Category: vacation in the golden age

My Vacation in the Golden Age is one year old today

It was one year ago today that Episode 1 of my Vacation in the Golden Age made its debut. In that time, I’ve read 31 issues of Astounding and produced 31 Episodes of my Vacation, totaling over 118,000 words.

To me, it seems rather incredible that a year has already gone by. I remember just before I started reading the July 1939 issue what a daunting task this projected seemed to be. Fun, but daunting. And now, 31 episodes later, I feel like I’ve hit a kind of groove with it and I’m really enjoying every bit of it.

Thanks to everyone who has come along on this Vacation with me. I hope you’ll stick around for more.

(And don’t forget, Episode 31 is hot off the virtual presses.)

Vacation in the Golden Age, Episode 31: January 1942

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With Episode 31 we enter the 4th “vacation-year” of this Vacation, 1942. And with the new year comes the new, larger-sized Astounding that Campbell spoke of in the last issue. I was skeptical of the larger size, but I have to admit, it grew on me in minutes. Something abou the larger format just feels more comfortable, makes it seems easier to read. Of course that means that now I am trying to ignore the fact that Astounding will stay at this size for only 16 more issues. I suppose the consolation is that Astounding remained in print, despite the paper shortages of the war. The same cannot be said for Unknown.

The photo below should help better illustrate the difference in size. The issue on the left is the December 1941 issue and the issue on the right is the present, January 1942 issue.

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As far as the interior goes, the new size uses a 2-column page format through most of the issue, just like previous issues. But the columns are much wider and the pages clearly contain more text than before. And as we’ll see later, it also makes use of 3-columns at time.

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Vacation in the Golden Age 2012 Episode Schedule and Preview

I managed to get through the first 29 issues of the Astounding Science Fiction golden age in 2011. I started out with an issue a week, and that proved to be too much for me. So I moved to one issue every other week, which seems to be just right.  We began, nearly a year ago, with Episode 1, which covered the July 1939 Astounding. We concluded 2011 with Episode 29, which covered the November 1941 Astounding. At 26 Episodes each calendar year, that’s just over 2 Vacation years!

For 2012, while I am aiming for 26 episodes, I’m planning for 24. The reason is simple: last year, I was sick and that put me behind. It would also nice to be able go on vacation once during the year without worrying about having to keep a deadline. So while the schedule below reflects 26 Episodes, the realities of the world make me think it will likely be 24. But 24 is a nice round number, 2 full Vacation years. Episode 30 was the first for 2012.

Two of the Episodes have asterisks after the date. At present, these are the likely candidate dates for no Episode that week (and everything just shifts by 2 weeks). In the first case, it is because the date falls during the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. In the second case, it’s because I’ll likely be on vacation. And thanks to this page by Andrew May for making the compiling of these lists easy.

Here is the rest of the schedule for 2012, with a small preview of what is to come.

Episode 31: January 1942 (1/23/2012)

  • Breakdown  (Jack Williamson)
  • Mechanistria  (Eric Frank Russell)
  • The Invaders  (L. Ron Hubbard)
  • Second Stage Lensman, part 3 of 4  (E. E. Smith)
  • Soup King  (Colin Keith)
  • Fugitive from Vanguard  (Norman L. Knight)

Episode 32: February 1942 (2/6/2012)

  • The Rebels  (Kurt von Rachen)
  • There Shall Be Darkness  (C. L. Moore)
  • Second Stage Lensman, part 4 of 4  (E. E. Smith)
  • The Sorcerer of Rhiannon  (Leigh Brackett)
  • Starting Point  (Raymond F. Jones)
  • Medusa  (Theodore Sturgeon)

Vacation in the Golden Age, Episode 30: December 1941

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December 7, 1941, the day that would live in infamy. The December 1941 issue would have hit the news stands on about November 19, 1941, 18 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Plenty of time for most fans to have swallowed the magazine whole, before casting it aside to follow the constant stream of news bulletins that followed the attack. Of course, in the issue there is no indication of the growing threat of war in the United States. I imagine that will change in the coming issues.

The December 1941 issue also closes out 1941 and our third Vacation year. (I will use the term “Vacation year” when referring to issue time as opposed to real present time. Put another way, I cover about 2 Vacation years in about 1 year’s time.) In his book A Requiem for Astounding, Alva Rogers writes,

1941 was the year that set the standards against which all the following years of the Golden Age were measured. Never again would Astounding run such a high concentration of classical or memorable stories in one twelve-month period.

