Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Science fiction studies


Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Dey Street Books / HarperCollins, 2018. 

Selected Nonfiction

“Karl Rove’s Labyrinth.” The Daily Beast. November 20, 2012. Essay on Karl Rove’s surprising love of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.

“Lessons from The X-Files.” Salon. September 17, 2013. The twentieth anniversary of The X-Files and its lessons for modern television.

“Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology.” Longreads. February 1, 2017. An overview of the science fiction and fantasy stories of the controversial founder of dianetics and the Church of Scientology. Featured on The A.V. Club on March 12, 2017.

“Dawn of Dianetics: L. Ron Hubbard, John W. Campbell, and the Origins of Scientology.” Longreads. October 23, 2018. Excerpt from Astounding on Campbell’s influence on Hubbard’s ideas during the development of dianetics. Featured on Boing Boing on October 29, 2018.

“What Isaac Asimov Taught Us About Predicting the Future.” New York Times. October 31, 2018. Essay on Campbell, Asimov, and the origins of psychohistory.

“How Astounding Saw the Future.” New York Times. January 10, 2019. Visual essay on the art of Astounding Science Fiction.

“Rising Seas, Migrants, War: A Timely Novel From John Lanchester.” New York Times. March 5, 2019. Review of John Lanchester’s dystopian novel The Wall.

“Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall.” Public Books. January 7, 2020. Essay on Isaac Asimov’s history of groping and other forms of unwanted touching of women across multiple decades and its impact on the science fiction community.

“A Climate-Crisis Novel Offers True-to-Life Snapshots of Survival.” New York Times. November 17, 2020. Review of Cynan Jones’s dystopian novel Stillicide.

“Alone on a Spaceship, Trying to Save the World.” New York Times. May 4, 2021. Review of the novel Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.

Reviews of Classic Stories

Astounding Stories #1: Galactic Patrol
Astounding Stories #2: For Us, the Living
Astounding Stories #3: “The Legion of Time”
Astounding Stories #4: Sinister Barrier
Astounding Stories #5: Death’s Deputy and Final Blackout
Astounding Stories #6: “Microcosmic God” and “E for Effort”
Astounding Stories #7: “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”
Astounding Stories #8: The World of Null-A
Astounding Stories #9: “The Mule”
Astounding Stories #10: “Way in the Middle of the Air”
Astounding Stories #11: The Moon is Hell
Astounding Stories #12: “Izzard and the Membrane”
Astounding Stories #13: “The Cold Equations”
Astounding Stories #14: The Heinlein Juveniles
Astounding Stories #15: The Space Merchants
Astounding Stories #16: “Witches Must Burn”
Astounding Stories #17: The Thiotimoline Papers
Astounding Stories #18: “Noise Level”
Astounding Stories #19: They’d Rather Be Right
Astounding Stories #20: “Unwillingly to School”
Astounding Stories #21: Black Man’s Burden
Astounding Stories #22: None But Lucifer

