Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Last Fanatic [Part I: The End is the Beginning]

Welcome back to our newest entry in this series on the history of Fandom. We will once again explore how this 20th century phenomenon has destroyed countless processes and institutions we have take for granted. I believe this is the fourth in the overall series, and I doubt it will be the last. There is so much to cover on this subject.

This time I will be going over Sam Moskowitz's book on the history of Fandom from his perspective. This work was written in 1954, well after the events described, yet long before the extent of the damage done could be reliably recorded by anyone looking into it. 

The book in question, The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom, nonetheless is required reading to understand exactly how things ended up as they did in the modern day. Which is why it's been deliberately left out of print since Mr. Moskowitz's death around 25 years ago to this date. You will understand why the deeper we go into this.

What are some examples of this whitewashing of the past? Well, we will soon find out, won't we? That is what these series are for, after all.

The books by Sam Lundwall were written by a young Baby Boomer fan who was desperately trying to scrawl out his religion's scripture by omitting and changing facts to suit his needs. Ron Goulart's book was much more of an objective take on the history of pulp magazines, which Mr. Lundwall completely ignored despite being a work of supposed history.

How does Mr. Moskowitz's book hold up? Thankfully it appears to lean closer on the side of Mr. Goulart's work. For the most part. We will get to that later. For now it is enough to know that this is more or less the only real document of Fandom's activities during their fledgling years, which makes it more invaluable than the industry will admit.

Let us get started.

For those unaware, Sam Moskowitz (1920-1997) was a big name in fan circles back in the day, especially during their heyday of the late 1930s. Born and raised (and eventually, died) in Newark, New Jersey, Mr. Moskowitz grew up a fan of pulp magazines and got heavily invested in Fandom as a result. He spent most of his life writing about the early years of his passion which gave him a bit of a different take than many of the other future-obsessed materialists he was in constant communication, and feud, with.

Mr. Moskowitz was also different than many other Fanatics in that he showed some appreciation and love for the roots of early pulp styles such as old scientific romances and important authors such as Abraham Merritt and even wrote books on such subjects, including his own history in the muck which we will be taking a look at. Considering all of that was buried over the years by his fellow Fanatics, and not him, it is worth pointing out.

Nonetheless, he was a prominent figure from the time period and the scene, even as afresh-faced adolescent. Thankfully, even with this work being allowed out of print, it is still relatively easy to get a hold of.

Well, actually it wasn't for this writer. I managed to order a copy online for considerably cheaper than it goes for everywhere else now. It didn't even come with a dust jacket. Either way, I have it now, and can use it for more material in this series. It isn't as if anyone in higher positions will have the self-awareness to put it back in print now, especially not with Fandom currently imploding in on itself and revealing it to be the joke it always was. Hiding their roots has always been one of their primary obsessions.

This book should hopefully put to bed any more arguments that Fanatics aren't subversives attempting to blaze their own trial off the backs of giants, thereby falling from great heights onto their own rears. You are about to see a gaggle of selfish children acting like selfish children well into adulthood. Be aware of that.

Want to know why "Science Fiction" is the lowest selling genre and yet thinks itself so important regardless? You're about to learn where that delusion came from.

But enough back story, it is time to get into the book. Let us start with Mr. Moskowitz's own words from his introduction.

"Followers and glorifiers of the fantastic tale like to think that they are different, that they represent something new on the face of the earth; mutants born with an intelligence and a sense of farseeing appreciation just a bit higher than the norm. They like to believe that their counterpart has never before existed, that they have no predecessors. "No one," they say, "has ever seen our visions, dreamed our dreams. Never before has man's brain reached out so far into the limitless stretches of the cosmos about him.""

This is what writers call foreshadowing. It will come into play with what is to come very soon. Though I suppose anyone who has dealt with Fanatics already understands the above quite well. This is an attitude that comes from a race of people who irrationally hate and despise the ones that came before them.

It is not an attitude that existed before modernism, even if modernists claim it to be a very normal thing. It is clearly not, or all sorts of modern things wouldn't currently be in the process of being destroyed instead of preserved. 

But cultists have always believed they were, at default, better than those who came before. It's a dated 20th century attitude you can find all over Fandom.

"For ages man lived in a world where he was a slave to the elements. His own achievements were by comparison crude and immature; his every living moment was subject to the blind caprices of fate. Not unnaturally, he dreamt of greater things. At first his achievements were limited to dreams, and to dreams only. And in fantasy he created wonder-lands of magic carpets, healing potions, and all the other requirements of a luxurious existence. He held little hope of ever encountering such a life, but in these visions he found escape from his mean, primitive world. It was not until man found himself capable of transforming dreams into prophesy that he wrote science fiction. For science fiction was prophesy. And, being based on extrapolations of known theories, its possibilities were subject only to the degrees of factuality in its groundwork. The only difference between the science fiction fan of today and the Homer of yesteryear is that the fan of today knows there is a sufficiently large kernel of truth in his dreams to make them possible of realization — that the fantastic fiction of today may well become the fact of tomorrow."

Where to even start with this limited understanding of reality? One can't exactly fault the writer for believing this, he was very much a man of his time, but it says so much about how Modernists think so highly of themselves as a default. "Things are always Getting Better" and the like. The world will just Work Out, for some reason.

It's nonsensical, but it is their religious creed. One could hardly live back then without believing in it without being looked at as defective.

One thing to note here is that Mr. Moskowitz, like all of his generation, was a prisoner to the assumptions of basic 20th Century materialist thought. This means he believed the untruth about Progress being inevitable and simply a fact of life. As long as we kept marching forward, we would reach utopia on Earth. We are more advanced than the people of the past who believed in antiquated and uncivilized things such as kings, honor, neighbors, and God. Eventually we won't need anything but Science and the material world to lift us to immortality.

Of course, it didn't work out that way, but they thought differently back then. To read this book one must go in with the understanding that 20th century thinkers lived in a bit of an unreality fog, and it does infect the way they processed events. You can't exactly blame them when most everyone at the time thought this way, in some sense.

As an example, basic materialism was all the rage. It was the hinge on which every bit of their philosophy was based on.

"Great authors could no more help being impressed by the forward rush of science than could the man in the street. Science fiction and fantasy are liberally sprinkled through their works, and scarcely a single comprehensive anthology of short stories will be found to lack one having such a theme. Notables of no less a stature than Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, Washington Irving, Mark Twain, Fitz-James O'Brien, Guy de Maupassant, Stephen Vincent Benet and Nathaniel Hawthorne have found this medium far from unsatisfying, nor have their readers been overly critical of their writings in this vein."

This is because there is no hard divide between the spirit and the material, it is only an invention of modernity that this false dichotomy exists. The ancients and the pre-moderns knew this and their stories are similarly as flexible for it. The pulps were like this, too--until around 1940. Then everything, suddenly, changed. This book will actually tell you why it changed.

Fandom changed everything for themselves. And they changed it for themselves. It wasn't even a long battle to get their. They were handed the reins to blow everything up.

And it is what the entirety of Fandom based their identity on. Instead of continuing on a tradition, they thought themselves pioneers and inheritors of The Future. This meant they could do and say whatever they wanted, because they were New. New is automatically better than Old, and are free to do whatever they want to bring on Progress. Sacrifices must be made.

It seems silly in retrospect, but the 20th century was a very silly century.

"The middle and late Nineteenth Century saw fiction of this type appear with ever increasing frequency. Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Godey's Ladies' Book and other magazines featured it consistently, and Jules Verne wrote many novels having fantastic themes — some of which, at the present time, have already become realized prophesies. H. G. Hells capitalized on the taste which had been thus created with a long series of excellent science fiction novels beginning with the popular Time Machine (1895)."

What is hard to wrap one's head around is the assertion that any of this is new, when he already just admitted it very much was not. But as we've established, reality was a fuzzy concept back in the day. It was about being seen as New. "Good" didn't matter so much.

Things were "changing" because of the times, and the times were, of course, always getting better and better.

That is how History works out, doesn't it?

"Just how much science fiction fans shaped the policies of those magazines is problematical; possibly their influence was greater than has been realized. However that may be, it is certain that the demand for their specialized product caused Street & Smith to issue The Thrill Book magazine — the first to be devoted in large part to the fantastic — early in 1919. Under the editorship of Harold Hershey and Eugene A. Clancy it ran for sixteen issues. Nevertheless, it seemingly produced but a negligable effect on the trend of science fiction; but as an initial ground-breaker in this country it is undeniably of interest and importance."

This might sound silly, but I do wonder at the apparent size of this supposed phantom Science Fiction audience waiting in the wings to be fed when magazines like Thrill Book failed out of the gate, as did so many others at the time.

Surely this must have been a thought Fandom had at one point? Was there an audience or wasn't there? If there wasn't, then why were they so convinced their obsession needed a platform? If there was, then why didn't they buy anything?

