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John W. Campbell

John Wood Campbell, Jr. (June 8,1910-July 11,1971) was the editor from 1938 until his death in 1971 of the science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction, renamed Analog Science Fiction in 1960. During his editorship, he published the first stories of Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, L. Ron Hubbard and others, and strongly encouraged Isaac Asimov. He also edited the fantasy magazine Unknown Worlds from 1939 to 1943.

Campbell was well known for the opinionated editorials in each issue of the magazine, where he would sometimes argue quite proposterous hypotheses, perhaps intended to spark off story ideas. An anthology of these editorials was published after his death. He also suggested story ideas to writers more directly, and sometimes asked for stories to match cover paintings he had already bought.

The first issue of Astounding which was entirely edited by Campbell, the July 1939 issue, contained the stories "Black Destroyer" by van Vogt and "Lifeline" by Heinlein, and is often considered to be the beginning of science fiction's first "golden age". (Asimov's first story in Astounding, "Trends", appeared the following month.)

In the 1950s, he developed a strong interest in some alternative theories: the 'Dean Drive', a device that supposedly produced a thrust in violation of Newton's third law; and the 'Hieronymous machine', which could supposedly amplify psi powers. During his interest in this latter subject, he published many stories of telepathy and other abilities.

Besides his editing, he published a number of short stories in the late 1930s, often using the name 'Don A. Stuart', including "Who Goes There?" about a group of Antarctic researchers who discover a crashed alien vessel, complete with a malevolent shape-changing occupant. This was filmed as The Thing From Another World (1951) and again as The Thing (1982).

Between December 11, 1957 and June 13, 1958, Campbell acted as host to a weekly science fiction radio program named Exploring Tomorrow. The scripts were written by authors such as Gordon Dickson and Robert Silverberg. Transcripts of some programs are still available.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer were set up in his honour.

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