When The Received Wisdom Is Wrong

NyCon II (1956). Chair Dave Kyle, seated, wearing a bow tie and dark glasses; Larry Shaw at podium, John Campbell and Robert Silverberg to Kyle’s left.

This month fanhistorians were turned on their ears when a previously unknown shortlist of 1956 Hugo nominees came to light — unknown, despite the fact that it had been hiding in plain sight for over sixty years.

As the official Hugo Award site explained when they updated the entry for 1956

We thank Olav Rokne for bringing to our attention an article on page 15 of the 1956 Worldcon Progress Report 3 that included the names of the finalists along with voting instructions.

Yes, the information was in the Worldcon’s own publication. It doesn’t make sense that experienced fanhistorians were unaware of it, however, I think I’ve figured out why that happened.

First, until just a few years ago when Kim Huett started acquiring early Worldcon progress reports and making scans available through Fanac.org, few fans were in a position to consult the source material.

Second, by the time digital copies arrived online, longtime fans had no motive for checking on what seemed a settled question. Multiple fanhistories written by fans who had been active in the 1950s agreed that Detention, the 1959 Worldcon, was the first to institute a nominating ballot. Indeed, that remains true in a literal sense – it was the first use of a formal two-step process — but as we’re now aware NYcon II (1956) was the first Worldcon to issue a ballot containing a shortlist of finalists.

The authoritative A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards (1971, 1976) compiled by Don Franson and Howard DeVore opens with an emphatic statement on this score —

In answer to the question “what and who were nominated for a Hugo?” the entire history of the awards themselves must be taken into account. For one thing, the first Hugo Award winners were not nominated….

However, before 1959, there were no nominating ballots (or if you prefer there was only a nominating ballot – there was only one ballot sent out.) Thus, there were no nominations to list here until the Detention in 1959.

Both Franson and DeVore were early fans reporting with the credibility of lived experience. So was Harry Warner, Jr. when he wrote in A Wealth of Fable —

The later year system of preliminary balloting to determine nominees followed by final voting didn’t exist until the Detention in 1959. One reason for the changeover was the apathy which the Hugo attracted during those early years. Not many people were voting, and there were many possible choices in the years without the nomination system.

Warner’s rationale for the change helps foster the impression that Hugo shortlists originated in 1959 by making no reference to the process followed by the 1956 committee, although he is literally correct that the two-step voting system was used for the first time in 1959.

So where did the 1956 shortlist come from?

NyCon II’s Progress Report 3 says on page 15:

All nominations were screened by a special committee in consultation with experts in the field to determine their qualifications… Those chosen represent the names with considerable support.

These days we would call that a juried shortlist.

Notwithstanding the shortlist, fans in 1956 were still allowed to vote for whatever they wanted:

Your ballot contains the name of each nominee with a box in the front. Either check or blacken in each box before the name of your choice. If you wish to write in the name of your choice which is not listed, do so on the black lines provided for you.

In contrast, the 1959 Hugo ballot explicitly disallowed write-in votes.

Franson, DeVore and Warner all passed from the scene years ago, so we may never find out why they all neglected to report the 1956 shortlist. The opening paragraphs of Franson and DeVore’s History stress that the Hugos are a popularly-voted award, unlike the International Fantasy Award, whose winners are also reported in the book. They may have considered a committee-created shortlist unworthy of canon. But that’s pure speculation.

The one thing we’ve learned for certain is that there was a gap in the fanhistories people depended on for the past few decades. That’s why I’m happy to know someone is looking at the origins of the Hugo Award with a fresh set of eyes.

Pixel Scroll 5/11/16 Time Enough For LOVE IS REAL!

(1) REDWOMBAT LOVEFEST. Tor.com is hosting — “’THE POTATO GOD WILL RISE.’ We Are Obsessed With Ursula Vernon’s Tumblr”.

But even if you don’t head over for the sketches and art, there are stories in abundance. For example, a true story about Vernon’s childhood, and “the thing” that she knew hid right behind her in her grandmother’s bathroom. (This tale eventually veers into precognition and predestination, believe it or not):

It seemed to me, looking in the enormous bathroom mirror, that I could see every part of the bathroom except the spot directly behind me, so that was where the unseen creature must be standing.

I didn’t know what it looked like. I had a vague feeling it was grey and shadowy and very flat, with long arms. I thought it would probably have eyes, but no mouth, but that was only a guess.

