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John Wade grew up in the 1950s, a decade that has since been dubbed the 'golden age of science fiction'. It was a wonderful decade for science fiction, but not so great for young fans. With early television broadcasts being advertised for the first time as 'unsuitable for children' and the inescapable barrier of the 'X' certificate in the cinema barring anyone under the ag John Wade grew up in the 1950s, a decade that has since been dubbed the 'golden age of science fiction'. It was a wonderful decade for science fiction, but not so great for young fans. With early television broadcasts being advertised for the first time as 'unsuitable for children' and the inescapable barrier of the 'X' certificate in the cinema barring anyone under the age of sixteen, the author had only the radio to fall back on - and that turned out to be more fertile for the budding SF fan than might otherwise have been thought. Which is probably why, as he grew older, rediscovering those old TV broadcasts and films that had been out of bounds when he was a kid took on a lure that soon became an obsession.For him, the super-accuracy and amazing technical quality of today's science fiction films pale into insignificance beside the radio, early TV and B-picture films about people who built rockets in their back gardens and flew them to lost planets, or tales of aliens who wanted to take over, if not our entire world, then at least our bodies. This book is a personal account of John Wade's fascination with the genre across all the entertainment media in which it appeared - the sort of stuff he revelled in as a young boy - and still enjoys today.


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John Wade grew up in the 1950s, a decade that has since been dubbed the 'golden age of science fiction'. It was a wonderful decade for science fiction, but not so great for young fans. With early television broadcasts being advertised for the first time as 'unsuitable for children' and the inescapable barrier of the 'X' certificate in the cinema barring anyone under the ag John Wade grew up in the 1950s, a decade that has since been dubbed the 'golden age of science fiction'. It was a wonderful decade for science fiction, but not so great for young fans. With early television broadcasts being advertised for the first time as 'unsuitable for children' and the inescapable barrier of the 'X' certificate in the cinema barring anyone under the age of sixteen, the author had only the radio to fall back on - and that turned out to be more fertile for the budding SF fan than might otherwise have been thought. Which is probably why, as he grew older, rediscovering those old TV broadcasts and films that had been out of bounds when he was a kid took on a lure that soon became an obsession.For him, the super-accuracy and amazing technical quality of today's science fiction films pale into insignificance beside the radio, early TV and B-picture films about people who built rockets in their back gardens and flew them to lost planets, or tales of aliens who wanted to take over, if not our entire world, then at least our bodies. This book is a personal account of John Wade's fascination with the genre across all the entertainment media in which it appeared - the sort of stuff he revelled in as a young boy - and still enjoys today.

33 review for The Golden Age of Science Fiction: A Journey Into Space with 1950s Radio, Tv, Films, Comics and Books

