Why was The Golden Age of Science Fiction called a Golden Age ?

BAYLOR

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The period of time for this designation is, roughly the late 1930's and the 1940's . What made it so, given that Science fiction as a genre, predates this time period. And, given the fact science fiction has evolved quite a bit since that time , how can this period be referred to as a Golden Age at all ? And what of Science fiction written before this Golden age? Are the stories written in those earlier times somehow of lesser merit and quality ? :unsure:


Thoughts? :)
 

CupofJoe

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For me it has more to do with the boom in the genre in the 50s and 60s [and later]. The writers then were drawing on what had inspired them when younger. They were reflecting [perhaps nostalgically] on what they loved about the story the stories they first met. These were the stories that defined their tastes. Just like a first BF or GF will always be special so will the time you really feel a killer robot's rampage leaping off the page at you.
And [at least in the west] then there is the whole socio-political back drop of Science Fiction against the world position prior to and during WW2. Where technology could be a curse or a wonder...
 

hitmouse

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Because it was all shiny and yellow?



Basically it is subjective. Just because someone decided to call it that does not mean it is necessarily the best, although arguably it was the period when many of the main SF tropes and styles became established, and when SF as a genre really crystallised.
 

chrispenycate

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In a book (called 'before the golden age, by Asimov, if I remember correctly) the forward said that 'the golden age' was when the reader using the terms was just getting into heavy reading, maybe early/mid teens. Say late fifyes-sixties for me (I was an early reader). But the typicl glorifying of technology of that epoche became less evident once we walked on the moon, and ecology became fashionable, we could stand on Zanzibar. Or try virtual reality, or cross breeding with fantasy. I was reading it all, and cyberpunk, and… But the new stuff wasn't golden, because it was less new, and so was I.
 

Venusian Broon

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The period of time for this designation is, roughly the late 1930's and the 1940's . What made it so, given that Science fiction as a genre, predates this time period. And, given the fact science fiction has evolved quite a bit since that time , how can this period be referred to as a Golden Age at all ? And what of Science fiction written before this Golden age? Are the stories written in those earlier times somehow of lesser merit and quality ? :unsure:


Thoughts? :)
I wouldn't think that stories written in earlier times were of lesser merit or quality. (Edit - or at least the ones we think of today, like a lot of HG Wells' work etc...)

The golden age refers, I believe, to the moment in SF history when the genre gained mass appeal and authors starting producing 'classics', particularly novels (I'd say) - a large body of work that would define standards for the next few decades. Before that was the 'pulp era' which were the growth of magazines that started the modern SF genre - but were of variable quality, writing and idea-wise.

I'd say the golden age really went into the 1950s, as a lot of what we still think of as "high-tier SF" was written then.

However you have to remember that this refers to the US. Outside the US would have different evolutions.

Before the arrival of pulp magazines or the golden age, I'm not sure there was a well-defined genre, amongst the books being produced, that would-be 'modern SF' fans and readers could latch onto and grow.
 
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hitmouse

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However you have to remember that this refers to the US. Outside the US would have different evolutions.

very true.
In England it was the Jolly Good Age,
In Glasgow it was the See You Jimmy Age, in France c’etait L’Age Sacre Bleu, and in Australia it was the Fair Dinkum Age.

not a lot of people know that.
 

Astro Pen

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I'm with @CupofJoe The golden age was 50's and 60's. Prior to that nearly everything seems to have been written for teenagers. OK Asimov and others continued in that vein but Blish, Ballard, Bradbury* and Bova, (to name but some of the Bs) brought in a whole raft of broader and more adult canvases.
I think it was short story magazines and their brave editors, that opened the door to a more experimental and richer form which elevated the SF game to a higher literary platform.
*It was interesting to me that Bradbury complained about being labeled an SF writer claiming, quite correctly, that it was only 25% of his output.
 

paranoid marvin

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The 'Golden Age' of Sci-fi is like the Golden Age of film, tv, music or video games; it's in the mind of the beholder.

It could be the latter part of the 19th Century with writers such as Jules Verne, HG Wells. In this period everything was possible, little had been disproven. The canals on Mars were surely transporting Martians around the globe and the jungles of Venus teeming with life. Journey to such places was almost inevitable, as was the possibility of peaceful coexistence - or interplanetary war.

Then there was the earlier part of the 20th century with the invention of movies, when people could at last see what they thought alien planets and their people would look like. We also had the serial stories of Flash Gordon. In print we had pulp fiction such as Astounding Stories and Weird tales, which allowed children and adults alike to get an insight into the wonderful world of science fiction.

Then there was the mid 20th century, with science fiction in print starting to get more serious with the giants of literature in Bradbury, Clarke and Asimov. Science fiction in movies was really hitting it's stride with the likes of The day The Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and When Worlds Collide (to name but a few) and the classic tv series of Outer Limits and Twilight Zone. We were now in a period were satellites were being put into orbit, and the Moon was almost within touching distance. After that , Mars and Venus surely couldn't be far behind.

Then the 60s and 70s. Not only had we put a man on the Moon, we also had classic tv series such as Star Trek, Blakes 7 and Doctor Who. At the movies Close Encounters, Alien , 2001 and I wonder for how many people was Star Wars their first glimpse into space? We also had some brilliant authors who created wonderful works of fiction as well as helping to produce tv programmes. Some of the greatest sci-fi minds of all time in Terry Nation, Terrance Dicks, Gene Roddenberry, Nigel Kneale and (my favourite) Douglas Adams. Of course during this period Asimov, Clarke and Bradbury were still going strong, and of course there were plenty of other quality sci-fi authors around too.