If I moved suddenly, it moved with me. At first, I thought it was just much faster than me, but that seemed sort of improbable–and when my mother would come into the bathroom, it wouldn’t matter how fast it was, it might risk being caught because there wouldn’t be any place it could stand that one of us couldn’t see it.

If fairy tales are more your beat, Vernon wrote her own version of the story about frogs falling from a girl’s lips when she speaks….

(2) RETRO HUGO FAN CATEGORIES. The FANAC Fan History Project is making available online as many 1940 Retro Hugo Nominees as it can. Joe Siclari writes:

For those of you planning to vote in this year’s Retro Hugo Fan Categories, the FANAC Fan History Project is providing relevant original materials for your reading pleasure.  Too many times, Retro Hugos go to the nominee with the best name recognition.  We have worked to make this material available so that everyone has a chance to read for themselves and cast a more knowledgeable vote.

The fanzines are here. They already have —

  • Ray Bradbury’s Futuria Fantasia
  • Bob Tucker’s Le Zombie and
  • Harry Warner, Jr.’s Spaceways

They are trying to get 1940 copies of Forrest J Ackerman’s and Morojo’s Novacious and Ackerman’s Voice of the Imagi-Nation.

If you have copies that you can scan for us or loan to us to scan, please contact Joe Siclari (jsiclari@fanac.org) or Edie Stern (fanac@fanac.org).

FANAC’s Retro Hugo page also includes works by Best Fan Writer nominees from other 1940 fanzines than the fanzines listed above.

They have also made available an array of other fanzines from 1940: Shangri-La, Fantasy News, Futurian Observer and Fantascience Digest. Look for these at Classic Fanzines.

(3) HINES REPOST. Our Words, the new site about disabilities in sf, continues its launch by reposting Jim C. Hines on “Writing with Depression”, which first appeared on SF Signal in 2014.

From what I’ve seen, that anxiety is pretty typical for most novelists. But I’m particularly nervous about my next book, Unbound. This is the third book in my current series, and will probably be out in very early 2015, give or take a few months. I’ve put my protagonist Isaac through an awful lot in the first two books. As a result of those events, when we see Isaac again in Unbound, he’s struggling with clinical depression.

This isn’t the casual “had a rough day” depression people often think about. This is the debilitating one, a mental disability that’s damaging Isaac’s health, his job, and his relationships. This is…well, in a lot of ways, it’s similar to what I was going through two years ago. (Admittedly, Isaac’s depression is a bit more extreme, and I didn’t have to worry about cursed thousand-year-old magical artifacts, or accidentally setting a cathedral on fire with a lightning gun.) …

(4) BESIDES DUNE. John Bardinelli makes sure you don’t miss “5 Overlooked Masterpieces by Frank Herbert” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

This week, Brian Herbert released a collection of his late father Frank’s unpublished short stories. It’s an odd, genre-spanning assemblage from creator of Dune, filled not only with science fiction tales, but mysteries, thrillers, “men’s adventure stories,” and more. It’s an intriguing look at the unheralded work of one of the most influential authors of the 20th century—proof that success in publishing doesn’t mean everything you’ve ever written will be a success, and another reminder the when you write one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, everything else you’ve done suddenly becomes a footnote.

The phenomenon hardly stops with Herbert’s short fiction. Both before and after his signature series took off, he wrote thoughtful, mind bending sci-fi novels that you probably haven’t read, or even heard of, that deserve (almost) as much praise as Dune. Here are five worth tracking down.

Whipping Star One thing Star Trek tends to gloss over is how difficult it is to communicate with alien life. Linguistic and cultural barriers are a challenge, but what if a species doesn’t experience reality the same way we do? The Calebans in 1970’s Whipping Star are the perfect example: they look like stars to our squishy little eyes, and the concepts of linear time and occupying a singular position in space are completely foreign to them. When one of the Caleban needs help from a human, communication is an instant problem. Whipping Star treats us with a firsthand account of this puzzle, feeding us nearly nonsense dialogue until its ideas slowly start to make sense. It’s one of those books that gives you a solid “Ah ha!” moment, independent of the storyline…..

(5) BRITISH BOOK INDUSTRY AWARDS. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley won Book of the Year at the British Book Industry awards. The Guardian has the story.

First published in a limited print run of just 300 copies by independent publisher Tartarus Press, The Loney tells of a pilgrimage to the Lancashire coast, “that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune [where] the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents”. Word-of-mouth success with the small Yorkshire publisher meant it went on to be acquired by John Murray, and to win the Costa first novel award in January.