Blog Posts

“Asimov’s ABCs.” Isaac Asimov on the secret of group creativity. October 28, 2014.
“Pohl and the pulpsters.” Frederik Pohl and the world of the pulp writer. July 28, 2015.
“Who went there?” John W. Campbell and The Thing. March 2, 2016.
“Smoking on spaceships.” A short history of smoking in science fiction. March 15, 2016.
“The myth of the competent man.” Science fiction’s most persistent delusion. April 12, 2016.
“Back to the Futurians.” Science fiction fandom in the thirties as a social network. July 26, 2016.
“Days of Futurians Past.” New Fandom and the Futurians. July 27, 2016.
“Return to Dimension X.” The golden age of radio science fiction. August 9, 2016.
“Present Tense, Future Perfect.” Science fiction and the technothriller. August 11, 2016.
“Advertising the future.” A history of advertising in Astounding. September 8, 2016.
“Beyond cyberspace.” John W. Campbell, Norbert Wiener, and cybernetics. October 7, 2016.
“To be or not to be.” Alfred Korzybski’s ideas and their influence on science fiction. October 11, 2016.
“Fear of a female planet.” The absence of women in science fiction. December 7, 2016.
“The Slan solution.” The supermen of Slan, “Solution Unsatisfactory,” and dianetics. December 12, 2016.
“From Xenu to Xanadu.” L. Ron Hubbard and Donald Trump. February 2, 2017.
“A Hawk from a Handsaw.” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.) Uri Geller, Robert Anton Wilson, and a few sinister hawks. February 15-17, 2017.
“The Imaginary Dr. Kutzman.” A lost refutation of dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard. February 23, 2017.
“The moon is a harsh fortress.” Hubbard’s “Fortress in the Sky” and its influence on Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. February 27, 2017.
“The dianetics epidemic.” Dianetics as a viral phenomenon. March 2, 2017.
“The innumerable ways of being a man.” Sir Richard Francis Burton’s influence on Hubbard. March 8, 2017.
“Falls the Shadow.” John W. Campbell’s parallels to Orson Welles. March 17, 2017.
“The Mule and the Beaver.” The sources of Isaac Asimov’s remarkable productivity. March 22, 2017.
“The vision thing.” Two cinematic versions of “Who Goes There?” April 21, 2017.
“The dark side of the moon.” Charles Manson and science fiction. March 24, 2017.
“The acid test.” Attitudes toward LSD and other drugs in science fiction. April 27, 2017.
“Of a Fyre on the Moon.” The Fyre Festival and Voyage Beyond Apollo. May 1, 2017.
“Hubbard in the Wild.” L. Ron Hubbard’s sojourn in Alaska. May 25, 2017.
“The Borges Test.” Jorge Luis Borges and the test of a good plot. June 21, 2017.
“The bed of the future.” Howard Hughes, Hugo Gernsback, Heinlein, and the ultimate bed. June 27, 2017.
“The science fiction sieve.” John W. Campbell and the boundaries of science fiction. June 28, 2017.
“The saucer people.” Flying saucers in Astounding. July 7, 2017.
“The search for the zone.” Twin Peaks and Heinlein’s “Universe.” July 10, 2017.
“Children of the Lens.” Science fiction and the early video game Spacewar. July 14, 2017.
“Optimizing the future.” Diversity in technology and science fiction. August 10, 2017.
“Bester of Both Worlds.” The genius of Alfred Bester. August 11, 2017.
“The creeps of the cosmos.” William S. Burroughs and Scientology. August 16, 2017.
“Handbook for morals.” The mass-buying tactics of the Church of Scientology. August 25, 2017.
“Asimov’s close encounter.” Asimov’s vendetta against Close Encounters of the Third Kind. August 30, 2017.
“The First Foundation.” Campbell, Asimov, Jack Williamson, and psychohistory. September 5-7, 2017.
“The passion of the pulps.” More on the absence of women in science fiction. September 12, 2017.
“Sci-Fi and Si.” Si Newhouse, Condé Nast, and Analog. October 2, 2017.
“Two against the gods.” Hubbard and William Bolitho’s Twelve Against the Gods. October 4, 2017.
“The Heirs of Sputnik.” Sputnik, science fiction, and the Cold War. October 6, 2017.
“The flicker effect.” W. Grey Walter, John W. Campbell, and the Dream Machine. October 10, 2017.
“When Del met Elron.” An encounter between Hubbard and comedy legend Del Close. October 20, 2017.
“The Strange Land.” More on Charles Manson and science fiction. November 20, 2017.
“Le Guin Again.” The legacy of Ursula K. Le Guin. January 26, 2018.
“Going with the flow.” The 1961 Conference on Education for Creativity in the Sciences. January 30, 2018.
“The minor key.” Is science fiction a minor genre? February 5, 2018.
“The lantern battery and the golem.” Michael Chabon and Astounding. February 6, 2018.
“The last questions.” The probing questions of John Brockman. February 8, 2018.
“The fictional sentence.” The storytelling craft of A.E. van Vogt. February 14, 2018.
“The cosmic engineers.” The role of engineers at Astounding. February 20, 2018.
“The unique continent.” National Geographic, Astounding, and the legacy of racism. March 15, 2018.
“The Road to Foundation.” Gilbert and Sullivan and the Foundation series. March 21, 2018.
“The Martian Way.” The politics of a mission to Mars. March 23, 2018.
“The fall of the foundation.” Donald Trump and the Mule. March 26, 2018.
“The axioms of behavior.” Nxivm, Scientology, and the lure of a mathematical psychology. March 28, 2018.
“The dreamlife of engineers.” Freeman J. Dyson and the dreams of engineering. March 29, 2018.
“When Clarke Met Kubrick.” How Kubrick hired Clarke for 2001: A Space Odyssey. April 2, 2017.
