Asimov/Astounding: Guided exploration and blogging prompt

For Tuesday, October 4, everyone is to read at least the first three parts of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and to spend a little time with a sample issue of the magazine in which it first appeared, Astounding Science-Fiction.

The issues containing Foundation are not available on the Pulp Magazines Project, but the archive does hold a digital version of an early issue of ASF edited by John W. Campbell, whose influence was decisive in forming the writing of the so-called “Golden Age” of Science Fiction, including that of Asimov.

Read the short history of Astounding by Nathan Vernon Madison on the Pulp Magazines Project website. Then download the PDF file of the August 1938 issue. As we did with Amazing Stories and Wonder Stories, browse this issue, paying particular attention to (and taking notes on) its characteristics as a medium, and comparing it to the other media we have looked at, including the earlier pulps.

You are not required to read any of the stories in the issue. You are required to read the following texts:

  1. Campbell’s editorial, “Power” (111)
  2. “In Times to Come” (124)
  3. The first page only of Willy Ley, “Orbits, Take-offs and Landings” (125); page through the rest
  4. The whole of “Science discussions and Brass Tacks” (154–61), taking careful note of the authors of the letters from readers.

Blogging prompt (group 1)

Foundation envisions a long future history. What is history, according to this novel? Choose a passage (or at most two) that suggests some particular understanding of history: who the protagonists of history are, which events are significant (or which aren’t), what forces or decisions shape the historical process. Or you can think about how the narrative form and technique of Asimov’s text implies attitudes to history (how it should be told, what its purpose is). Either way, quote a passage and build your blog post from there.

Write a good paragraph, but mini-essays are right out. Group 2 members may optionally blog about this if they wish.

Please do not forget to read all the blog entries on Monday evening.

Author: AG

Associate Professor, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick