MacDermott Fanhistorical Essay Posted

Who started the first science fiction club? Aubrey MacDermott said he did in his 1987 article Recollections on the Origins of Science Fiction Fandom 1917 to 1948 now posted at Bill Burns’ eFanzines. A PDF of the manuscript (in Andrew Porter’s keeping) is also available for download.

Here’s an excerpt of MacDermott’s narrative:

Raymond A. Palmer, later editor of AMAZING, told me some years later that after I had organized the Eastbay Club in April 1928 Aubrey Clements in Georgia and Walter Dennis, Paul McDermott and Sid Gerson in Chicago had also formed fan clubs, and Richard Leary formed one in Boston. Ray was the eighth member of Clements’ club.

The Christmas of 1928 I received a Christmas card from Peter Schuyler Miller and a letter about the trouble he was having with a story about Mars, “The Titan”. I also received a Christmas card and autographed photo from Edgar Rice Burroughs which I proudly showed to the club members, an enlargement of which is now on my library wall.

In the spring of 1929 Ray Palmer organized the Science Correspondence Club, based on Clements’ and Dennis’ clubs. Later Richard Leary’s Bay State Science Club of Boston joined. But our own club voted not to merge. Clifton, Lester and myself joined immediately. Eventually most of the other club members joined.

At last some signs of life from New York. Allen Glasser formed the “Scienceers Club” on December 11, 1929. He proclaimed that it was “the first real club”, ”real” meaning that it took place in New York City. It soon fell apart. However, Sam Moskowitz in his “Immortal Storm” accepts Allen’s statement at face value Others in their histories of fandom copied Sam’s mistake without checking.

Early club history has been the topic of a couple File 770 posts, with some great discussion in the comments — see “Early Science Fiction Clubs: Your Mileage May Vary” and “The Planet: One Last Landing”.

MacDermott’s essay also has been uploaded to Fancyclopedia 3, which includes many links to names, places and events mentioned in the text.

[Thanks to Bill Burns, Mark Olson and Andrew Porter for the story.]

3 thoughts on “MacDermott Fanhistorical Essay Posted

  1. Aubrey MacDermott should be totally disregarded as a source of SF historical information. Let’s be nice and say he tended to stretch reality. Alva Rogers once commented he had been moving the dates for the Eastbay Scientific Club further and further back in time as evidence of earlier clubs emerged.

    I was once on a panel with MacDermott where he went on at length about the bookshelves filled with hardback SF bestsellers from before WWII. (Hint: there were very few SF hardcovers before WWII and none of them bestsellers.)

  2. Milt Stevens: Alva Rogers once commented he had been moving the dates for the Eastbay Scientific Club further and further back in time as evidence of earlier clubs emerged.

    I have that concern, too. There is, though, evidence of the local chapter of the correspondence club. MacDermott’s contribution, then, is saying they met in person as well, and didn’t just write letters. You’re right that his claim has long been treated skeptically.

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