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