There's a book out you might enjoy. It's called Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron H-bb-rd, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction and it covers the lives and interactions of some of the major names in the field. (The mincing of the last name listed is mine. It's best not to utter it whole, or the names of the movements with which he is associated, too.)
When I was young -- and a very different world it was, where every middling city had its own radio-parts shop (and, pretty quickly, a Radio Shack as well*) and candy stores would happily sell a pack of smokes to a Junior High student† -- and first discovering science fiction, there were giants to be found: Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Behind them -- and scores of other, lesser-known writers -- stood an imposing editor, John W. Campell, Jr. If you were a kid, they were a cross between the faces on Mount Rushmore and the Greco-Roman pantheon, something more than mere mortals.
Also, librarians felt that all of Heinlein's juveniles and pretty much everything Asimov and Clarke wrote was a-okay for young people to read. So they loomed large, bigger than movie stars, smarter the politicians, adults who wrote books for you without talking down.
They were, of course, all quite human. Campbell had gone in for various kinds of fringe pseudoscience in a big way starting a decade before I was born; the galaxy-spanning Asimov shunned air travel and preferred to work in a windowless room; Heinlein was haunted by ill-health. They were their own creations -- complicated, interesting people. (Okay, I think H-bb-rd was a BS artist through and through, but he's all over the wartime and postwar SF scene, and has much to answer for.)
Alec Nevala-Lee has done a good job of telling us what they were like -- from their formative years, through the Campbellian "Golden Age" and beyond. It's a balanced look at a group of people who were sometimes not so sure of their own centers and makes for fascinating reading. The Kindle version is low-priced, too!
I have linked the book here -- if you nip over to Tam's blog and buy it via her sidebar Amazon link, it'd be a help for her budget.
* With which my fellow young hobbyists and I had a kind of love/hate relationship, especially when compared to the "real" radio parts place. Sure, Radio Shack had some parts the old place didn't, and they were open evenings and weekends, but it was so screamingly tacky. Shoddy, even. And yet, when I needed type '27 indirectly-heated triodes for a Science Fair project, who had 'em? Yes, Radio Shack. The professional place didn't stock 1920s-vintage tubes.
† Guess how I know.
2 months ago