Hugo and Locus Award Finalist
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Best Book of 2018
“An amazing and engrossing history...Insightful, entertaining, and compulsively readable.” — George R. R. Martin
Astounding is the landmark account of the extraordinary partnership between four controversial writers—John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard—who set off a revolution in science fiction and forever changed our world.
This remarkable cultural narrative centers on the figure of John W. Campbell, Jr., whom Asimov called “the most powerful force in science fiction ever.” Campbell, who has never been the subject of a biography until now, was both a visionary author—he wrote the story that was later filmed as The Thing—and the editor of the groundbreaking magazine best known as Astounding Science Fiction, in which he discovered countless legendary writers and published classic works ranging from the I, Robot series to Dune. Over a period of more than thirty years, from the rise of the pulps to the debut of Star Trek, he dominated the genre, and his three closest collaborators reached unimaginable heights. Asimov became the most prolific author in American history; Heinlein emerged as the leading science fiction writer of his generation with the novels Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land; and Hubbard achieved lasting fame—and infamy—as the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Drawing on unexplored archives, thousands of unpublished letters, and dozens of interviews, Alec Nevala-Lee offers a riveting portrait of this circle of authors, their work, and their tumultuous private lives. With unprecedented scope, drama, and detail, Astounding describes how fan culture was born in the depths of the Great Depression; follows these four friends and rivals through World War II and the dawn of the atomic era; and honors such exceptional women as Doña Campbell and Leslyn Heinlein, whose pivotal roles in the history of the genre have gone largely unacknowledged. For the first time, it reveals the startling extent of Campbell’s influence on the ideas that evolved into Scientology, which prompted Asimov to observe: “I knew Campbell and I knew Hubbard, and no movement can have two Messiahs.” It looks unsparingly at the tragic final act that estranged the others from Campbell, bringing the golden age of science fiction to a close, and it illuminates how their complicated legacy continues to shape the imaginations of millions and our vision of the future itself.
"Enthralling…A clarion call to enlarge American literary history.” — Washington Post
“Engrossing, well-researched… This sure-footed history addresses important issues, such as the lack of racial diversity and gender parity for much of the genre’s history.” — Wall Street Journal
“A gift to science fiction fans everywhere.” — Sylvia Nasar, New York Times bestselling author of A Beautiful Mind
The golden age of science fiction, spanning the years 1939 to 1950, gets an authoritative examination in this fascinating appraisal of its key players. The primary focus is John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, and the three very different writers who served him best: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard. The author credits Campbell with turning science fiction "from a literature of escapism into a machine for generating analogies" and using his magazine as "a laboratory in which his writers could work out scenarios for the future." That helped to conjure countless works of groundbreaking fiction, but after the dropping of the atomic bomb seemed to validate science fiction as prophecy, it drove Campbell into embracing dubious fringe beliefs, including dowsing and astrology, in his search for new intellectual breakthroughs. Nevala-Lee gives abundant insight into the authors' careers, revealing how Asimov first acquired his love of fiction as a lonely child working at his family's Brooklyn candy store, while Heinlein chanced into writing as a fallback career after a period of passionate involvement in Upton Sinclair's failed 1934 California gubernatorial campaign. This book is a major work of popular culture scholarship that science fiction fans will devour.
Reads like a SciFi novel
“Our tomorrow is the child of our today “- Octavia Butler
This is an anthology of John W Campbell, a scion of hard science fiction and three of his closest collaborators:Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard. The four friends basically laid the foundations for Star Trek, the Moon Landing, and Scientology- which was founded by Hubbard. They saw each other through WW2, The Atomic Age and, before they had a massive “falling out”.
Using a major amount of first person work, Alec Nevala-Lee has presented a major work of the collaboration of four brilliant authors, their life and times and how their work still affects us now and in our future. This is a book that will be added to my hard copy library. Highly Recommended 5/5