Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003
I found it! I found it!
Sometime around 1994 I read a bit of Asimov where he talked about a series of 18 articles on the solar system written by John W Campbell and published in Astounding circa 1936. I remembered he specifically mentioned that series as an inspiration to his science column in F&SF. So I made a note to look for them and in 1997 I was living in northern Virginia and noticed that Bob Madle's used book/magazine ads had a Maryland address so I gave him a call.
Madle is a huge Astounding & Doc Smith fan and as a kid went to the original meetings of the Futurians (one tidbit, he said Heinlein pronounced it "Hine'-lin"). Cool guy, and he had multiple copies of every issue of Astounding for sale including a bunch that had lost their covers -- he does color copies of a good cover and wraps that around the contents and reduces the price tremendously. So I was able to pick up all the issues with the JWC articles for a not exorbitant cost -- that included issues with the first Lovecraft stories, etc so it could have been very pricy.
I read and enjoyed them and last year decided to get them on-line so others could do the same. As a framing device, I thought I should get that Asimov quote and D'oh -- couldn't find it! Since 1994 I've read 3 autobiographies and countless essays intros and outros. I've looked through lots and lots of that stuff (and get sidetracked often!). I went to alt.books.isaac-asimov looking and got pointed to a bunch of other good mentions of these articles (which I dutifully added to the webpages) but couldn't find the one that sparked this project in the first place!
So last night I was reading Robert Charles Wilson's new _Blind Lake_ (pretty good -- I dug _Chronoliths_ much more) and one of his chapter heading quotes was from something called "The Human Pets of Mars" by Leslie Frances Stone (1936). Sounded pretty pulpy, so I looked it up in google and it was an SF short in Astounding. Hmmm, just for fun looked it up in ISFDB and it makes a rare appearance in "Before The Golden Age: Book 3" put together by our own Isaac Asimov. So I page through the story (looked pretty bad) and right after is a JWC story so I page through that and after it is one of those solar system articles, "Other Eyes Watching" and the intro has the quote I've been looking for. Woo hoo
For the first time, I read a modern account of the Solar System. (Until then, I had gotten my astronomy out of more or less out-of-date books in the public library.) For the first time, astronomy was made truly dramatic to me in Campbell's somewhat overcharged prose.... Campbell's articles taught me more. They taught me that non-fiction could be as interesting as fiction. Well enough done, I found, it could compete with the fiction in a science fiction magazine and grab the attention. I always turned to Campbell's article first in those issues in which the series appeared.
The time was to come, over a dozen years later, when Astounding would print non-fiction articles by me, and, still later, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction would begin a regular series of non-fiction articles by me that would run far longer than any other such series in the history of the field. (As I write this, I am working on my 181st monthly article in that series)
And all the articles I write for science fiction magazines, indeed all the non-fiction I write, I trace back to my pleasure at reading Campbell's articles on astronomy.
Can't believe I finally found it! Anyways, those articles are here http://jolomo.net/solarsystem/
Now I can finally relax ;)