Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Astounding It Is

     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.


RandyGC said...

I started reading and then subscribing to ANALOG after Ben Bova took over, but went through back issues of ANALOG/Astounding at the local library and became familiar with Campbell that way. (What a glorious day when the library decided to clean out their stacks and put all of their older ANALOG/Astounding on sale at 10 cents each. I cleaned out all disposable cash and got the majority of them.)

For those of us in befuddled zone of life, exactly how do I buy the book through Tam's site? I clicked on the wish list but didn't see the book there (and assume that link is for one of us who wishes to gift something on the list to her) and did not see any other obvious link.


Roberta X said...

Okay, this is secret stuff, but-- Scroll down to the Amazon ad after her first list of blog links, and click on it. That takes you to Amazon and she gets green stamps proportionate to whatever you buy, at no cost to you.

waepnedmann said...

Now you tell me.

Had I known how this worked Tam could be ensconced in her summer home on The Isle of Mann by now.

RandyGC reminds of the kid in the calculus class who kept asking the questions about stuff that nobody understood but they would not ask questions about so that they would not appear to be clueless. Which they were.
Thanks RandyGC.

Blackwing1 said...

I think that you had mentioned previously that you had read William Patterson's 2-volume bio of Heinlein. I bought them when they came out and was fascinated by many things, including his early (unknown to me) marriages and early involvements with utopian movements.

But what absolutely floored me was a short sequence describing his correspondence with Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane (and later, Starship), and that he was appreciative of their music. Who knew?

I can only hope that he was also a Jethro Tull fan, too. But that's my personal quirk.

RandyGC said...

Thanks Roberta. That actual link does not show in my Firefox. Just a "Stuff You Need" title with no link.

Looked at the site in Chrome and there it was.

I'll keep just between us.

Book purchased.

Anonymous said...

Popped over to Tam's blog and got the Kindle version. Thanks for the reference,about a third of the way through and I want to go back to my teens in the mid 1950's and reread some of these.

73's Noel