Next summer at MidAmeriCon II–the 74th World Science Fiction Convention–among the awards given out will be the Retro Hugo awards for 1941. The award will cover stories published in 1940. I have a particular interest in this award because a few years ago, when I was taking my Vacation in the Golden Age, I read, and wrote about, every story that appeared in Astounding Science Fiction from July 1939 – November 1942. That means that I read and commented on every story that appeared in 1940 issue of Astounding.
Many of these stories are likely unfamiliar to modern audiences who will be voting for the Retro Hugos, so I wanted to call attention to my Vacation in the Golden Age, specifically for 1940, in the chance that folks would want to read what I thought of the stories published that year. And if any of them pique your interest, you might look them up in a collection or anthology.
Here are the 12 issues of Astounding that appeared in 1940. Clicking on the issues will take you to my review of that issue. I comment not only on the stories, but on everything in the magazine, letters, editorials, and sometimes even the advertisements.
|Episode 7: Jan ’40||Episode 8: Feb ’40||Episode 9: Mar ’40|
|Episode 10: Apr ’40||Episode 11: May ’40||Episode 12: Jun ’40|
|Episode 13: Jul ’40||Episode 14: Aug ’40||Episode 15: Sep ’40|
|Episode 16: Oct ’40||Episode 17: Nov ’40||Episode 18: Dec ’40|
Unlike 1939, where from July – December Astounding published stories by 3 different women, there were no stories published by women in 1940, at least not in Astounding. That’s too bad, because in 1939, one of my favorite stories was “Greater Than Gods” by C.L. Moore.
There was still some excellent fiction published in the 1940 issues of Astounding. And if you are wondering what my particular favorites were, I’ll list them for you below, along with the issue in which they appeared, in case you want to read more about them.
My favorite stories for 1940
- “Final Blackout” by L. Ron Hubbard1 (April, May, June 1940)
- “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein (January 1940)
- “Cold” by Nat Schachner (March 1940)
- “The Stars Look Down” by Lester Del Rey (August 1940)
- “The Mosaic” by J. B. Ryan (July 1940)
- “If This Goes On–” by Robert A. Heinlein (February 1940)
- “Butyl and the Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon (October 1940)
- “Fog” by Robert Willey2 (December 1940)
- “One Was Stubborn” by Rene La Fayette3 (November 1940)
Of course, A. E. van Vogt’s famous novel Slan was serialized in Astounding in 1940 and you may note that it didn’t make my list of favorite stories. I suspect this one will be high on the list for other people, primarily because it is still fairly well known today. But while the first part of Slan was extraordinary, I think it got weaker with each subsequent part. Not true for another serial, like Final Blackout. This is just my opinion.
Astounding was not the only magazine publishing science fiction in 1940. There were others, including Unknown, John Campbell’s other magazine, and Amazing Stories. But it was a time when it was still possible to read just about everything published in the year.
It will be interesting to see how the voting turns out for the Retro Hugo because it is a 2016 audience voting for stories published generations earlier. At the very least, it would be fascinating to look at the results of the Retro Hugos for 1941 and compare them to Campbell’s analytical laboratory (for those stories that came from Astounding at least) to see how much our literary judgments align with fans from generations past.