Resuming My Vacation in the Golden Age

Very soon, I will be resuming my Vacation in the Golden Age. The first 40 episodes of my Vacation, covered all of the issues of Astounding Science Fiction from July 1939 (the opening of the “Golden Age” of science fiction) through the October 1942 issue.  I described my reasons for taking a vacation in the Golden Age back when I first got started. Why I stopped might not have been as clear, but I think there were three reasons:

  1. The series began to feel like an obligation, rather than a fun exercise in science fiction nostalgia. I began to feel pressure to get each one out, often rushing them, and not enjoying the issues as I might have.
  2. More and more, my time was growing limited. I wasn’t writing as much fiction as I wanted to, and other obligations were squeezing out the time I had to read the magazines.
  3. Burnout. I’d been reading the magazines for close to 2 years, covering 40 issues and hundreds of stories and articles, and writing more than 100,000 words of commentary. I needed a break.

So why start things up again now? Well, I’ve been feeling the desire to get back to the old magazines for a long time, but there were some things that I needed to be sure of. One of those things was my fiction writing. I did not want to sacrifice my writing time for reading old issues of Astounding. I needed to wait until I was sure that I wouldn’t do that. If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve now written every day for the last 174 days, and I’ve missed only 2 days in the last 318. My daily writing habit is well-established now and I don’t worry about missing it. I always write.

Yesterday, I read Jennifer Campbell-Hick’s story, “Malfunction” in the Raygun Chronicles anthology (edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt). Jennifer was a fellow Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop attendee this summer. Her story was magnificent, with echoes of Asimov’s robot stories and reminiscent of  stories from the Golden Age. I think reading her story was what pushed me over the top and decided me on resuming my Vacation.

Still, I needed some ground rules for this new effort. I’d been thinking about these unconsciously for a while, but I formulated them into a set of “rules” that will help guide me through this next phase. They are:

  1. My fiction writing takes precedence. Given a limited time supply and a choice between reading Astounding or getting in my writing for the day, I’ll go with writing first and then reading if there is time left over.
  2. Because of #1, I’m not going to work on a set schedule as I did last time. I started my Vacation trying to read an issue each week, and then went to every other week. For this resumption, I plan on going at whatever pace is the least stressful. The whole point is to enjoy this Vacation, and share that enjoyment, without the pressure of getting an episode out every other week, or on some other set schedule.

In practice, I suspect this means that episodes will come out on fairly regular cycles, although what those are yet, I don’t know. Sometimes, there will be longer delays between episodes, and other times, they will be close together.

This morning, I have started reading (with a great deal of joy) the November 1942 issue of Astounding, and when I’ve finished, I’ll post the episode. When I am close to finishing, I’ll give some warning over various social media, so if you want to keep up, you can follow me on Twitter (@jamietr), follow my new Twitter account dedicated to my Vacation (@goldenagesf), or my Facebook page.

I’m looking forward to getting back into this, and looking forward to the great discussions we had in the comments to the post. And as always, I’m open to suggestions, so drop them in the comments below.

In the meantime, if you want a preview of what’s coming in Episode 41, here’s the table of contents1 for the November 1942 issue of Astounding:

TOC Nov 42

And if you haven’t read the series so far, or are looking to refresh yourself before Episode 41 comes out, there are 40 previous episode of my Vacation in the Golden Age available online.

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  1. Yes, it really is signed by Jack Williamson and A. E. van Vogt.

5 thoughts on “Resuming My Vacation in the Golden Age

  1. Good news! I had been enjoying those posts… Reading consecutively through magazine issues is a great way to immerse yourself in SF history. Off and on for the last few years I’ve been reading Galaxy and F&SF from the beginning, the Pohl-edited issues of If from the ’60s, and Campbell’s Unknown. Not every story is a keeper, but I’ve found it somewhat addictive to go “back in time” and watch the field unfolding in this way.

  2. Scott, Barry Malzberg has repeatedly suggested to me that after I finish with Astounding, I need to do the decade of the 1950s with Galaxy. I’d love to do that, but one step at a time!

    I’d love to go through the Unknown run, which is a substantially shorter than either Golden Age Astounding or Galaxy. Killed by the paper shortage during the Second World War.

  3. Just checked and over the last few years I’ve made it through the first 32 issues of the Galaxy run, through May ’53. The stories are mostly excellent and always interesting, with serializations of some of the greatest SF novels every (e.g., Space Merchants, Demolished Man, Ring Around the Sun). In part it was Malzberg’s arguments in “Breakfast in the Ruins” on this being a high point in SF history (along with some similar comments made by Robert Silverberg) that led me to choose it as a reading project, so I have him to thank in part for the idea.

    I’ve only read the first half-dozen issues of Unknown, and found these 1939 issues to have more forgettable stories than I would have expected, but it seems to be gaining momentum as it goes on, and there are lots of the classic stories still to come. It’s definitely an interesting contrast to what Campbell was doing with Astounding at the same time.

    And one step at a time is right; there will never be enough time to read everything we’d like to!

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