Golden Age of Short Science Fiction Criticism: Major Golden Age Short Science Fiction Authors And Editors - Essay

Donald M. Hassler (essay date 1991)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hassler, Donald M. “The Campbell Years and All the Short Stories.” In Isaac Asimov, pp. 18-36. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, Inc., 1991.

[In the following essay, Hassler scrutinizes Isaac Asimov's literary origins and assesses his importance as a short fiction writer.]

Many critics writing on Asimov's fiction have argued that the shorter forms not only are where he began but also constitute his extent of narrative competence. Still others argue that science fiction itself is best seen as a short story genre.1 Asimov's mind set from the start, however, tended toward large general themes and hence toward longer and longer narratives. For...

(The entire section is 5283 words.)

William F. Touponce (essay date 1991)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Touponce, William F. “The Robot Stories.” In Isaac Asimov, pp. 32-43. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.

[In the following essay, Touponce characterizes the science in Isaac Asimov's robot stories, regarding them as innovative and influential tales.]


Asimov's robot stories are collected in five volumes: I, Robot (1950), The Rest of the Robots (1964), The Complete Robot (1982), Robot Dreams (1986), and Robot Visions (1990). The last two volumes contain only a few previously uncollected robot stories, and the third volume is an omnibus in which previously published stories are...

(The entire section is 5163 words.)

David Mogen (essay date 1986)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Mogen, David. “The Martian Chronicles.” In Ray Bradbury, pp. 82-93. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.

[In the following essay, Mogen discusses the critical reaction to Ray Bradbury's best-known work, The Martian Chronicles, and views the book as a thematically-linked group of stories.]

Bradbury's best-known and most powerful treatment of the space frontier theme is The Martian Chronicles, the book that first established his reputation, whose overall design evokes in a unique way the ambiguous poetry in his vision of the frontier process. In many respects Bradbury's finest single achievement, The Martian Chronicles lyrically...

(The entire section is 5133 words.)

David Cochran (essay date 2000)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cochran, David. “‘I'm Being Ironic’: Imperialism, Mass Culture, and the Fantastic World of Ray Bradbury.” In American Noir: Underground Writers and Filmmakers of the Postwar Era, pp. 55-72. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Cochran investigates the defining characteristics of Ray Bradbury's science fiction stories, contending that they reflect the elite cultural view of the postwar period.]

Over lunch one day, a friend asked Ray Bradbury where he got the ideas for his stories. “Anywhere,” the author replied, looking at the mushrooms on his plate. “There's a story in mushrooms.” To prove his point, Bradbury...

(The entire section is 8513 words.)

James Gunn (essay date 1975)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Gunn, James. “The Astounding Editor: 1938-1950.” In Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, pp. 148-71. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975.

[In the following essay, Gunn offers an overview of John W. Campbell's seminal career as the editor of Astounding Stories.]

The dozen years between 1938 and 1950 were Astounding years. During these years the first major science fiction editor began developing the first modern science fiction magazine, the first modern science fiction writers, and, indeed, modern science fiction itself.

The editor was John W. Campbell; the magazine was Astounding Stories, a...

(The entire section is 10220 words.)

Brian W. Aldiss (essay date 1995)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Aldiss, Brian W. “Campbell's Soup.” In The Detached Retina: Aspects of SF and Fantasy, pp. 145-49. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Aldiss evaluates John W. Campbell's great contribution to science fiction literature.]

Setting nostalgia aside, what was achieved by Astounding Science Fiction under the editorship of John Wood Campbell? Campbell edited this famous magazine from May 1938, when he took full charge, until he died in July 1971, at the age of sixty-one. It was a long tenure. Many of us still think of those years, particularly the magazine's rich decades of the 1940s and 1950s, as “Campbell's years”....

(The entire section is 1827 words.)

Eric S. Rabkin (essay date 1979)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Rabkin, Eric S. “Short Stories.” In Arthur C. Clarke, pp. 53-60. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1979.

[In the following essay, Rabkin provides an analysis of Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction stories in order to appreciate his achievement in the genre of science fiction literature.]

Under the guise of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke has written fine examples of every kind of short fiction from the ghost story to the tall tale to the lament for lost love. In addition, he has written a number of unique stories which are among the most famous in science fiction and widely read outside the field as well. “The Star” won the Hugo Award for best...

(The entire section is 3797 words.)

Patricia Ferrara (essay date summer 1987)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Ferrara, Patricia. “‘Nature's Priest’: Establishing Literary Criteria for Arthur C. Clarke's ‘The Star’.” Extrapolation 28, no. 2 (summer 1987): 148-58.

[In the following essay, Ferrara considers Arthur C. Clarke's use of traditional literary techniques in his science fiction stories “A Meeting with Medusa,” “The Awakening,” and “The Star.”]

Much of Arthur C. Clarke's fiction is oriented towards rapid and simplistic plot development in the way that most pulp fiction is, frequently to the detriment of any other literary values; yet his fiction deserves more critical attention than its faults warrant. Noting this, Michael Thron has argued...

(The entire section is 4716 words.)

Damon Knight (essay date 1967)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Knight, Damon. “One Sane Man: Robert A. Heinlein.” In In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction, pp. 76-89. Chicago: Advent Publishers, 1967.

[In the following essay, Knight discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction stories and argues that he “is the nearest thing to a great writer the science fiction field has yet produced.”]

Robert A. Heinlein has that attribute which the mathematician Hermann Weyl calls “the inexhaustibility of real things”: whatever you say about him, I find, turns out to be only partly true. If you point to his innate conservatism, as evidenced in the old-time finance of “The...

(The entire section is 6176 words.)

Rafeeq O. McGiveron (essay date summer 2001)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: McGiveron, Rafeeq O. “From Free Love to the Free-Fire Zone: Heinlein's Mars, 1939-1987.” Extrapolation 42, no. 2 (summer 2001): 137-49.

[In the following essay, McGiveron investigates Robert A. Heinlein's view of Mars as found in his science fiction stories.]

s Although as early as 1942, with the inscrutable super-stratospheric ball-lightning creatures of “Goldfish Bowl,” Robert A. Heinlein undermined the pulp science fiction cliché that Mars was the nearest home of intelligent alien life, Heinlein still clung to the idea of Mars as the cradle of an alien civilization in fact for at least another decade and in fiction for a decade longer, and the...

(The entire section is 6384 words.)

Douglas Robillard (essay date 1984)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Robillard, Douglas. “Uncertain Futures: Damon Knight's Science Fiction.” Voices for the Future: Volume Three (1984): 30-51.

[In the following essay, Robillard offers a thematic and stylistic overview of Damon Knight's science fiction stories.]

Most of Damon Knight's fiction was produced during the 1950s and 1960s, and, sadly for his readers, he has published very little fiction since. Instead, he has been engaged prominently as an anthologist and editor, assembling a number of worthwhile collections of published sf and carefully exercising his editorial judgment on unpublished stories for his long series of Orbit anthologies to bring the work of...

(The entire section is 9319 words.)

Thomas D. Clareson (essay date 1987)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Clareson, Thomas D. “The 1940s: Apprenticeship and Collaboration.” In Frederik Pohl, pp. 1-10. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, Inc., 1987.

[In the following essay, Clareson elucidates the defining characteristics of Fred Pohl's early science fiction stories.]

In an introductory note to “Red Moon of Danger,” an early story which Fred Pohl included in Planets Three (1982), he remarks that “the only thing a writer has to sell is his personal, idiosyncratic view of the universe” (66). Such an assertion has importance because it belies that separation which some academic critics, especially, would still make between the author and the text,...

(The entire section is 3450 words.)