The World of Sci-fi during WWII – Intermission Story (29)

Alex Schomburg artwork

The goings-on at the home front!!

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.

One leading influence on the creation of the Golden age was John W. Campbell, who became legendary in the genre as an editor and publisher of science fiction magazines, including Astounding Science Fiction, to the point where Isaac Asimov stated that “…in the 1940s, (Campbell) dominated the field to the point where to many seemed all of science fiction.” Under Campbell’s editorship, science fiction developed more realism and psychological depth to characterization. The focus shifted from the gizmo itself to the characters using the gizmo.

Most fans agree that the Golden Age began around 1938-39.  The July 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction  is frequently cited as the precise start of the Golden Age. It contains the first published story by A. E. van Vogt (the first part of The Voyage of the Space Beagle) and first appearance of Isaac Asimov (“Trends”) in “Astounding”. (Isaac Asimov was first published a few months earlier in the March edition of Amazing Stories.) Science fiction writer John C. Wright said of Van Vogt’s story, “This one started it all.”  The August issue of the same magazine contained the first published story by Robert A. Heinlein (“Life-Line”).

‘Amazing Stories’, April 1926, vol. 1, number 1.

There are other views on when the Golden Age occurred. Robert Silverberg in a 2010 essay argues that the true Golden Age was the 1950s, saying that “Golden Age” of the 1940s was a kind of “false dawn.”   “Until the decade of the fifties,” Silverberg writes, “there was essentially no market for science fiction books at all”; the audience supported only a few special interest small presses.   The 1950s saw “a spectacular outpouring of stories and novels that quickly surpassed both in quantity and quality the considerable achievement of the Campbellian golden age.”

Many of the most enduring science fiction tropes were established in Golden Age literature. Space opera came to prominence with the works of E. E. “Doc” Smith; Isaac Asimov established the canonical Three Laws of Robotics beginning with the 1941 short story “Runaround”; the same period saw the writing of genre classics such as the Asimov’s Foundation and Smith’s Lensman series. Another frequent characteristic of Golden Age science fiction is the celebration of scientific achievement and the sense of wonder; Asimov’s short story “Nightfall” exemplifies this, as in a single night a planet’s civilization is overwhelmed by the revelation of the vastness of the universe. Robert A. Heinlein’s 1950s novels, such as The Puppet MastersDouble Star, and Starship Troopers, express the libertarian ideology that runs through much of Golden Age science fiction.

The Golden Age also saw the re-emergence of the religious or spiritual themes—central to so much proto-science fiction before the pulp era—that Hugo Gernsback had tried to eliminate in his vision of “scientifiction”. Among the most significant such Golden Age narratives are Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Blish’s A Case of Conscience, and Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz.

As a phenomenon that affected the psyches of a great many adolescents during World War II and the ensuing Cold War, science fiction’s Golden Age has left a lasting impression upon society. The beginning of the Golden Age coincided with the first Worldcon in 1939 and, especially for its most involved fans, science fiction was becoming a powerful social force. The genre, particularly during its Golden Age, had significant, if somewhat indirect, effects upon leaders in the military, information technology, Hollywood and science itself, especially biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry.

Information sources: Sci-fi Outpost; Futurism.media; Wikipedia; Null Entrohy.

The idea for this post was contributed by Lavinia Ross of Salmon Brook Farms.  Please visit with her and Rick!

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Superhero Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Johnny Anderson – Keystone, WV; US Army, WWII, PTO

Andrew Babiana – Lincoln, NE; US Navy, WWII, SeaBees

William Dickens – Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Montepelier

John Gregory – Niagara, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, 10th Battery / RCAF

Robert Frances – Conshocken, PA; US Merchant Marine, WWII / US Army, Korea

Thomas Hudner – Fall River, MA; US Navy, Korea, Vietnam, USS Leyte, pilot, Captain (Ret. 30 y.), Medal of Honor, destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) christened in his honor.

Frank Jordan – Youngstown, OH; US Army, WWII, PTO

Ann Mushet – Papakura, NZ; WAAF LACW, WWII # 433027

Anthony Stefanac – Yonkers, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO, Engineers

Mark Weiss – MI; US Navy, Iraq, Zanzibar, Special Warfare Lt., Bronze Star

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on November 16, 2017, in Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 128 Comments.

  1. That was certainly a different slant on your usual posts gp, you are correct in that Science fiction did later on have some impact on the Military perceptions over the years. I think the movie industry had a lot to do with that, even after the Vietnam war heroes were invented such as the Rambo series, portraying Soldiers with powers of survival and daring that one would not usually expect.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t done very many ‘home front’ posts for this Intermission break, so when Lavinia came up with the idea, I looked into it. Figured it would give people a rest from war. [They read more about war here than they do in the news. All the wars we’re in right now and no one knows much about them.]

