John W. Campbell, 1910-1971, American SF editor and author.

Campbell was never much of a writer. He published his first story in 1920. His earliest work was clumsy pulp fiction, not much better than most SF in those years. With time, he improved slightly. (Or more than slightly, as ximenez observes below).

Campbell is best remembered as the editor of Astounding Science Fiction (renamed Analog in later years), where in the 1940s he "discovered", nurtured, and groomed most of the "Golden Age" generation of important SF writers like Robert A. Heinlein and A. E. van Vogt, along with a few insignificant "filler" writers like Isaac Asimov. Campbell found SF in a muddle of Vast Corruscating Energies and bug-eyed monsters, worked his will upon it, and left it as a medium that could support works like Dune and writers like Jack Vance and Avram Davidson. Vance and Davidson were not Cambpell protégés, nor could have been; Campbell knew what he liked, and what he liked was Man vs. The Universe (Man wins with a knockout in the last round) and whatnot1. Well, that stuff gets old. What matters is that he insisted on decent writing, plausible characterization, and science that wasn't entirely absurd. Campbell was one of the first to take science fiction seriously, and he demanded that his writers do the same. If they wouldn't, he found others who would. He did for SF something like what Ezra Pound did for the Moderns.

In 1938, Campbell wrote Who Goes There?, a, uh, competent novella which was later rendered into film in The Thing, starring Kurt Russell. The Thing is notable only in that it's less of an atrocity than most "SF" movies. It's no more faithful to the novel than you'd expect, which is to say no more than it should be.

Robert A. Heinlein's The Sixth Column is based on a plot provided by Cambpell.

1 Well, Vance wasn't always so far off thematically, but something about him just doesn't fit . . .

ximenez: As it happens, I've got Before the Golden Age at home, and I even read it, but none of it seems to have stuck in my mind -- which supports your assertion very nicely :) I hadn't known "Nightfall" was from a Campbell idea; that's one of the very few Asimov things I've ever liked.

As for "geek culture", such as it is, the word "geek" defined itself out from under me when it became a youth-culture marketing phenomenon aimed at juvenile illiterates obsessed with comic books, tedious kiddie cartoons, and cheap television shows, who write HTML "code" and trivial Perl scripts when they want to get really technical. Rant, rant . . .

Gamaliel: Carpenter's is the version of The Thing I refer to above -- I love that movie! Of course, I haven't seen the 1951 version, but it's hard for me to imagine how it could be any better. 'Course, all I care about in movies is special effects. YMMV, clearly.