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John W. Campbell

(1910-1971)
John Wood Campbell, Jr. was an American science fiction writer and editor. As editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact) from late 1937 until his death, he is generally credited with shaping the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Isaac Asimov called Campbell “the most powerful force in science fiction ever, and for the first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely.” As a writer, Campbell published space opera under his own name and moody stories under his primary and most famous pseudonym, Don A. Stuart. Campbell also wrote under the pen names Karl Van Kampen and Arthur McCann. He stopped writing fiction after he began editing Astounding Magazine.

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The Black Star Passes: For a very limited crew

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The Black Star Passes by John W. Campbell, Jr.

Back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, some of my favorite reading material, sci-fi-wise, was the wonderful series of 21 “Best of” anthologies put out by Ballantine. In an early indication of my future tastes, my favorites among those 21 collections were those by C.L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton and Philip K. Dick, although to be truthful, I thoroughly enjoyed them all… with one exception. The Best of John W. Campbell Read More

Who Goes There?: An influential, entertaining novella

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Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr.

Three mad, hate-filled eyes blazed up with a living fire, bright as fresh-spilled blood, from a face ringed with a writhing, loathsome nest of worms, blue, mobile worms that crawled where hair should grow…

John W. Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?, first published in 1938 in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, formed the foundation for the thrice-made movie The Thing. John Carpenter directed the 1982 film starring Kurt Russell and it holds a significant place in my childhood memories as it was the first horror movie I was able to watch all they way through. The movie is dark and creepy, and incorporated some realistically disgusting special effects for its day and age. That version was preceded by the ... Read More

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey's other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of "fabril" literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the "smith" is central. Certainly, a great deal of early science fiction in particular involves a clever engineer solving some sort of problem, and I'm sure many careers in engineering and the sciences have been launched in this way. I'd say that there is some tendency, though, as the genre matures, for technology to beco... Read More