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on John's Notes and commented:
    I thought that this was an interesting look at Science Fiction during the years of World War II.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hullo. This is excellent! I have lived science fiction my entire life. Asimov is pure genius, and Bradbury mixes childlike wonder with visions of something darker… really interesting. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Benniet zo’n fan van science fiction maar heb er toch van genoten

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GP, this post is a huge treat. I’m very fond of vintage science fiction. Have a sublime Sunday. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A terrific post! I was a great fan of science fiction in my teens, and still appreciate the genre. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” is a longtime favorite. Heinlein undoubtedly shaped my character, since I devoured his work.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Isn’t it amazing that we now use Star Trek communication devices? 😁

    Like

  8. I’ve never read Science Fiction – so this was en enlightening post. Thank you, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Being a Science Fiction reader I found your post very interesting. Of all the stories and novels I like best the ones written by Ray Bradbury, as they attempt to teach us quite a few lessons within a futuristic context.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As a kid I wasn’t a big fan of the sci-fi genre, however as an adult I’ve come to enjoy most of it. I am always amazed when I see something in a 1940s film or read about a gizmo in a book published in the 30s or 50s decribing an item that is either commonplace or being developed today.

    In fact in the 70’s version of ‘West World,’ I realize now that the ‘Doctors’ were trying to describe what we commonly refer to as a ‘computer virus.’ Mind blown!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’d never thought of the connection of science fiction and WWII. So interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Another interesting post! Enjoyed the Superman appearances in the humor too- I suppose he’s not really sci-fi, but we’ve been watching the 1943 (?) cartoons where he fights the Axis quite a bit…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve never been a fan of science fiction, so much of this was new to me. I recognized a few names, of course, but for whatever reason I’ve never read Asimov, or Heinlein, or any of the others you mentioned. Could I redeem myself by acknowledging that I never missed an episode of Dr. Who, and that I did see the movie ET? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The Rocketeer movie 1991 is my favorite Nazi fighter super hero. Great movie for the genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Good to see the history of SciFi laid out. My mother was a huge fan and an early reader of Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein. Their titles were among the first I remember seeing on our bookshelves. I just recently read Canticle for Leibowitz – a truly chilling post-apocalyptic story that should be required reading for world leaders. thanks for stirring up some nice reading memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure. Wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea to research this, but I appreciate you reading the research into it. I’ve enjoyed sci-fi for a very long time myself.

      Like

  16. An interesting look at Sci-Fi, GP. I tend to think it better to think into the future then to dwell on what was going on in the early 40’s. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Very interesting. Science fiction might have another golden age these days… don’t you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Very interesting post!
    I guess the war years saw lots of sci-fi stuff becoming reality – – pilotless buzz-bombs, jet planes, supersonic rockets, amphibious trucks, radar, Saran Wrap, and of course, atom bombs.
    I hadn’t realized Isaac Asimov and Heinlein were writing that long ago. One of my grandfathers loved Asimov’s stories, and the 1939-40 World’s Fair, also encouraged a love of sci-fi back then. His mother was working at the Fair, so he saw the G.M. “Futurama” and the Westinghouse talking robot many times, and they made a big impression on him.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Let me preface that I am biased but for me, the era of galactic science fiction began with “Forbidden Planet” with…. Anne Francis… OMG… Ou-la-la… Hot diggity-dog!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I think early science fiction is brilliant, and sometimes prophetic. Cool

    Like

  21. Enjoyed this informative post, GP, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Excellent post! I would agree with Robert Silverberg that Science Fiction’s Golden Age began in the 50s. Astounding Science Fiction gave so many great writers their starts, but people didn’t have books to buy until the publishing industry saw the gold Hollywood was making off of sci-fi movies in the 50s, and started churning out books as fast as Asimov, Heinlein and others could write them. My teen and young adult reading years revolved around everything written by Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, and Clarke, and many others. I won’t say US Naval Academy grad Robert Heinlein influenced my decision to join the Navy, but…. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Nostalgia! I love books like that!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Great topic! Does this mean you’ll also write a post about superhero debuts in the 1940s?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I am not a science fiction fan , but your piece is fascinating and informative . Thanks .

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I had no idea. It makes sense though–as we looked for heroes in those tough times. I’m RT this to my writer’s Twitter stream.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. This was a super intermission story. I’m a casual fan of SciFi, and I knew very little of this. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Fascinating! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  29. This is so cool and right up my sci-fi loving alley 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I see alot is Isaac Asimov books in the school library but I found it “hard” to read as sci fi books written in his style is “dry” to me. But I knew he was well regarded in his genre of books. It is just me I guess…pouring over Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Fascinating! I wonder if there is some connection between the world being at war and the escapism of science fiction. Which made me think about HG Wells and Orson Welles’ broadcast of War of the Worlds—so I looked it up and saw that was in 1938—in line with what you’ve written here.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. My Dad was born in 1928 and growing up as a boy, he loved Flash Gordon—he use to tell me about going to the movies with just a time and he’d stay literally all day watching cartoon and film one right after another or listening to the Shadow on the radio…..

    Liked by 1 person

  33. You reminded me of the TV series they made of The Martian Chronicles, which I loved. Just found them all on youtube! My day is lost!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Intriguing that Science Fiction really took off in this war period.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. This is a really interesting diversion, GP. Thanks for an unusual article.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. My long time personal favorite sci fi author is H.G. Wells.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Excellent post GP. Oh to have the originals of some of these books. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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