Own The Zine That Started the Trouble at the First Worldcon

For sale on eBay is Forry Ackerman’s copy of A WARNING, the pamphlet produced and smuggled into the 1939 Worldcon by Dave Kyle, but that was blamed on the Futurians and led to them being barred from the convention in the Great Exclusion Act. Asking price: $1,000.

Six members of the New York Futurian Society were kept out of the con – Donald A. Wollheim, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Cyril Kornbluth, Lois Gillespie, Frederik Pohl and John Michel – most of whom became leading figures in the history of sf.

(L-R) Robert W. Lowndes, Donald A. Wollheim, Chester Cohen, Cyril Kornbluth, John B. Michel. (Photograph by Jack Robins.)

Why didn’t Dave Kyle get into trouble? Simple – he didn’t own up to what he had done. As Kyle explained in a Fancyclopedia reminiscence:

I, for better or for worse, was the trigger for the banning of those six fans. I published the infamous “yellow pamphlet” which provoked the incident. My Futurian friends didn’t know about my handout, but they were blamed, thus “planning to disrupt” the gathering. It reflects the times in so many ways, both fannishly and internationally. The four-page pamphlet, with a cover that read “IMPORTANT! Read This Immediately! A WARNING!”, was dated July 2, 1939. I had printed several hundred of them, a bright yellow sheet folded in quarters, and cached them behind a hot water radiator for distribution at the crucial moment. And the message? It was “Beware of dictatorship — ” I had written that the convention committee might “coerce or bully” con-goers into taking intemperate actions. I said, “Make this a democratic convention! Be careful. Demand discussion! Hear the other side! We believe that free speech, co-operation, and democratic acts and thoughts must be granted to science fiction fandom.”

Sound pretty innocent? Well, that was the way the villain Communists would present things, too, in those days. And that really was the basis for the paranoia exhibited, that the radical elements of fandom would disrupt the convention by politicizing it. Sound crazy? Not to those running the convention. So, the sudden appearance of the first pamphlet on Saturday morning alerted the three leaders. A search discovered the batch of “Warnings” under the radiator. Wollheim, the Futurian spokesman, denied any knowledge, but was disbelieved. I kept my mouth shut. That’s why I was allowed into the meeting. I did try to speak up about the banning, but the agenda was well fixed in place, all of which, perhaps, was due to my yellow pamphlet‘s self-fulfilling prophecy.

John Michel co-authored the pamphlet, according to Andrew Liptak’s “The Futurians and the 1939 World Science Fiction Convention”. For bonus reading, eFanzines has scans of three accounts of the controversy produced soon after it happened.

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