[Jan. 27, 1960] Hail Mary (Astounding’s mid-life crisis)

Maturity is both a blessing and a curse.  With age comes wisdom, knowledge, and respect.  But advanced years also bring narrowmindedness and physical decay.

Astounding, the eldest of the Big Three (or Four, depending on how you count them) science fiction digests, is having a bit of a mid-life crisis.  It is no longer on the cutting edge of the field, and editor John Campbell knows this.  At the same time, his conservative editorial policies makes turning the literary ship around a slow and possibly fruitless task.

His recent innovations include changing the name to Astounding Science Fact and Fiction and including a several-page slick non-fiction section.  It’s terrible.  He needs an Asimov or at least a Boyd to write these articles.

With this issue, Campbell has begun the process of changing the name of the magazine to Analog, a singularly uninspiring appellation. 

What Campbell has not done is broaden his stable of writers.  They are not universally terrible, but they are almost always write conservatively (at least, when they write for Astounding/Analog) and there are very few woman writers or characters.  The stories are usually of that dry, gimmicky variety, often suffused with a smugness I can’t stand.  Moreover, there is the general portrayal of aliens in a negative light, which strikes me as a sort of coded racism with which I am not comfortable.

Why do I keep reading?  Well, the serial Deathworld is actually very good, and if I cancel my subscription, I won’t have much else to read.  I also, like many, take pleasure in watching trainwrecks.  Either this caterpillar will turn into a beautiful butterfly, or it will end up a dead pupae.

Only time will tell.

I’ll have a full review of this month’s issue tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns.  While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!

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