Sunday, 18 August 2013

John W Campbell

Poul Anderson reminisced about Astounding/Analog editor, John W Campbell, in "John Campbell" (All One Universe, New York, 1997). Anderson differentiates three generations of writers influenced by Campbell:

"...Jack Williamson...began working well before him but then came under his influence..." (p. 49);
the Golden Age (1938-1943) writers who developed under Campbell - Asimov, de Camp, Heinlein, Sturgeon and van Vogt;
the next generation, including Anderson whose first publication was in 1947.

My purely personal perspectives on these writers are:

I have not read much Williamson, although his The Legion Of Time is incoherent as a work on time travel;

I have argued several times that Asimov should have confined his attention to Robots;

I know de Camp almost entirely though one good time travel novel, Lest Darkness Fall;

I have read almost no Sturgeon and have not read what I have been told is a major telepathy novel, More Than Human;

van Vogt wrote space opera, including even something called More Than Superhuman;

I classify Heinlein, Asimov and Blish as "the Campbell future historians" because Campbell edited and strongly influenced Heinlein's Future History, Asimov's Robots stories and Foundation series and Blish's Okie series (this last would have remained a single story, not a series, without Campbell's input);

I further classify Anderson both as Heinlein's main successor and as a later Campbell future historian (apparently, Campbell gave Anderson the idea that became the Ythrians);

the Golden Age of sf included the Golden Age of superheroes because Superman, an sf character, first published in 1938, was immediately successful and widely imitated, generating a new genre.

I showed in some earlier posts that Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest contains much blank verse, one Shakespearian sonnet and several rhyming couplets, all disguised as prose. In conversation with Anderson, Campbell:

"...observed that all good prose has metrical structure and that more than half of Heinlein's Methuselah's Children [part of the Future history] is in blank verse." (p. 54)

Really? Methuselah's Children? I am not about to reread the novel to find out but it would be interesting to check on this sometime.

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