In 1937, John Wood Campbell, Jr, who had held a variety of dead-end jobs up to that point, was hired as an assistant editor at Street & Smith working on Astounding. Within the year, the then editor of Astounding, F. Orlin Tremaine, moved up in the Street & Smith hierarchy and Campbell, with next to no editorial experience, found himself running the magazine, which he continued to do for the next several decades.
Campbell was a reasonably proficient writer of ‘superscience’ stories, the sort of over-the-top extravaganzas that had come to dominate pulp science fiction in the 20s and 30s; but he achieved more under the pseudonym ‘Don A. Stuart’ with stories that were rather more restrained in their invention and melancholy in their affect. When he took on the editorial role at Astounding, he stopped writing; that creativity was instead channelled into the ideas he fed to his favoured stable of writers. One of the peculiarities of Campbell’s editorship of Astounding, at least during his first decade or so in that role (you don’t hear these stories attached to the magazine by the time he was changing its name to Analog), was the extent to which he fed ideas to his authors. I am sure any editor worth their salt is likely to suggest an idea to an author now and then, but the mythology attached to Campbell would have us believe that most of the great stories that appeared in Astounding during its heyday came directly from Campbell himself. And there is enough commonality in these stories, enough sense that they are the children of Don A. Stuart, to lend some credence to the myth. Continue reading