John W. Campbell

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John W. Campbell
Campbell in 1965.
BornJohn Wood Campbell Jr.
(1910-06-08)June 8, 1910
Newark, New Jersey, United States
DiedJuly 11, 1971(1971-07-11) (aged 61)
Mountainside, New Jersey, United States
Pen nameDon A. Stuart
OccupationMagazine editor, writer
Nationality American
Alma mater MIT (no degree)
Duke University (BS, physics, 1932)
Genre Science fiction

Signature Firma Campbell.png

John Wood Campbell Jr. (June 8, 1910 – July 11, 1971) was an American science fiction writer and editor. He was editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact ) from late 1937 until his death and was part of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Campbell wrote super-science space opera under his own name and stories under his primary pseudonym, Don A. Stuart. Campbell also used the pen names Karl Van Kampen and Arthur McCann. [1] His novella Who Goes There? was adapted as the films The Thing from Another World (1951), The Thing (1982), and The Thing (2011).

Science fiction Genre of speculative fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.

<i>Analog Science Fiction and Fact</i> US science fiction magazine

Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science fiction magazine published under various titles since 1930. Originally titled Astounding Stories of Super-Science, the first issue was dated January 1930, published by William Clayton, and edited by Harry Bates. Clayton went bankrupt in 1933 and the magazine was sold to Street & Smith. The new editor was F. Orlin Tremaine, who soon made Astounding the leading magazine in the nascent pulp science fiction field, publishing well-regarded stories such as Jack Williamson's Legion of Space and John W. Campbell's "Twilight". At the end of 1937, Campbell took over editorial duties under Tremaine's supervision, and the following year Tremaine was let go, giving Campbell more independence. Over the next few years Campbell published many stories that became classics in the field, including Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, A.E. van Vogt's Slan, and several novels and stories by Robert A. Heinlein. The period beginning with Campbell's editorship is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

The first Golden Age of Science Fiction, often recognized in the United States as the period from 1938 to 1946, was an era during which the science fiction genre gained wide public attention and many classic science fiction stories were published. In the history of science fiction, the Golden Age follows the "pulp era" of the 1920s and 1930s, and precedes New Wave science fiction of the 1960s and 1970s. The 1950s are a transitional period in this scheme; however, Robert Silverberg, who came of age in the 1950s, saw that decade as the true Golden Age.


Campbell began writing science fiction at age 18 while attending MIT. He published six short stories, one novel, and six letters in the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories from 1930 to 1931. This work established Campbell's reputation as a writer of space adventure. When in 1934 he began to write stories with a different tone, he wrote as Don A. Stuart. From 1930 until the later part of that decade, Campbell was prolific and successful under both names, though he stopped writing fiction shortly after he became editor of Astounding in 1937.

<i>Amazing Stories</i> American science fiction magazine

Amazing Stories is an American science fiction magazine launched in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing. It was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Science fiction stories had made regular appearances in other magazines, including some published by Gernsback, but Amazing helped define and launch a new genre of pulp fiction.

It is as editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact) from late 1937 until his death for which Campbell is primarily remembered today. As well, in 1939, Campbell started the fantasy magazine Unknown, although it was canceled after only four years. Referring to his time spent as an editor, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wrote: "More than any other individual, he helped to shape modern sf." [2] Isaac Asimov called Campbell "the most powerful force in science fiction ever" and said the "first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely." [3] In his capacity as an editor, Campbell published some of the very earliest work, and helped shape the careers, of virtually every important sf author to debut between 1938 and 1946, including Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke.

<i>Unknown</i> (magazine) US pulp fantasy magazine published from 1939 to 1943

Unknown was an American pulp fantasy fiction magazine, published from 1939 to 1943 by Street & Smith, and edited by John W. Campbell. Unknown was a companion to Street & Smith's science fiction pulp, Astounding Science Fiction, which was also edited by Campbell at the time; many authors and illustrators contributed to both magazines. The leading fantasy magazine in the 1930s was Weird Tales, which focused on shock and horror. Campbell wanted to publish a fantasy magazine with more finesse and humor than Weird Tales, and put his plans into action when Eric Frank Russell sent him the manuscript of his novel Sinister Barrier, about aliens who own the human race. Unknown's first issue appeared in March 1939; in addition to Sinister Barrier, it included H. L. Gold's "Trouble With Water", a humorous fantasy about a New Yorker who meets a water gnome. Gold's story was the first of many in Unknown to combine commonplace reality with the fantastic.