And indeed, if you look back over the stories that appeared in this Vacation year, it really is quite remarkable. I list my 10 favorite stories from 1941 later on in this Episode and that list alone would probably make a pretty good anthology of Golden Age science fiction.

1941 closes out with, of course, the second part of E. E. “Doc” Smith’s “Second Stage Lensmen,” as well as stories by Vic Philips, and some names that at first blush, seem like newcomers: Colin Keith, Webster Craig, and Robert Arthur. And there are two good science articles, one by Willy Ley, the other by R. S. Richardson.

And changes are coming, but I’ll let Campbell explain that…

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Vacation in the Golden Age, Episode 29: November 1941

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Forgive me, it’s been four weeks since my last Vacation episode. Early in my reading for this episode, I caught a cold that was followed by the first ear infection that I can recall since childhood. It made it impossible to do any reading or writing and so I really had no choice but to push this one back two weeks. I was hoping to end 2011 with the December 1941 issue–a kind of pleasant symmetry there, but the December 1941 issue will have to wait until next time.

After two outstanding issues in a row, this one was not quite as good. Part of it may be have been due to my being sick, but I think my sense of things is pretty accurate. In his history of the magazine, A Requiem for Astounding, Alva Rogers writes of this issue:

Because of the total length of “Second Stage Lensmen” (118,000 words), nearly half of the November issue was taken up by the first installment which, of course dominated the whole issue. The only other story in the magazine worth mentioning was Nat Schachner’s swan song in Astounding, “Beyond All Weapons.”

That the other stories were of lesser quality was a small issue, I think. My guess is that no matter what stories appeared in this issue, they wouldn’t have matched up (in Campbell’s mind, or indeed, in the minds of many fans of the time) to Smith. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that Campbell filled the issue with marginal stuff to add focus to the lead serial. More on that shortly. As you will soon see, “Second State Lensmen” was not my favorite story in the issue.

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Postponing Vacation in the Golden Age Episode 29 until December 26

One thing this illness has done is it’s made it virtually impossible to read or write. One consequence of this is that I am very far behind in my reading for Episode 29 of my Vacation in the Golden Age. Rather than add to my stress by trying to catch up in the next 5 days, I’m must going to push this Episode off until the next cycle day, which is December 26.

I don’t push these things off lightly because (a) I enjoy them so much and (b) I know there are others out there that enjoy them and look forward to them as well and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. However, I think I have a pretty good excuse this time. After all, I even stayed home from work today!

Vacation in the Golden Age, Episode 28: October 1941

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As I finished up the issue at hand, I looked ahead on the calendar and discovered one of those nice little congruities which life sometimes tosses you. I will finish 2011 with 30 Episodes in this Vacation. That isn’t any news, but what is kind of cool is that Episode 30 takes us through 1941 and will come out on December 26, 2011. So 1941 will wrap up at the end of December 2011, some seventy years after the issue appeared. I’ll have more to say about 1942 in Episode 30, but there is an interesting change that takes place in Astounding beginning in 1942. Some of you probably know what it is, but for those that don’t, you’ll just have to sweat it out for 4 more weeks until I report it in Episode 30.

This issue was a mixed bag. Coming off the incredible September 1941 issue, some of the stories were a bit of a let down in this issue, but some of them also turned out to be surprisingly good. You’ll have to judge for yourself, of course, if you’ve read the stories that appear in this issue. I was surprised with what turned out to be my favorite piece in the issue.

A while back I produced an Author’s Index to this Vacation. I am now in the process of working on a Title index as that might be useful to folks who know what story they are looking for, but no necessarily who wrote it. No ETA on when I’ll have this finished, but stay tuned.

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Vacation in the Golden Age, Episode 27: September 1941

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A good argument can be made that the issue which you are about to read about is one of the best issues to come out of the Golden Age. The issue contains three stories that have gone on to become classics of the genre. Contained within its pages are names like Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester and Robert Heinlein. The cover for the issue–by Huber Rogers–is probably one of his most famous covers, and in my mind, certainly one of his most striking. I’d been looking forward to reading this issue since my Vacation started and I found myself frequently wondering if a fifteen-year old reading this issue in the summer of 1941 would have an inkling that what they held in their hands was something special. So you will forgive me if this Episode runs a bit longer than usual. There is a lot to talk about.