It is the eternal conundrum with this group, and it exists to this very day. Amazing how little things change despite their views on History and Progress.

You will soon see that Fandom greatly overestimates itself at every turn, which makes it doubly amazing that they were able to get away with their chest-puffing for as long as they did. Regardless, there was always an audience for Futuristic stories, but it was always the same one for Mythic stories and general adventure storytelling.

That unwanted and unneeded destructive split would come later. For now, it was all just tales of Romance and Adventure of escapism and superversive morals for the reader to be lifted by. The way it was meant to be.

"Of far more importance, however, was the advent of Weird Tales magazine in March, 1923. Despite the fact that its early days were rocky and hazardous it was a real crucible of fantasy. Never before, and possibly never again, were so many Simon-pure fantasy addicts united in a single reader-audience. Weird catered to them all: the supernatural, fantasy and science fiction tale, each was there. But the task of satisfying everyone was no easy one. From its earliest days those who wanted it to be predominently supernatural and those who would have it mainly scientific waged a bitter struggle for supremacy. It is perhaps fortunate that the former clique, supporting the more literate school of writers including H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, eventually won out. But the win was by a fluke: Having committed itself to the title Weird Tales, little else was possible; to adopt a 100% science fiction policy in this guise would have been sheer suicide. So voluminous were the ranks of the latter, however, that a concession had to be made them — and thus it came about that in addition to the few (but regularly appearing) out-and-out science fiction tales, there appeared in those pages that fiction binding the supernatural with the scientific — the combination so well mastered by the late H. P. Lovecraft and used to a lesser extent by Clark Ashton Smith and Nictzin Dyalhis. Such stories as "When the Green Star Waned" and "The Dunwich Horror" — representing this school — came closest to satisfying all factions.

"In the early 1920's, then, simply the reading of a magazine like
Weird Tales was sufficient to characterize a man as a fantasy fan, a rule which held true until at least 1930."

Now we get into the interesting wrinkles of this whole mess. Looking back now it is Weird Tales that has had the greatest effect on adventure fiction, more than any of the magazines that came later and managed to retain a dedicated following up until the collapse of the pulp market itself. In fact, the 1930s is regularly considered the decade of Weird Tales for this reason. The magazine's influence on what was to come is simply undeniable.

So then, what is Mr. Moskowitz talking about here? Remember that this was written the same year that Weird Tales ended. We now have statistics and plenty of back story and data he didn't when he was writing this book.

I don't wish to put words in Mr. Moskowitz's mouth, but it appears he is referring to Fandom specifically with his quote. They quickly abandoned the weird the second they could have something that 100% catered instead to their extremist materialist tastes. they were a fickle bunch It wasn't about storytelling, but validation for their creed. These were cultists looking for a cult, which meant dropping whatever didn't do a good enough job spreading their message.

This will come up a bit more later, but for now it is enough to say that Fandom was getting more and more organized in those early days, and they were looking for a stomping ground--preferably one they could usurp from someone else. Creation was never in the cards, as it never is for subversives. Weird Tales was just one stop along the way.

Thankfully, one of their own gave them just that chance to take over.

"Hugo Gernsback did something for the science fiction fan that had never been attempted before: he gave him self-respect. He preached that those who followed this sort of reading-matter avidly were not possessed of a queer taste, but actually represented a higher type of intellect. And he tried to lay down rules for science fiction. Primary among these was plausibility: nothing was to appear in the stories he published that could not be given a logical, scientific explanation. To bolster this, ingenious photographs and related news paper columns surrounded the tales, until after a time it became difficult to differentiate between the fact and the fiction in Science and Invention."

Straight from the horse's mouth. For those who do not understand why Gernsback is considered the Father of Fandom. He gave them a platform. This is partially because he was a Fanatic himself, but also because he wanted to spread the Good Word.

He also spent much time creating his own stories and magazines before finally striking gold with Amazing Stories in 1926. To give him credit, that many other Fanatics won't to this day, he did at least seek to create his own space.

A shame it was torn away from him in record time.

"[Amazing Stories] skyrocketed to success overnight. The reasons for this have never been adequately explained, but what seems most plausible is that Gernsback had been carefully building up an audience for this venture, one which, on recognizing a 100% science fiction periodical for what it was, eagerly flocked to its support."

The materialists had finally found their holy scripture. Now they could finally make their move to destroy the status quo.

And that's just what they did.

"Had the science fiction fan of 1926 been less greedy Weird Tales might have been seriously hampered by this turn of events. Many read it solely for the occasional science fiction it printed and nothing else. But because of their insatiable appetite they did not desert Weird Tales, but rather began a strenuous effort to swing it away from the supernatural. And although as a result the magazine did veer in the science fiction direction during the next year, the change was only a temporary one. The appearance of Amazing Stories, however, had driven a wedge very deeply between the fantasy and science fiction groups. Heretofore, though differences had existed, both groups had pretty much occupied the same boat. But now each had its own magazine. And the fact that the latter clique was by far the most powerful was shown by comparison of the two periodicals' circulations."

It is Fandom itself, therefore, that created this split in adventure fiction that never existed before it came into existence in the early 20th century. They spent the entirety of the 1920s and '30s trying to wedge into the industry in order to warp fiction with their non-existent split to suit their own needs. Eventually, they would succeed in overthrowing everything. For now, at this point in time, they were just the letter-writing equivalent of Blue Checkmarks* on twitter.

But again, if we're using magazine circulations as an argument for success then it really doesn't explain why Weird Tales still did better than all the other Materialist Fiction magazines that came around at the same time and after. I would more hazard a guess that they simply ran more exciting stories. These camps Mr. Moskowitz is bringing up didn't appear to support the other magazines as much as they apparently did Amazing Stories. Why was that?

I would throw in my assertion that it is because the Science Fiction cult has always been paltry in number and never had anywhere near the numbers they thought they had at any point. When they were popular during the pulp days it was because no buyer, aside from cultists, ever bought "genre"--they bought setting for their adventure stories, and they went with the magazine that ran the best tales in its pages. This is why the better efforts from the age are still decently well known today despite deliberate attempts at burial. As for pure numbers, well, you'll see Fandom's number soon enough. How much of "Science Fiction's" supposed success came from anything other than greased palms and ideological subversion we might never know. Nonetheless, there is a reason none of it has ever stayed in the public consciousness the way Edgar Rice Burroughs, HP Lovecraft, or Robert E. Howard has. Once we accept that, we can accept a lot of other obvious truths from that era.

The only reason "Science Fiction" maintained relevance at the time was because their cult members had more zealotry than normal people and readers of plain old adventure fiction did. Once they got in positions of power they merely kept out the bad-thinkers and forced their own view forward, hence plummeting sales into the irrelevance they have eventually reached now. This is something else we will see as it happens later on in this work.

It was never actually relevant, but the passion of their clique (and a seemingly strange amount support from random Hollywood and industry zealots) made them think it was. They never wanted to accept that it was adventure and romance that they audience wanted because they always hated adventure and romance.

Why that would be is anyone's guess. You can probably draw your own conclusions. Though it is fairly obvious why, I suppose.

"The appearance of readers' letters in the "Discussions" column of Amazing Stories marked the beginning of science fiction fandom as we know it today. The volume and quality of mail received by the average science fiction magazine (both then and now) has always been a source of wonder, especially to those outside of the field. And in the old Amazing fans were ready and willing to discuss anything. The eagerness with which they prattled scientific talk was directly traceable to some scientific fact which had aroused their interest in its extrapolated counterpart in fiction. Be it astronomy, biology, physics or chemistry, they broached some query which coeval science could not answer, but which science fiction tried to. And the readers expressed their opinions on how logically it had been answered.

"Nowadays, of course, fans are more interested in discussing trends in past fiction. But in those days, since a common background of reading was the exception rather than the rule, this was out of the question. They had no magazines, authors, traditions and fanwide happenings to talk about. If two fans had read a dozen of the same tales before becoming acquainted through correspondence brought about through "Discussions," it was highly unusual, and something to comment on with surprise. And thus having little ground for an exchange of likes and dislikes, fans of that decade naturally reverted to scientific discussions as a matter of course."

Why was it that so many people were so interested in a style of fiction that, has been admitted many a-time, wasn't even new? What were they searching for and hoping to find with their obsessive reveling in absolute materialism? And why were they so inclined to write letters to the point that acolytes think they had a larger number at the time than they actually did?

Well, we will get to that. For now it is enough to note that this odd obsession lit a fire under an elite cadre of self-proclaimed geeks to take over the planet. Adventure fiction wouldn't be enough--not when you can fix the world itself!

