American Young Adult
Science Fiction Since 1947
C. W. Sullivan III
In many ways, 1947 was a transitional year, a year of endings and beginnings.1 It does not seem to have been quite as exciting or tension-filled as the World War II years immediately preceding it or the Korean War and Cold War years that followed. Henry Ford and Charles Sumner Woolworth, both innovators in modern commerce, died in 1947. That fall the Dodgers and the Yankees met in the World Series, beginning a rivalry that would dominate the next decade. Princess Elizabeth of England and Lt. Philip Mountbatten were married in November. Andre Gidé won the Nobel Prize for literature, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men won the Pulitzer Prize, and Carolyn S. Bailey’s Miss Hickory won the Newbery Award. There were no major earthquakes anywhere. But 1947 was a very important year in the history of science fiction for young readers, for in 1947 Robert A. Heinlein published Rocket Ship Galileo.
The publication of this book was a significant marker in many ways. First, Rocket Ship Galileo, like the eleven others that followed in the series,2 was published in hardcover by Scribner’s. This novel, unlike most of Heinlein’s other science fiction and science fiction in general, did not see first light in the pages of a pulp magazine or as a paperback book. Rocket Ship Galileo, in its mainstream format and from an established publishing house, went straight to public libraries and school libraries where it sat on the shelf with all of the other fiction deemed suitable for young readers and could be checked out by those young readers. Because of the hardcover format and because of Scribner’s reputation, Heinlein’s juveniles escaped much of the criticism then being leveled at science fiction paperbacks and pulp magazines. Science fiction did not become instantly credible because of the Heinlein-Scribner’s partnership, but it did receive a large push in that direction.