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

Swank

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"Golden age" does not mean the best age. It just means the first identifiable period of wide publication that saw the genre take shape from nearly nothing. Same as with comics - zero to superheros. It doesn't mean they were better than the current bronze age, but interesting because it established something new.
 

harveststar

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The Golden Age was probably the era where they established common tropes, themes, motifs that defined the genre. Authors arose from this period that would write for decades to come. The critics took the writing more seriously. A community of fans probably formed. But generally, it probably was an explosion of productivity where seminal works and authors became the mainstay of the writing genre.
 
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harveststar

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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. [...]
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.

Robert Silverberg wrote a 2010 essay claiming the Golden Age to have started in the '50s.
 

Bick

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Robert Silverberg wrote a 2010 essay claiming the Golden Age to have started in the '50s.
I think a number of authors have re-defined it, and Silverberg was well known to have placed it later than the originally defined period, that’s true. Of course, he started his career in the 50’s, and was both well aware and fond of that period for that reason. If one defines the golden age as the period of greatest magazine interest and sales, and when the genre ‘grew up’ then I think it’s as originally claimed (39-49), but if you define it as the period when the magazines published the highest quality, most varied SF, and when the most number of household names had their heyday, perhaps Silverberg had it right. I’m an adherent to the traditional (Campbellian) definition myself.
 

Randy M.

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

I don't suppose we could just go with, "They had to call it something"?
 

Bick

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

I don't suppose we could just go with, "They had to call it something"?
It wasn’t the only artistic genre to have a golden age, of course - both cinema and detective fiction had one too (and at about the same time). It seems to have been the go-to term for the for the early period of all these forms when they showed particular improvement or development.
 

Randy M.

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It wasn’t the only artistic genre to have a golden age, of course - both cinema and detective fiction had one too (and at about the same time). It seems to have been the go-to term for the for the early period of all these forms when they showed particular improvement or development.
I suspect the disruption and trauma of WWII made the relative calm between the wars seem like an oasis, a wonderful, naive time before the world crashed in on the survivors. That accounts for cinema and detective fiction. SF's golden age comes during the war, when some of the tech and science the fans had been dreaming about was suddenly realized and deployed.

Somewhat different audiences, different mindsets, and so reactions that are similar but a bit out of register time-wise.
 

Fried Egg

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When people describe a period of time as a "golden age" (in most other contexts), they are normally talking about what they regard as a pinnacle of achievement in whatever field they are referring to. But when we look back now at the works of SF produced in this period, would anyone realistically make the case that this period of time (1938 to 1946) really was anything close to what we might call a golden age? SF written after this period continued to become more prolific and, I would argue, better.

It seems to me that most adherents of referring to this period as a "golden age" are merely redefining what we normally mean by this term.
 

Randy M.

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When people describe a period of time as a "golden age" (in most other contexts), they are normally talking about what they regard as a pinnacle of achievement in whatever field they are referring to. But when we look back now at the works of SF produced in this period, would anyone realistically make the case that this period of time (1938 to 1946) really was anything close to what we might call a golden age? SF written after this period continued to become more prolific and, I would argue, better.

It seems to me that most adherents of referring to this period as a "golden age" are merely redefining what we normally mean by this term.
It's rather like critical inertia. Because it was called the golden age in the '60s and thereafter, that moniker has stuck. You could make a stronger case for the '60s into the '70s being a golden age as s.f. grew more sophisticated and literate.
 

Mon0Zer0

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In comics the Golden Age is 1938-1956 with the creation of many of the defining characters and tropes of the medium at a time when the readership of comics was astronomical. You had all these periodicals with Batman, Superman, Wonder woman, The Flash, The Green Lantern and so on.

I'd say it was a similar period for sci-fi with astounding sci-fi and the other sci-fi / weird fiction magazines being the crucibles for what we think of as Sci-fi, with the biggest cultural impact on thought leaders of the day like Carl Sagan and so on.

I see Golden era Sci-fi as essentially Modernist - interested in the fruits of technology and science. Post-modernist fiction of the New Wave sci-fi era of the 60's and 70's sparked an exploration of society, psychology, sexuality, the environment and drugs.
 

paranoid marvin

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Will people in 500 or 600 years time still call this period 'the golden age'? There are bound to be eras to come when science fiction and fantasy are redefined to accommodate the period in which they are set.

As I mentioned a while ago, I think that 'golden eras' are very much a personal thing; when the thing that we love was defined. I think that it would be easier, and probably more accurate to say it was 'a' golden age rather than 'the' golden age. For sure there will be others.
 

BAYLOR

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I suspect the range will increase and perhaps the entire 20th century would be called the golden age

I wonder if Warhammer 40K books will get recognition. its some the best military science fiction ever written.
 

Fried Egg

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I wonder if Warhammer 40K books will get recognition. its some the best military science fiction ever written.
I'll never know because I would never read them. I just assume (probably unfairly) that anything written as a tie in with some IP is just a cash grab.
 

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