<i>The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction</i> reference work

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is an English language reference work on science fiction, first published in 1979. In October 2011, the third edition was made available for free online.

Isaac Asimov American science-fiction and non-fiction writer

Isaac Asimov was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer who wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

An increasingly strong interest in pseudoscience later alienated Campbell from many of the writers whose careers he had nurtured; Heinlein, Sturgeon, Asimov, and Clarke rarely worked with him after about 1950. [4] [5] As well, beginning in the 1960s, Campbell's controversial essays supporting segregation, and other remarks and writings surrounding slavery and race, served to distance him from many in the science fiction community. [6] [7] Nevertheless, Campbell remained an important figure in science fiction publishing up until his death. Campbell and Astounding shared one of the inaugural Hugo Awards with H. L. Gold and Galaxy at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention. Subsequently, Campbell and Astounding (later renamed Analog) won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine seven times.

Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual, but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims; reliance on confirmation bias rather than rigorous attempts at refutation; lack of openness to evaluation by other experts; and absence of systematic practices when developing theories, and continued adherence long after they have been experimentally discredited. The term pseudoscience is considered pejorative because it suggests something is being presented as science inaccurately or even deceptively. Those described as practicing or advocating pseudoscience often dispute the characterization.

H. L. Gold American writer

Horace Leonard "H. L." Gold was an American science fiction writer and editor. Born in Canada, Gold moved to the United States at the age of two. He was most noted for bringing an innovative and fresh approach to science fiction while he was the editor of Galaxy Science Fiction, and also wrote briefly for DC Comics.

The Hugo Awards are given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was once officially known as the Science Fiction Achievement Award. The award has been described as "a fine showcase for speculative fiction" and "the best known literary award for science fiction writing". The Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine was given each year for professionally edited magazines related to science fiction or fantasy and which had published four or more issues with at least one issue appearing in the previous calendar year. Awards are also given out for non-professional magazines in the fanzine category, and for semi-professional magazines in the semiprozine category.

Shortly after his death in 1971, the University of Kansas science fiction program established the annual John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and also renamed after him its annual Campbell Conference. The World Science Fiction Society established the annual John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Campbell in 1996, in its inaugural class of two deceased and two living persons.

John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel literary award

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, or Campbell Memorial Award, is an annual award presented by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to the author of the best science fiction novel published in English in the preceding calendar year. It is the novel counterpart of the Theodore Sturgeon Award for best short story, awarded by the same organization. The award is named in honor of John W. Campbell (1910–71), whose science fiction writing and role as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact made him one of the most influential editors in the early history of science fiction. The award was established in 1973 by writers and critics Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss "as a way of continuing his efforts to encourage writers to produce their best possible work." Locus magazine has listed it as one of the "major awards" of written science fiction.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer literary award

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is an award given annually to the best new writer whose first professional work of science fiction or fantasy was published within the two previous calendar years. The prize is named in honor of science fiction editor and writer John W. Campbell, whose science fiction writing and role as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact made him one of the most influential editors in the early history of science fiction. The award is sponsored by Dell Magazines, which publishes Analog. The nomination and selection process is administered by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) represented by the current Worldcon committee, and the award is presented at the Hugo Award ceremony at the Worldcon, although it is not itself a Hugo Award. All nominees receive a pin, while the winner receives a plaque. Beginning in 2005, the award has also included a tiara; created at the behest of 2004 winner Jay Lake and 2005 winner Elizabeth Bear, the tiara is passed from each year's winner to the next.


