics of the goat and armadillo. For a long time it was thought that wugugs were actually goat-armadillo hybrids. An attempt to produce such a hybrid experimentally broke down when the billy goat used in the experiment became highly incensed and insulted, even quoting the Book of Leviticus to shame the experimenters.

Impediment by Hal Clement

Blurb: Given telepathy, there would be no great problem in communication between alien peoples. Even so strange a pair as an insectile race and a human could understand each other. So some say–but it might work out like this!

Hal Clement’s second Astounding story provides a rather fascinating perspective into how two completely alien races might begin to communicate. “Talker” is a moth-like creature that has landed on earth with the crew of his ship in search of arsenic, which is something they are in desperate need of. In order to find it, they must find a native they can communicate with. Allen Kirk turns out to be that man. After an initially cautious encounter, Allen realizes that the ship and the creatures within are from another world, with a different way of communicating, and eventually spends the next several weeks and months learning how to communicate with them (they use a kind of picture-based telepathy) in order to aid them in their mission.But in the end, Allen opposes the reasons for which the aliens need the arsenic and walks away from them.

Allen Kirk turned, swung the pack to his shoulder and walked away from the spaceship. He was acutely aware, as he went, of the two pair of yellow eyes gazing after him. But he didn’t dare look back.

Alva Rogers wrote of this story,

[It] was interesting on an intellectual level, as are all of Clement’s later works, but cold emotionally.

But I don’t quite agree with that sentiment. I think there was a kind of fondness that was built up between Talker and Kirk as they worked together to understand one another. Throw telepathy into the mix and their interaction becomes a rather intimate one. So it is rather bittersweet when Kirk walks away from it all, sticking to his principles over any burgeoning friendship that might have been taking place. Not as entertaining as his first story, “Proof,” it was nevertheless a good story–and one that must have been designed in part to push Campbell’s buttons, as it was not very long ago when Campbell considered the phenomenon of telepathy and language in one of his monthly editorials.

Analytical Laboratory and My Ratings

The Analytical Laboratory column is strangely absent from the magazine this month. That has happened before, but usually there is some mention of it due to space constraints. Not so this time. What’s worse: I glanced at the AnLab column for September and that reviews the stories in the July issue as one would expect–meaning that the stories in June have no AnLab ratings as far as I can tell. Those stories, those of you following along will recall, include Isaac Asimov’s second Foundation story, “Bridle and Saddle” as well as Hal Clement’s first story, “Proof” and Lester del Rey’s “My Name Is Legion.” Ah well…

Here are my ratings for the present issue:

  1. Bombing is a Fine Art by Willy Ley
  2. Waldo by Anson MacDonald
  3. Jackdaw by Ross Rocklynne
  4. Impediment by Hal Clement
  5. The Link by Cleve Cartmill
  6. Deadlock by Lewis Padgett
  7. Kilgallen’s Lunar Legacy by Normal L. Knight’
I believe this marks the first time that I’ve rated an article (as opposed to a story) in the top position. But it is most definitely deserving.

In Times To Come

This month’s In Times To Come column is a bit unusual in several ways. First, it is a full page. Second, Campbell spends more than half of that full page explaining why some of our favorite writers won’t be appearing any time soon:

As previously stated, L. Ron Hubbard and Robert Heinlein were both regular navy men. With the outbreak of the war, they were in, and Astounding out two top writers automatically. In rapid succession since, we’ve gotten word that “This one’s probably my last for the duration” from Anson MacDonald, L. Sprague de Camp and Isaac Asimov.

And if that isn’t enough:

Schneeman was drafted in the spring of 1941, released as one of the over-twenty-eight group in the fall of ’41, and, of course, taken back after December 7th. Cartier went in late last fall. Rogers is in the Canadian army now.

But Campbell assures us there are new authors on the way, and others he is grooming. Next month we will see the Astounding debut of Anthony Boucher, another story from Lewis Padgett, as well as a little tale from Lester del Rey called “Nerves.”

And between now and then, the Nebula Weekend will be taken place not five miles from my house. Not only will I be attending the awards weekend, but I will be presenting an award at the banquet on Saturday night.

See you back here in two week!

(Vacation in the Golden Age is now available on Pinterest for those who are into that kind of thing.)


  1. The June 1942 An Lab will finally appear in the November issue. You might not want to peak just yet since the September results, printed just to the right, contain a very interesting result.

    1. Good to know. I will refrain from peeking ahead, but I’m glad that these stories didn’t get left out. When this Vacation is over, I was planning a kind of statistical analysis of the AnLab ratings, compared to my own, and it’s good to know the set will be complete.

  2. Hey Jamie. Very glad to see the VIGA back.

    As far as the comment in Waldo, I do understand from my own reading that Heinlein threw that in there as a marker and precursor to the future historical event of the roads being dismantled and abandoned.

  3. RAH came tantalizingly close (in 1942) to stealing Arthur C. Clarke’s thunder of 1945…

    — Waldo’s orbiting home was also his business office and workshop; he had ‘on-demand’ audio and visual contact with his consulting clients Earthside.

    — The reader is told that his spacehouse “…must be all of twenty-five thousand miles up…(and) lay in a free orbit, with a period of just over twenty-four hours.”

    Heinlein is almost describing what ACC would call an “Extra-Terrestrial Relay”!

  4. RAH was a cat person. Cats are featured prominently and positively in many of his writings.

    James Gifford points out in his Reader’s Guide that dogs are featured in two of his lesser known works. Most prominently, there is Nixie in his BOY’S LIFE serial “Tenderfoot in Space” from 1958. And Bindlestiff from the fantasy “The Man Who Traveled In Elephants” published in 1957.

    Everyone forgets that Waldo had a zero-gee companion- his white mastiff Baldur.

  5. I think this issue marks the end of the first phase of Astounding’s Golden Age.

    After a sustained run of three years, appearing in 20 of the last 36 issues (several times with multiple stories), Waldo will be Heinlein’s last fiction for ASF for seven years. And as swan songs go, Waldo is not too bad considering that was mainly written to pay for Leslyn’s gall bladder operation.

    August 1942 is also Hubert Rogers’ final cover for ASF for the next five years. Ever since “…If This Goes On” Rogers had been linked with RAH so it is proper that they leave the stage together.

    On the other hand, with Mr. Kuttner and Mrs. Moore waiting in the wings, things are only going to get better on your vacation.

  6. Still inching my way through this series. Jumped down to comment that what I remember from “Waldo” are his “Waldo’s”. I think it’s now called telepresence. May be wrong, but is this the first story to use that concept?


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