golden age n.

a period in the past regarded as the time when science fiction was at its best

Specific dates vary widely depending on the critic; see quotations for various interpretations. The starting point ‘is almost always seen as referring to the period ushered in by John W Campbell Jr’s assumption of the editorship of Astounding in October 1937’ (Encyclopedia of SF).

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism

  • 1948 J. W. Patch Letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories June 137 page image

    I agree with those who contend that the ‘golden age’ of science-fiction wasn’t so golden. There’s nothing so unusual about it, though. The stf that was written in those days made good reading—then. The Model ‘T’ was a good car, too—in those days.

  • 1948 Slant Nov. 3

    Reading through old copies of A.S.F, one often finds nostalgic letters about a ‘Golden Age’ of S.F., placed at various dates from 1928 onwards.

  • 1952 ‘A. Boucher’ & J. F. McComas Recommended Reading in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Apr. 94 page image Anthony Boucher J. Francis McComas

    Of 30 books (counting the two-in-one jobs) there were 11½ novels whose book publication marked their first appearance before the public! 7 other novels were (as is normal in other fields) serialized shortly before or even simultaneously with their book publication. 8½ novels were revivals of works that first saw publication in magazines of the period 1939—1949; we're sure no one will quarrel with the permanent preservation of the best of that ‘Golden Age’ of science fiction.

  • 1956 ‘R. Randall’ Guest Editorial in Infinity Science Fiction Oct. 86/2

    A lot of people have been complaining lately that modern writers don’t have the old ‘sense of wonder’, and they blame it on this very business of slanting—among other things. Everybody has their own ‘Golden Age’ that they point to and say: ‘Now, them was the good old days. Gee! I really got a kick outa them stories! Stories are interesting now, but they ain’t got that kick any more.’ All right, chums—examine yourselves. When did you feel that ‘sense of wonder?’ Yeah. When you first started reading science fiction! My own Golden Age was during the late thirties and early forties. Mr. Silverberg admits that his was during the middle and late forties. You can see we're both somewhat younger than, say, Sam Moskowitz. Hugo Gernsback, the Grand Old Man of S-F editors, is sure that the best science fiction was written by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

  • 1974 I. Asimov Before Golden Age (1975) p. xiii Isaac Asimov

    To many science fiction readers who are now in their middle years, there was a Golden Age of Science Fiction—in capital letters. That Golden Age began in 1938, when John Campbell became editor of Astounding Stories and remolded it, and the whole field, into something closer to his heart’s desire.

  • 1982 D. Hartwell The Golden Age of Science Fiction is Twelve in Top of News (1982, issue number unknown) 3 David G. Hartwell

    Grown men and women, sixty years old, twenty-five years old, sit around and talk about ‘the golden age of science fiction’, remembering when every story was a masterwork of daring, original thought. Some say the golden age was circa 1928; some say 1939; some favor 1953, or 1970.

  • 1995 H. Bloom Science Fiction Writers of Golden Age Pref. p. xi

    The ‘golden age’ of science fiction is generally taken to be 1939—1950, with Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Fritz Leiber being perhaps its most representative figures.

  • 1999 Extrapolation Summer 132

    It was, most of it—I'm thinking of the ‘Golden Age’ from about 1926 to 1940, or a little earlier than that—it was not yet seriously concerned with literature as opposed to storytelling.

  • 2002 G. K. Wolfe Malebolge, or Ordnance of Genre in Conjunctions No. 39 413 Gary K. Wolfe

    Even today, the Hugo Awards presented at the annual world convention of science fiction fans are named after the field’s first famous editor, Hugo Gernsback, who founded Amazing Stories in 1926, and readers often refer to the genre’s ‘golden age’—the period which introduced such now-revered authors as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein—as ‘the Campbell era,’ after John W. Campbell, Jr., who began editing Astounding Stories (which he quickly renamed Astounding Science Fiction ) in 1937.


Research requirements

antedating 1948

Research History
Rick Hauptmann submitted a cite from a 1975 reprint of Isaac Asimov's 1974 anthology "Before the Golden Age".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1999 cite from an article by H.L. Drake in Extrapolation.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1995 cite from Harold Bloom's "Science Fiction Writers of the Golden Age".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from Gary K. Wolfe in "Conjunctions:39". Jeff Prucher submitted a 1984 cite from David Hartwell's "Age of Wonders".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1956 cite from a reprint of a speech by Randall Garrett in Infinity Science Fiction.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1952 cite from Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas in F&SF.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1948 cite from a letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Bill Mullins submitted a 1948 cite from Walter A. Willis in Slant.
Fred Galvin submitted an earlier 1948 cite from a letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories.

Last modified 2021-01-05 18:26:14
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.