Generation Ship Short Story Review: Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” (1940)

This is the 14th post in my series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. Today I return to the 1940s with a story that feels like the progenitor of so many later visions of the generation ship. Along with Robert A. Heinlein’s “Universe” (1941) and “Common Sense” (1941) (novelized in 1963 as Orphans of the Sky), Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Laster 600 Years” (1940) maps out a commonly followed path for the subgenre.

Previously: Vonda N. McIntyre’s “The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction ed. Edward L. Ferman (February 1974), . You can read it online here.

Next Up: Fred Saberhagen’s “The Long Way Home” in Galaxy Magazine, ed. H. L. Gold (June 1961). You can read it online here.

3.5/5 (Good)

Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” first appeared in the October 1940 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Raymond A. Palmer. You can read it online here.

According to SF Encyclopedia, Don Wilcox (1905-2000) taught creative writing at Northwestern University and started writing pulp science fiction for Ray Palmer’s Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures in July 1939. He remains best known for his pioneering generation ship story “The Voyage that Lasted 600 Years” (1940).

As I’ve mentioned on the site in the past, I find SF produced after WWII far more historically interesting (i.e. the post-atomic “end of victory culture” to steal historian Tom Engelhardt’s phrase) than earlier visions. However, this story–while told in a distinctly 40s manner that I find frustrating–touches on the central themes of generational conflict, societal malaise, cultural stasis, and population pressure that crop up in many later stories from Samuel R. Delany’s The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965) to Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” (1954). The only ultra-common narrative element missing from Wilcox’s vision is the crew forgetting that they are even on a generation ship. Robert A. Heinlein’s “Universe” (1941) and “Common Sense” (1941) (novelized in 1963 as Orphans of the Sky) add that thread to the template.

Historian, The Most Important Profession in the World

The twenty-eight-year-old History Professor Gregory Grimstone gets a chance to make history! If everything goes according to the 600-year plan, he’ll live through the entire S. S. Flashaway‘s generational voyage by means of a refrigeration device. Grimstone will periodically awake and right the ship and provide history lessons if purpose and mission has been lost in the bleak emptiness of space. This is a mission to further the American Empire–an “American colony” will be planted on the Robinello planets (84). While Grimstone isn’t the best with time (he woke up late to his own wedding and thus didn’t get married), he’ll have the time of his life watching all manner of crises. He’ll discover the woman that was to be his wife snuck aboard and got married to another man after she discovered him turning to ice in the fridge. He’ll awake to too many babies! Too few babies! We need eugenics! He’ll get married to the descendant of his fiancé and they’ll awake to see their descendants entirely eradicated. He’ll discover the ship’s entire educational and historical materials destroyed by a mob. But he got to plant that flag, plant that flag, for the love of God, plant the flag of the good old USA.

If my tone seems a bit off, it’s deliberate. Wilcox’s way of telling does not match the sheer horror of the spaceship as petri dish for a nightmarish sequence of crises. Wilcox attempts to chart the carnage: “the instruments of knowledge and learning having been destroyed, beliefs gave way to superstitions [..] the survivors crawled into their shells, almost literally; the brutalities and treacheries of the past hung like storm clouds over their imaginations” (100). But shifts on a dime to lackadaisical proclamations of the heroic triumph of it all–“and so the two of us, plus firearms, plus Lora-Louise’s sense of humor, took over the running of the Flashaway” (104). The ending could be one of the most nihilistic of the pulps… but isn’t. America still did it! Just ignore all the dead bodies.

“Historian?” “No, I Need a Gunslinger!

Often Grimstone’s brutal acts of violence solve the most pressing crises. His training and profession as a historian rarely come into play. Grimstone laments that he “anticipated many a pleasant hour acquainting the oncoming generations with noble sentiments about George Washington” and “filling the souls of [his] listeners by reciting the Gettysburg address” (92).

There’s a slipshod feel to Wilcox’s treatment of the premise. Little thought is given to the mechanisms of how society will keep on the short and narrow. Ideas such as the use of a film memorized by the crew that presents the grand “picture of the Six-Hundred-Year Plan” (89) and boardgame events are mentioned in passing. In this stimuli-poor world, Wilcox suspects society will enter a static form where baser pleasures take hold. The workings and layout of the generation spaceship remain an enigma. The broad strokes of the spaceship’s societal decline and rebirth form the focus.

Raymond A. Palmer, the magazine’s editor, interjects in a footnote his interpretation of the story as an allegory of the evolution of a nation in transition. The generations on the vessel represent the slide into metaphoric old age with their immediate “physical wants […] taken care of, that was all they required to keep them healthy and contented” (101). According to Palmer, Grimstone does not take into account the lessons of history–that more is needed to propel humanity forward. Am I wrong in suggesting that Palmer might be making a dig at the New Deal and the anti-Roosevelt political talking points of the day?

Due to the historical importance of the story, I cannot help but give the story a solid endorsement. While I disliked the lackluster prose, misguided tone in telling considering the traumatic nightmare the colonists experience, and Grimstone’s silly “I missed my wedding and signed up to hurtle across the stars” mentality, “The Voyage that Lasted 600 Years” truly is a pioneering vision in its components. Later authors would refine the parts and craft more involving accounts of generational voyage and the lives of the crew caught up in the choices of their ancestors.

Recommended for fans of 1940s science fiction and the history of the generation ship.

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

42 thoughts on “Generation Ship Short Story Review: Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” (1940)

  1. When you turn to a story like this, one that establishes the rudiments of a trope, you wish for a true revelation, something commensurate to the literary novelty of the story itself. For instance, this is precisely the sense I derive from reading and rereading H. G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’, a story that remains truly startling despite being the one that launched a trillion clichés. Unfortunately, Don Wilcox’s ‘The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years’ is not the foundational story the gen ship trope deserves. If I was going to pick a story that was more in line with how I feel the first gen ship story should read I’d pick Murray Leinster’s ‘Proxima Centauri’ (1935), or, even more so, Heinlein’s fix-up, ‘Universe’/’Common Sense’ (1941).

    • Hello Anthony! It’s good to hear from you (as always).

      When I read this story I imagine all the fascinating ideas bubbling in Wilcox’s head and his eagerness to put the pen to paper and all the ideas streaming out! And then… reading it over once…. thinking about it for a minute and then sending it out to start another story. It’s so rough in construction. But the parts are all there.

      I have Leinster on the list and will read that one soon. Heinlein’s “Universe”/”Common Sense” (1941) certainly introduced the most wonderous (and outrageous) twist to the formula — are we even on a ship? At the very least that premise adds some real immensity to it all that feels oddly lacking in this story.

      • Like you, I was excited to read it, particularly for its place in the history of the genre.
        Sometimes I wonder if the naivety of the content of this story–like many of its kin–is a function of its place in time, i.e., before the Second World War had played out. Perhaps, in part, but there was no end of naivety after the war too, so it’s probably something else. That moment in which the burgeoning genre was still not fully fleshed out and domesticated–a wild and woolly frontier of nutty ideas that burst through the often pedestrian literary expression of its practitioners.

        • I’ll just call it “the maturation of pulp” — however that process happened. Be it Tom Engelhardt’s concept of the post-WWII/atomic “end of victory culture” that I keep returning to that added a dose of emotional realism and cynicism to SF or the growing influence of more polished professional authors like Kornbluth and Sturgeon or evolving sensibilities of editors… Or a combination of all!

          Let’s just say that while the exact 80s date of the end of my explorations is nebulous and bound to change a bit the post-WWII line is on far firmer ground.

          What have you been reading lately?

          • JB: I’ll just call it “the maturation of pulp” — however that process happened.


            In one word, and for better and for worse. Just go look at the quite astonishing difference between the covers of Campbell-era ASTOUNDING immediately upon his taking over —

            — and pre-Campbell ASF.

            –or, for that matter, the contemporaneous pulp SF magazines that continued in the old mode. THis forex as late as 1957-58 —

            • Yeah, I love looking through the evolution of cover art on — I know the Astounding evolution in look quite well. I do think the conceptual shifts that happened in the Post-WWII environment also impact science fiction in profound ways.

          • I agree that SF “matured” through the 1940s and 50s. And yet I am also hesitant to simply use this biological metaphor without further caveats.

            To my mind, what’s happening is a “professionalisation” of SF, partly under the influence of people like John W. Campbell, though mostly under pressures exerted in the marketplace, by both consumers and producers of SF. SF as we know it is being fashioned, and its fashioning is, to a large extent, by way of its more thorough incorporation into the circuits of capitalist mass production and consumption.

            For instance, I wonder how one makes sense of the “maturation” of SF with an eye to fanzines and the fan scene more generally. The fan scene is certainly an important aspect of the “maturation”, and yet it was also at odds with the professionalising tendencies of the editors and publishers. It was both redolent of a more open and democratic impulse in early SF, even though it supplied future writers and editors to the ranks of the professionalising SF scene.

            • PS. Reading wise, I read another Silverberg, The Man in the Maze. But I’ve been trying to step back from SF for a bit. I just feel overwhelmed. I’ve been reading some none genre fiction, mostly British short stories from the 18th and 19th centuries. Also trying to refocus on some of my non-genre research.

            • antyphase: To my mind, what’s happening is a “professionalisation” of SF, partly under the influence of people like John W. Campbell, though mostly under pressures exerted in the marketplace, by both consumers and producers of SF.

              Sometimes history really does depend on the arbitrary emergence of a singular peculiar individual on the scene. There was no significant marketplace demand in the US pulp marketplace for what Campbell supplied before he began supplying it. After all — as that cover from 1958 I posted shows — many magazine publishers continued publishing pulp-style garbage quite successfully after the appearance of Campbellian SF, well into the age of television. Likewise, as far as ‘professionalism’ goes, the pulp writers and editors were highly professional at extruding the necessary verbiage on demand.

              Campbell had been one of those pulp writers, publishing space opera with titles like ‘The Mightiest Machine’. But he’d fallen into it during the Depression after having flunked out of MIT without a Masters degree, chiefly for not fulfilling MIT’s requirement to sufficiently master German, then considered necessary for physics. He was an ambitious, disgruntled individual reduced to writing garbage — the lowest kind of cultural production — when he’d yearned to be taken seriously as a great physicist.

              Consequently, he took his ambitions and — perhaps ridiculously — applied them to the production of scientifiction, as the Gernsbackian term had it.

              Initially, by writing stories under the name Don A Stuart where he experimented with, firstly, importing into the American pulp vernacular the general tone of H.G. Wells and the Edwardian engineer-mystics who’d produced the British ‘scientific romances’ — because they were more intellectually ‘serious’ and Campbell wanted above all to be taken seriously — and, secondly, with considering the then-existing cliches of science fiction in the light of the real science he’d learned at MIT. (In other words, a direct line of descent exists between the aliens in ‘Brain Stealers of Mars’ by John W. Campbell and the alien(s) in ‘Who Goes There’ by Don A. Stuart.)

              Subsequently, once he was handed the editorship of ASTOUNDING, Campbell moved to radically separate its content from the rest of the pulps. The vast distance between the ‘serious’ presentation of ASF’s covers, which were outright intellectually austere sometimes, and the rest of the pulps’ covers was one instance of this move. Likewise, Campbell’s promotion of atomic power and weapons before these things actually happened (Though, again, in this he followed H.G. Wells, who’d predicted them in the 1913.) He probably never was happier than when the FBI took him seriously enough to visit ASTOUNDING’s office in 1944 so as to question him about where the magazine was getting its information about atomic weapons.

              I grant you: later, others — like those who made the scene at H.L. Gold’s GALAXY in the 1950s — arrived to professionalize what Campbell had done and to cater to the market for ‘mature’ SF he’d created. Indeed, he was soon left behind by the professionals. Nevertheless, the market — the whole field of intellectual production — was one Campbell created, driven purely by his own frustrated ambitions and disgruntlement after flunking out of MIT during the Depression and not by any marketplace demand, because there wasn’t one.

            • “Nevertheless, the market — the whole field of intellectual production — was one Campbell created, driven purely by his own frustrated ambitions and disgruntlement after flunking out of MIT during the Depression and not by any marketplace demand, because there wasn’t one.” I don’t quite understand this. In order for Campbell to succeed in creating a market, there must have been first a potential, then an actual, readership–readers who wanted to read SF, whether in Amazing, Astounding, Galaxy or The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

            • I don’t dispute Campbell’s pivotal role in fashioning SF in the 1940s. But I fear that the emphasis upon his sui generis role—a role, moreover, that he was the single greatest hagiographer of—obscures the fact that there was already a market for SF to which Campbell turned, and certainly helped to foster and develop, but by no means created from scratch.

              To repeat, none of this is to deny Campbell’s place in the history of mid-century SF. Indeed, doing so helps us to better understand his troubling influence upon a scene that has and still has an oversize share of right wing nutjobs espousing the “truth” of SF. But I feel that its time we try and understand the way Campbell himself was also a product of his time just as much as the field that he became so singularly associated with.

            • I agree, Mark. Campbell became the caudillo, as it were, of old-style hard SF. I’ve always had a soft spot, even affection, for him (in spite of his many failings), but not necessarily any more so than for other SFF editors such as Horace Gold, Anthony Boucher, Judith Merril, Michael Moorcock, Donald Wollheim, etc.

            • Carl Rosenberg: I don’t quite understand this. In order for Campbell to succeed in creating a market, there must have been first a potential, then an actual, readership–readers who wanted to read SF, whether in Amazing, Astounding, Galaxy or The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

              It’s not difficult to grasp. Sure, there existed a potential readership — very small, perhaps as small as the two-hundred (maybe more, maybe less) particularly smart, maladjusted young male readers of the pulp magazines who lived on the East Coast around NY, and who’d acclaimed the isolated instances of stories like, say, Stanley Weinbaum’s ‘A Martian Odyssey’ or Don A. Stuart’s ‘Twilight’ (both in 1934) as the stuff they wanted more of. These people had names like Donald Wollheim, Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, the rest of the Futurians, and on the West Coast Ray Bradbury and his circle. (There was a Chicago scene, but I know very little about it.)

              Other than that, however, before Campbell’s ASTOUNDING, the stuff in the so-called SF magazines in the US was … well, it was stuff like the Wade, Arcot, and Morey stories that Campbell himself wrote, in which the plucky white male American inventors invent an anti-gravity drive in their garage on the first day, test it on the second, and on the third day go off to the Andromeda galaxy where they help the white Aryan-looking good aliens defeat the dark-skinned, perhaps-tentacled bad aliens by inventing a superweapon to commit genocide on the bad aliens.

              I’m not kidding. Being a little impressionistic, maybe, but a lot of what was passed for science fiction in the American pulps really was like that. But just like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie started forcibly jamming all these weird extra notes and harmonies into early 1940s jazz and thus created Bebop and thence an audience for what they were doing, Campbell took then-existing pulp SF and wrenched it around and created ‘Modern’ American SF and a marketplace — a readership — that wanted more of what he and his writers were doing.

              Now you can argue that without Campbell science fiction and a readership for it would still have existed in some Platonic form and perhaps under another name. In fact, it did — the ‘scientific romance’ as practiced in the UK by H.G. Wells or Aldous Huxley in BRAVE NEW WORLD, which latter strikes me as superior to ‘If This Goes On’ by Robert Heinlein. Nevertheless, Heinlein is not without interest, and in the US it took Campbell to bring that kind of SF into existence, and without Campbell we’d have something different.