The British Book Industry awards, for “books that have been both well-written and brilliantly published”, called The Loney a “true British success story”. “A debut novel suspended between literary gothic and supernatural horror, it was written by an unknown author in his 40s, who worked part-time for 10 years to be able to write,” said organisers of the awards, which are run by The Bookseller magazine. “[The Loney] quickly became the hot literary novel, with almost 100 times its original print run.”

The Loney beat titles including Paula Hawkins’s international hit The Girl on the Train, and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman to the top prize at the British Book Industry awards this evening. The award for non-fiction book of the year went to Lars Mytting and Robert Ferguson’s guide to wood-chopping, Norwegian Wood, a title which organisers said “demonstrated great publisher faith and vision”, while best children’s book was won by David Solomons’s My Brother is a Superhero.

(6) NOMINATION CLUSTERS. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon continues his search for statistical clues to the Hugo-winning novel in  “Checking in with the 2016 Awards Meta-List”. Who’s leading the Meta-List? Here’s a hint: it involves the number five.

For this Meta-List, I track 15 of the biggest SFF awards. Since each award has its own methodologies, biases, and blind spots, this gives us more of a 10,000 foot view of the field, to see if there are any consensus books emerging.

As of early May we have nominees for 10 of the 15 awards. I track the following awards: Clarke, British Fantasy, British SF, Campbell, Compton Crook, Gemmell, Hugo, Kitschies, Locus SF, Locus Fantasy, Nebula, Dick, Prometheus, Tiptree, World Fantasy. I ignore the first novel awards….

(7) RACHEL SWIRSKY IN CHICAGO. She has posted her Nebula Awards schedule.

Thursday, 4pm-5pm: Come visit me to discuss short stories: “Brainstorm a problem area, or ask questions about writing short fiction.”

I’m also on three panels:

Friday, 1pm: The Second Life of Stories: handling backlist and reprints. Panelists: Sarah Pinsker, Rachel Swirsky, Colleen Barr, Marco Palmieri, John Joseph Adams, Don Slater

Friday, 4pm: Medicine after the End of the World: managing chronic conditions and serious illness after the apocalypse. Panelists: Annallee Flower Home, Nick Kanas, Daniel Potter, Rachel Swirsky, Michael Damien Thomas, Fran Wilde

Saturday, 4pm: Redefining the Aliens of the Future. Panelists: Juliette Wade, Charles Ganon, Nick Kanas, Fonda Lee, PJ Schnyder, Rachel Swirsky.

I’m also participating in the mass autographing, Friday, 8-9pm. 

(8) MARS MY DESTINATION. David D. Levine, whose Arabella of Mars will be out from Tor in July, also has a full dance card this weekend.

I’m at the airport again, heading for the Nebula Conference in Chicago, where I will learn whether or not my short story “Damage” won the Nebula Award. I will also appear on programming:

  • Thursday May 12, 2:00-3:00 pm: Interfacing with Conventions in LaSalle 2 with Lynne Thomas, Dave McCarty, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota
  • Friday May 13, 8:00-9:30 pm: Mass Autographing in Red Lacquer Room. Free and open to the public. I will have ARCs of Arabella of Mars to give away!
  • Saturday May 14, 8:30-10:00 pm: Nebula Award Ceremony in Empire Room.
  • Saturday May 14, 10:00-11:00 pm: Nebula Alternate Universe Speeches in Empire Room.
  • Sunday May 15, 10:00-11:00 am: When Is It Time for a New Agent? in LaSalle 2 with Kameron Hurley.

As long as I am in Chicago, I will also be appearing at Book Expo America, signing ARCs of Arabella of Mars 1:00-2:00 pm at autograph table 7.

(9) CHECK ANYONE’S NEBULA SCHEDULE. Here’s the tool that will let you find any SFWAn’s panel at this weekend’s event – Nebula Conference 2016 Schedule.

(10) CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CHU FAMILY. No need to look up Wesley Chu’s Nebula schedule –

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 11, 1936 Dracula’s Daughter was released. Trivia: Bela Lugosi was paid for his participation in publicity photos for this film even though he did not appear in it.

DraculasDaughter

  • May 11, 1984 Firestarter premiered, a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

(12) ELLIOTT REVIEWED. We mustn’t overlook a book with the magic number in the title — Microreview [book]: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott at Nerds of a Feather.

