John W. Campbell on Fantasy

John W. Campbell, in a letter to L. Ron Hubbard, January 23, 1939:

All human beings like wishes to come true. In fairy stories and fantasy, wishes do come true. Adults with childish minds (average “adult” has the mind of a 14 year-old) don’t dare read “fairy stories”, because their minds are afraid to acknowledge their interest in anything childish — they subconsciously realize their mental immaturity, and, as a defense mechanism, avoid childish things.

Your true adult, with fully developed mind, can enjoy fantasy whole-heartedly if it’s written in adult words and thought-forms, because, being absolutely confident of his own mental capacity, he doesn’t have any sense of embarrassment if caught reading “childish stuff”.

Found in The John W. Campbell Letters, Volume 1

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12 Responses to John W. Campbell on Fantasy

  1. paul de vinny says:

    it rings 100% correct. but am just starting to read up on campbell. there’s stuff OUCH! how much is 100% rong?

  2. Scott D. says:

    Campbell had his way of doing things, for certain! This is how it’s done, says he, and that’s that.

  3. paul de vinny says:

    what I want to know is what were campbell’s favorite science fiction stories? it’s not mentioned and i’ve never seen nor heard of a collection put together. i did some math –and it’s something like 1400 stories he published as editor of ASTOUNDING. it’s 2011. c’on publishers. let’s get a john w. campbell editor’s omnibus put out there for the general public for cryin’ out loud!!

  4. Paul De Vinny says:

    It’s funny, rerereading Campbell’s thoughts on “adults with childish minds” — Nobody talks about it; I’ve never heard it said or written down anywhere. But John Lennon read TONS of fairy tales when he was young; perhaps recycling and adding to when he wasn’t so young. Not a SINGLE word about it. (Just listen to the lyrics; from the outright I AM THE WALRUS to the more subdued CRY BABY CRY.) And he was a genius of course.

  5. Scott D. says:

    Yes, he was genius! And you are right, I’ve never heard anyone talk about that.

  6. Paul De Vinnny says:

    Scott D.,

    Apparently you and I are the only ones thrashing around on this cite. Campbell wrote a TROVE of insights/observations (Love ’em or Hate ’em). I suggest you print a batch of these for general INCITING OF THE POPULACE reasons. I for one haven’t even scratched the surface.

  7. Scott D. says:

    Ok! I’ll go mining… that book is great. I enjoyed his letters to Frank Herbert.

  8. Paul De Vinny says:

    The walrus was Paul!

    (It just sounded strange, exciting and fairy talelike so I tossed it out plus I’m working on a story and you don’t have to post any of this and my favorite cereal is Mulberry Clowns and …

  9. Paul De Vinny says:


    C’on. It’s been a month already. Let’s get with the Campbellisms already!!
    Paul Walrus

  10. Paul De Vinny says:

    I think 7 months and 13 days is enough for the mining Scott.

  11. Scott D. says:

    Ha! Hello, Walrus! Koo koo kachoo

  12. Scott D. says:

    Hey Paul, I’m about to pull the plug on this site. Write me any time at scott a sffaudio dot com.

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