Astounding Science Fiction - October 1943

This 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction comes only 2 years into the 'Golden Age' of SF, early in John Campbell's tenure as editor of the magazine. The contents page reads like a 'who's who' of the 1940's SF world, with stories from A. E. van Vogt, Lewis Padget (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), Eric Frank Russell, Fredric Brown and Frank Belnap Long.

A. E. van Vogt

C. L. Moore

The Storm - A. E. van Vogt
Van Vogt wrote with a lot of energy and imagination, and maintained great pace in most of his work, but his work often lacked cohesion or made much sense. This novelette is just such story - it starts as a tale of galactic storms and ends up as a sort of nonsensical shipwreck story with a bit of misogyny typical of the era. The start is confusing, and the end is not especially satisfying. I'm sure, even back in 1943, it was known you couldn't phone people many light years away without any delay in signal!  Daft and quite a weak story, despite being included in several van Vogt collections.

Paradox Lost - Fredric Brown

This short story starts very engagingly and grabs the reader straightaway, and while it becomes increasingly silly, it maintains some interest and resolves quite satisfyingly. It's better than the van Vogt effort in this issue, but it's ultimately too silly to be rated very highly. Brown is probably best known for his story Arena, which is quite different and much better. 

The Proud Robot - Lewis Padgett
"Lewis Padgett" (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore) wrote an awful lot of good work in the golden age pulps, and this was a great, entertaining novelette. It manages to be a very readable story, despite the large number of features in the SF setting that absolutely scream '1943' to the modern day reader. Kuttner and Moore cannot be blamed for writing from a 1943 perspective and it's quite charming as well as being a nice tale, well told. TV is a novel and amazing invention here, whereby TV costs are collected in person from reading your meter. The titular robot is all gears and cogs, and the human protagonist spends much of his time drinking Tom Collins mixers. It is interesting to read this as a great example of the successful speculated of things (such as the existence of robots) but the incredible difficulty of conceiving new methods (there's no computer or electronic miniaturisation anywhere to be seen in the robot). It's good fun though.

Willie - Frank Belknap Long
This was a cracker of a short story, featuring time travel, a robot and 'Howardesque' prose. These sentences give you some idea of the pulp-era energy in this tale:

      "The next instant both men were vigorously separated, Babu by a press of savages that compelled him to give ground with fierce distortions of his countenance - Agar by an equally urgent necessity to cleave skulls in the opposite direction."

Fantastic stuff! This has been reprinted a few times in anthologies and was one of the better stories in the issue. Either this or the Padgett should have claimed the cover, which I feel van Vogt probably got by reputation.