John Campbell was born in Newark, New Jersey [8] in 1910. His father was an electrical engineer. His mother, Dorothy (née Strahern) had an identical twin who visited them often and who disliked John. John was unable to tell them apart and says he was frequently rebuffed by the person he took to be his mother. [9] Campbell attended the Blair Academy, a boarding school in rural Warren County, New Jersey, but did not graduate because of lack of credits for French and trigonometry. [10] He also attended, without graduating, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was befriended by the mathematician Norbert Wiener (who coined the term cybernetics ) – but he failed German and MIT dismissed him. After one year at Duke University, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in physics in 1932. [11] [2]

Newark, New Jersey City in Essex County, New Jersey, U.S.

Newark is the most populous city in the U.S. state of New Jersey and the seat of Essex County. As one of the nation's major air, shipping, and rail hubs, the city had a population of 285,154 in 2017, making it the nation's 70th-most populous municipality, after being ranked 63rd in the nation in 2000.

Blair Academy historic school in Blairstown, New Jersey

Blair Academy is a highly selective, coeducational, boarding and day school for students in high school. The school serves students from ninth through twelfth grades. The school's campus is situated on 463 acres (1.87 km2) in Blairstown Township, in rural Warren County, New Jersey, United States, approximately 60 miles (97 km) west of New York City.

Warren County, New Jersey County in the United States

Warren County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2017 Census estimate, the county's population was 106,798, making it the 19th-most populous of the state's 21 counties, representing a decrease of 1.7% from the 108,692 enumerated in the 2010 United States Census, in turn having increased by 6,255 (+6.1%) from 102,437 counted at the 2000 Census, Its county seat is Belvidere. It is part of the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ metropolitan area and is generally considered the eastern border of the Lehigh Valley. It is considered part of the New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined Statistical Area, and shares its eastern border with the New York City Metropolitan Area, with its northwestern section bordering The Poconos. The most populous place was Phillipsburg, with 14,950 residents at the time of the 2010 Census, while Hardwick Township, covered 37.92 square miles (98.2 km2), the largest total area of any municipality.

Campbell began writing science fiction at age 18 while attending MIT and sold his first stories quickly. From January 1930 to June 1931, Amazing Stories published six of his short stories, one novel, and six letters. [12] Campbell was editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact) from late 1937 until his death. He stopped writing fiction after he became editor of Astounding. Between December 11, 1957, and June 13, 1958, he hosted a weekly science fiction radio program called Exploring Tomorrow . The scripts were written by authors such as Gordon R. Dickson and Robert Silverberg. [13]

Campbell and Dona Stewart married in 1931. They divorced in 1949 and he married Margaret (Peg) Winter in 1950. He spent most of his life in New Jersey and died of heart failure at his home in Mountainside, New Jersey. [14] [15] [16] He was an atheist. [17]

Writing career

Campbell's first published story, "When the Atoms Failed", was cover-featured in the January 1930 issue of Amazing Stories Amazing stories 193001.jpg
Campbell's first published story, "When the Atoms Failed", was cover-featured in the January 1930 issue of Amazing Stories
Campbell as depicted in the January 1932 issue of Wonder Stories John W Campbell 193102.jpg
Campbell as depicted in the January 1932 issue of Wonder Stories
The first installment of Campbell's serial "Uncertainty" took the cover of the October 1936 issue of Amazing Stories Amazing stories 193610.jpg
The first installment of Campbell's serial "Uncertainty" took the cover of the October 1936 issue of Amazing Stories

Editor T. O'Conor Sloane lost Campbell's first manuscript that he accepted for Amazing Stories, entitled "Invaders of the Infinite". [2] "When the Atoms Failed" appeared in January 1930, followed by five more during 1930. Three were part of a space opera series featuring the characters Arcot, Morey, and Wade. A complete novel in the series, Islands of Space, was the cover story in the Spring 1931 Quarterly. [12] During 1934–35 a serial novel, The Mightiest Machine, ran in Astounding Stories, edited by F. Orlin Tremaine, and several stories featuring lead characters Penton and Blake appeared from late 1936 in Thrilling Wonder Stories , edited by Mort Weisinger. [12]

The early work for Amazing established Campbell's reputation as a writer of space adventure. When in 1934 he began to publish stories with a different tone he wrote as Don A. Stuart, a pseudonym derived from his wife's maiden name. [9]

From 1930 until the later part of that decade, Campbell was prolific and successful under both names. Three significant stories published under the pseudonym are "Twilight" (Astounding, November 1934), "Night" (Astounding, October 1935), and "Who Goes There?" (Astounding, August 1938). "Who Goes There?", about a group of Antarctic researchers who discover a crashed alien vessel, formerly inhabited by a malevolent shape-changing occupant, was published in Astounding almost a year after Campbell became its editor and it was his last significant piece of fiction, at age 28. It was filmed as The Thing from Another World (1951), The Thing (1982), and again as The Thing (2011).