"A spate of science fiction magazines followed. Amazing Stories, which had been taken over by Teck Publications in this interim, found itself competing with Gernsback's newly-founded Science Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories and Scientific Detective Stories. Amazing and Science Wonder issued quarterlies in addition to their regular monthly numbers. Clayton Publications followed with Astounding Stories late in the same year."

All of a sudden the word "science" began to show up everywhere. Why it did is anyone's guess, because it was never used in any of the early pulps. This only happened after Gernsback's success with Amazing Stories, which, again, did not have it in the title.

But despite this sudden explosion and supposed interest in Science, things weren't all sunshine and roses.

"It did not take long for equilibrium to establish itself. Scientific Detective Stories soon ceased publication, and Air Wonder combined with Science Wonder under the latter title. Astounding, favoring a blood-and-thunder action policy as opposed to the more sedate offerings of her older competitors, appealed to a new class of readers and managed to hang on."

In other words, the supposed audience for Science wasn't really there. They weren't buying pulp magazines for the promise of materialism. Then what were they there for? Turns out that it was for Adventure and Romance.

This is also interesting that Astounding Stories was known for being the premiere Action Adventure pulp magazine, considering what it would be forcibly warped into by the time of the 1940s. It was almost as if it was a heretical document needing suppression.

But that couldn't possibly be the case.

"Most interesting was the effect of these events on Weird Tales. Never independent of those readers who bought the magazine solely for the few science fiction tales it published, the sudden influx of new periodicals all but ruined her. Surfeited elsewhere, readers deserted in droves, and by 1931 the diminishing circulation had forced a bi-monthly schedule of appearance into effect. In casting about for some means to avert disaster, Editor Farnsworth Wright hit upon the plan of advertising current science fiction of Weird Tales in Science Wonder and Amazing Stories. Tales having an interplanetary theme were very popular in those times, and by procuring as many as possible, and by printing the work of popular authors, Weird Tales managed to return to its monthly schedule once more."

This isn't why Weird Tales went bimonthly for a little while, by the way. It had nothing to do with a hemorrhaging of readers. That didn't happen. The cause for going bimonthly was actually a banking failure.

From wiki:

"Another financial blow occurred in late 1930 when a bank failure froze most of the magazine's cash. Henneberger changed the schedule to bimonthly, starting with the February/March 1931 issue; six months later, with the August 1931 issue, the monthly schedule returned."

There was no Great Desertion of Science Propaganda readers. The above is a cope. Farnsworth Wright didn't look to the Science Cult for examples of saving the magazine, because it wasn't dying at any point. Weird Tales had always had financial issues, and this was one more in a long line of them. Nevertheless, there is something more interesting to come.

Mr. Moskowitz goes on:

"It should be borne in mind that a science fiction fan of that time was primarily concerned with scientific plausibility, and had little or no penchant for stories dealing with ghosts or werewolves. This is shown today by the great rarity of complete copies of early Weird Tales numbers — while sets of excerpted and bound science fiction stories from these same numbers are far more common. Having removed the stories that interested them, science fiction fans of that time threw the remainder of the magazines away, as it held no interest for them."

Why were they concerned with scientific plausibility? Why were they not concerned with the state of the soul, the higher plans of God, the endless cycles of history, or the potential for heroism in even the smallest man. Why did none of the things that interested countless before them even strike their fancy even a little? What made Science more exciting to this packet of weirdos than pondering the actual meanings of life?

No one asks this question, but I feel it a good one to ask. We just accept Fandom was like this, but we never wonder why that is. What gave them the right to ruin traditions, set up failures in their place, then knock the whole house of cards down on the way out? Why were they free to do all of this without a single person standing in their way?

Clearly, Mr. Moskowitz is either wrong when one considers Weird Tales' influence dwarfs the Science Scripture magazines', or he is right and a smallminded, pig-brained group of Fanatics almost stifled one of the best sources of fiction in the twentieth century because spiritual concerns were beneath them. Then one would need to question what else might we have lost because of their tunnel vision. We know which one of the two is true, but his alternate narrative doesn't paint a better picture of Fandom. It just makes them look worse.

Time will not make them look better.

This is when the uncomfortable realizations are made around what Fandom is responsible for doing to storytelling as a whole. 

It certainly was not preservation, but the opposite: destruction.

"It is no wonder, therefore, that the early followers of the fantastic were called science fiction fans. Organization of the fans was an outgrowth of the professional publications they followed, and these were predominantly of the science fiction variety. It is quite true that followers of the weird were also in evidence; but, perhaps because of personal inclination as well as their smaller numbers, they rarely organized themselves into any official or unofficial body. Indeed, they remain both unorganized and in the minority to this day. Yet because they and their media have much in common with that of the majority they may be considered as a part of a larger organic whole. This group will henceforth be referred to in toto in this work as "science fiction fandom" — or more simply "fandom"; and it should be understood to include within its ranks followers of supernatural and fantasy fiction generally as well as those who insist that every story be "scientifically plausible.""

What he just said, unintentionally, is that fans of the weird are normal people who didn't need to organize to destroy fiction to get what they wanted, damn the rest. There was no vult of regular readers looking to usurp the natural order.

But you will also notice how once again Fandom drives a wedge between "scientifically plausible" and "fantasy"--a gap that never existed before they showed up to declare it the canon way of doing things. Before Fandom there was no Science Fiction and there was no Fantasy, because it was all Adventure fiction, and it still is despite the old guard clinging to their outdated framing and attempting to force it on readers. It's been diced up like this ever since.

And to think that all of this modern madness started with Fandom.

"Let it again be stressed that the very first organized groups consisted of science fiction fans. They were one in mind with Hugo Gernsback in believing that every one of their number was a potential scientist, and that the aim of every fan should not be a collection of fantastic fiction, but a home laboratory where fictional dreams might attain reality."

Message received.

"Love of science fiction was the basic bond that united these fans. Yet discussions in The Comet were a far cry to discussions of fiction — articles such as "The Psychology of Anger," "Chemistry and the Atomic Theory," "Recent Advancements in Television," "What Can Be Observed with a Small Telescope" and "Psychoanalysis" abounded. As time passed, however, the non-scientific note increased in volume somewhat. Articles based on science fiction stories appeared occasionally."

It wasn't love of "Science Fiction" as it was: it was love of Scientism. These fans were attempting to create a new religion. Fiction came secondary to that. This is something that is crystal clear looking back on in the 21st century.

"At about this same time, too, a series of frantic appeals to members asked for stronger support in the form of regular payment of dues, contribution of more material and campaigning to introduce Cosmology to friends. In January, 1932, [Raymond] Palmer turned his editorial post over to Aubrey McDermott and Clifton Amsbury. They in turn attempted to inject new life into the publication. The news that P. Schuyler Miller had purchased a life membership in the club for $17.50 was offered as bait to those who hesitated to renew their memberships or who believed the organization to be shaky. Despite all these efforts, however, the club drifted into a period of greater and greater lethargy, until finally publication of the official organ was discontinued altogether."

I'm confused. Supposedly, these peoples' dropping of support for Weird Tales almost killed the entire operation, yet they couldn't be bothered to support their own magazines--the ones that gave them what they wanted? Am I missing something here? Perhaps it is just that Fandom never had much in the way of numbers to begin with. They were just the vocal minority.

"Its three-year life had set a mark in club longevity, and its seventeen consecutive issues of Cosmology would be considered a fine record even today. Its membership was said to have neared 150 — nearly tops, as fan organizations go. By every standard we have for comparison today the Science Correspondence Club was an eminently successful group that died a natural death when its members grew tired of it.

"The reason for their tiring of it is not hard to discern. Midway in its life a new group of fans had arisen and entered the amateur publishing field with their Time Traveller and Science Fiction Digest. These publications talked about science fiction itself rather than the minute details of science involved in it. And these, apparently, won the fans' preference. Nevertheless, interest did not shift either completely or immediately in this direction: it was a gradual change, and those who preferred to discuss science still remained. Indeed, several years later there were enough of them to reaffirm their views by forming the International Scientific Association."

So "Science Fiction" actually wasn't about the Science at all, as some modern day scholars wish to claim it was in order to shuffle out the undesirables from their canon.

Apparently it was not that big of a deal to the original group who created this safe space to begin with. Magazines and fan groups literally closed and shuttered due to this behavior. What they wanted was the fiction. We will see this come up time and time again.

"Almost concurrently with the Science Correspondence Club there existed an organization known as the Scienceers, which claimed affiliation with the YOSIAN Society, a world-wide nature study group. It is this organization to which we must give credit for forming the first true science fiction club and publishing the first true science fiction fan magazine.

"Like the Science Correspondence Club, the excuse given by the Scienceers for forming their club was the intelligent discussion of the science arising from science fiction. Unlike the former organization however, this turned out to be patent camouflage — for all the science they extrapolated upon in their rocky three-year existence would make an exceedingly slim volume indeed. Science fiction was their forte, and they not only talked about it but wrote and published it as well as obtaining lectures for it.