As I was updating the Author’s Index in preparation for this issue, I made a few interesting discoveries, all of which surround pseudonyms. Pseudonyms were big in the Golden Age for a variety of reasons. The Index that I put together lists stories under the actual author’s name with a reference to the pseudonym. The pseudonym itself is listed in the index with a link back to the actual author’s name. I discovered that three authors–two of which already appeared in the Index, and one new to this Episode–were all pseudonyms that I had missed.

The first is Lee Gregor, who we’ve seen in Episode 2 and Episode 4. It turns out that Lee Gregor is none other than Milton A. Rothman, who under his own name has penned several letters that have appeared in the Brass Tacks.

The second is non-fiction writer Arthur McCann. I was updating my Index adding links to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, and when I got to McCann, I was rather stunned to learn that McCann is none other than our editor, John W. Campbell himself. In this issue, we find Campbell with a non-fiction article under his own name, which makes you wonder why he used the McCann pseudonym. Futhermore, Mr. Arthur McCann has also had a few letters in Brass Tacks under the name McCann. This seems a little ethically questionable, if you ask me.

The third and final discovery was made just before I started reading this issue. I’d never heard of Caleb Saunders, who has a story below as you will see, and so I went to look him up to see what else he’d done. Those of you in the know are already ahead of me–but I was again surprised to discover that Caleb Saunders is none other than our prolific friend, Robert A. Heinlein. That gives Heinlein two stories in this watershed issue of Astounding.

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Author index now links to the SF Encyclopedia and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database

If you take a look at the Author Index to the Vacation in the Golden Age, you’ll note that below each author’s name is now a set of links. The links will take you to the entry for the SF Encyclopedia, Internet Speculative Fiction Database, and some kind of official website, respectively. If the item is not linked, it means I couldn’t find an entry. I only made cursory attempts at looking for “official” web pages.

I made two interesting discoveries in doing this. There was an entry for Lee Gregor, which I discovered was actually a pseudonym for Milton A. Rothman. There was another entry for Arthur McCann, author of several science articles in this Vacation. Turns out that McCann is none other than John W. Campbell himself. The index has been updated accordingly in both cases.

I’m hoping this addition provides a quick way for people looking at an author in the index to get more information about the author.

As always, I’m open to suggestions. And if you know of an “official” web page for an author and the link doesn’t exist in my index, let me know.

Did you accidentally show up an hour early to work/school? Here’s something to fill your hour

Over at AmazingStoriesMag.com, you can find a reprint of Episode 3 of my Vacation in the Golden Age, covering the September 1939 Astounding. If you accidentally showed up to work an hour early this morning because you forgot to turn your clock back, you can fill that hour in the Golden Age. And Episode 27, covering the September 1941 Astounding will be out right here one week from today, November 7.

A minor taxonomy update for the Vacation in the Golden Age posts

Just a quick note, for those interested, that I have made a minor taxonomy improvement to the Vacation in the Golden Age posts. I have created a Vacation in the Golden Age category in WordPress. Within this category, I have created several subcategories: Episodes, Announcements and Extras. And there is one subcategory within Episodes for each year of the Vacation to date. What this means is that is should be easier to look at groups of posts.

Examples:

Old categories and tags will still work so if you’ve bookmarked to previous category pages your bookmarks will still work. Going forward, I think this will help make the posts more accessible and allow to better filter what you’d like to see.

Vacation in the Golden Age by the numbers

I like stats and numbers and I was culling some data on my Vacation posts the other day and thought it would make for an interesting post itself, so here you go. The numbers below represent the first 26 episodes of my Vacation in the Golden Age, covering the July 1939 through August 1941 issues of Astounding.

Some basic stats

  • Number of episodes: 26
  • Total number of words: 93,154
  • Longest episode: 26 (August 1941)  at 5,294 words1
  • Shortest episode: 14 (August 1940) at 2,737 words2
  • Average length: 3,514 words

Plotted over time, here is what the words per episode looks like for the first 26 episodes:

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Anyone who cares to plot the trend line can see where things are going. Interestingly, that jump beginning in Episode 19 is right around the time I started doing the write up for each story as I finished reading the story as opposed to waiting until the entire issue had been read.

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  1. Contains part 2 of “Methuselah’s Children” for which I probably wrote a thousand words alone.
  2. Contains del Rey’s “The Stars Look Down” and van Vogt’s “Vault of the Beast.”