Campbell held the amateur radio call sign W2ZGU, and wrote many articles on electronics and radio for a wide range of magazines.[ citation needed ]

Editing career

Tremaine hired Campbell to succeed him [18] as the editor of Astounding from its October 1937 issue. [12] [19] [20] Campbell was not given full authority for Astounding until May 1938, [21] but had been responsible for buying stories somewhat earlier. [Note 1] [19] [20] [23] He began to make changes almost immediately, instigating a "mutant" label for unusual stories, and in March 1938 changing the title from Astounding Stories to Astounding Science-Fiction.

Lester del Rey's first story, in March 1938, was an early find for Campbell, and in 1939, he published such an extraordinary group of new writers for the first time that the period is generally regarded as the beginning of the "Golden Age of Science Fiction", and the July 1939 issue in particular. [Note 2] The July issue contained A. E. van Vogt's first story, "Black Destroyer", and Asimov's early story "Trends"; August brought Robert A. Heinlein's first story, "Life-Line", and the next month Theodore Sturgeon's first story appeared.

Also in 1939, Campbell started the fantasy magazine Unknown (later Unknown Worlds). [25] Although Unknown was canceled after only four years, a victim of wartime paper shortages, the magazine's editorial direction was significant in the evolution of modern fantasy. [26]

The November 1949 issue. Astounding November 1949.jpg
The November 1949 issue.


The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wrote: "More than any other individual, he helped to shape modern sf," [2] and Darrell Schweitzer credits him with having "decreed that SF writers should pull themselves up out of the pulp mire and start writing intelligently, for adults." [27] After 1950, new magazines such as Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction moved in different directions and developed talented new writers who were not directly influenced by him. Campbell often suggested story ideas to writers (including "Write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man"), and sometimes asked for stories to match cover paintings he had already bought.

Campbell had a strong formative influence on Asimov and eventually became a friend. [28] Asimov said of Campbell's influence on the field:

"By his own example and by his instruction and by his undeviating and persisting insistence, he forced first Astounding and then all science fiction into his mold. He abandoned the earlier orientation of the field. He demolished the stock characters who had filled it; eradicated the penny dreadful plots; extirpated the Sunday-supplement science. In a phrase, he blotted out the purple of pulp. Instead, he demanded that science-fiction writers understand science and understand people, a hard requirement that many of the established writers of the 1930s could not meet. Campbell did not compromise because of that: those who could not meet his requirements could not sell to him, and the carnage was as great as it had been in Hollywood a decade before, while silent movies had given way to the talkies." [29]

One example of the type of speculative but plausible science fiction that Campbell demanded from his writers is "Deadline", a short story by Cleve Cartmill that appeared during the wartime year of 1944, a year before the detonation of the first atomic bomb. As Ben Bova, Campbell's successor as editor at Analog, wrote, it "described the basic facts of how to build an atomic bomb. Cartmill and Campbell worked together on the story, drawing their scientific information from papers published in the technical journals before the war. To them, the mechanics of constructing a uranium-fission bomb seemed perfectly obvious." The FBI descended on Campbell's office after the story appeared in print and demanded that the issue be removed from the newsstands. Campbell convinced them that by removing the magazine "the FBI would be advertising to everyone that such a project existed and was aimed at developing nuclear weapons" and the demand was dropped. [30]

Campbell was also responsible for the grim and controversial ending of Tom Godwin's short story "The Cold Equations". Writer Joe Green recounted that Campbell had

"three times sent 'Cold Equations' back to Godwin, before he got the version he wanted ... Godwin kept coming up with ingenious ways to save the girl! Since the strength of this deservedly classic story lies in the fact that the life of one young woman must be sacrificed to save the lives of many, it simply would not have the same impact if she had lived." [31]

Between December 11, 1957, and June 13, 1958, Campbell hosted a weekly science fiction radio program called Exploring Tomorrow .


