John W. Campbell

American science fiction writer (1910–1971)

John Wood Campbell, Jr. (8 June 191011 July 1971) was an influential American science fiction editor and writer, known for his challenges to writers.


  • History does not always repeat itself. Sometimes it just yells, 'Can't you remember anything I told you?' and lets fly with a club.
    • Statement in Analog Science Fiction/Fact magazine (1965)
  • Immunity corrupts; absolute immunity corrupts absolutely.
    • Editorial in Analog Science Fiction/Fact magazine (1970)

About CampbellEdit

  • Of course, I never wrote the "important" story, the sequel about the first amplified human. Once I tried something similar. John Campbell's letter of rejection began: "Sorry — you can't write this story. Neither can anyone else."
  • In the so-called Golden Age of American science fiction, when the late John W. Campbell, editor extraordinary, gathered around him in a handful of months the greatest stable of science fiction talent ever seen, he would throw out challenges to his writers, like: "Write me a story about a man who will die in twenty-four hours unless he can answer this question: 'How do you know you’re sane?'"; and this one — surely one of the most provocative of all: "Write me a story about a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man."
  • [Stanley] Weinbaum met the challenge of a demand John Campbell was to make of his writers in later years: "Write me a story about an organism that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man."
    • Isaac Asimov, in the introduction to the 1974 compilation The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum
  • Suppose you meet a man who asks you what your field of endeavor is and you tell him that you are the world's greatest living vertebrate paleontologist, which is, of course, what you are. And suppose that, on hearing this, the man you meet fixes you with a glittering eye and proceeds to lecture you for five hours on vertebrate paleontology, getting all his facts wrong, yet somehow leaving you unable to argue them. You will then have met [John W.] Campbell.
    • Isaac Asimov, as quoted in Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee (2018)

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