It might be easy to, at first glance, compare this book with other YA franchises because of its use of death sports and young people. Fives is a game where participants are part athletes, part combatants, and routinely die or are seriously injured on the court. It’s a game that involves complex traps and requires a keen mind and strong body. And it sits at the heart of a plot that revolves around political intrigue, oppression, and privilege. So at first blush it might seem slightly familiar. And yet the character work and the setting set it apart, give it a more historically grounded feel where Fives is more reminiscent of chariot racing than anything more contemporary.

(13) ADVANCED READING CODEX. At Black Gate, Elizabeth Cady argues “The Birth of the Novel” happened a thousand years earlier than some academics believe.

In my last post, I described one product of the Hellenistic period of ancient art as the invention of the novel. This surprised many people, who thought that the novel was an invention of a much later time. So of course, being an academic of leisure (she says as she ducks a flying juice box), I had to say more about it.

Some scholars do date the invention of the novel to the Modern period in Western Europe. I will display my ignorance and say I do not know why this is. Many books exist outside of English, outside of the Modern period, and in fact outside of the Western hemisphere that easily qualify as novels, so it is difficult for me to see this claim as much more than chauvinism. But if someone wants to correct me on this point, I am willing and eager to be enlightened. Or to fight you on it.

The first novel that we have comes from somewhere between the 2nd Century BCE and the 1st Century CE. It is a positively charming little book called Callirhoe, and it describes the travails of a beautiful young woman who marries her true love, an equally handsome young man named Chaereas. Shortly after their wedding, he kicks her in a fit of jealous rage and she dies.

At least that’s what everyone thinks. She has in fact been put into a coma, only to awaken when pirates invade her tomb. These pirates kidnap her and take her to Miletus to sell her at the slave market; she is then sold to a man named Dionysius. Callirhoe is so beautiful and virtuous that Dionysius falls in love with her as well, and asks her to marry him. She would refuse but she has discovered she is pregnant with her first husband’s child, and agrees to the marriage out of maternal devotion….

(14) THE PEEPS LOOK UP. John DeChancie reposted his homage to the LASFS clubhouse on Facebook.

…I only remember the good times. I remember the late nights, the Mah Jongg, the Hell games, the cook outs, the late night bull sessions. . .but what I cherish most is the sheer pleasure of meeting and talking with other people who share my view of the universe.

No, let me rephrase that. I look forward to people who have a view of the universe to share. Not everyone does. What most distinguishes the mentality of SF and its fandom from that of the mundane is the capacity to be aware of the vastness of everything out there, all the wild possibilities, the fantastic vistas, the realms of infinite regress, the black reaches and streams of bright plasma. Most humans have their myopic eyes fixed on the dirt. They don’t look up much. When they do, it is with fear and apprehension….

(15) AEI STAR WARS PANEL. The American Enterprise Institute presents “The world according to Star Wars”, part of the Bradley Lecture Series, on Tuesday, July 14. RSVP to attend this event, or watch live online here on June 14 at 5:30 PM ET. (Registration is not required for the livestream.)

Cass Sustein joins AEI scholars Norman Ornstein, James Pethokoukis, and Michael Strain to discuss his new book, “The World According to Star Wars,” a political and economic comparison of the “Star Wars” series and today’s America.

Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, has turned his attention to one of the most beloved and successful film series of our time, “Star Wars.” In his new book, “The World According to Star Wars” (Dey Street Books, 2016), Mr. Sunstein, who has written widely about constitutional and environmental law and behavioral economics, argues the legendary series can teach us a lot about economics, law, politics, and the power of individual agency.

Mr. Sunstein will be joined by AEI’s Norman Ornstein, James Pethokoukis, and Michael Strain for a discussion of the timeless lessons from “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Books will be available for purchase, and a book signing with follow the event.

(16) NEW SAMPLES AT GRRM SITE. George R. R. Martin told Not A Blog readers where to find new samples from two forthcoming books.

For all the Wild Cards fans out there, we’ve got a taste of HIGH STAKES, due out this August. HIGH STAKES is the twenty-third volume in the overall series, and the third and concluding part of the ‘Fort Freak’ triad. The sample is from the pen of the talented Ian Tregillis, and features Mollie Steunenberg, aka Tesseract. You’ll find it at: http://www.georgerrmartin.com/wild-cards-excerpt/

((Readers with weak stomachs be warned, HIGH STAKES is our Lovecraftian horror book, and things do get graphic and bloody and… well… horrible. Althought not so much in the sample)).

And… because I know how much bitching I’d get if I offered a new sample from Wild Cards without also doing one from A SONG OF ICE & FIRE… we’ve also changed the WINDS OF WINTER sample on my wesbite, replacing the Alayne chapter that’s been there for the past year with one featuring Arianne Martell. (Some of you may have heard me read this one at cons).

