05 July 2010

The Real “Twilight”: John W. Campbell’s

I’ve discovered that once you start writing about 1930s magazine science fiction—a field small enough for thorough analysis, but bursting with enough wonders to fill the galaxy—it becomes difficult to stop. Pondering the marvels of Stanley G. Weinbaum’s 1935 classic “Parasite Planet” urged me to shift through my pile of Del Rey “Best of . . .” paperbacks, which are crammed with the stories that helped me reach a kind of SF maturation when I was a young reader.

The first of the Del Rey anthologies I purchased, long enough ago that it was new and sitting on the shelf of a chain bookstore, was The Best of John W. Campbell. The reason I bought this title was simple: it contained “Who Goes There?”, the basis for two movies I loved, The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982). I already knew Campbell’s reputation as an editor, but hadn’t experienced his earlier career as two different authors, John W. Campbell and Don A. Stuart.

If Stanley G. Weinbaum was “a Campbell author before Campbell,” so too was Campbell—or at least, Don A. Stuart was. The proof is in “Twilight,” a story under the Stuart name that appeared in the November 1934 issue of Astounding Stories during the tenure of editor F. Orlin Tremaine. I may have bought The Best of John W. Campbell for “Who Goes There?,” but it was “Twilight” that entranced me and became one of my favorite short stories of any genre.

(And yes, as the heading of this post indicates, to me the title “Twilight” always means this story. It had too potent an effect on me to ever allow anything else, no matter how much popular culture it devours, to steal the word “twilight” for other use.)

Read the rest at Black Gate. . . .