            • I see what you mean, Mark. I guess I was thinking of the readership of science fiction in general, not just Campbell’s kind of SF. I find it interesting to imagine a possible alternative history of SF, perhaps one in which someone other than Campbell–maybe Donald Wollheim?–became editor of Astounding in 1937. (I read his book, The Universe Makers, published in 1971. As I recall, he expressed a preference for Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction over Campbell’s Astounding/Analog.)

            • @ Carl R —

              Wollheim found Campbell repugnant and called him a fascist. Wollheim — who, besides being an astute capitalist when he became a publisher, was a former member of the American Communist Party — was right. Campbell became an increasingly repugnant and pathetic figure.

            • Yes, I gather that Wollheim was a lefty of sorts, and wasn’t keen on Campbell. (I think in the book The Universe Makers, he referred to Campbell as a “living fossil.”) Nevertheless there are still aspects of Campbell’s work I admire, in spite of the regressive aspects of his views and legacy–his Don A. Stuart stories, and editing of Astounding during its “Golden Age” period.

          • antyphayes: I fear that the emphasis upon his sui generis role—a role, moreover, that he was the single greatest hagiographer of—obscures … that there was already a market for SF to which Campbell turned, and certainly helped to foster and develop, but by no means created from scratch.

            Dude, have you read some American 1930s pulp SF? I have, and it’s bad. As in, it sucks moose weenie in the toilet bad. As in, my description of the Wade, Arcot, and Morey stories bad. As in, arguably not SF, because it’s such an ideation-free zone.

            There are a few points of promise in pre-Campbell US pulp SF. As far as I can tell, they’re Stanley Weinbaum, Campbell himself in his Don A. Stuart mode, and — I’ll grudgingly allow — E.E. Smith. (And I guess Lovecraft, to the extent that he’s an SF writer.)

            antyphayes: I feel that its time we try and understand the way Campbell himself was also a product of his time

            No doubt. Not only that, but he was a reprehensible, pathetic character even by the standards of his time — I’m with Donald Wollheim there. In fact, I’d go further than you in a way, because it seems to me that all Campbell did in his ‘Don A Stuart-Twilight’ mode was re-invent the wheel and rewrite H.G. Wells’s story ‘The Man Who Saw Tomorrow’ in an 1930s-era American vernacular. (As for ‘Who Goes There?’, I don’t where that came from but it’s been filmed three times, so Campbell hit on something there too).

            The point is, though, Campbell and nobody else did introduce that mode into American pseudo-SF.* And from that, everything else flows and adult SF began to become possible. Like JB, I’m not a big fan of most 1940s-era American SF. Nevertheless, there’s stuff from 1940s-era ASTOUNDING that still absolutely stands up and rewards an adult reader today, and mostly it’s the stories by the Kuttners (Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, a husband-and-wife team) like ‘Vintage Season,’ ‘The Children’s Hour,’ ‘Mimsy Were the Borogroves,’ and some others. In those stories, the Kuttners continually hit that Edwardian engineer-mystic tone from the British ‘Scientific Romances’ but do it in an entirely American mid-20th century way.

            *Unless you want to count William Sloane —
            — a professional publisher-editor who in 1937 and ’39 wrote a couple of novels on the side that are SF-horror — though again in the ‘scientific romance’ mode’ — but who never went near the American SF magazines and the genre as it then existed.

