John W. Campbell, Jr.

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(June 8, 1910 – July 11, 1971)


John W. Campbell, Jr., was an early sf writer, editor of Astounding from 1938 to 1971, principal creator of the Golden Age of SF, discoverer of Heinlein, Asimov, van Vogt, Sturgeon, and many other writers, acclaimed editor, opinionated crank, and all in all, probably the most important and influential person in the history of sf. He was one of the two people (with Robert A. Heinlein) to have three times been Worldcon GoH: Philcon, SFCon, and Loncon.

He is the main subject of the excellent 2018 history Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee, the story of Campbell and Astounding Science Fiction. It's not exactly a biography of Campbell, but it is the closest thing we have.

Campbell wrote sf under the pennames of Don A. Stuart (taken from his then-wife's maiden name of Doña Stewart), and Karl van Campen. (As Don Stuart, he was a bit character in Rocket to the Morgue.) Probably his most important writing was done under the Don A. Stuart penname in the 1930s.

At a time when sf was still basically pulp adventure, he wrote stories which stand up well even today. Probably his most famous story is "Who Goes There?". Other significant Don A. Stuart stories include "Twilight" and "Forgetfulness".

Campbell was a huge correspondent, writing legendary letters to his writers critiquing their stories and often inspiring them. Perry Chapdelaine has published two volumes of the John W. Campbell Letters composed of letters by Campbell.

Among his oft-quoted opinions: “Sex and Science Fiction Don't Mix.”

He attended the First Worldcon in 1939.

He was married twice, to Doña from 1931–49; they named one of their daughters for Leslyn Heinlein; and then to Margaret “Peg” Winter in 1950.


Awards, Honors and GoHships:

His list of Hugo nominations and wins is impressive, especially considering that by far the most important part of his career happened before the Hugos were instituted: Under his editorship, Astounding was nominated for Best Professional Magazine from 1953 to 1972, winning in 1953-1957, 1961, 1962, 1964, and 1965. In addition, he won the Best Professional Editor Retro Hugo all three times it was awarded, for 1946, 1951, and 1954.

The Campbell Award was named after him. It was for new writers, and reflects the enormous impact he had on the field through the discovery, development and encouragement of new writers. However, Campbell became a controversial figure in 2019 when that year’s award winner denounced him as a fascist in her acceptance speech, and the award was renamed the Astounding Award.

There is also the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, which is different.

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