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Author Topic: Astounding
Robert Nowall
Member # 2764

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I've been meaning to post about this for a couple of weeks, but haven't gotten around to it.

"Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction," Alec Nevala-Lee.

Boil that down, and it's a biography of John W. Campbell, long-time editor of the magazine "Astounding Science Fiction," and one of the architects of science fiction as we know it. Along with a lot of biographical information about the others mentioned above.

This is less of a review---I do recommend the book---but more of a commentary on it, which is why I'm not sticking it on the end of the (moribund) What I'm Reading Now thread.

I'm just astounded (to use a word) that I have intimate knowledge of the bulk of the source material used in this. Autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, commentary in short story collections, published letters, book reviews...seems like I've seen much of it before, and not just information from the names mentioned above.

I figure I've seen seventy to eighty percent of the actual source material before. I've read biographies where I've picked up on information used in other biographies---but it wasn't like this. It's a very strange experience.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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History that you lived? Should be nice to have it all in one place.
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Robert Nowall
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More history that I've read about---a lot of these guys said a lot about their stories and the writing of them, and included a lot of autobiographical info along the way.

I could identify a passage about John W. Campbell's divorce as coming from short story collection commentary from George O. Smith, sections on life in the Philadelphia Navy Yard from Asimov's autobiography, things about Asimov that Asimov left out of his autobiography from "The Way the Future Blogs" posts from Frederik Pohl...and so on and so forth.

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Campbell both defined and restricted science fiction's place in culture. He was who limited the genre to a young adult white male audience hero complex for a generation.

At the Golden age heyday, some half million young adult male readers thronged science fiction fandom, many who afforded digests by pop bottle redemptions. A core mostly middle to late adult Golden age aesthetics audience maybe fifty thousand strong anymore persists. Entertainment technology culture advances overtook the audience. Situational irony. Topic or subtext, anyway, itself for an as yet unrealized nostalgic science fiction story, save maybe Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a Silver age writer.

I have likewise encountered much of Astounding's content elsewhere, and ample edgier content not included therein.

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