            • Mark, I feel you are too harsh on pre-1940s SF. To your list I would add, at the very least, writers like Raymond Z. Gallun, P. Schuyler Miller, Murray Leinster and Clark Ashton Smith (to name only some of my favourite pulpsters). Even C L Moore and Henry Kuttner were working on their chops pre-Campbell, and some of it was good.
              But in any case, the argument I am trying to make has little to do with quality—howsoever that’s defined. Sturgeon’s famous law is apposite here. What changes after the 1940s is both the market and the consumer base gets bigger—and continues to grow through the 1950s and beyond (and not just in the US). Given this explosion, one would hope that the quality would improve. Whether that quality is a larger percentage of output, per Sturgeon’s Law, is another question altogether.
              As you’ve pointed out, “crap” SF didn’t stop being produced as a result of Campbell. Indeed, Campbell was also an able steward of such crap—A.E. Van Vogt comes to mind, but I’ve also read my fair share of the less well-known dross that Campbell was publishing throughout the so-called Golden Age. Even the “good” writers continued to write crap, judging from the work they were publishing elsewhere, and even in Astounding too (for instance, I’ve never been a great fan of Asimov’s work anywhere). Perhaps Campbell’s editorial work helped to raise the bar. But it is still hard to make sense of what was going on in the 1940s: was Campbell chiefly responsible for the growing SF market, or was he an effect of this? Maybe a little but of both.
              Again, and to be perfectly clear, I am not suggesting that Campbell didn’t play a significant role. Rather, I find the reduction to Campbell somewhat questionable. Short of a dodgy alternate reality story—what if Campbell died in 1937…—we’ll probably never know what could have happened. More problematic, to my thinking, is that Campbell’s oversized influence continues to determine much of what is classed as SF. Despite the Campbell model falling into disrepute in the 1950s and 60s and being fairly well battered by the New Wave and its avatars, it didn’t so much die in the 1970s (which is also did, after a fashion), but rather continues to be proffered as the “real” model for SF in some rather noisy quarters.
              That SF is in large part Campbellian is undisputed. We both seem to agree that this is a problem. However, the question for me is not one of rescuing SF from Campbell—it’s way too late for that. In any case I’m not sure if I care. Apart from my obvious like for SF literature, I am mostly interested in SF these days as a historical “thing”, and that mostly between 1926 and 1975. I have little interest in defending SF from its detractors, or for championing a particular type of SF. Indeed, I feel that in large part SF signals the final collapse of an older utopian imaginary into something more amenable to market forces. But that, is another argument altogether.
              PS. On William Sloane, I find his two novels quite intriguing, particularly ‘To Walk The Night’. I recently got hold of the Sloane edited collection ‘Stories for Tomorrow’ (1955), mostly so I could read his short story, ‘Let Nothing You Dismay’. It’s good, if a little preachy at times.

              — Anthony

            • I don’t understand the statement that “SF is in large part Campbellian.” The emergence of Galaxy and F&SF in the fifties, and the New Wave in the sixties, meant that SF could never be quite as solidly Campbellian as before. Campbell’s kind of SF may be “proffered as the ‘real’ model for SF in some rather noisy quarters,” but doesn’t it survive mainly in Analog and Baen Books, with F & SF and Asimov’s being devoted to other forms of SF (and fantasy)?

            • I believe that the Gernsback-Campbell model of SF was the dominate one to which the editors of F&SF and Galaxy react in the late 40s and early 50s (“Gernsback-Campbell” in the sense of the continuity between their technophilic, proselytizing models of SF). Indeed, to imagine that the Gernsback-Campbell brand was just one model among other competing ones misunderstands its formative role. Further, it gives the lie to the idea that there is a “real” SF beyond these different models and fractures, that somehow can be revered beyond the peculiar history of Anglo-American SF. For better or worse, the Gernsback-Campbell model is the founding one, and I dare say—in the fullness of SF across the mediums—the still dominate one. To only see it in terms of the linear descendants of Astounding/Analog is to misunderstand the broad basis of its influence. By no means does this mean I endorse or support the Gernsback-Campbell model. On the contrary, I feel, much like Judith Merril and Brian Aldiss, that it created more problems than it solved by establishing a SF ghetto prone to gatekeeping and rampant sectarianism. Nonetheless, for a far chunk of the SF faithful, and perhaps even more so for those blissfully encamped outside the ghetto, the Gernsback-Campbell model is SF.

