Author’s Culture and Story Influences

As an editor, I’m sometimes more conscious of where stories come from than many of the writers whose work crosses my desk. This isn’t a surprise. Story influences are sometimes less important than the stories they inspire.

Nonetheless I was a little shocked to discover that one of my authors, who writes serious and innovative cyberpunky/Dys/U/topian SF, had never heard of The Marching Morons.

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked. Every generation is shocked at how uncultured the next generation is, and reports of this go back at least to ancient Greece.

However, if you write Science Fiction, Tech Thrillers or Cyberpunk, there is some culture you need to make sure that you have. I could go into all sorts of detail on the crossover between pulp Sci-Fi and sociology studies, and professors experimenting with LSD or trawling paranormal literature. Of the Red Menace and it’s relationship with the Alien Menace. Of Sen. McCarthy and Flash Gordon.

But I hope you’ll go do some of that research yourself. Even if you don’t, I’ve selected three short stories that were among the most influential of that mid-twentieth century explosion of creativity and social awareness, that gave rise to modern SF, from space opera to cyberspace.

I won’t give you any analysis of the stories here. I’d prefer you read them, and let them speak for themselves.

The Marching Morons, by Cyril M Kornbluth

Wikipedia will tell you that:

“The Marching Morons” is a science fiction story written by Cyril M. Kornbluth, originally published in Galaxy in April 1951. It was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two after being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965.

This is true. You can read the story in various places online. Here’s one I found today:

And Then There Were None, by Eric Frank Russell

Originally a short story, it became the third part of his book, The Great Explosion, about which Wikipedia has this to say:

The Great Explosion is a satirical science fiction novel by Eric Frank Russell, first published in 1962. The story is divided into three sections. The final section is based on Russell’s famous 1951 short story “…And Then There Were None.” Twenty-three years after the novel was published, it won a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

This also is true. You can read the story in various places online. Here’s one I found today:

Who Goes There, by John J Campbell Jnr

Wikipedia tells us:

Who Goes There? is a science fiction novella by John W. Campbell, Jr., written under the pen name Don A. Stuart. It was first published in the August 1938 Astounding Science-Fiction.

In 1973 the story was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the finest science fiction novellas ever written. It was published with the other top vote-getters in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.

The novella has been adapted four times as a motion picture: the first in 1951 as The Thing from Another World; the second in 1972 as Horror Express; the third in 1982 as The Thing directed by John Carpenter; and most recently as a prequel to the Carpenter version, also titled The Thing, released in 2011.

In my opinion, none of the movie adaptations captures the atmosphere, nor the fundamental message, of the short story.

A quick search of the internets found a .pdf of it here: