Frederik Pohl wrote once again about the Hydra Club on his blog the other day, reprinting a description of its origins from an old press release:
The Hydra Club was founded in 1947. A New York club, it was founded in Philadelphia, at that year’s Worldcon, when Lester del Rey said to Frederik Pohl, talking about spending time with fellow sf people, a novelty, since the recently ended war had broken up established sf groups, “This was fun. We ought to do it more often.” Back in New York, they did. They each rounded up some friends — totalling nine in all, which accounts for the name, which was borrowed from that of a legendary Greek monster with nine heads — and the club was formed.
Fandom rediscovered the Hydra Club a few years ago when Life Magazine’s photo archive went online and the enterprising Bill Higgins learned it contained a panoramic picture of pros and fans attending the banquet of the NY Science Fiction Conference in 1950 which Hydra helped organize.
Dave Kyle, in “The Legendary Hydra Club” (Mimosa 25), said the photo included both Hydras and members of the Eastern Science Fiction Association who had also been invited. Unfortunately, none of these people were named in Life’s caption.
Now there’s fresh hope for matching names to the faces. Pohl’s latest post includes a piece of artwork by Harry Harrison with caricatures of several dozen Hydras. It includes a key with all their names. This originally served as an illustration for Judith Merrill’s 1951 article about the Hyrda Club in Marvel Science Fiction. An enterprising person could use Harrison’s work to identify some of the diners in Life’s photo.
Merrill’s full article is posted at Lady, That’s My Skull. The text begins:
Article One: The name of this organization shall be the Hydra Club.
Article Two: The purpose of this organization shall be…
Puzzled silence greeted the reader as he lay down the proposed draft of a constitution, and looked hopefully at the eight other people in the room.
“The rest of it was easy,” he explained, “but we spent a whole evening trying to think of something for that.”
“Strike out that paragraph,” someone said. “We just haven’t got a purpose.”