In 1977, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction quoted “some disillusioned fan (was it Terry Carr?)” as saying, ‘The golden age of science fiction is twelve.’” In 2000, author Thomas M. Disch reported hearing the remark from Carr, his agent.
That statement referred to how science fiction is never as exciting, as mind-blowing, as open to new possibilities as when fans first start reading it—which is often around the age of twelve. Each cohort grows up believing that the genre’s Golden Age ended shortly before they started reading because nothing since has ever felt quite as good.
(The same rules apply to adventure comics, and indeed people credit Don and/or Maggie Thompson with saying, “The Golden Age of Comics was twelve.”)
However, one important person disagreed with that attribution: Terry Carr himself. As early as 1973 the same Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction printed this line:
I owe it to Terry Carr for reminding us that it was Peter Scott Graham who first said that “The Golden Age of Science Fiction is thirteen.”In 1777 Carr wrote in the same magazine about the quote (in its “twelve” version):
I didn’t say this, though I’ve quoted the remark a few times, such as in my Introduction to Universe 3. Actually it was said back in 1960 by Peter Graham.Other sources peg the date around 1957 and suggest Graham wrote it in Void, a fanzine he edited. Graham also organized events, reviewed books, assembled anthologies, and the like. Then he “gafiated,” presumably because he didn’t feel twelve or thirteen anymore.
In 1992, David G. Hartwell wrote an article in Futures Past titled “The Golden Age of Science Fiction Is Twelve”; when he republished that essay in Visions of Wonder, he carefully credited the original saying to Peter Graham. How effective was that? Currently a lot of sources attribute the observation to…David G. Hartwell.