Have a read at: http://www.georgerrmartin.com/excerpt-from-the-winds-of-winter/

You want to know what the Sand Snakes, Prince Doran, Areo Hotah, Ellaria Sand, Darkstar, and the rest will be up to in WINDS OF WINTER? Quite a lot, actually. The sample will give you a taste. For the rest, you will need to wait.

And no, just to spike any bullshit rumors, changing the sample chapter does NOT mean I am done. See the icon up above? Monkey is still on my back… but he’s growing, he is, and one day…

(17) ZOOM BY TUBE. From Financial Times: “Musk’s Hyperloop in step towards reality”. (Via Chaos Manor.)

Elon Musk’s dream of ultra-high speed travel through a tube came a small step closer to reality on Tuesday, when one of the companies set up to pursue the idea announced it had raised another $80m and said it was ready to show off a key part of the technology.

Mr Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, stirred a wave of interest in 2013 in a technology known as hyperloop — a tube from which air is pumped out to maintain a near-vacuum, theoretically making it possible for pods carrying people or freight to move at close to the speed of sound.

The idea was floated as a potential alternative to California’s plans for a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Coming from an entrepreneur who has come to be seen in some tech circles as a visionary, it attracted enough attention to trigger a race among start-ups trying to prove the technology is in fact practical.

(18) AGENT CARTER. E!News asks“Did ABC Just Secretly Cancel Agent Carter?”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Warning: The following contains mild spoilers for both last night’s new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: Civil War. If you’re particularly averse to those sorts of things, you may want to turn away. Consider yourselves warned.

Dearly beloved, we gather here today to pay tribute to to the life of Agent Peggy Carter. But is it also time that we begin mourning Agent Carter, too?

If you didn’t make it out to the megaplex over the weekend to catch Captain America: Civil War, last night’s new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. probably dropped quite a bomb on you with their brief mention about the passing of the beloved founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the age of 95. That’s right, friends—Peggy Carter is dead….

(19) RED S GOING FROM CBS TO CW? ScreenRant explains why “Supergirl Season 2 Move to The CW Now a Stronger Possibility”.

CBS joined fellow TV networks FOX and The CW in airing its own DC Comics-based TV show in 2015 with Supergirl. However, the future of the series, starring Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers a.k.a. Kara Zor-El (Superman’s cousin), is currently up in the air following the airing of its season 1 finale. Although CBS CEO Les Moonves previously appeared to suggest that Supergirl season 2 is all but a done deal, the show has yet to be formally renewed, even now that the deadline for such a renewal is staring CBS right in the face.

There have been rumors that Supergirl could make the move to The CW – the place that Supergirl co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg’s other DC superhero TV shows (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow) call home – for its sophomore season. While those claims were relatively shaky in nature, it’s now being reported that Supergirl moving to The CW is more of a real possibility and that steps are being taken to prepare for such a change, behind the scenes on the series.

(20) QUICK SAVE. “Here’s hoping The Flash wrote Kevin Smith a big fat check” says Polygon.

Whatever they paid for last night’s episode, it wasn’t enough

Whatever amount of money CW paid Kevin Smith to direct last night’s episode of The Flash, it wasn’t enough. The man responsible for Clerks (and everything that’s followed in its wake) single-handedly pulled the show out of a narrative tailspin the likes of which haven’t been seen on television since the second season of Heroes.

Now it’s up to the show’s core team to follow through and finish on a high note. Here’s how it went down.…

(21) MOVIES TO WATCH FOR. Hampus Eckerman recommends keeping an eye open for a chance to see these three movies.

A group of online gamers are invited to try a state-of-the-art virtual reality video game but things take a turn for the sinister when these masters of the shoot ’em up discover they will literally be fighting for their lives.

 

 NEUROO-X, a German-Swiss-Chinese entertainment company group, stands for games that dissolve the boundary between reality and gaming). A new gadget, the myth-enshrouded RED BOOK, offers the ultimate gaming experience. The most secret longings of gamers are scanned by the engine and transformed into fantastic adventures. The conspiracy psychoses of users are the raw material for the storytelling of NEUROO-X. Marcus, Chief Development Manager of NEUROO-X dies shortly before completion of the RED BOOK. His lover Ryuko finds out that something terrible happened during testing of the game in China, and the deeper she submerges into the secret of NEUROO-X, the more she loses touch with reality. She neglects her son Walter, who logs into the game and disappears into the digital parallel world. The more Ryuko fights the corporation in order to rescue her son, the more she updates the narrative desired by NEUROO-X. Ryuko finds herself in a world full of demons, witches, knights and terrorists.

