By January 1959, Campbell was still insisting, in an editorial, that “We Must Study Psi!” (psychic phenomena).
But his table thumping was attracting fewer takers.
(Original cover by Kelly Freas.)
In June 1960, Campbell proposed bolting a Dean Drive
to a submarine to create an instant airtight spaceship,
ready to put men on Mars within a year (assuming
the Dean Drive actually worked). By this time he was
changing the name of the magazine from Astounding
Science Fiction to Analog Science Fact & Fiction, in a
bid for respectability that was never entirely successful.
(Original cover by John Schoenherr.)
exciting. I was now 16, the same age at which Einstein wrong about everything. Discoveries may come
had suddenly wondered if he would be able to see from unexpected sources. Divining rods still may
himself in a mirror if he and the mirror were traveling work (for some people, at least), and even Thomas
at the speed of light. From this moment of intense G. Hieronymus could have been onto something.
conceptual excitement came the theory of relativity; In fact, maybe his machine still merits a couple
but the details, of course, consumed the rest of his hours of construction time. Your friends may be
life, and he never did come up with a unified field sufficiently intrigued to tolerate a few sessions at
theory. As Thomas Edison supposedly said, genius is the sensor plate before they wander off to do someone percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. thing more important, such as browse You Tube or
I never went into science, or even pseudoscience. check email. Depending on your attention span, you
Instead I became a science writer, which enabled may even gather some usable data.
me to enjoy all the excitement of discoveries vicari- I only ask one favor. If you find someone, as I did,
ously, without the hard work of making them. In who yields positive, repeatable results — please be
retrospect, I think John W. Campbell, Jr. was not so sure to note the size of his ears.
different. He was another scientist-wannabe looking
for a shortcut around the monotonous, challenging
terrain of real-life research.
This does not mean that he was necessarily
Charles Platt is a frequent contributor to MAKE, has been a
senior writer for Wired, and has written science-fiction novels,
including The Silicon Man.