  1. 5 out of 5

    Olga Miret

    My thanks to Rosie Croft and to Pen & Sword for sending me a hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review, and I recommend to fans of the genre (the illustrations alone are a delight and worth recommending). This is a book at very personal for the author (Wade explains early on why he chose the 1950s in particular, and although I agree with him, I am sure many might not) and at the same time packed with information that will delight casual readers and also those looking for anecdote My thanks to Rosie Croft and to Pen & Sword for sending me a hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review, and I recommend to fans of the genre (the illustrations alone are a delight and worth recommending). This is a book at very personal for the author (Wade explains early on why he chose the 1950s in particular, and although I agree with him, I am sure many might not) and at the same time packed with information that will delight casual readers and also those looking for anecdotes and a quick and easy catalogue of resources about the science-fiction genre in the 1950s. I am not an expert in science-fiction, and although I suspect that those who are might not find anything truly new here, there are nuggets of information and also the personal details and anecdotes collected by the author that help bring to life some of the lesser known facts about the individuals who played an important part in making the genre important and popular, especially in the UK in the 1950s. The book is divided into five chapters that delve into science-fiction in different popular media: radio, television, films, books, and comics and magazines. As I have already mentioned, the book’s focus is on the UK, although it also includes the USA, but I felt the amount of detail included about British radio and TV programmes is one of the strong points of the book. Not having been around in the 1950s and growing up elsewhere, I was fascinated by the information about how the radio programmes came to be (I am a radio fan, and I’m always keen on learning more about it) and also how British television worked in its early years. Imagining trying to broadcast a science-fiction story life in a studio (in black-and-white, of course) makes one’s mind boggle in this era of computer-generated special effects and high-tech, and I loved the anecdotes and the pictures about it. It felt like travelling back in time. I was more familiar with the information about films (although there are many mentioned I’ve never watched, and I’ll be on the lookout for in the future), and books (Wade chooses to talk in more detail about John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, with mentions of many other writers as well), but even within those subjects I discovered things I didn’t know and kept writing down the titles of books and stories to try and get hold of. The chapter on comics and magazines talks more about the genre in the USA, the differences with the British scene (and the difficulties some of the magazines had due to the somewhat “lurid” covers, at least to the British taste of the time), and also the crossover from one medium to another (already evident when magazine serials moved onto the radio, or popular radio programmes ended up on the telly). I’ve mentioned the illustrations, and as you can guess from the cover, these are wonderful. There are pictures, drawings, movie posters, book and magazine covers, comic strips… Although there isn’t a full bibliography (I suspect much of the information comes from the author’s own archives), there is detailed information about most of the illustrations, in case readers want to use them in their own research. Wade has a conversational and easy writing style, and he is happy to share his own opinions and memories of programmes, books, comics, and his personal experiences with those involved as well, and it can easily and quickly be read from cover to cover, it would also work perfectly well as a book to pick up, look at the illustrations, and read about whatever piques the curiosity, or simply enjoy the imagination of the artists of the era and compare some of the images with later reality. This is a book that will bring joy to many people, and not only to those who are into science-fiction, but also readers who want to relive their memories of the time, or who have become attached to the programmes or the stories in later years (Quartermass, Dan Dare, The Lost Planet, Superman, The Day of the Triffids, The Eagle and many others). And anybody who might be looking for a source of casual information (writers, for example) will also enjoy this easy-to-read resource. I am not sure everybody will finish the book convinced that the Fifties were the golden age of science fiction, but I bet anybody reading it will be delighted.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    ‘For everyone who understands the true significance of the words ‘Klaatu barada nikto’. Subtitled ‘A Journey into Space with 1950’s Radio, TV, Films, Comics and Books’, that’s a pretty good summary of the book. Written in a personal style, John Wade describes the importance of some of these cultural genre icons from the 1950’s. Why the 1950’s? Well, Wade claims that for him it was a ‘Golden Age’ of the genre. Personally, I’ve always thought of ‘The Golden Age’ being based on the age of the reader, ‘For everyone who understands the true significance of the words ‘Klaatu barada nikto’. Subtitled ‘A Journey into Space with 1950’s Radio, TV, Films, Comics and Books’, that’s a pretty good summary of the book. Written in a personal style, John Wade describes the importance of some of these cultural genre icons from the 1950’s. Why the 1950’s? Well, Wade claims that for him it was a ‘Golden Age’ of the genre. Personally, I’ve always thought of ‘The Golden Age’ being based on the age of the reader, rather than specific years. (The Encyclopedia of SF states that it is 12, although I always thought of it as 14 myself.) However, here’s the author’s reasoning: “Let others tell you that the golden age of science fiction was the 1930s, when the pulp magazines began; the 