 

Three ordinary guys are thrust into a parallel world of an old Sci-Fi movie. Trapped in a low budget universe they must somehow fight their way home before it is too late.

 

(22) TEACH YOUR HATCHLINGS WELL. “Godzilla Celebrates Take Your Child to Work Day!” at Tor.com features wonderful kaiju humor.

Take Your Child To Work Day is a chaotic time – hordes of tiny creatures swarming office spaces, demanding attention and snacks and opportunities to spin around in swivel chairs. But imagine, if you will, Godzilla participating in this tradition! Tumblr-er CaqtusComics proposed such a scenario to fellow Tumblr-er Iquanamouth, and the resulting comic is perfection.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Michael J. Walsh, Rachel Swirsky, David D. Levine, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Early Science Fiction Clubs: Your Mileage May Vary

Several fanwriters celebrated yesterday, December 11, as the anniversary of the first science fiction club meeting. Was it? Probably not.

Eofan Allen Glasser made the claim that his New York club, the Scienceers, was “the first of all science fiction clubs” in an article for First Fandom Magazine #4 (1961):

The exact date on which The Scienceers came into being was Dec. 11, 1929. The founding members, as I recall, were Warren Fitzgerald, Nathan Greenfeld, Philip Rosenblatt, Herbert Smith, Julius Unger, Louis Wentzler, and myself, Allen Glasser. With the exception of Fitzgerald, who was then about thirty, all the members were in their middle teens.

Glasser also reported the intriguing fact that the host and president of this pioneer club was an Afro-American living in Harlem:

During the early months of the Scienceers’ existence — from its start in December 1929 through the spring of 1930 — our president was Warren Fitzgerald. As previously mentioned, Warren was about fifteen years older than the other members. He was a light-skinned Negro — amiable, cultured, and a fine gentleman in every sense of that word. With his gracious, darker-hued wife, Warren made our young members welcome to use his Harlem home for our meetings — an offer we gratefully accepted.

(See Bill Higgins’ writeup about his efforts to track down the location of the meetings and more information about president Fitzgerald.)

When I read that the Scienceers club was founded in 1929 I gave a sardonic little laugh, because I remembered any number of Westercons where I heard another eofan, Aubrey MacDermott, harp about the Oakland club he’d co-founded in 1928. At the time I had the young fan’s tendency to scoff whenever some geezer fussed about fine points of ancient fanhistory. Now I’m no longer a young fan and I have to laugh because Aubrey managed to etch that 1928 date on my memory anyway.

MacDemott also did some of his fussing in a 1980 issue of Asimov’s when he thought Darrell Schweitzer had slighted his contributions to history:

I see by reading Darrell Schweitzer’s article in the December 79 issue of lASFM that I founded an “impure” Science Fiction club in Oakland in June 1928.

We had over twelve “impure” members to start. Among them were Clifton Amsbury, Lester Anderson, A. S. Bernal, Louis C. Smith, Ray and Margaret St. Clair, Fred Anger, Vincent Brown, and later Forrest J Ackerman. We had the imposing name of East Bay Scientific Association until Forrie joined. Then we changed the name to Golden Gate because Forrie lived in San Francisco. Since he was only twelve years old, his mother would not let him take the long trek across the Bay to East Oakland, by street car, ferry, red train and then again a street car. So we on occasion all went over to Forrie’s Staple Street home.

We read, discussed, traded magazines, wrote letters to magazines and authors. We even put out a hectograph sheet each month for the members.

I know only too well that at that time East Coast fans considered any activity more than 100 miles from New York to be non-existent. But surely not today. As a matter of fact Sam Moskowitz in his Immortal Storm mentions Clifton Ansbury, Lester Anderson, and myself.

Moskowitz’ Immortal Storm testifies to both MacDermott and Glasser’s Scienceers“Aubrey McDemott” is mentioned in connection with the Science Correspondence Club – which was in general, as its title states, a club that did all its activity by mail, begging the question of in-person meetings.

Ordinarily I rely on Harry Warner Jr. to referee these disputes. Unfortunately, his book All Our Yesterdays mentions neither Glasser, MacDermott, the Scienceers nor the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club, despite all he has to say about scores of other eofans and their controversies. He only discusses the international Science Correspondence Club. Jack Speer’s early fanhistory Up To Now also is silent about Glasser and MacDermott, though his original Fancyclopedia has a short entry on the Scienceers.

