Tag Archives: Isaac Asimov

In Defense of Guys with Screwdrivers

So earlier this month, Jasyn Jones made the statement in a blog post that John Campbell did not usher in a Golden Age of Science Fiction.  His thesis is that Campbell, when he became editor of Astounding, ushered in a golden age in which science fiction rose from being a genre of poorly written fiction with wooden characters and bad science to great heights.  Indeed, this is the general narrative.  Jones reasserts his thesis that this ain’t so in a followup post.

For those who are new to the field and think it began when you started reading it or shortly beforehand or have been around for a while and simply haven’t been paying attention, John W. Campbell, Jr., took over the editorial reigns of Astounding from F. Orlin Tremaine in 1938 and dominated the field for a dozen years until F&SF and Galaxy came along in 1950.  Indeed, Isaac Asimov says as much in the opening paragraphs of his introduction to his anthology of Pre-Campbell science fiction, Before the Golden Age (Doubleday, 1974).  Note to self: reread this book and blog about it.

Now, before I get started on this post, I want to say that I mean no disrespect to Mr. Jones and none of what follows in in any way meant to be a personal attack.  Furthermore, I think he brings up a number of valid points, and for the most part I agree with him.  My differences are more with some of the attitudes that have been expressed in reaction to the posts in question, as well as other posts in other places.  I’ve not had a chance to read all of them, so rather than post links, I’ll let you hunt them down if you’re so inclined.

But since I grew up reading a great deal of Campbellian SF, much of it in the Ballantine Best of series and DAW’s Isaac Asimov Present the Great SF, I’m rather fond  of the science fiction written by “guys with screwdrivers”, as Campbellian SF is being called.  So I’d like to express my admiration of it. Continue reading

Clark Ashton Smith Turns 122

ClarkAshtonSmithToday marks the 122nd anniversary of Clark Ashton Smith’s birth.  He was one of the Big Three of Weird Tales, the other two being H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (but then I probably don’t need to tell you that).

Like Howard, Smith was also a poet as well as a fiction writer.  (Yes, Robert E. Howard wrote poetry, some of the best I’ve ever read.)  Unlike Howard, Smith’s fiction has a complexity to it Howard’s lacked, especially in word choice.  Isaac Asimov went on record complaining that he didn’t like reading Smith because he had to keep looking words up in the dictionary.  (You see, kids, in the dark days before computers we had these things called dictionaries and when you didn’t know a word, you went to the dictionary and…ah, never mind.)  And if Asimov had to look it up, then you know it probably wasn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

smithPortrait01In spite of the work involved at times, Smith is still very much a writer worth reading.  I’ll be tackling at least one of his collections later this year for the posts I’m doing at Black Gate on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.  There were four now highly collectible volumes of Smith’s work published as part of the BAF series.  In fact the very first BAF book I ever owned was Smith’s Hyperborea.  I’ve only dipped into Smith’s works a little, but he was a writer of wild imagination.  We could use more like him today.