Much of our 2012 programming revolves around birthdays. Both Tarzan and John Carter, Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ two most popular heroes, turn 100 this year. And Robert E. Howard’s Conan reaches eighty. We’re celebrating these important occasions with presentations devoted to these characters and their creators. But 2012 marks another important anniversary in pulp history.
This summer’s PulpFest will begin almost 75 years to the day after the September 1937 Astounding Stories hit newsstands across the nation. That issue was the first to benefit from the input of John W. Campbell, a pioneering science-fiction writer hired to assist F. Orlin Tremaine, who had been at the magazine’s helm since Street & Smith purchased it from publisher William Clayton in 1933. With Tremaine’s guidance, Astounding had become the preeminent SF pulp, but its best days were yet to come. Just a few months after joining the magazine’s staff, Campbell assumed full editorial control of the monthly and promptly instituted policies that ushered in what later became known as the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
Within a few short years, John Campbell had assembled a stable of writers that included talented newcomers and reliable mainstays alike. His roster of contributors was unparalleled by any other magazine in the field, and the first six years of his tenure as editor saw the publication of such classic science-fiction stories as "Slan," "Who Goes There?", "Final Blackout," "Sixth Column," "Methuselah’s Children," "Beyond This Horizon," "Gather, Darkness!", three of E. E. Smith’s "Lensman" novels and the early installments of Isaac Asimov’s "Foundation" series.
PulpFest 2012 will honor this remarkably fecund period in Astounding’s long history with a unique presentation. Rather than entrust it to a single speaker or a panel of enthusiasts, our salute to Campbell and the magazine’s Golden Age will be conducted by Garyn G. Roberts, PhD., and Blood ‘n’ Thunder editor Ed Hulse. Both are well qualified to discuss Campbell’s influence and Astounding’s peak years: Roberts is a popular culture professor and the editor of The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy (2000), while Hulse has written extensively about Astounding’s Golden Age, most recently in The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Collecting Pulps (2007).
Roberts and Hulse will take a Siskel-and-Ebert approach to their conversation, citing their favorite Astounding authors and stories while debating the merits of individual yarns that appeared in the magazine during the years under review. Their discussion will be accompanied by a slideshow of Astounding covers from September 1937 to November 1943. We’re not aware of any pulp-convention presentation that has employed this format, and we think it’ll be something special.
Join PulpFest on Thursday, August 9th for At the Newsstand with Hulse and Roberts.
The cover art above is by Wesso for the September 1937 issue of Astounding Stories.