Slavery and racism

Green wrote that Campbell "enjoyed taking the 'devil's advocate' position in almost any area, willing to defend even viewpoints with which he disagreed if that led to a livelier debate." As an example, he wrote, Campbell

"pointed out that the much-maligned 'peculiar institution' of slavery in the American South had in fact provided the blacks brought there with a higher standard of living than they had in Africa ... I suspected, from comments by Asimov, among others – and some Analog editorials I had read – that John held some racist views, at least in regard to blacks."

Finally, however, Green agreed with Campbell that "rapidly increasing mechanization after 1850 would have soon rendered slavery obsolete anyhow. It would have been better for the USA to endure it a few more years than suffer the truly horrendous costs of the Civil War." [32] In a June 1961 editorial called "Civil War Centennial," Campbell argued that slavery had been a dominant form of human relationships for most of history and that the present was unusual in that anti-slavery cultures dominated the planet. He wrote,

"It's my bet that the South would have been integrated by 1910. The job would have been done – and done right – half a century sooner, with vastly less human misery, and with almost no bloodshed ... The only way slavery has ever been ended, anywhere, is by introducing industry ... If a man is a skilled and competent machinist – if the lathes work well under his hands – the industrial management will be forced, to remain in business, to accept that fact, whether the man be black, white, purple, or polka-dotted." [33]

According to Michael Moorcock, Campbell suggested that some people preferred slavery.

"He also, when faced with the Watts riots of the mid-sixties, seriously proposed and went on to proposing that there were 'natural' slaves who were unhappy if freed. I sat on a panel with him in 1965, as he pointed out that the worker bee when unable to work dies of misery, that the moujiks when freed went to their masters and begged to be enslaved again, that the ideals of the anti-slavers who fought in the Civil War were merely expressions of self-interest and that the blacks were 'against' emancipation, which was fundamentally why they were indulging in 'leaderless' riots in the suburbs of Los Angeles." [7]

On February 10, 1967, Campbell rejected Samuel R. Delany's Nova a month before it was ultimately published, with a note and phone call to his agent explaining that he did not feel his readership "would be able to relate to a black main character". There reputedly exists a letter from him to horror writer Dean Koontz in which Campbell argues that a technologically advanced black civilization would be a social and a biological impossibility. [34]

In 1963, Campbell published an essay supporting segregated schools and arguing that "the Negro race" had failed to "produce[] super-high-geniuses". [35] In 1965, he continued his defense of segregation and related practices, critiquing "the arrogant defiance of law by many of the Negro 'Civil Rights' groups". [36]

Medicine and health

Campbell was a critic of government regulation of health and safety, excoriating numerous public health initiatives and regulations.

Campbell was a heavy smoker throughout his life and was seldom seen without his customary cigarette holder. In the Analog of September 1964, nine months after the Surgeon General's first major warning about the dangers of cigarette smoking had been issued (January 11, 1964) Campbell ran an editorial, "A Counterblaste to Tobacco" that took its title from the anti-smoking book of the same name by King James I of England. [37] In it, he stated that the connection to lung cancer was "esoteric" and referred to "a barely determinable possible correlation between cigarette smoking and cancer." He said that tobacco's calming effects led to more effective thinking. [38]

However, in a one-page piece about automobile safety in the Analog dated May 1967, Campbell wrote of "people suddenly becoming conscious of the fact that cars kill more people than cigarettes do, even if the antitobacco alarmists were completely right..." [39]

His critiques of government regulation of health risks were not limited to tobacco. In 1963, Campbell published an angry editorial about Frances Oldham Kelsey who, while at the FDA, refused to permit thalidomide from being sold in the United States. [40]

In a number of other essays, Campbell supported crank medicine, arguing that government regulation was more harmful than beneficial [41] and that regulating quackery prevented many possible beneficial medicines (krebiozen). [42] [43]

Pseudoscience, parapsychology, and fringe politics

In the 1930s Campbell became interested in Joseph Rhine's theories about ESP (Rhine had already founded Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University when Campbell was a student there), [44] and over the following years his growing interest in parapsychology would be reflected in the stories he published when he encouraged the writers to include these topics in their tales, [45] leading to the publication of numerous works about telepathy and other psionic abilities.