Fortunately, another historian has reconciled the international correspondence club and the in-person meetings of the Oakland chapter. John Cheng’s Astounding Wonder: Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America says:

In 1928 Aubrey Clements of Montgomery, Alabama formed what he called the “Science Correspondence Cloub,” announcing the club in the pages of Amazing and gathering members as responses came in.  In the same year, while corresponding among themselves, Walter Dennis and Sydney Gerson, c/o 4653 Addison, Chicago, Illinois, also set upon the idea of a correspondence club, which they also called the “Science Correspondence Club,” to disseminate “science and scientific thought among the laymen of the world.” They announced their idea in the pages of Amazing Stories Quarterly and by the next year their group claimed two dozen members while Clements’s had twenty-five members. Membership was not mutually exclusive and indeed overlapped. Although he was the founder of one SCC, Dennis was also the sixth person to join the other, where he served as chairman under Clements’s presidency.

…In 1928, Aubrey MacDemott, Clifton Amsbury, Lester Anderson and Louis C. Smith on the Berkeley-Oakland side of San Francisco Bay began meeting monthly as the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club (ESCC). Raymond Palmer, originally a Chicago SCC member, suggested a national merger between the various organizations. By late 1929 the two original SCCs and willing members of the ESCC, which had reorganized as the Eastbay Scientific Association, merged into one club under a constitution drafted by Dennis, Clements, and A.B Maloire of Chealis, Washington.

Both the Scienceers and Eastbay Science Correspondence Club may have leaned more towards science than sf (some of the Scienceers would be drawn away to join an amateur rocket group) but their members were part of the social network of earnest teenaged readers of Gernsbackian magazines, many of whom became inextricably linked to 1930s sf fandom. Glasser and MacDermott each claimed the club they helped found was the first sf club to meet regularly in-person — one in December 1929, the other in June 1928 – and it seems, of the two, MacDermott’s group has the best claim.

Bid on Harry Warner’s Hugo

Harry Warner Jr.’s Best Fan Writer Hugo from 1972 is part of a fanhistoric lot on the auction block through June 28. The high bid at this writing is $700.

Part of Warner’s collection acquired by the late Jerry Weist, the Hugo is in an archive lot with a —

printed bound working draft proof and dust jacket mock-up (folded over a reprint copy of All Our Yesterdays hardcover) for A Wealth of Fable: An Informal History of Science-Fiction Fandom in the 1950, [and] the second edition of All Our Yesterdays in VG condition….

The Heritage Auction website misidentifies it as a 1971 Hugo. Harry only won the Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1969 and 1972, and it’s clear from the nameplate this award was given at L.A.Con (1972).

The website’s large image of the Hugo also shows one fin of the rocket and the nameplate are spattered with brown discoloration. That might clean up. On the other hand, the pits on the chrome rocket are quite possibly original – complaints from winners in the old days suggest that was a chronic manufacturing problem before Peter Weston took over making them.

Edd Vick comments, “I feel so conflicted. On one hand I’d hate to see it consigned to the dustbin, but on the other I’d certainly rather it wound up where it will be appreciated. I hope it winds up in the collection of a trufan.”

I expect he speaks for most fans on this subject.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh, Edd Vick and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Sound and Fury Signifying Trivia

Today’s trivia question: Every winner of the Best Fan Writer Hugo has made at least one professional sale, but two winners have never sold a science fiction story. Can you name them?

The winners since the creation of the category in 1967 are: Terry Carr, Richard E. Geis, Mike Glyer, Dave Langford, Cheryl Morgan, Alexei Panshin, John Scalzi, Bob Shaw, Wilson Tucker, Harry Warner Jr., Ted White and Susan Wood.

Most of the names are easy to rule out because their record in the sf field is so well known.

Wilson Tucker won the 1970 Best Fan Writer Hugo, then had Year of the Quiet Sun nominated as Best Novel in 1971.

Scalzi’s novel Old Man’s War and its sequels have received Hugo nominations.

Dave Langford’s “Different Kinds of Darkness” won Best Short Story in 2001.

Bob Shaw’s classic short story “Light of Other Days” received a Hugo nomination in 1967. He didn’t get around to winning the Best Fan Writer Hugo until 1979 (and again in 1980.)

Ted White’s first novel was written in collaboration with another Best Fan Writer winner, Terry Carr. Invasion from 2500 (1964) was published under the pseudonym Norman Edwards. Ted went on to write lots of other novels under his own name.

