Astounding

Astounding

John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction

Book - 2018
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"Astounding is the landmark account of the extraordinary partnership between four controversial writers--John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard--who set off a revolution in science fiction and forever changed our world"--
Publisher: New York :, Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow,, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062571946
006257194X
Branch Call Number: 808.38762 NE
Characteristics: 532 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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chazbufe
Mar 02, 2019

Very well researched, documented, and written. A great read that should be of interest to any science fiction fan.

For the SF fan, a fascinating treatment of the early days of modern science fiction. The focus is on the editor and occasional author John W. Campbell, Jr. who was always looking for something outside SF that would confirm his opinion of himself as a great genius, but, alas, it would never happen, even though at one time he told Ted Sturgeon that he had such control over his cell structure that he would never die. Indeed, reading between the lines, he was always readily susceptible to the influence of others.

One of those was L. Ron Hubbard, beyond doubt the greatest BS artist of the twentieth century, a man to whom the truth was like a foreign language. In real life, he was a world-class screw-up. The highlight of his career in the US Navy was an attack on Mexico. Hubbard's wild stories and con schemes also took in Robert Heinlein, a fine writer who was, like Campbell, subject to delusions that his sophomoric, bull-session level rantings were sublime universal truths of human behavior. Imagine what happens when a mountebank like Hubbard meets two all-day suckers like Campbell and Heinlein. It isn't pretty.

The only one immune to looney ideas like dianetics, Krebiozen, the Dean Drive, the Hieronymus Machine, etc., was workaholic egomaniac Isaac Asimov, who had a real scientific education, unlike the other subjects of the book, including Campbell, who was known to sign his name "John W. Campbell, Jr., Nuclear Physicist." These days he would probably claim to be a String Theoretician. Asimov certainly had his own massive character flaws, but gullibility was not among them. As hard as he worked, it's not easy to see how he could find time for his outrageous womanizing.

The author is correct that his subjects were a large force behind the growth of SF as a genre, but it was really TV that gave it the prominence it has today. He mentions the classic "Star Trek," but omits the earlier "Science Fiction Theater," a syndicated program that opened up SF on TV, unlike kiddie shows like "Captain Video" and "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet." "The Outer Limits" was real science fiction, while "The Twilight Zone" could best be described as fantasy, and "Thriller" was straight horror when it got over its birthing pains.

The book is a great read. He tries to tell these tales, as astounding as anything in Campbell's magazine, in an impartial way. Not for the general reader, but for the fan it's a great introduction to these outsize personalities, both as heroes and villains, and a great source of tips for books you might not have read. Strongly recommended.

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