His increasing beliefs in pseudoscience would eventually start to isolate and alienate him from some of his own writers. He wrote favorably about such things as the "Dean drive", a device that supposedly produced thrust in violation of Newton's third law, and the "Hieronymus machine", which could supposedly amplify psi powers. [46] [Note 3] [Note 4]

In 1949, Campbell also became interested in Dianetics. He wrote of L. Ron Hubbard's initial article in Astounding that "[i]t is, I assure you in full and absolute sincerity, one of the most important articles ever published." [46]

Asimov wrote: "A number of writers wrote pseudoscientific stuff to ensure sales to Campbell, but the best writers retreated, I among them. ..." [4] Elsewhere Asimov went on to further explain,

"Campbell championed far-out ideas ... He pained very many of the men he had trained (including me) in doing so, but felt it was his duty to stir up the minds of his readers and force curiosity right out to the border lines. He began a series of editorials ... in which he championed a social point of view that could sometimes be described as far right (he expressed sympathy for George Wallace in the 1968 national election, for instance). There was bitter opposition to this from many (including me – I could hardly ever read a Campbell editorial and keep my temper)." [6]

Assessment by peers

Damon Knight described Campbell as a "portly, bristled-haired blond man with a challenging stare." [48] "Six-foot-one, with hawklike features, he presented a formidable appearance," said Sam Moskowitz. [49] "He was a tall, large man with light hair, a beaky nose, a wide face with thin lips, and with a cigarette in a holder forever clamped between his teeth," wrote Asimov. [50]

Algis Budrys wrote that "John W. Campbell was the greatest editor SF has seen or is likely to see, and is in fact one of the major editors in all English-language literature in the middle years of the twentieth century. All about you is the heritage of what he built". [51]

Asimov said that Campbell was "talkative, opinionated, quicksilver-minded, overbearing. Talking to him meant listening to a monologue ..." [50] Knight agreed: "Campbell's lecture-room manner was so unpleasant to me that I was unwilling to face it. Campbell talked a good deal more than he listened, and he liked to say outrageous things." [52]

British novelist and critic Kingsley Amis dismissed Campbell brusquely: "I might just add as a sociological note that the editor of Astounding, himself a deviant figure of marked ferocity, seems to think he has invented a psi machine." [53]

Several SF novelists have criticized Campbell as prejudiced - Samuel R. Delany for Campbell's rejection of a novel due to the black main character, [54] and Joe Haldeman in the dedication of Forever Peace , for rejecting a novel due to a female soldier protagonist.

British SF novelist Michael Moorcock, as part of his Starship Stormtroopers editorial, said Campbell's Stories and its writers were "wild-eyed paternalists to a man, fierce anti-socialists" with "[stories] full of crew-cut wisecracking, cigar-chewing, competent guys (like Campbell's image of himself)", who had success because their "work reflected the deep-seated conservatism of the majority of their readers, who saw a Bolshevik menace in every union meeting". He viewed Campbell as turning the magazine into a vessel for right-wing politics, "by the early 1950s ... a crypto-fascist deeply philistine magazine pretending to intellectualism and offering idealistic kids an 'alternative' that was, of course, no alternative at all". [7]

SF writer Alfred Bester, an editor of Holiday Magazine and a sophisticated Manhattanite, recounted at some length his "one demented meeting" with Campbell, a man he imagined from afar to be "a combination of Bertrand Russell and Ernest Rutherford." The first thing Campbell said to him was that Freud was dead, destroyed by the new discovery of Dianetics, which, he predicted, would win L. Ron Hubbard the Nobel Peace Prize. Campbell ordered the bemused Bester to "think back. Clear yourself. Remember! You can remember when your mother tried to abort you with a button hook. You've never stopped hating her for it." Bester commented: "It reinforced my private opinion that a majority of the science-fiction crowd, despite their brilliance, were missing their marbles." [55]