“How the solar system was won.” Clarke and Kubrick’s collaboration on 2001. April 3, 2018.
“The cosmic order.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and the space program. April 4, 2018.
“The psychedelic nightmare.” The responses of science fiction writers to 2001. April 5, 2018.
“The dawn of man.” The handmade pleasures of 2001. April 6, 2018.
“Foundation and Hollywood.” The attempts to adapt the Foundation series. April 11, 2018.
“The men who sold the movies.” Campbell, Asimov, Heinlein, and Hubbard in Hollywood. April 12, 2018.
“Hubbard and the Empress.” Hubbard’s fascination with Saint Helena. April 19, 2018.
“The Worlds of If.” Campbell, Asimov, de Camp, and the origins of psychohistory. April 24, 2018.
“Captain Kidd and the Redhead.” Hubbard, reincarnation, and Captain Kidd. April 25, 2018.
“The multiverse theory.” The many worlds of science fiction studies. May 1, 2018.
“The Rotary Club Booster.” Hubbard, William Bolitho, and Snow Crash. May 3, 2018.
“Thinkers of the unthinkable.” Herman Kahn, Heinlein, and the field of futures studies. May 2, 2018.
“Hubbard and the Little Its.” Hubbard, Frank Gruber, and the kobalds. May 7, 2018.
“The Magic People.” John and Mary Cooke and the early days of Scientology. May 10, 2018.
“The long now.” Stewart Brand, Marvin Minsky, and the promises of science fiction. May 14, 2018.
“The bedtime story.” Steven Spielberg’s father and the legacy of Analog. May 15, 2018.
“The doctor’s dilemma.” Isaac Asimov’s lost review of Dianetics. May 22, 2018.
“The osmotic experience.” Jimmy Webb, In Cold Blood, and the long reach of science fiction. May 23, 2018.
“The uranium in the wine bottle.” The myth of prediction in Hitchcock’s Notorious and Cleve Cartmill’s “Deadline.” May 29, 2018.
“The time bind.” Google’s “The Selfish Ledger” and the work of Alfred Korzybski. June 4, 2018.
“Systems of belief.” Belief Systems and “The Selfish Ledger.” June 5, 2018.
“Designing the future.” The future of speculative design. June 6, 2018.
“The casualty contact.” How Scientology targets sufferers of chronic pain. June 7, 2018.
“Tales from the pulp jungle.” The life of author Frank Gruber. June 12, 2018.
“Meanwhile at the Pentagon.” War games in Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon. June 13, 2018.
“A potent force of disintegration.” In appreciation of Harlan Ellison. June 29, 2018.
“The Illuminatus.” The legacy of Robert Anton Wilson. July 16, 2018.
“The immortality factor.” Science fiction and the transhumanist movement. July 23, 2018.
“The living wage.” Heinlein and the universal basic income. July 24, 2018.
“The science of survival.” Tom Cruise and Scientology. July 25, 2018.
“The fault in our stars.” The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Far Beyond the Stars.” July 26, 2018.
“The best of youth.” Science fiction and the aging of fandom. August 21, 2018.
“The final blackout.” The place of L. Ron Hubbard in the history of science fiction. August 23, 2018.
“The happy golden years.” Laura Ingalls Wilder, Campbell, and the renaming of awards. August 24, 2018.
“The electric dream.” Philip K. Dick and the science fiction of the golden age. August 31, 2018.
“The short of it.” The pleasures of the science fiction short short story. September 4, 2018.
“Forward the foundation.” Elon Musk and the Foundation trilogy. September 7, 2018.
“Crumb and Dick in Disneyland.” The intersections of Robert Crumb and Philip K. Dick. September 11, 2018.
“The Rover Boys in the Air.” Ronald Reagan and The Rover Boys. October 9, 2018.
“The planetary chauvinists.” The assumptions behind space colonization. October 16, 2018.
“The slow road to the stars.” Stewart Brand and the idea of space colonies. October 17, 2018.
“The technical review.” Gerard O’Neill’s vision of space colonies. October 18, 2018.
“The Thing from Another Manuscript.” The story behind my rediscovery of the original draft of John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” October 22, 2018.
“The mystical vision.” The origins and influence of science fiction pulp art. October 24, 2018.
“The new mutation.” The evolution of artwork in Astounding. October 25, 2018.
“The unknown future.” The death of the cover in Unknown magazine. October 26, 2018.
“The beauty of the world.” The homoerotic science fiction art of Alejandro Cañedo. October 29, 2018.
“The Men Who Saw Tomorrow.” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The legacy of Nostradamus from Unknown magazine to Orson Welles. October 31-November 2, 2018.
“Levitating the Pentagon.” L. Ron Hubbard, John Cooke, and the March on the Pentagon. November 9, 2018.
“The ethereal phase.” The singularity and the promise of immortality. November 12, 2018.
“The soul of a new machine.” Evil computers in 2001 and beyond. November 13, 2018.
“The end of an era.” The contrasting lives of Stan Lee and John W. Campbell. November 14, 2018.
“The Bad Pennies.” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. The sad case of William H. Sheldon, Walter H. Breen, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. December 3-5, 2018.
“The dark side of the limerick.” The limericks of Isaac Asimov. December 10, 2018.
“The greatest game never played.” How the Church of Scientology challenged the FBI to a game of touch football. December 17, 2018.

Written by nevalalee

December 8, 2017 at 8:25 am

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