As I go through this Vacation, I’ve noticed something that I think fans of the era might also have noticed: Campbell’s blurbs for the stories often seemed to give away the story. This isn’t always a bad thing: you wonder how the story will work out, but on some occasions, it really seems as if the blurbs spoil the story. I wrote a post a few days ago in which I talk about this at greater length. But I recognize that (a) I am not a reader from the era in question and times change; and (b) I may be reading too much into his blurbs. So I have decided, as if this episode, to include Campbell’s blurbs for each story and let you decide for yourselves if you think Campbell gives too much away. For stories which you are not familiar with, this is obviously tricky, but for those which you know, I’d be interested to know what you think of his blurbs.
Today I received in the mail five issues of Astounding from 1949, all of which were missing from my own collection. They were sent to me by Kevin Greenlee, who has been reading my Vacation in the Golden Age posts, and had duplicates of these issues in question. It was above and beyond the call to offer them up and then send them to me at his expense, but it’s typical of what I have found of folks in the science fiction world, be they fans or professionals. I am fortunate to be a part of this little family and folks like Kevin remind me everyday that what my grandpa used to say is probably true: 99% of people are good. Thanks for the magazines, Kevin! They will be put to good use. (The include, by the way, the complete serial for Hal Clement’s novel, Needle.)
Also deserving of a shout-out today is my friend and former coworker from back in the day, Chris Dixson. Chris is a ham radio man and I sent him a question about radio transmissions, the answer for which would be extremely useful for my current story. Today, Chris sent me an extensive explanation, which covered exactly what I was looking for. It seems like a thank you sometimes isn’t enough for folks like Chris who go out of there way to help me out. In this case at least, I has the power to call the capcom in the story “Dixson.”
People who have been following along with my Vacation in the Golden Age can now do so by using vacationinthegoldenage.com. I acquired this domain, as well as vacationinthegoldenage.net and have set them up to simply redirect to the Vacation posts on my website. Mostly, this is for convenience. Instead of having to remember a long URL, you can now go directly to vacationinthegoldenage.com and direct people there as well. The underlying posts are not moving and all bookmarks, stumbles, and links will continue to work as before. This is just a hopefully more convenient entry-point for folks.
And if you haven’t caught up, Episode 16 covering the October 1940 Astounding is available.
Episode 17 will be posted on June 13.
Spread the word!
I write episode 16 on the heels of two science fiction events, one big and one small, but none the less fun. Last weekend, I attended the Nebula Awards Weekend in Washington, D.C. It was my first time attending that particular event and I had a blast. It was also the first time I was eligible to vote for the Nebula Awards, and I’m pleased to say that I went 2-for-4. All of the works were distinguished, but I was particularly pleased to see Eric James Stone and Connie Willis take home Nebulas. There was a surreal moment for me at the banquet dinner. My wife was with me and she was engrossed in deep conversation with Michael Whelan’s wife–and seeing Michael Whelan sit across the table from me, I could barely speak. However, at some point during the meal, the conversation came around to poorly cropped art work and I was at least able to bring up that infamous cover for Lester del Rey’s story “The Luck of Ignatz” and how it was poorly cropped. Such things have been happening since the dawn of our genre.
The second event was Balticon, which I attended two days of and the highlight for me was a panel on “Name Dropping” where the panelists talked about their interactions with the writers of the genre that are no longer with us. There were stories about golden-agers like Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Dickson, and it was nice to see their names still remembered, the old guard passing those memories onto the newest generation of fans and writers. That is as it should be.
Welcome back to this Vacation in the Golden Age on it’s new biweekly schedule. I want to apologize again for the schedule change but two things prompted it:
- I was really cramming trying to get an issue read and a write-up done each week. Given my other obligations, there was little time for anything else.
- With the pending arrival of our second child in August, I figured that realistically, the schedule was going to have to change anyway.
As it turns out, this schedule has worked out much better for me. I can read the issue much more easily without feeling rushed; and I can get in some additional reading besides. While I hadn’t done any other reading outside the issues of Astounding through May, in the last two weeks, in addition to reading the September 1940 issue, I’ve already read most of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. So again, I apologize for the change in frequency of these episodes. It extends things out somewhat, but in the end, it is more manageable for me, and I think more realistic, too. Now onto our regularly scheduled Episode…
Just a reminder that Episode 15 of my Vacation in the Golden Age is coming this Sunday, May 15. It covers the September 1940 issue which contains part 1 of A. E. van Vogt’s “Slan”, as well as stories by Heinlein, Hubbard (von Rachen), Asimov, and a science article by R. S. Richardson. It’s a very good issue; if you’ve been following along, you won’t want to miss this one.
It was probably inevitable with the summer approaching, but I am switching two a biweekly schedule for my Vacation in the Golden Age posts. I felt really rushed on Episode 14, and I kind of feel like I didn’t give it the proper attention it deserved. The problem is that the summer months are my busiest at the day job. Couple that with the fact that I have had almost no time to write fiction, and the fact that at the end of the summer we’ll be having another baby, and it means that I just need more time to do these posts without feeling rushed.
It will also allow me to get in some other reading, something that, I must be honest, I’ve been missing lately. If my schedule returns to a point where a weekly post becomes workable again, I’ll certainly go back to it. But right now, I feel like I’ve got too many fires going at once. The last thing I want to do is give up my Vacation, which provides me with so much enjoyment. I also want to be able to write. A biweekly schedule seems to me to be the best solution. That said, as indicated in Episode 14, Episode 15 will be out on May 16. I hope to see you then.
On the plane ride home from L.A. on Saturday I was reading the August issue of Astounding and the woman sitting next to me on the plane said, “I can’t help but notice what a cool cover that is on your magazine.” The cover this month, by Rogers, is for Lester del Rey’s lead novelette, “The Stars Look Down” and it really is one of those cool Golden Age rocket-ship covers that people outside the genre tend to recognize. She told me her husband was a huge science fiction fan and I briefly explained my little project. She seemed more impressed that the magazine I was holding was 71 years old than about the project itself. I pointed to the Camel cigarette ad on the back of the magazine and I think she got a laugh out of that, too. And with that quick bit of socializing complete, I was able to return my Vacation, which turned out to have a few good stories this time around.
The August 1940 issue contains 7 pieces of fiction and 2 non-fiction articles. There are two novelettes, four short stories, and of course, the conclusion of the two-part serial, “Crisis in Utopia”, which I will admit at the outset I didn’t even attempt to read. (Those of you following along from last Episode will recall I couldn’t get very far into this piece.) One of the two articles, is part 2 of L. Sprague de Camp’s “The Science of Withering”.
Happy new year! I started this Vacation with the July 1939 issue and we have now arrived at the July 1940 issue, making this the first issue of my second year in the Golden Age of science fiction. July brings to mind summer, and today is the first summer-like day here in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. All of the windows in the house have been thrown open, and warm summer-like breezes are blowing through, providing a perfect setting for sitting and reading science fiction stories.
The Golden Age opened with that rather remarkable July 1939 issue. A year later we have, in my opinion, a mostly mediocre issue, with a few nice yarns thrown in for good measure. Reading through this issue, it was almost as if Campbell was trying to push out some less recognizable names (at least to me) all at once. It was almost the opposite of the star-studded May 1940 issue in which virtually every name was a Grand Master of the genre. Then, too, the July issue feels as if it is another “theme” issue, the theme this time being the perfect forms of government or governing. That might also explain the mishmash of names that appear in this issue.
Just a reminder to those who might not have seen my earlier post, but Episode 13 won’t be coming out today. Instead, it will be delayed one week, appearing late in the evening on Sunday, April 24. Normal schedule will resume thereafter. In the meantime, you can always read through the more than 40,000 words worth of previous vacation posts, which I have conveniently listed below for you.
- Episode 1: July 1939
- Episode 2: August 1939
- Episode 3: September 1939
- Episode 4: October 1939
- Episode 5: November 1939
- Episode 6: December 1939
- Episode 7: January 1940
- Episode 8: February 1940
- Episode 9: March 1940
- Episode 10: April 1940
- Episode 11: May 1940
- Episode 12: June 1940
See you back here next week and sorry again for the delay.
Rather than stress about it all weekend long, I’m just going to announce that Episode 13 of my Vacation in the Golden Age will appear a week from Sunday (April 24). That’s right, there will be no Episode this Sunday.
The problem is that I’ve been so busy with work, and that my evenings have been so filled taking care of a sick toddler (and now a sick wife) that I’m not yet past page 11 of the July 1940 issue. Couple that with a road trip I’m taking tomorrow, and that I have to go into the office on Sunday and there’s just no realistic way that I can finish up the issue on schedule. The last thing I want to do is rush, because I want to enjoy it. At the same time, however, I know that once established, folks begin to expect these posts and I don’t want to disappoint anyone.
So rest assured, this delay is due to unusual circumstance and is the exception, not the rule. Honest.
Episode 13 will appear Sunday evening, April 24 and the schedule will continue weekly thereafter, just as before. I apologize for this delay and I hope you can cut me a little slack.
In the meantime, this provides an excellent opportunity for anyone who wants to catch up on the first year of the Golden Age of Astounding. The first 12 Episodes (covering July 1939 – June 1940) amounts to nearly 40,000 words of (I hope) enjoyable reading.
Schedules don’t always cooperate. Although I say that these episodes come out on Mondays, I generally get them out on Sunday afternoons or evenings. But this week, my schedule simply didn’t cooperate with me. I put in a significant amount of extra time at the day job as I am in crunch time on a big project that wraps up at the end of April. This included being in the office all day on Saturday. Then too, the little boy was sick and I started feeling sick Saturday evening and through the day Sunday. None of this is meant as a complaint. In fact, it is a great example of why a Vacation in the Golden Age can be so valuable. It allows me small, temporary escapes from the stresses of the day job, allows me to disappear into a different time, jump back some seventy years into the past and fall into a story that takes me seven hundred years into the future.
But at the same time, it slowed me down a little this week and so this Episode isn’t getting posted until the very early morning hours of Monday, and for that, I beg your forgiveness. Hopefully you won’t mind. After all, this is another interesting issue…