Campbell died in 1971 at the age of 61 in Mountainside, New Jersey. [56] At the time of his sudden death after 34 years at the helm of Analog, Campbell's quirky personality and eccentric editorial demands had alienated a number of his most illustrious writers to the point that they no longer submitted works to him.[ citation needed ] After 1950, Theodore Sturgeon only published one story in Astounding but dozens in other magazines. [5]

Asimov remained grateful for Campbell's early friendship and support. He dedicated The Early Asimov (1972) to him, and concluded it by stating that "There is no way at all to express how much he meant to me and how much he did for me except, perhaps, to write this book evoking, once more, those days of a quarter century ago". [57] His final word on Campbell, however, was that "in the last twenty years of his life, he was only a diminishing shadow of what he had once been." [4] Even Heinlein, perhaps Campbell's most important discovery and a "fast friend," [58] eventually tired of him. [59] [60]

Poul Anderson wrote that Campbell "had saved and regenerated science fiction", which had become "the product of hack pulpsters" when he took over Astounding. "By his editorial policies and the help and encouragement he gave his writers (always behind the scenes), he raised both the literary and the intellectual standard anew. Whatever progress has been made stems from that renaissance". [61]

Awards and honors

Shortly after Campbell's death, the University of Kansas science fiction program – now the Center for the Study of Science Fiction – established the annual John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and also renamed after him its annual Campbell Conference. The World Science Fiction Society established the annual John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. All three memorials became effective in 1973.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Campbell in 1996, in its inaugural class of two deceased and two living persons. [62]

Campbell and Astounding shared one of the inaugural Hugo Awards with H. L. Gold and Galaxy at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention. Subsequently, he won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine seven times to 1965. [63] In 2018 he won a retrospective Hugo Award for Best Editor, Short Form (1943). [64]

The Martian impact crater Campbell was named after him. [65]


This shortened bibliography lists each title once. Some titles that are duplicated are different versions, whereas other publications of Campbell's with different titles are simply selections from or retitlings of other works, and have hence been omitted. The main bibliographic sources are footnoted from this paragraph and provided much of the information in the following sections. [2] [20] [66] [67] [68]


Short story collections and omnibus editions

Edited books


Memorial works

Memorial works (Festschrift) include:

Further reading

Marowski, Daniel G. and Stine, Jean C. “John W(ood) Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971).” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 32, 1985: 71-82 Literature Criticism Online. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.

Nevala-Lee, Alec "Astounding" 2018 Morrow/Dey Street. ISBN   9780062571946

See also


  1. An editorial notice in the April 1938 issue made it clear Campbell was responsible for stories appearing as early as February. The editorial note was not signed, but it refers to stories bought for the last three issues, [22] one of which (Lester del Rey's "The Faithful") is known to have been bought by Campbell. [19]
  2. For example, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says "The beginning of Campbell's particular Golden Age of SF can be pinpointed as the summer of 1939," and goes on to begin the discussion with the July 1939 issue. [2] Lester del Rey comments that "July was the turning point." [24]
  3. Science-fiction writer and critic Damon Knight commented in his book In Search of Wonder : "In the pantheon of magazine science fiction there is no more complex and puzzling figure than that of John Campbell, and certainly none odder." Knight also wrote a four-stanza ditty about some of Campbell's new interests. The first stanza reads:
    Oh, the Dean Machine, the Dean Machine,
    You put it right in a submarine,
    And it flies so high that it cannot be seen 
    The wonderful, wonderful Dean Machine!
  4. In 1957, novelist and critic James Blish tallied: "From the professional writer's point of view, the primary interest in Astounding Science Fiction continues to center on the editor's preoccupation with extrasensory powers and perceptions ('psi') as a springboard for stories ... 113 pages of the total editorial content of the January and February 1957 issues of this magazine are devoted to psi, and 172 to non-psi material ... By including the first part of a serial that later becomes a novel about psi the total for these first two issues of 1957 is 145 pages of psi text, and 140 pages of non-psi." [47]

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