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Before the Golden Age: A Science Fiction…

Before the Golden Age: A Science Fiction Anthology of the 1930s (Book 1) (1974)

by Isaac Asimov

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Before the Golden Age is a science fiction anthology compiled by Isaac Asimov that collects his favorite "pre-Golden Age" science fiction. This is the first of three volumes. For those who do not know, the Golden Age of Science Fiction is generally regarded as the period during which Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein came to prominence, and Campbell served as editor of Astounding Science Fiction. These works, of Asimov's boyhood, were the ones that served to inform that generation of writers, and to a significant extent, were what they were reacting against.

The eight stories in this volume are pulpy in nature, with mad scientists, evil moustache twirling villains, bad science, and sadly but not unexpectedly, a fair amount of overt racism (when reading early 20th century fiction, one almost always has to overlook the racism that is inherent in most stories). Some of the ideas were silly even when they were written, even though the author seems to have taken them seriously: the idea of "levels" of evolution for example. Some were merely silly overall: the miniature world of S.P. Meek's stories for example.

The stories are uneven, but they are interspersed with Asimov's comments on his own childhood and how he came to read science fiction, and the impact these books had on him. All of the stories are interesting as a snapshot of the genre as it existed prior to the great changes wrought by the men who grew up reading them. All are good examples of classic pulp, which is good or bad depending on whether one likes the motifs of that genre. I love pulp, and I found Asimov's interstitial commentary concerning his childhood in New York to be very interesting, which taken together, makes for a great book. ( )
  StormRaven | Nov 7, 2008 |
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To Sam Moskowitz, and myself, and all the other members of First Fandom (those dinosaurs of science fiction), for whom some of the glitter went out of the world in 1938.
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And at last she believed, not because of Tumithak's eloquence, but because of the age-old appeal of sex.
---from "Tumithak of the Corridors" by Charles R. Tanner, p.285
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