1960s, when a 20-year-old Julie Christie riveted the attention of every schoolboy I knew in A For Andromeda and the Gerry Anderson puppets thundered onto the small screen; the 1970s and 80s in which Star Wars reinvented the genre; or even the present day, when so many blockbuster science fiction films are being made in widescreen, with Dolby sound and 3D. For me, the super-accuracy and amazing technical quality of today’s films….pale into significance besides stories of people who built rockets in their back gardens and flew them with their nephews and cooks to lost planets, or tales of aliens who wanted to take over, if not our entire world, then at least our bodies. I grew up in the 1950s, when all this was happening. For me the decade has to be the true golden age of science fiction.” (page xvi) It is selective, but then it never describes itself as comprehensive. What it does is describe what it was like for a youngster in Britain in the 1950’s who revelled in such matters. It is also very British. Discussions are mainly based upon British cultural references – the BBC’s Journey into Space serial from the 1950’s rather than say Dimension X from the US, the Eagle comic’s Dan Dare rather than Superman, although all of these are mentioned. “I don’t intend to cover every film, book, magazine or television production of the decade, though. This is not, after all, an encyclopedia of the genre. It’s much more a personal account of science fiction in the 1950s as I discovered and revelled in it, sometimes from American imports but equally from home-grown British writers and productions.” (page xvi) I used to read coffee table books like this all the time. I still have my beloved A Pictorial History of Science Fiction and The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams, edited by David Kyle from the 1970’s, for example, and it does remind me very much of those books. Unlike Kyle’s books, however, The Golden Age of Science Fiction is not coffee-table-book-sized, instead being a comparatively slim hardback novel size instead. But the quality of the paper is good heavy stock, and the pictures throughout are good quality and usually in colour. The book has five chapters. Generally they start well but it is obvious by the last chapter that the material does not highlight John’s particular strengths. The first chapter explains how John got hooked to the genre in the first place – not through movies or television, as I suspect it often was in the USA, but through radio. The story of ‘Jet’ Morgan in the BBC Radio serial Journey into Space, which was broadcast in 1953 but explained space exploration in 1965. It lasted for three series and fifty-eight half-hour episodes and was a must for any young budding space enthusiast. John describes here the series and gives a potted biography of the series creator, Charles Chilton. He then goes onto another now relatively forgotten pioneer of British SF radio, Angus McVicar, who wrote a number of programmes for the BBC’s Children Hour radio. There were then turned into six novels, starting with The Lost Planet. McVicar seems to be mainly forgotten today, but it is clear that he was influential at the time – I remember my Dad having at least one of the books in a small town in England. And then we have the more famous Dan Dare, whose influence I have talked of before. (LINK, LINK and LINK.) I guess he could be classed as the 'Tom Corbett' of British SF. Though much more famous in his comic incarnation in the Eagle comic (see below), John here talks of the radio show version, first transmitted on the difficult to obtain Radio Luxembourg. US radio is given a couple of pages at the end of the chapter. In the second chapter John looks at British television, although TV was a rare and expensive item in the 1950s – beyond the reach of most households. Nevertheless, John explains and discusses those television genre events that were major discussion points to the general public – Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass, a BBC adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, starring a young Peter Cushing, and an adaptation by the relatively new ITV network of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.  Again, brief mention is made of American TV series such as The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves, Captain Video and Tom Corbett Space Cadet. Chapter Three discusses Film. John mentions the trigger points that may have led to a growing appetite for science fiction films (The Second World War, atomic bombs, the Cold War, UFOs) and the genre stereotypes that resulted. The films mentioned are the usual iconic ones, in chronological order – The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953) and The War of the Worlds (1953), It Came from Outer Space (also 1953), This Island Earth (1955), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and The Fly (1958) which were also a key element of my own interest in the 1960s and 70s. This is perhaps the strongest and most enthusiastic chapter in the book. A secondary group of films mentioned in less detail includes Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1959) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (also 1959). There’s also a nice, if uncritical, list of other movies to choose from at the end of the chapter, from Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953) to Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) that should keep most genre film fans busy for a while. Chapter Four looks at influential authors. It shouldn’t be any surprise that it is totally male-dominated and includes the usual suspects – Arthur C Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury in some detail, whilst others such as Brian Aldiss, Philip K Dick and A E van Vogt are in much shorter summaries. I was most pleased to see the first part of the chapter give some detail to the work of John Wyndham, whose influence on British literature in the 1950s and in bringing SF to the mainstream can perhaps only be compared to that of Bradbury and Heinlein in the USA. There’s some lovely book covers reproduced in this chapter as well. The final chapter