I think mid 60s through to late 70s was probably for me the Golden Age of sci-fi, but I'm sure for others it was probably different.
 

BAYLOR

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The 'Golden Age' of Sci-fi is like the Golden Age of film, tv, music or video games; it's in the mind of the beholder.

It could be the latter part of the 19th Century with writers such as Jules Verne, HG Wells. In this period everything was possible, little had been disproven. The canals on Mars were surely transporting Martians around the globe and the jungles of Venus teeming with life. Journey to such places was almost inevitable, as was the possibility of peaceful coexistence - or interplanetary war.

Then there was the earlier part of the 20th century with the invention of movies, when people could at last see what they thought alien planets and their people would look like. We also had the serial stories of Flash Gordon. In print we had pulp fiction such as Astounding Stories and Weird tales, which allowed children and adults alike to get an insight into the wonderful world of science fiction.

Then there was the mid 20th century, with science fiction in print starting to get more serious with the giants of literature in Bradbury, Clarke and Asimov. Science fiction in movies was really hitting it's stride with the likes of The day The Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and When Worlds Collide (to name but a few) and the classic tv series of Outer Limits and Twilight Zone. We were now in a period were satellites were being put into orbit, and the Moon was almost within touching distance. After that , Mars and Venus surely couldn't be far behind.

Then the 60s and 70s. Not only had we put a man on the Moon, we also had classic tv series such as Star Trek, Blakes 7 and Doctor Who. At the movies Close Encounters, Alien , 2001 and I wonder for how many people was Star Wars their first glimpse into space? We also had some brilliant authors who created wonderful works of fiction as well as helping to produce tv programmes. Some of the greatest sci-fi minds of all time in Terry Nation, Terrance Dicks, Gene Roddenberry, Nigel Kneale and (my favourite) Douglas Adams. Of course during this period Asimov, Clarke and Bradbury were still going strong, and of course there were plenty of other quality sci-fi authors around too.

I think mid 60s through to late 70s was probably for me the Golden Age of sci-fi, but I'm sure for others it was probably different.

In terms of Cinema , the 60's and the 70 's was the period in which movie producer and executives started to lock at science fiction as a serious genre
 

BAYLOR

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Because thanks to the work of John W. Campbell SF was finally starting to grow up and leave the Buck Rogers/Flash Gorden phase behind!

Im no fan of John W Campbell for alot of reasons . But in his favor , he did set the bar high for the science fiction genre and, he did discover quite a few of the great writers we all know and love.
 

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I think, for me, the reason why the specific time period is indeed the Golden Age is because, as a youngster in the 70s and taking my first steps through science fiction, many of the short story collections that I was reading at the time were reprints of stories from the magazines of the 40s. They may well already have been dated even back then when I first read them but that did not diminish the sense of wonder I felt reading them.
 

BAYLOR

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I think, for me, the reason why the specific time period is indeed the Golden Age is because, as a youngster in the 70s and taking my first steps through science fiction, many of the short story collections that I was reading at the time were reprints of stories from the magazines of the 40s. They may well already have been dated even back then when I first read them but that did not diminish the sense of wonder I felt reading them.

City By Clifford Simak . Had it's genesis in 1944 . Obsolete , in places yes but still a wondrously good read.
 

Robert Zwilling

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Based on what I was reading, it was the impact of the stories. I read Lovecraft and Asimov at the same timer, which opened up two great extremes at the same time. One wildly internal, the other, went to the outer edges of the universe. The Golden Age, was strangely impersonal, fantastic voyages that were true only in far off areas of my mind where I couldn't stay. What started in the 50s, an effort to put the reader in the frame, came to a crashing end in the psychedelic 60's and 70's, when reality hit the fan and what I was reading seemed like it could happen to me in the near future. Revolutions of thought use to have a lot of leeway in time, but I guess those times are gone. I often wonder if the people who came up with the idea of the name, the United States, were thinking about how it would look on a map.
 

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I'm in agreement with Paranoid Marvin in that the Golden Age is in the mind of the beholder.

Personally, the nineties was my golden age. I joined the SF&F book club, which meant that i was being introduced to many new authors such as Iain M. Banks. Babylon 5 aired. (In fact, Sci-Fi was pretty big on the telly, so there were a lot of like minded people around.) On Saturdays, I used to hang around in a Star Trek theme bar called Page's.

I was in my twenties, so i think that it was just a good time for me.
 

The Scribbling Man

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*It was interesting to me that Bradbury complained about being labeled an SF writer claiming, quite correctly, that it was only 25% of his output.

It's always bothered me a bit that Bradbury gets lumped in with SF "greats". The Martian Chronicles is more like fantasy, and Fahrenheit is only sci-fi in the same way Orwell's 1984 is - it's dystopian. Sure, some of Bradbury's short fiction treads that ground, but more often than not it's just fantastical. Nothing warranting the titles he gets IMO.
 

BAYLOR

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It's always bothered me a bit that Bradbury gets lumped in with SF "greats". The Martian Chronicles is more like fantasy, and Fahrenheit is only sci-fi in the same way Orwell's 1984 is - it's dystopian. Sure, some of Bradbury's short fiction treads that ground, but more often than not it's just fantastical. Nothing warranting the titles he gets IMO.

I liked his version of Mars .:cool:
 

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