When Bester met Campbell

Hugh

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The interviews are extraordinarily interesting. Seems like many of the situations we see today have been around all along. I copied some of the quotes that struck me as something to consider.

The Space Merchants - "and suddenly comes this realistic extrapolation of what American life, American advertising, American ecology and American psychosis will lead to eventually."

Said in 1978, - "Science fiction has replaced quote mainstream fiction unquote, completely."
- "science fiction is the poetry of literature"
- "minister of a church in Los Angeles used to sell copies of Galaxy and the other science-fiction magazines outside the church after services, because he said it was the only free speech in America."

1978 -"1,200 science-fiction books published in America last year"

Standard publishing, mags, tv, movies, - "They can’t afford to permit people to experiment,"
-"The constraints of commercial fiction in the States in television, in films, in radio, you name it, are so severe that there is very little you can do."
- "radio and television and national magazines have priced themselves out of experiment."

Science Fiction - "It seems to be affected by events like Star Trek and Star Wars and Close Encounters — they bring in a lot of people to the films, but they don’t have much to do with the main body of science fiction."

This was said when you could see what was what, before there were millions of choices for everything. The words are still relevant, and perhaps go a long way towards explaining why things are the way they are.

The idea that science fiction replaced fiction because it was full of radical new ideas that involved all levels of society, that it looked like poetry compared to plain old fiction is an interesting idea. That style of fiction where anything could happen spread across all types of fiction and somewhere along the way science was once again on the outside looking in.
I've read that in McCarthy era USA science fiction was the only place where ideas could be explored freely. I'm sure there is some truth in that.
 

BAYLOR

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I've read that in McCarthy era USA science fiction was the only place where ideas could be explored freely. I'm sure there is some truth in that.
The original Outer limits Episode The Architects of Conspiracy comes to mind
 

Robert Zwilling

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I got that it was the whole attitude that science fiction was constantly pitching at authority, the unknown, disregard of protocol. The susceptibility of the establishment to failure. The ability to overcome the prejudices of facing the unknown. Not that science fiction didn't have its own social literary defects, but it was reflective of what people were thinking so it slid by under the radar.
 

BAYLOR

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I got that it was the whole attitude that science fiction was constantly pitching at authority, the unknown, disregard of protocol. The susceptibility of the establishment to failure. The ability to overcome the prejudices of facing the unknown. Not that science fiction didn't have its own social literary defects, but it was reflective of what people were thinking so it slid by under the radar.
Its use of Allegory ?
 

Robert Zwilling

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Definitely use of allegory, it's the safest way to say what you want. Once you set your characters far enough into the future or into another world so there is no connection with day to day life and where the story is taking place, I think it becomes very easy to make comments about current society.

One of the reasons World SF was started was to allow authors in authoritarian countries to travel to western countries. All the author needed was an invite from World SF to get the hard to get travel visa. They were printing between the lines.

In the interview I was amazed at how tough Bester and Pohl were on the media establishment back in the 1970s. They were saying it was already constrained by what the mass market was allowed to see or hear. The stories about what Hollywood wanted for science fiction scripts was classical.

Some authors were writing conventional fiction in unconventional ways, like John Barth's Gile's Goat-Boy, good funny critical stuff that kept you too busy laughing. I think ordinary fiction wants you to believe what you are reading right off the bat, keeping your mind on the subject, no temporarily going off track to wonder what if. Science fiction is trying to suspend belief to get you to believe what you are reading and to expand the contrived horizons within your own mind. After you read the book your mind is bigger. Whether it stays that way or not is another question.
 

Al Jackson

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It is interesting that this story is also in the new book
Astounding : John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction
by Alec Nevala-Lee
with a few more details.

I tell you Campbell , for a guy who did know some science, to be so gullible about Hubbard is hard to understand, but worse is that Robert Heinlein bought in Hubbard (not Dianetics) for too long, at least Heinlein finally noticed that Hubbard was a scary nut case. Asimov comes off as the most intelligent of the group, I think he was, Campbell didn't even bother to confront Asimov about Dianetics I think he knew Asimov was above all that crap.
 
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