Tag: astounding

The John W. Campbell Blurb-Spoiler Game


As I proceed through my Vacation in the Golden Age, I have come to notice something that I think a lot of writers and fans from the late 1930s and early 1940s probably recognized pretty quickly: the blurbs Campbell wrote to proceed each story in the issue often times gave away the whole point of the story. I’ve been meaning to touch on this subject on one of the Golden Age posts, but those posts are already packed with my thoughts on the specific issue in question. This subject deserves a post of all it’s own.

A few examples of Campbell’s blurbs that I’ve come across (and keep in mind there are spoilers below if you haven’t read these stories before):

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What I found in the 1942 issues of Astounding Science Fiction

I raced home from work today hoping that I’d have the June issue of Analog in my mailbox. The issue contains my story, “Take One for the Road” and I’ve already heard from Steven H. Silver  and Michael Burstein that they had received their copies. It seemed as if every other magazine to which I subscribe was in my mailbox (two issue of New Scientist, the April Scientific American, AOPA Pilot). But not Analog.

However, when I got to the front door, I had a box and I could tell it was from a bookstore that I ordered an almost-complete set of Astounding Science Fiction from 1942. (The set is missing the May and June issues, key issues for sure, but what follows makes up for that, and the fact that the June Analog didn’t arrive today.)

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A little science fiction fan, redux

A week ago, I talked about my little boy’s fondness for Rogers covers of old Astounding Science Fiction. I’m happy to report that his fervor continues to grow. Every time he comes into the office, he points to the stacks of Astounding’s on one side of my desk and says, “Eh-pane!” (airplane!) He won’t quit until I’ve pulled out the May 1941 issue and show him the Rogers cover, at which point he smiles, claps his little hands gleefully together and says, “Eh-pane!” We go through this routine constantly and so today I decided to tackle the problem in a practical way, using a bit of modern technology and an old school hammer, nail and level.


Now, in addition to the various monkeys and lions and giraffes that pepper the walls of his bedroom, he has his first science fiction art. It is oriented so that when he is laying down in his crib, he can look up at it easily and call out, “Eh-pane!” to his little heart’s content.

I’m already trying to predict which cover (and which artist) will be next. Any takers?

July, August, September, October 1939 Astounding’s are mine!

It’s official: I have located the first four issues of Golden Age Astounding and they are being shipped to me. They are scheduled to arrive in the next 7-10 days or so and I am so eager to get started digging into them that I can barely sit still. A few people have asked if I would post how/where I obtained the issues. I am doing this in a spreadsheet and once it is a going concern, I’ll make it available on Google Docs. Meanwhile, I can now rest easy knowing that the first four issues are on their way.

I purchased these through eBay, via their bidding system. It was the first time I ever used eBay for bidding and it took some getting used to. I’m sure there are tricks and strategies that I should have followed but I wanted these issues badly. I actually bid on 6 issues (July – December 1939) but I lost on the November and December issues. Averaged out, I think I paid about $30/issue, which is well worth it in my mind, considering they are listed as very good condition. Besides, there is a pleasant symmetry to paying for Golden Age science fiction magazines with the money I get from writing science fiction stories.

This weekend, I plan to comb 2 or 3 local bookstores that I know carry boxes of old science fiction magazines. And I have friends scattered about the country doing the same. In the meantime, expect my post on the July issue to come close to the end of the month.

Vacation in the Golden Age of Science Fiction

Astounding July 1939.jpg

Most long-time fans of science fiction consider the Golden Age to have started with the July 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. In that issue was the first Astounding story by Isaac Asimov (“Trends”) as well as A.E. Van Vogt’s first story, “Black Destroyer”. The very next issue included Robert Heinlein’s first story, “Life-Line”. This incredible run of stories and new authors who eventually became giants of the field continued for ten years.

I have always been envious of those people who got to live through these years as youngsters, pouring over each issue of Astounding as it came out. Sure, they lived in dark times, with war in Europe and eventually involving the United States. But science fiction earned its stripes during these years and reached a peak which I don’t think has been surmounted since. I daydream about summer days in the early 1940s, sitting on a stoop with the latest issue of Astounding open on my lap, and it is as close to heaven as my imagination allows me to get.

It occurred to me not too long ago, why not take a vacation in the Golden Age of science fiction?

How does one vacation in the Golden Age? Well, I have this idea… I plan on obtaining each issue of Astounding from July 1939 to December 1949 and then reading them cover-to-cover, as much as possible in the order in which they appeared. I’ve already obtained the July 1939 and August 1939 issues, and I have in my collection about half a dozen other issue from that era. Over time, I plan on getting a complete run of the issues that made up the Golden Age.

Obviously this is a long-term effort, but I can’t quite put into words how much the idea excites me. It is a vacation only in imagination, of course, but I look forward to those brief intervals throughout the week in which I can set aside whatever it is I am doing, and sit for 30 minutes or an hour, flipping through the pages of Astounding, reading the issues in the same way and the same order in which Isaac Asimov read them, in which Clarke and Heinlein and Sturgeon and Kutner and Moore read them. I look forward to reading the original FOUNDATION stories as they first appeared; to reading Del Rey and Hubbard; to reading the original serialized version of Van Vogt’s “The World of Null-A.” I look forward to reading Campbell’s editorials, and the science essays and Brass Tacks and reviews that appear in the magazine. I look forward to skimming the ads, Bob Hope telling me not to spend my extra cash, but to buy war bonds instead.

And of course, I look forward to sharing the experience with you on this blog over the coming months and years.

I’ve read many of the stories that appeared in Astounding during this era, but the truth is there are many more that I haven’t read. Absent a time machine, this is as close as I will ever come to living in the Golden Age of Science Fiction and I can’t wait to get started.

ETA: Since first writing this piece, I have complete my reading of the first 40 issues of Astounding Science Fiction covering the period of July 1939 through October 1942. You can find all of these posts collected on my Vacation in the Golden Age page.