Growing up as a boy in The Bronx, I ate fatty food, was overweight and had little desire for sports. As a result, I spent too much time reading and listening to the radio and less time running around.
I loved to listen to radio serial shows such as Superman, The Green Hornet, The Shadow
(“… who could cloud men’s minds so that they could not see him”), and any other fantasy shows that were available.
Reading science fiction magazines was a natural “step-up” for me from comic books. The front covers displaying scantily-clad women in their tight-fitting space suits shooting through space or fending off space monsters were a real attention-getter, but I was already “hooked” on those weird interplanetary stories.
It was interesting that I rarely found any stories in those magazines that had any connection to those sexy covers.
Another boy in my apartment building had a huge collection of Astounding Science Fiction magazines which I greatly envied. Little did I know that many of the authors of those sci-fi stories were Jewish, even if their names didn’t at all sound Jewish.
Anti-Semitism was rampant in the 1930s and ’40s, and caused many Jewish writers to submit their work under non-Jewish sounding names in order to get their stories published.
Some examples of those “Jewish Aliases” included Horace Gold, who wrote under the pen names of Clyde Crane Campbell, Dudley Dell, Leigh Keith and Richard Storey. Horace’s brother Floyd was a book reviewer writing under the name Floyd Gale. William Tenn was really Philip Klass, and so on and so on.
By the time World War II was over, attitudes toward Jews improved. There’s no greater equalizer than soldiers fighting side by side against a common enemy.
Isaac Asimov was an exception. He refused to write under an assumed name. He was a successful biochemist; his brilliant mind and talents took him in many directions, one of which was the writing of science fiction. His success became a source of admiration and hope for other Jewish writers trying to make their way in the field of science fiction.
Those were exciting times in science fiction: Items such as helicopters, spaceships, cellphone-like devices, electric ray guns, lasers, virtual worlds, multiple music tracks, space stations, and space travel were all part of the fantasy world of science fiction in those early years.
The vivid imagination of sci-fi writers provided the scientific community with the seeds of potential reality. Examples among many include the Star Trek communicator which became today’s cellphone; Tom Swift’s electric rifle gave physicist Jack Cover the idea for his invention, which is commonly known today as the Taser.
If you’re interested in learning who these Jewish science fiction pioneer writers were and reading their exciting Jewish-themed fantasy stories, check out Wandering Stars, 1974 and More Wandering Stars, 1981, both edited by Jack Dann.
Here’s a closing thought after National Science Fiction Day, Jan. 2. If you think that Star Wars is the ultimate future, think again. Scientists estimate that we currently possess only four percent of space knowledge. You Jewish space scientists and science fiction writers have your work cut out for you.
“May the Force be with you!”