"Members of the original Scienceers included Allen Glasser, the club's librarian, a leading fan and a beginning author of that period; Maurice Z. Ingher, soon to become editor of the now-legendary Science Fiction Digest; Julius Unger, the well known fan and dealer of today; Nathan Greenfield, staff member of The Time Traveller; and Mortimer Weisinger and Julius Schwartz, both of whom were to make their professions in the field."

This is one of the examples of early Fandom. As it was, they were more interested in science projects and experiments. Simple hobby groups. But eventually the fiction would collide with the past-time, brought on by those such as the aforementioned Hugo Gernsback.

It was time to create "Science Fiction" and change everything!

Speaking of the above, here is a story Mr. Moskowitz shares about Gernsback and early Fandom that really highlights both perfectly.

"At about this time Hugo Gernsback ran a contest in Wonder Stories, offering prizes for the best reports on the question "What am I doing to popularize science fiction?". A prize-winning entry by Allen Glasser mentioned his work in the Scienceers, and, impressed by the concept of enthusiasts forming clubs, Gernsback requested that the organization send a representative to visit him. For obvious reasons Glasser was chosen to act in this capacity, and he returned with the startling news that Gernsback had arranged for a group of authors to address the club at New York City's Museum of Natural History, all expenses paid.

"When the day arrived no less than thirty-five members had mustered out for the occasion. When one reflects on the fact that fandom was not then well knit on a national scale, and that years later the same number was considered a good showing at the Philadelphia Conference, thirty-five seems a copious attendance indeed. Gernsback himself was unable to attend, but he had sent in his place David Lasser, then editor of Wonder Stories, a man who was later to achieve national prominence as head of the Workers' Alliance. With Lasser was Gawain Edwards Pendray, author and rocketry expert, Dr. William Lemkin, also a well-known author, as well as lesser lights of the Gernsback staff. They lectured eruditely to the Scienceers on their individual specialties, and finally departed amid much pomp and ceremony. The day had been a heady one for most of the neophyte fans, and they wandered to their homes in a happy daze.

"At the club's next meeting they were rudely awakened, however, for they were then presented with a bill for use of the room at the museum; through some misunderstanding Gernsback had not paid the museum rental. And to add insult to injury Glasser himself billed the club for the cost of his time spent in contacting Gernsback. The ensuing bitter debate as to the legitimacy of these debts was more than the conventional tempest in a teapot, for controversy reached such a pitch that it led to dissolution of the Scienceers."

"It is probably true, however, that this incident was not the only bone of contention present. Throughout the club's existence minor strife had been occasionally precipitated by that minority of the membership which was composed of science-hobbyists. It was the old story of the Gernsback ideal — all science fiction lovers were potential scientists, and should aim at something more than mere entertainment. But to the majority of the Scienceers entertainment was an end in itself, and they revelled in a frank enjoyment of discussing their hobby with kindred spirits. Nevertheless, this difference added fuel to the already-kindled fire, and did its part in producing the conflagration."

This is a story emblematic of both Gernsback and Fandom as a whole, as we will soon see. Normally one would need to elaborate on such a tale, but Mr. Moskowitz knows as I do that Mr. Gernsback's legacy is well known among readers.

There is a reason he made many enemies back in the day, which will eventually spell his downfall. It is more or less understood in Fandom that Gernsback eventually was hoisted by his petard. Dishonesty does have a price.

But let us move on to the important part of Fandom in the early 20th century: the magazines. and Fandom had their own versions of these time pieces. That's right, it is time to discuss fanzines. Fans made their own!

Let us start with the story of The Time Traveller, the first fan magazine.

"Among those fans who had met and cultivated friendships at the gatherings of the Scienceers were Julius Schwartz and Mortimer Weisinger. As time was to prove, they had much in common and many latent capabilities. Weisinger was a jovial, rotund fellow, possessed of a slight lisp, who was later to make his mark as a columnist, author, literary agent and editor. By contrast Schwartz seemed sober, and was a steady person with a good sense of perspective. Between them they conceived the idea of remedying fans' apathy since the Scienceers' dissolution by initiating a fan magazine. Enlisting the aid of Allen Glasser — for they apparently doubted their abilities to accomplish something creatively successful alone — who edited their brain-child, they circulated an announcement predicting the early appearance of a publication of interest to the science fiction fan, editor and author which was to feature descriptive and biographical articles, news, bibliographical material and occasional fiction. The response — as hundreds of would-be publishers have since discovered — was far from sensational; but it was sufficient encouragement for the magazine to be issued. It was called The Time Traveller."

There are a few names here that will come into play later. I am more or less just including these sections to give some context as to where a lot of early Fandom was at the time and names to keep track of. Eventually they would form a united front among others to come along later. Before that moment, they were just fans.

Here is how the first fan magazine operated.

"To most present-day fans Conrad H. Ruppert is an all but unknown name, but his part in creating for fandom the finest set of periodicals it has ever produced is a story of unbelievable devotion to science fiction. He painstakingly set by hand every issue of The Time Traveller from then on, and every number of Science Fiction Digest and Fantasy Magazine up until the latter's third anniversary number. The fact that each of these rarely were less than 30,000 words in length and appeared on a regularly monthly schedule gives the reader a rough notion of the amount of work involved. during this time, too, Ruppert hand-set Hornig's Fantasy Fan and the "Cosmos" supplements to Fantasy Magazine — and all at below-production cost, out of the sheer love of science fiction. Later he was to appear as printer of the weekly Fantasy News, the "Nycon" program and Dawn of Flame, the Weinbaum Memorial volume. Ruppert's contribution to the field would be difficult to estimate.

"Meanwhile, the standards of
The Time Traveller were constantly raised. An index of Amazing Stories was completed, and one of Weird Tales begun. Gossip and news of fans, authors, editors, magazines and allied topics found an eager audience, and the material published aroused interest to a peak never before attained. Exhilirated by this success, the staff organized science fiction fandom's first publishing company, the Arra Publishers. It is remembered today for three pamphlets: Allen Glasser's Cavemen of Venus, Mort Weisinger's Price of Peace, and Through the Dragon Glass by A. Merritt, the first two being original short stories and the third a reprint."

As you can see, fan magazines specialized in two things: reprints by professionals and originals by amateurs. The production was all DIY, too, which leant a certain charm to the whole endeavor. There is nothing wrong with wanting to imitate the real thing.

Where it would eventually change is in the growing delusions that the Fans Were Doing It Better. One look at what was being published in the Golden Age of the pulps during this time period would easily prove that madness for what it was. However, at the time, Fandom was growing too big for its britches. And that would only get worse.

All involved in The Time Traveller would go on to do more things in Fandom, aside from Mr. Glasser. As Mr. Moskowitz says about him:

"Precisely how important the work of Glasser in these publishing enterprises was has never been made clear. However, the later success of Schwartz, Weisinger and Ruppert as a trio leaves no question of their abilities to carry on without him. Those who have known Glasser say that above and beyond an unmistakable superiority complex he was intelligent almost to the point of brilliance. He had made himself well known through letters in readers' columns, he was looked up to as a leading fan, and generally regarded as an amateur author about to be graduated to the status of a professional."

Unfortunately, this was not an uncommon attitude in Fandom back then, or now. Mr. Glasser was not an anomaly, as we will soon see.

Nonetheless, he was an early example of someone in way over his head who didn't notice until he had already drowned.

"But Glasser's fall from fame proved to be even more meteoric than had been his rise. Wonder Stories at about this time offered prizes for the best science fiction story plots submitted by its readers. Allen Glasser's prize-winning submission was of such excellence that A. Rowley Hilliard's inspired writing turned it into a classic. Older fans today still remember the poignant little tale, "The Martian." But what many do not know is that the plot was actually Weisinger's. Mort Weisinger maintained he told Glasser the plot in confidence, and, realizing its worth, Glasser hastened to mail it in to Wonder Stories' contest. Close upon the heels of this alleged breach of ethics followed another, more serious one. The August, 1933, issue of Amazing Stories published, under Glasser's name, "Across the Ages." It was made common knowledge, however, that this story was a plagiarism of an earlier tale entitled "The Haze of Heat." And, although the evidence involved was never published, it was alleged at the time that further investigations showed Glasser to be guilty of numerous other plagiarisms in non-science-fictional circles.

"These events produced the expected results, Glasser running afoul of legal consequences, losing the respect of fandom, and finding his friendship with Schwartz and Weisinger completely broken. They also resulted in the demise of T
he Time Traveller. The ninth and last number of this publication was a small-sized, four-page affair wherein the names of Schwartz and Weisinger were nowhere to be found, and which carried the announcement that it was to merge with Science-fiction Digest, a magazine that was to fill all unexpired subscriptions. And so was terminated the first true fan magazine as we recognize such today."

The first of many, I assure you. Welcome to Fandom. 

This is the group that would claw its way into the professional industry by decade's end, as we will see in the chapters to come.

But there were other pockets of Fanatics running around in the early '30s, all trying to do their own thing. Mr. Moskowitz highlights a few.

"In California, meanwhile, Forrest J. Ackerman, together with a fan named Norman Caldwell, had founded a minor clique known as the Fantasy Fans' Fraternity. Meetings were held in San Francisco, then Ackerman's home town. Although this organization had little or no influence in fandom at the time it is notable in that it was the fore-runner of a series of California clubs that terminated in the world-famous Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League."

These are all names that would come into play much later. For now, they were still a bunch of young boys playing pretend. One could argue they always were, but that was objectively the case here. Everyone has to start somewhere.

"Meanwhile, further activity was taking place in New York City. After the break with Glasser, Schwartz and Weisinger, together with Conrad Ruppert, Forrest J. Ackerman and Maurice Z. Ingher, formed Science Fiction Digest, a corporation in which each had a share and to which each contributed a specified sum of money. This corporation then issued a magazine under this title, its first number appearing in September, 1932. Because of default in payment, Weisinger was later dropped from the organization, and Ruppert eventually bought Ingher's share; but with these changes the corporation continued in force, making a profit, in fact, during its latter days.

"The initial issues of
Science Fiction Digest were almost identical in format and content with the large printed numbers of The Time Traveller. Except for the title and the staff the two would be difficult to tell apart. Maurice Ingher was editor, and Weisinger, Palmer, Schwartz, Ackerman and Schalansky also held editorial posts. After Ingher left the group Ruppert assumed editorial directorship in April, 1933, a position which he held until mid-1934, when vocational duties forced him to relinquish it for the less time-consuming one of business manager. From this time until the magazine's demise Julius Schwartz carried the editorial reins."

This is the true nexus of early Fandom, where a bunch of individuals would finally work together for a greater whole. It was also the start of plenty of politics and back room dealings that would define Fandom for years to come.

The Science Fiction Digest was that early work. It used the Fandom-created concoction in the title, but it was otherwise focused on Fanatic interests. This made it popular early on, gathering enough attention to form a small cult around.

And, even at the time this book was written, was still looked at in high regard. No one knows about it today, of course, because "Science Fiction" Fanatics ascribe no value to their past, but it is important learning about in order to know why things ended up the way they did.

The following is Mr. Moskowitz's full description of the Science Fiction Digest. You are about to recognize a lot of early names from the time period.

"For all-around quality Science Fiction Digest has never been surpassed in the history of fandom. Its regular columns became famous; these included "The Science Fiction Eye" which Julius Unger devoted to information for the collector; "The Ether Vibrates," a gossip column of news sidelights conducted by Mortimer Weisinger; Raymond A. Palmer's "Spilling the Atoms," which also concerned chatter of current topics; "The Scientifilms," devoted to reviews of current and past fantasy moving pictures by Forrest Ackerman; Schwartz's "Science Fiction Scrap Book," featuring thumbnail reviews of fantasy fiction books; and "The Service Department," which listed valuable bibliographical data. Excellent original fiction by such authors as A. Merritt, Raymond Palmer, P. Schuyler Miller, Clark Ashton Smith, Dr. David H. Keller, C. L. Moore, Mortimer Weisinger, Donald Wandrei and Arthur J. Burks appeared regularly. A biography or autobiography of a famous author, artist or editor connected with the field was included in almost every issue. The outstanding authors in the field — among them Lovecraft, Weinbaum, Leinster, Smith and Howard — combined their talents on a cooperative basis to produce two popular tales, "The Challenge from Beyond" and "The Great Illustration." Most legendary of all, however, was the novel "Cosmos," written by eighteen authors and issued with the magazine in supplementary serial form. Each part ran from five to ten thousand words, and the author line-up was as follows: A. Merritt, Dr. E. E. Smith, Ralph Milne Farley, Dr. David H. Keller, Otis Adelbert Kline, Arthur J. Burks, E. Hoffman Price, P. Schuyler Miller, Rae Winters, John W. Campbell, Jr., Edmond Hamilton, Francis Flagg, Bob Olsen, J. Harvey Haggard, Raymond A. Palmer, Lloyd A. Eshbach, Abner J. Gelula and Eando Binder. Besides such special features, Science Fiction Digest printed solid, interesting, factual articles in every number. Up until the end of its life it remained the undisputed leader in the field, and its influence on the varied currents of fan history was profound indeed."

Those are a lot of names later Fandom would airbrush out and deliberately let fall out of print! It's very impressive that fans were able to accomplish the above. Unfortunately, none of their other fanzines ever really reached this level, and it would take until the decade's end for a victory to surpass this achievement.

Notice how none of the above involves religious creeds or propaganda against the reader: it is all centered on pure entertainment. And it was a success at this. It is then unfortunate as to where Fandom would very soon head after this, being steered into a ditch.

Nonetheless, the above is undeniably impressive, and easy to understand why several of the names involved would very soon become professionals themselves, before organized Fandom really existed. Unfortunately, that would also make them targets.

But we will get to that.

For now, let us continue on with Mr. Moskowitz's description of this fan project. Early Fandom was still scraping for a way forward.

"It became obvious to Raymond Palmer early in 1933 that even the elaborate printed number of Cosmology which Ruppert had been kind enough to print for him was not enough to reawaken a fanwide interest in the International Scientific Association. He therefore abandoned the ISA and its club organ and cast about for something else. Inspired in all probability by "The Best Science-Fiction of 1932," filler in the Winter, 1933, issue of The Time Traveller which listed the readers' choices of the outstanding fantasy of that year, Palmer hit upon the Jules Verne Prize Club. Its aims are perhaps best expressed by quoting an advertisement printed in the January, 1933, Science Fiction Digest:

"Help select the three best stf stories of 1933. Join the JVPC and do your part in carrying forward the torch ignited by the immortal Jules Verne. Help make the world "Science-Fiction Conscious.
"The Jules Verne Prize Club is non profit-making, all receipts going to the selection of the stories and the awarding of suitable cups to the winners."

"Dues were set at twenty-five cents, and Palmer was the organization's chairman. Moribund from the start, however, the club soon expired completely when members failed to pay dues. For this reason, too, no loving cups were awarded the winning stories' authors. After announcing these facts in the February, 1934, issue of Fantasy Magazine, Palmer stated that the club would revert to an inactive status for the year 1934, and promised its revival in 1935; not surprisingly, this suspension of animation proved permanent."

Are you surprised? I'm not. Fandom has a history, as we will see, of never really putting money where there mouth is.

Even at this stage, people such as Mr. Palmer and Mr. Weisinger knew they would have to break into the professional market to make a change. And that is what they soon did, leaving Fandom to its unambitious self.

But let us continue to another fanzine from the time, the other side of the non-existent "Science Fiction" and "Fantasy" divide: The Fantasy Fan.

"The Great Depression was now at its peak, and there was scarcely any activity or industry in the United States which did not feel its effects. The science fiction magazines, selling at prices above the average "pulp" level, were particularly hard hit. Probably the keen loyalty of their followers was the only factor which saved them from swift extinction. As it was they were badly shaken. Astounding Stories began to appear bi-monthly instead of monthly, and finally ceased publication altogether with its March, 1933, number. After futuristic cover designs did not perk up lagging sales, Amazing Stories reduced its size after a single bi-monthly issue. Wonder Stories experimented with a slimmer magazine at a reduced price, and after a time reverted to small size and the original 25¢ figure. The quarterly companions to the latter two periodicals eventually gave up the ghost altogether when metamorphoses of price, thickness and schedule failed to keep production out of the red. Under the stress of such changing conditions staff heads began to fly, and for reasons never accurately ascertained, David Lasser, then editor of many of Gernsback's magazines, left his post there. In dire need of someone to fill the vacant post, Gernsback cast about for a competent editor. His eye caught the title of a pamphlet on his desk — The Fantasy Fan. He glanced through it, at first casually and then with studied interest. A short time later, on the strength of the impression gained from the first issue of this amateur publication, he hired its seventeen-year-old fan editor, Charles Derwin Hornig, to edit Wonder Stories!"

One thing you will notice about very early Fandom is how excited many of them were to publish and create, even amidst a calamity like the Great Depression. Creatives would do anything to get by, and that is what they did. The ones with the most talent quickly moved up from amateur status to professional, as it is supposed to work.

Of course, like everything in the 20th century, things that worked eventually had to be pointlessly dismantled. For now, however, the system worked like it should.