is about Science Fiction Comics and Magazines, but with that British slant. Lots on Dan Dare and the comic The Eagle (mentioned earlier) but very little on American comics such as Superman. This lack of detail extends to the genre magazines, with brief details on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Astounding (before it became Analog) and Galaxy Magazine. It doesn’t delve too deeply – no real mention of the British New Worlds magazine, which was around at the time, for example. Again, there’s some nice pictures but really there’s little more than a fairly superficial glance over them and a few scant comments about other issues such as Super Science Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine. It certainly doesn’t get into the murky world of fandom like some of the TAFF materials over at David Langford’s Ansible does, or Peter Weston’s With Stars in my Eyes, nor is it well connected enough to give an overview, like Sir Arthur C Clarke’s Astounding Days memoir. (For a detailed analysis of the magazines I would wholeheartedly recommend Mike Ashley’s History of the SF Magazines series, but they are eye-wateringly expensive.) There’s a list of possible reads at the end of the chapter but it is clear by this stage that they were not major influences or of major interest to the author as a young English boy in the 1950s. To be fair, most of these magazines from across the Atlantic were difficult to get, as I found even in the 1970’s, so the coverage reflects that. Nevertheless, despite the narrative appearing to run out of steam in the end, The Golden Age of Science Fiction is a nice memento of what it must have been like to be a fan at that time. Reading it did bring a smile to my face, reading of the breathless enthusiasm that radio programmes brought or the impact of movies like Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still had upon a young and impressionable young man. It is clearly written by a fan who wishes to commit to paper their experiences that others may also share, or at least bring the spotlight to bear on aspects that otherwise might go unnoticed. The book may not have depth, but it does have heart. The pictures of old Penguin paperbacks, movie posters and items from the Dan Dare museum (yes, there is one!) are lovely. Even though I was born after the 1950s, I recognise and appreciate that feeling – that initial “Oh, wow!” moment that this book conveys. I am sure most of us have had it at some point. There are parts of this book I recognise as being part of my childhood as well - those key films mentioned in detail are my 'go-to list' of movies I will watch again and again. But despite not being there in the 1950s, this book is a nice little summary of a certain time. It shows the importance of the genre seventy years ago, but also the longevity of the genre – as well as perhaps highlighting that the importance of British SF didn’t start with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Doctor Who, or those American imports Star Trek and Star Wars. For those who were there in the 1950s (not many left now, sadly!) I'm sure that this would bring a host of memories back, whilst for those (like me) who were not, it’s an intriguing glimpse into our genre past. For readers in the US it’d make an interesting alternative version of the importance of science fiction to those brought up with the works and memoirs of Asimov, Campbell and Heinlein. Most of all, The Golden Age of Science Fiction is a lovely reminder that the lure of science fiction, for those who get that ‘sensawunda’ feeling, goes back a long way. Regardless of age or place or time, its importance in culture should be appreciated.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Golden Age of Science Fiction by John Wade is a free advanced reader copy of a hardcover book offered to me by Pen & Sword in exchange for an honest review. Wade describes sci-fi through British & American comic books, magazines, TV shows, radio serials, and offers brief synopses and biographies. He hops among programming very fast, putting chronology aside to instead focus on a broad breadth of material. However, the many, many photographs of promotional material, original sketches and merch The Golden Age of Science Fiction by John Wade is a free advanced reader copy of a hardcover book offered to me by Pen & Sword in exchange for an honest review. Wade describes sci-fi through British & American comic books, magazines, TV shows, radio serials, and offers brief synopses and biographies. He hops among programming very fast, putting chronology aside to instead focus on a broad breadth of material. However, the many, many photographs of promotional material, original sketches and merchandise help a reader cope with this. The main focal points seem to be on Quatermass, Journey into Space, Lost Planet, Superman, plot stereotypes (think that scene in Scream where, within the film, they talk about horror movie stereotype), Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Dan Dare.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ludo

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bob Ro

  6. 5 out of 5

    Richard M

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Denny

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Lumsden

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  12. 5 out of 5

    Earnest Borg-9

  13. 4 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

  14. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ray

  19. 5 out of 5

    Wouter Dhondt

  20. 4 out of 5

    R.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mer

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cerina witha Sea

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Pollard

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Johnson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ruby

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessi

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  31. 5 out of 5

    Shiori

  32. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  33. 5 out of 5

    Ameenah

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