When was the Golden Age of Science Fiction?

Sunday, April 24th, 2022

When was the Golden Age of Science Fiction?

Adherents of the genre debate whether a Golden Age of creativity and exploration occurred during the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, or 1960’s.

Terry Carr, who edited the anthology Universe 3, shared the canonical answer in his introduction, dated June 9, 1972:

Years ago a friend of mine, Pete Graham, tersely answered the question “When was the golden age of science fiction?” by saying, “Twelve.” He didn’t have to explain further; we knew what he meant.

(Hat tip to Winchell Chung.)


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Thanks for the correction. In the anonymous version I heard, it was 14.

    The 60′s are conspicuous for the coming of the New Age writers, like JG Ballard. They ere much better stylists than most of the older writers, but all their stories were dystopian. Today, it seems most movies are dystopian Sci Fi. It might say something disquieting about modern American and modern Americans. To wallow in despair, ugliness, fear, violence. Even the apocalyptic movies of the 50′s, like “When Worlds Collide,” had happy endings.

    PS. Just who were the inhabitants of the new planet? They looked pretty high tech from afar.

  2. Bruce says:

    When I was 12, Poul Anderson, Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle and Zelazny were all writing. Coincidence? No, the golden age.

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    Yet another attempt by TPTB to convince us that it’s always been this bad. Don’t believe it, it’s a lie.

  4. Bill says:

    For me, my SF Golden Age was probably 20, in 1974. I had a regular job, so I had money, and I wasn’t married, so I had time. I had a friend who stocked the science fiction section of Borders. Once a week, I’d walk in to find a new paperback to read. Often, I didn’t even make it into the sf section; my well-read friend would see me coming, and just toss me one.

    Dune, Ringworld, Cities in Flight, Foundation, Stranger in a Strange Land, Babel-17, Slaughterhouse Five, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, The Man in the Maze, This Immortal, Childhood’s End and so many more.

    As far as science fiction (or scientifiction) is concerned, all of these stories had their start a generation (or two – or three) earlier. You can read most of these online; start with this complete set of Astounding Science Fiction – knock yourself out.


    It’s not too late for you to have your own Golden Age of Science Fiction.

  5. Isegoria says:

    As always, I highly recommend The Science Fiction Hall of Fame for Golden Age sci-fi goodness.

    I didn’t get around to it until a few years after I was 12 though.

    At that young age, or maybe 13, I was introduced to Asimov’s I, Robot, and then to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

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