"The Fantasy Fan was founded as a general type fan magazine, styled along the pattern set by Science Fiction Digest and The Time Traveller. It was even advertised as such. More, its initial issue articles dealt with nothing but science fiction subjects. With the second number an abrupt change of policy occurred, the editorial stating:

"Starting with this issue, we will present a story every month (maybe more than one) by Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft, August W. Derleth, and other top-notchers in the field of weird fiction. You science fiction fans are probably wondering by the import of the last sentence why we will not print science fiction. Well, here's the reason. In the Science Fiction Digest we have a fan magazine for those scientifictionally inclined.... We feel that the weird fan should also have a magazine for themselves — hence The Fantasy Fan."

There is that nonsensical 20th century jargon we all love so much. There is the divide between the material and the spiritual that was so common at the time. One might wonder what literature and storytelling of the time would be like if materialists and their dumb obsessions were simply ignored. What would the art landscape be like?

It is unclear, but there would certainly be more people reading today.

"In a department entitled "The Boiling Point" The Fantasy Fan provided a medium of expression for readers wishing to air their pet gripes. This department ran for six issues, being discontinued because of the ill-feeling aroused. As might therefore be guessed, debate waxed hot and furious throughout the half-year period. Forrest J. Ackerman initiated the verbal hubbub by claiming Clark Ashton Smith's "Light From Beyond" to be a sorry example of science fiction, although he at the same time expressed admiration for the author's "Flight Through Super-Time" and "The Master of the Asteroid." He was promptly pounced upon by both Smith and Lovecraft, who, with verbal pyrotechnics and glorified name-calling proceeded to pummel him soundly. It is the opinion of this writer that their actions were unbecoming to their statures as intellects and authors; Ackerman was definitely entitled to his opinion, which he expressed intelligently. It happened to be his misfortune, however, to be defending science fiction as preferential to weird fiction in a magazine catering to supporters of the latter, and also to be labelling as poor the work of a then very popular writer. One of the very few readers to come to his support summed up the situation as follows:

"It seems to me that young Forrest J. Ackerman is by far the most sensible of the lot. Instead of intelligently answering his arguments, Mssrs. Smith, Lovecraft, Barlow, etc., have made fools of themselves descending to personalities."

Oh, this is very embarrassing indeed, but not for the writers. They were actually very correct to pounce on a materialist for not understanding romance or storytelling. The fact that this nonsensical complaint has been framed as correct behavior says it all.

It is because of this crowd missing the forest for the trees that the scene would slide downhill in the years to come. The fact that they were already calling it "Science Fiction" as if Science had anything to do with the theme or intent of a story really says it all. The pivot away from tradition had already begun in Fanatic circles.

If this attitude had been squelched earlier, writers like Smith wouldn't have been intentionally buried by the zealots to come. But it wasn't, so here we are.

Also, once again note how Fandom desired to again draw a line between materialism and the weird in an attempt to cause problems. While the Science cultists were building shrines in honor to themselves and their upcoming Science Utopia, they decided they could throw their weight around and judge wonder fiction via their very laughable and shallow sense of "wonder" that is ankle deep in understanding, at best.

But of course the cultists are going to frame acting like pompous asses as being well behaved as if they were "above" the situation. That is what this group does, after all. That and not paying money for anything or supporting their own projects.

This is getting sad again.

Nonetheless, The Fantasy Fan, shockingly, didn't last.

"Much of Hornig's salary went into publishing the magazine. But despite its sterling contents and attractive format no more than a pitiful circulation was ever attained. Finally, when well-paying jobs began to monopolize more and more of Ruppert's time, he was forced to discontinue printing it at the reduced rate he had been charging. And with genuine regret Hornig discontinued The Fantasy Fan with its February, 1935, number, after eighteen consecutive monthly issues. It is indeed fortunate that many readers took out their remaining subscription money in back numbers; that is why so many leading fans today possess complete sets of The Fantasy Fan. In vivid contrast is The Time Traveller, of which few fans own single copies — let alone intact files."

The early fanzine era was a righteous mess, but it did get the ball rolling and inspired many other Fanatics to jump aboard.

One important name from these early days is William H. Crawford who came along after Conrad H. Ruppert.

"Those who own copies of Fantasy Magazine, The Time Traveller, The Fantasy Fan, "Cosmos," the final Cosmology and the Arra Publishers' pamphlets can gain some idea of the great contribution made to fandom by Conrad H. Ruppert. Had it not been for him its embryonic days would have been a sorry story indeed. His well-printed copy lured professionals who would scarcely have lingered long otherwise into taking active part in these journalistic endeavors. There is no question but that many professional authors took great delight in their fan activities, and entered into them with the same enthusiasm as did the neophyte fans. It is also not to be questioned that Ruppert's inability to continue the below-cost printing of fan magazines was a major factor in the deterioration and eventual eclipse of the old-time fandom centering about Fantasy Magazine and a shifting toward the foreground of secondary publications which theretofore had been of little importance. This change was rendered an even more gradual one than the reader has been led to expect by the presence of another publisher who operated in the field at almost the same time as Ruppert, and whose productions were of almost equal importance. This publisher was William H. Crawford."

But who was William H. Crawford and what did he do? We will have to get our humble author to describe that for us. He really knows his Fandom history well.

"Crawford's position in an impoverished field was unique in that he had a certain amount of ready capital. This he intended to invest in a science fiction magazine designed to feature a more literary grade of prose than that being currently offered by corresponding newstand publications. In late 1933 prominent fans received a neatly printed circular announcing the magazine — titled Unusual Stories — and reproducing its first page, which embodied the beginning of "The Titan" by P. Schuyler Miller. Material by H. P. Lovecraft, Ralph Milne Farley, Dr. Miles J. Breuer, Robert E. Howard, Stanton A. Coblentz and Dr. David H. Keller was also scheduled for this and future issues. The magazine was labelled a monthly, the subscription price being twenty cents or one-fifty by the year."

The magazine's mission statement:

"It has been said that science fiction as an art is undergoing a period of slow and painful evolution, from which it will eventually emerge as the literature of tomorrow. Though this is undoubtedly true it has been our conviction that science fiction should have a place in the literature of today. It does not occupy that position now, we believe, because of the restrictions placed upon it by short-sighted editors and publishers. They use only tales which follow certain stereotyped forms. They avoid the "off-trail" story because if violates one or another of their editorial taboos, with the result that science fiction has been sinking into the mire of the commonplace."

I think you already know where this is going. Entertainment is now seen as a dirty word, and now we are coming into new prophets who will shape the future instead. Who will create the scripture for this upcoming generation?

However, Unusual Tales never actually came out. For some reason the final product was much different. Instead, he put out Marvel Tales, another obscure title. This turned out to be a different thing entirely.

"Instead, he bent his efforts toward the production of another title entirely: Marvel Tales. This was a Readers Digest-sized magazine whose first number was dated May, 1934, and whose contents included Lovecraft's "Celephais" and Keller's "Binding De Luxe" both of which had been originally scheduled to appear in the ill-fated Unusual Stories.

"Crawford's makeshift plans and press make
Marvel Tales a difficult item to collect. The second number, dated July-August, 1934, appeared with no less than three different covers on different colors and grades of paper, with even the wording of the story-titles and authors shifted about. Fortunately the contents did not vary. Of the fiction presented, Howard's "Garden of Fear," which probably comes closer to pure science fiction than anything he has written, was easily the best. A prize contest for the best stories written around titles the editor named was also announced in this issue."

Very ambitious! But then, why haven't we heard anything about this one like we have for other big titles of this era? It only ran five issues and yet it has a dedicated chapter in this book. Much like Mr. Lundwall ignored Argosy in both his genre history books, the author is focusing on something else aside from basic historical importance. In this case, Mr. Moskowitz is highlighting an attitude change in Fanatic publishing.

Marvel Tales is a preface of what was to come in "the field" where cliques would rules the roost, dragging everything into the muck.

It all started in Fandom.

"Operating behind the scenes during these times were private literary organizations of whose existence fandom at large was scarcely aware. One such group was the Calem Club of New York City, whose members included H. C. Koenig, H. P. Lovecraft, Frank Belknap Long, Jr., F. Morton, Samuel Loveman and others, all drawn together through a mutual interest in fantasy. This was actually the nucleus of the Lovecraft circle with an ever-widening number of adherents throughout the country in the persons of such men as E. Hoffman Price, Farnsworth Wright, Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner and August Derleth, becoming intimates who knew Lovecraft best. For a long time this circle held its meetings, somewhat aloof from fandom at large, and yet, possessing common cause with it, working in much the same manner. It was not until 1939, in fact, that its existence was expressly revealed. A similar organization calling itself The Outsiders Club was subsequently discovered to have been operating in Washington, D. C. A few of their meetings were attended by Jack Speer, who made the discovery; according to him, the members' interest was so strongly for supernatural fiction that they were prone to belittle and ridicule science fiction as a whole. Because of this attitude it is to be doubted that they could ever have been smoothly assimilated by fandom in general."

You might have noticed that there were a lot of different groups rolling around in the 1930s, with no particular group dominating anything. This would turn out to be a good thing, considering what would happen by the close of the decade. The trap would have been shut sooner.

The above groups were almost all more interested in actually writing stories, which is what such groups were meant to do: not create a revolution to overturn society with propaganda pamphlets. That wouldn't always be the case, though.

"It may be felt by some readers that this professed history of fandom is too bibliographical in nature. If so, let them reflect upon the fact that the early fan publications were not only the pride but the very foundation of the field; more, they were the existent proofs that the fans were capable of more than criticizing the professionals and quarreling among themselves, that they possessed the ability to think and act constructively. The lives of these publications is consequently more important than ninety percent of the rest of fandom's history. For, since history is essentially a systematic record of man's progress, we turn to their magazines to discern the story of science fiction fans' progress — and progress it was. The outgrowths of the publications all too often bore the stamp of degeneracy and decadence."

"Fan publications" were the "very foundation" of the field. Remember this going forward, because it will explain a lot.

I'm not sure how to say that nothing Mr. Moskowitz described gave me the impression of Fandom being little more than spoiled brats upset few people wanted to make art the specifically catered to their limited 20th century world view. The ones responsible for the "impressive" creations such as Mr. Palmer and Mr. Weisinger became professionals almost immediately after their amateur successes. They directly contributed to the Golden Age of pulp that was currently occurring while Fandom was plotting to destroy the world.

And none of the amateur work, aside from the example from the above pair, exists today. You will not find any of it reprinted anywhere.

If any of the publications actually did survive over the years I would be surprised because they do not appear to have been preserved to the extent the magazines that ran actual stories of the day did. There is probably a reason for this beyond Modern Fandom hating the past and the rest of us more concerned with learning from other creators who came before. It is that the average person in the 21st century who knows or cares anything about the time would sooner read a 1933 copy of Weird Tales before looking up one of the fan magazines of the period.

This is a truth no Fanatic would ever admit, though they know it's true. This is because it was the professional publications that were putting out material people wanted to read at the time: they were the ones in the Golden Age. Not Fandom.

Fandom doesn't really have nearly the relevance with reality that they want themselves to have, but one can't ignore that they did influence the gatekeepers and backstage politics that would eventually be their own undoing years later. You can see the roots of it in even this early part of their climb towards total control of the industry. Regardless, they had no influence over what actually was influential, that being the professional pulp fiction of the 1920s and 1930s.

But before we wrap today's edition up, let us tackle one final thing. That would be a few more of the lesser known (well, relatively) fan publications from the time.

"About midway through 1934 a new, secondary group of fans began to make itself evident. They were those fans who, either through lack of contacts, tender years or non-possession of pronounced journalistic abilities, did not fit into the elite circles dominated by Science Fiction Digest, The Fantasy Fan or Marvel Tales. They admired and respected the work of these top fan journals, considering them ideals worthy of emulating; but at the same time they were a little envious and felt hurt at being excluded from what almost amounted to a closed entente. Often they were fans whose very natures made cooperation with an existent group impossible. But individualistic or no, they found no welcome mat upon the doorstep, and were forced to progress on their initiative."

You will see this happen a lot in Fandom history. There are always fringe groups mad and seething that they aren't kings of the molehill. This will also lead to a lot of really stupid things in the years to come. But I digress.

This meant that organizing to make sure the right groups are put in their proper places was inevitable. And that was indeed the next step for Fandom.

"From out of Oakman, Alabama, there appeared full-blown an organization bearing the unwieldy title of The International Science Fiction Guild. The only member listed by name was Wilson Shepard. This group issued a four-paged hektographed bulletin (the first time, incidentally, that hektography as a method of duplication had appeared on the scene) entitled The International Science Fiction Guild's Bulletin and dated May-June, 1934. Disconcertingly, it gave no clue as to the type of organization it represented, and nebulously stated itself to be the magazine "we have promised you." The bulk of its first number was taken up with a gossip column "Odds 'n' Ends" by one Willis W. Woe, and began a continued story "The Murder by Long Distance" by "Noname." The entire contents were obviously written by Shepard himself, and smacked of humorous juvenility.

"The second number, together with a letter printed in the readers' column of Amazing Stories, cleared up some of the mystery. Some of the members were named and the club's aims were given as doing "everything to boost science and weird fiction" (note the all-inclusive appeal!) and to publish "real" news "not covered with sugar." This was the first published hint of reaction against
Fantasy Magazine's carefully censored news reports which strictly avoided the controversial slant. And while it might be an admission by Shepard that he felt incapable of competing with the latter magazine in her own field it was certainly an indication of his willingness to publish anything it was afraid to."

I think we know where this is going.

However, what is important to note is who would eventually begin pulling the strings of this upcoming group. You should know the name very well by now, especially if you've read the other entries in this series on Fandom.

Enter Donald A. Wollheim. This is where our story truly begins in earnest.

"The ISFG swung into activity by instituting a campaign against back-number magazine dealers who charged "crooked prices." Members were warned not to pay more than ten cents for older second-hand copies of fantasy magazines, not more than cover price for recent ones. Further, Shepard threatened to publish names of those dealers who were guilty of excessive overcharging. This was an amazing tack for a fan journal to take — indeed, an unprecedented one for that time. By open blacklisting, a sheet boasting of but a few dozen recipients at most was attempting to control something national in scope. And surprisingly enough, a certain measure of success attended these efforts. A later number of the Bulletin reported that Isadore Manzin, a dealer well known at that period, had reduced his prices to the point where his name was being removed from the blacklist; he was cautioned, however, against further offences.

"It would seem highly unlikely that any such actions as these would have as their basis an isolated fan circle in rural Alabama — and such indeed was justified suspicion. Shepard had, through a letter in the
Amazing Stories "Discussions" column, come into contact with the New York fan Donald A. Wollheim; and it was Wollheim who had suggested to him the anti-dealer campaign, Furnishing the names and addresses which the Bulletin published. As time progressed Wollheim began to assume a continuously increased importance in the club, influencing Shepard's most important decisions from behind the scenes and shaping the course of the organization as a whole."

Blacklisting? By Donald A, Wollheim? Color me surprised!

"By this time the TFG Bulletin was appearing with monthly regularity, and was increasing rapidly in quality. Its articles were interesting and frequently informative. Wollheim himself was represented with contributions of letters, articles and columns; one of the latter, "Sun Spots," proved of sufficient fanwide appeal to outlast the life of the sheet and continue on elsewhere years later. Wollheim also designed the official emblem, which was subsequently first printed in the TFG Bulletin's April, 1935, issue."

Between this and creating what was essentially the first "Guild" in Fandom, this group was quickly becoming something more involved than a mere club for amateurs and wannabes. Though it is important to mention that as of this point, none of the actual published fiction in any magazine really had much of any influence from any of these small circles. Fandom was still building their forts at this juncture.

That would eventually change.

"Strong as the anti-dealer campaign had been, the one which the Terrestrial Fantascience Guild next began made it seem but the mildest of issues. Wollheim had some time back sold to Wonder Stories magazine a story entitled "The Man From Ariel." But he claimed no amount of urging could prompt the publication to disgorge the staggering sum of ten dollars which therefore became due at the low word-rate in force at that time. Ignoring payment in lieu of his career, Wollheim sent them a second story (which was rejected) and then a third, whose plot they offered to buy for development by one of their staff writers. Feeling that if he could not collect payment for an entire story his chances for doing so on a mere plot were even slimmer, Wollheim turned down the offer. He next initiated a systematic survey of Wonder's treatment of their other authors. He alleged to have received letters from Arthur K. Barnes, Henry Hasse, W. Varick Nevins, Chester D. Cuthbert and Russel Blaiklock stating that they too had not received payment for stories."

The question to this would be to wonder how much of this was true. Especially considering how long his grudge against Wonder Stories actually lasted. Well, Mr. Moskowitz doubts the validity of the story himself.

"As is often the case in matters such as these, only one side — Wollheim's — was heard and Wonder Stories was tried and convicted without defence or jury. The truth was that Wonder Stories' payment policies were in the main little worse than those of other publications of the period, but they had been unfortunate enough to tangle with a wild-cat of a fan. Amazing Stories, another leading magazine of that time, paid on publication, at rates no better than Wonder Stories, and were known to have held manuscripts five years or more before publishing them! This actually amounted to the same as Wonder Stories' paying after publication when the money situation was tough and this historian knows of science fiction magazines as recently as 1952 that paid after publication! Wollheim, his indignation aroused, made it a point deliberately to have it appear that slow payment was the practice of only one publication. It has further been heard that during the period immediately preceding and after Wollheim's difficulty with Wonder Stories, the publication in question had difficulty with dishonest employees, and it is not beyond the point of credibility that their actions may have contributed to embarrassing the publication."

So then, why did Wollheim attempt this Jihad on a professional magazine that was no different from what was being put out at the time? Well, the truth is that how he behaved in professional positions was actually no different than the ones he pointed fingers at.

Being a member of Fandom, however, gave him a pass to continue doing this.

Boy, this is all sounding very familiar.

"With fantastic irony, Wollheim's own exposé backfired on him when in 1941 his science fiction antagonists of that period, William S. Sykora and James V. Taurasi, ran a series of editorials in Fantasy News, alleging that Stirring Science Stories and Cosmic Stories, two magazines edited by Wollheim, had not been paying for many of their stories. Unlike Wollheim's treatment of Wonder Stories, the two magazines in question were permitted to give their defence. Its publisher, Mr. Jerry Albert, claimed that stories had been "donated" by authors to help the magazines get started. To add a touch of chagrin to the situation, however, one author came forward and denied that he ever had any intention of "donating" his story."

Rules for thee and not for me.

Nonetheless, Fandom marches on. There is a world to conquer!

"Mention of the last issue of the TFG Bulletin need be made but to cite a few minor matters. First, probably as reward for being an open ally in the above campaign, the ICSA was accorded official recommendation. Second, the formation of local TFG groups received sanction. And lastly, there appeared an account of an "Impossible Story Club," which was allegedly founded in the Argosy-Allstory days before the advent of science fiction magazines, and which included such members as N. E. P. North, Ivan Nepolis, B. Murdock, etc. As far as this historian can determine, no such club ever existed, its name and membership list being a fabrication from the whole cloth by Wilson Shepard.

"One of the TFG's objectives had been the publication of a magazine devoted entirely to science fiction. This was realized when in May, 1935, there appeared Astonishing Stories, an eleven-paged, small-sized, hektographed affair which sold for ten cents. Stories by Wollheim, Evert, Shepard and North were included. The almost ludicrous attempt of the sheet to pass itself off as a competitor to the professional magazines doomed it from the start, and the greatest success it ever attained was being considered a rare item by fan collectors of 1937-38."

Now why would fans want to make their own fiction? Wasn't the point to discuss things already being made? Unless of course it was never about that at all. Regardless, they were on a quest to overtake the professionals and, in Wollheim's case, it was apparently very personal. You'll know this from the fact this grudge pops up multiple times in this history. 

Things were changing. History was here! The amateurs would subvert the natural order, come hell or highwater.

Wollheim soon assumed control and refashioned the bulletin into The Phantagraph, essentially starting his own magazine. The submissions he got allowed him to structure the effort like the earlier mentioned Fantasy Fan.

"Encouraged by the excellent material being received from Smith, Lovecraft and others, Wollheim decided to pattern the publication after the now-defunct Fantasy Fan. Simultaneously The Phantagraph was standardized on a monthly schedule and small format. The quality of material used was very high, and in this respect the magazine easily equaled its ideal. Short stories, poems and essays by H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Henry Kuttner, Robert E. Howard, William Lumley, Duane W. Rimel, Robert Nelson, H. C. Koenig, Emil Petaja and August W. Derleth were featured. Some of this material had been intended for publication in The Fantasy Fan, as might be suspected. Collectors who have overlooked this periodical have missed much indeed."

However, this effort really only lasted for a limited time in this format. Once again. It was no Weird Tales or Astounding Stories, but none of these were. No fanzine ever reached the heights Mr. Palmer and Mr. Weisinger had reached before they then joined the majors.

"The last effort of the Wollheim-Shepard combination was the magazine Fanciful Tales of Time and Space. This neat, printed publication appeared in the fall of 1936. It boasted a fine cover by Clay Ferguson, Jr., and featured "The Nameless City" of H. P. Lovecraft, along with other excellent material by, Keller, Wollheim, Howard, Derleth and others. Yet, although fan response to it was fair, and although it was in every way a production of which the publishers had every reason to be proud, mechanical difficulties prevented a second number from ever being issued.

"The failure of Fanciful Tales ended the coalition of Wollheim and Shepard permanently. Shepard on his own tack produced "The History of the Necronomicon" of Lovecraft, and issued three numbers of a little fan magazine The Rebel which he planned to fill with hotly controversial material. However, it never showed any promise and went to its deserved death, dragging with it into oblivion Shepard himself, whose only appearance thereafter was due to material left in the hands of the Moskowitz Manuscript Bureau. The Terrestrial Fantascience Guild itself expired quietly, too, dying as it had been born with an utter lack of fanfare, and being quickly forgotten by all concerned."

Shepard might have hung it up after this, but Wollheim certainly did not, and this group was the foothold he needed to climb the ladder into the industry proper. Fandom might have still been languishing and suffering defeat after defeat while the major publications went on successfully during their Golden Age, but they also would not surrender.

Up next we will see the true beginnings of organized Fandom and their first moves to conquer the industry itself. What was their goal, and why were they so fired up in replacing the old order? Stay tuned and find out!

But that will have to wait for next time. This post has gone on long enough and has explored enough material for now.

I wished I could have added more commentary here, but most of this was historical documentation, not much in the way of opinion or lasting events to elaborate on. Today we looked at the very beginnings of genre Fanaticism, where the fledglings were still fighting amongst themselves to even print one issue of their magazines. All of this is a prelude of what was soon to come.

Join us in the next entry when things begin to heat up!

Up Next: Part II!

*Blue Checkmarks are people officially verified on Twitter who usually say the most insane and inane things but do not get banned because of their "importance" or whatever vague nonsense the site uses to justify ridiculous policies.


  1. Wow, I think this guy is even more interesting than the last two. He's more honest. He's actually letting it slip through that the creators of 'science fiction' were religious nutjobs and socio-political revolutionaries. Which is funny, because the other guy whose book you reviewed didn't sell it that way. He just whined about people writing stories with morality in them, lol. Moskowitz's religious fervor as a materialist sure comes through hard, doesn't it? Man, I'll bet his ilk just despise anime, which blend genres and often lean hard into the spiritual.

    1. Sam Moskowitz is very honest throughout the book, and very of his time, which ends up with him not seeing things that would be obvious patterns in years to come.

      This being published the year that both Weird Tales and the pulps finally died probably has something to do with it.

  2. Excellent post, JD! Great history on the demise of Pulp entertainment brought on by Fandom!

    1. It's not too surprising that this has been left out of print for ages.

  3. Something stuck out at me: "It was never actually relevant, but the passion of their clique (and a seemingly strange amount support from random Hollywood and industry zealots) made them think it was. "

    My tin-foil hat might be pulled down too tight, but recalling that Hollywood in that era (as in this) was lousy with communists, I wonder what a Venn diagram of random Hollywood supporters of "fandom" and the McCarthy/HUAC lists would show, and more to the point, if any of these radical materialists show up in the Venona Archive as actual, verified Soviet agents.

    1. I don't think you'll be surprised.

    2. It'll become much clearer once The Futurians show up.

    3. The name sounds familiar. Did we meet them while you were taking Lundwall's slanted take on the pulps apart?

  4. I've been reading a little ahead (the book in digital form is available in certain older and dustier parts of the web) and a lot of this looks like people trying to be petty rulers of their own make believe country. It's like they can't just enjoy the genre and let others do that as well. They insist on owning the one true ring and in the darkness binding everyone else. It's really no wonder SF became such a barren ghetto of a literary genre. What normal person would want anything to do with these emotionally stunted weirdos?

    1. It's really amazing how petty it gets. It's even more amazing that the people in charge saw this nonsense, and offered jobs to them. Folks complain about this sort of thing today, but it was just as bad back then and led to much the same result.

      There is a lesson in here somewhere.

  5. It has become common for people to (accurately) point out that the culture and counterculture have swapped places. In the 1960s, the Left was the counterculture and the rebels. Today, the Left has a stranglehold over virtually every aspect of the culture, and those on the Right who choose to push back are the new counterculture, rebels, and mavericks.

    In much the same way, the Pulp Revolution is in some ways the modern mirror of the early 20th century group that you have chosen to call "Fandom".

    "Fandom" self-published (with hectographs and the like) fanzines containing criticism of the mainstream publications of their day and stories of their own which they believed were superior.

    PulpRev likewise criticizes today's mainstream publications through self-publishing (blogs, podcasts, etc) and self-publishes stories that are intended to be better (through Amazon and the like). It's essentially "Fandom" 2.0, but with the opposite cultural and literary standards.