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This magazine probably had the biggest impact of any on the development of science fiction in the English speaking world. Under the Editorship of John W. Campbell it published the works of authors such as E.E. "Doc" Smith, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and many many others.

Founded in January 1930 as "Astounding Stories of Super-Science" it went through several name changes before settling on "Astounding Science Fiction" in 1938. It kept the name until 1960 when it was changed to "Analog" under which name it is still published today.

The editorship of John W. Campbell saw it at the forefront of the 'golden age' of science fiction. He was well known for encouraging authors with detailed critiques that included significant story ideas (James Blish claimed his "Okie" series came from a 7-page critique of a short story he sent to Campbell).

Many classic novels and series first saw print in Astounding including:

However it did also give us Dianetics but I guess that just goes to show that nothing is perfect.

I recent re-read Isaac Asimov's "Reason" and Theodore Sturgeon's "Thunder and Roses", the former from 1941 and the latter from 1947. This older pulp-style of science fiction, popularized by Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Science Fiction (plus a plethora of others), was interesting to look at from the perspective of when the stories were published.


It just so happens that I'm a huge fan of old pulp speculative fiction. I have several bookshelves of original Amazing, Astounding, and Weird Tales pulps and digital copies so I can read them without damaging the brittle dead tree format versions. I've read both stories before, and I particularly like Asimov's cerebral concepts. "Reason" was part of Asimov's original Three Laws of Robotics stories, included in his Robots collection.

One thing I enjoy about the old pulps like Astounding and Amazing were the way that they came up with possibilities of what it was like out in space. Some folks thought there was a gas called Aether between the planets. Others, like Sterner St. Paul Meeks, thought the Earth was surrounded by a "heaviside layer" that had gigantic jellyfish-like creatures that would prevent us from escaping Earth's gravity.

To be honest, some of the stories were patently ridiculous, but there were several standouts. I enjoyed authors like Murry Leinster, a prolific early science fiction author, and Harl Vincent, who worked as an engineer designing machinery during the day and writing at night. In fact, I've contributed introductions for some of his reprinted books that came out from Villainous Press.

By the time the war years hit, some of the giants of science fiction were dipping their toes into the water. John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and all of the "golden age" authors were submitting stories to the pulps. Those early works are a bit clunky compared to how technology and culture developed, but by keeping the stories about how things impacted regular people the authors could produce works that can still speak to modern audiences. If only they were more accepting of women authors I could imagine my shelves buckling from the weight of awesome early sci fi.

With the mechanization of the military and the push for better machines during the war years and those leading up to the entry of the United States into the fray, one can see the same push in much of the 1940's science fiction. Asimov's "Reason" involves a new robot that was designed to manage a remote station and how it got religion, replacing the humans because of its inability to accept anything that was not hard and concrete that it could directly interact with. One of the themes I spotted was if robots would replace humans, and will humans be obsolete.

After the Manhattan Project developed the first atomic bomb and the United States used two of them on Japan, science fiction took notice. Dystopian stories began to crop up, with Sturgeon's "Thunder and Roses" being the example I read. This was an extension of the development of machinery and technology from the time when Asimov published his story. A lot of the ideas and extrapolated science turned dark, while half of the field tried to keep their stories at least hopeful for a future of the human race.

In Asimov's story, we have to deal with humans becoming obsolete because of the development of robots. In Sturgeon's, we made ourselves obsolete and poisoned our planet with radioactive fallout. We had opportunities in both to stop the madness, but sometimes things don't work out for us. That fine line still holds true to this day.

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