  2. Many thanks for this post! I find the theme of generation starships fascinating, and I’d like to read more stories along these lines, including the one by Don Wilcox reviewed here. I’ve only read two stories on this theme, Clifford Simak’s “Target Generation,” which I liked, and Robert Heinlein’s “Orphans of the Sky” (made up of the stories “Universe” and “Common Sense”) which I didn’t like quite as much, for various reasons.

  3. SF does have a way of reinventing itself contantly. The early-to-mid fifties saw a complete change in published sf. Campbell discovered authors, but couldn’t keep them. His established regulars (Heinlein, Asimov, Sturgeon, etc.) found more creative outlets. Established pulps, before they shut down, like Planet Stories, Super Science Stories, Startling Stories, were growing up with more adult themes and authors like P. J. Farmer, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Vance, and we were getting some important digests, the British scence was maturing (with Aldiss, Ballard, James White, Tubb, Keith Roberts, etc.), and the new paperback market was snapping up everyone from Kuttner, Asimov, Pohl, Kornbluth to hacks like Gardner Fox, and the start of the Ace Double. Most of this left Campbell behind publishing second-rate ficition. The sixties, seventies, and eighties all saw the revamping of the sf field.

    • “SF does have a way of reinventing itself constantly.” Indeed–I find this a fascinating aspect of SF. I sometimes wonder what Campbell made of Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds in the sixties.

      • It was probably irrelevant to him. While magazines like Amazing, Fantastic, and F&SF were all changed by New Worlds and Science Fantasy, Campbell just continued on his way publishing the same old stuff by authors like Anderson, Dickson, Mack Reynolds, and Randall Garrett. He’d discover authors like Spinrad, Tiptree, Wilhelm, Anvil, and Herbert, but quickly lose them. I mean, he passed on the second Dune novel! Really?

        True, he discovered Pournelle, S. Kye Boult/William E. Cochrane, Stanley Schmidt, and Tak Hallus/Stephen Robinett, but it wasn’t until Ben Bova took over that all the new talent like Lisa Tuttle, George R. R. Martin, Spider Robinson, Gregory Benson, Larry Niven, Greg Bear, Vonda McIntyre, Joe Haldeman, and others, some appearing elsewhere first, began appearing in Analog’s pages.

        Most of the “New Wave” authors were either appearing in the original anthologies, or in Ted White’s magazines, or in F&SF.

  4. Probably something similar to what Asimov thought:

    “I’m not sure I can tell you exactly what the ‘new wave’ is, but I have noticed something that is becoming more and more prevalent in the s. f. of the sixties. Science fiction tends to be lacking in science these days. It has gone ‘mainstream’ with just enough of a tang of the not-quite-now and the not-quite-here to qualify it for the inclusion in the genre.

    I disapprove. I want science fiction. I think science fiction isn’t really science fiction if it lacks science. And I think the better and truer the science, the better and truer the science fiction. […]

    I hope that when the New Wave has deposited its froth and receded, the vast and solid shore of science fiction will appear once more and continue to serve the good of humanity.”

    From “S. F. as a Stepping Stone” in Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1967

    PDF if you want to read the entire ridiculous editorial (pg 4-6):

    • On the other hand, I’ve read more favourable comments from Asimov regarding the New Wave, to the effect that he thought it was a good thing in that it stirred things up a bit in SF. He wrote a foreword to Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology, so he can’t have been completely hostile to the New Wave. Even the above quote isn’t completely hostile. To speak of the New Wave as “depositing its froth” implies that it has something worthwhile to contribute.

      • While I don’t deny that his view might evolve even within the same year — by stating that the New Wave is froth one is essentially saying it is insubstantial nothing little more than bubbles of air….

        That said, it’s been too long since I read his intro to Dangerous visions (from 1967 as well). I shall investigate. The froth comment from the Galaxy editorial stuck in my mind!

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