Terry Carr, in the middle of a run of seven other nominations for his fan writing and fanzines (Fanac, Lighthouse) had a short story nominated for the Hugo in 1969, “The Dance of the Changer and the Three.” The year Terry finally won the Best Fan Writer Hugo, 1973, he was also nominated for Best Professional Editor (in the category’s debut), and it was as an editor he won his last two Hugos (1985, 1987).

Alexei Panshin won the first Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1967. He declined his nomination in 1968, hoping to set an example for future winners. He also had great success as a pro. His novel Rite of Passage received a Hugo nomination in 1969 and won the Nebula.

Harry Warner Jr. had 11 short stories published in the mid-1950s (and grumbled when that was discovered by his neighbors in Hagerstown — see the link below in comments).

Richard E. Geis has sold any number of erotic sf novels.

I trail this parade at a respectful distance, with one pro sale that appeared in Mike Resnick’s Alternate Worldcons.

That leaves two winning fanwriters to account for: Cheryl Morgan and Susan Wood. Cheryl has made nonfiction sales, but the Locus index lists no fiction. Susan Wood published scholarly work about the sf field, but no stories. So Morgan and Wood are the answer. (Subject to correction, as always…)

Update 10/12/2009: Of course Harry Warner sold short stories — text corrected. Thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden for the assist. Update 10/13/2009: And to Dave Langford for catching mistakes about Shaw’s story I have been helplessly repeating since, oh, 1967, although they ought to be avoidable  — I can always remember the exact year “Neutron Star” won its Hugo. 10/18/2009: Alexei Panshin’s comment gives the real reason he turned down his Best Fan Writer nomination in 1968.

Life in Fandom, Vintage 1951

While I’m impressed that Google can search Life magazine’s photo archive, it’s had no practical impact on my blogging – my posts don’t call for pictures of Dwight Eisenhower, Rita Hayworth and Jackie Kennedy. And when Google Books made 1800 complete issues of Life available online September 23, I supposed bloggers would attach the most significance to Google’s first having secured permission of the copyright holder. Not so!

Bill Higgins (I hear) was the first to discover within this massive collection something of unique fanhistorical interest. He triggered an internet stampede by posting the Google Books link to Winthrop Sargeant’s article in the May 21, 1951 issue of Life – “Through the Interstellar Looking Glass” – an astonishingly well-informed narrative about science fiction fandom. Such accuracy and sensitivity to fannish nuance remains beyond the capability of today’s journalists, so the achievement is all the more remarkable having come at a time when fans identified themselves with propeller beanies. (*)

Sargeant not only got the facts right, he also had remarkable sympathy for fandom’s received wisdom on many points, such as:

…the modern science fiction fan tends to be a little suspicious of any contemporary STF writer who, like Ray Bradbury, gives moral ideas and human problems precedence over invention and discovery.

James V. Taurasi, Forrest J Ackerman and various Detroit fans were Sargeant’s sources, according to A Wealth of Fable. These sources even arranged to have Life magazine put the slug on assorted science fictional embarrassments like the Shaver Mystery. (Richard Shaver is little remembered now, but back in the day when Bob Stewart invented a dartboard with pictures of annoying pros taped to it, players got 10 points for Ellison and 7 for Shaver.)

You can find good links to the article at Ansible or The Crotchety Old Fan.  

The visual pièce de résistance is the two-page spread devoted to a panoramic photo of pros and fans at a Hydra Club banquet. Curiously, no one in the photo is identified in the caption. I’d sure like to know what names go with all these faces.

The Hydra Club was a group of New York writers — Frederik Pohl was one of the nine heads who founded it. Dave Kyle says in “The Legendary Hydra Club” (Mimosa 25) that the banquet photo Life published was taken at the Hydras’ New York Science Fiction Conference of July 1-3, 1950. Hydras organized it and invited ESFA members to participate, too.

The photo may include any or all of the Hydra members named in Kyle’s article: Judy Merrill, Sam Merwin, Jerry Bixby, Isaac Asimov, Harrison Smith (Publisher of The Saturday Review of Literature), Bea Mahaffey, Walter Bradbury (Doubleday), Groff Conklin, Frederick Fell, Robert Arthur, Dr. Tom Gardner, Dr. David H. Keller, Will F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster), and Phil Klass.

Sargeant’s article would have been just the beginning of respectable mass media attention to fandom had things happened according to plan. The 1952 Worldcon in Chicago drew representatives from Look, Life and Time. Unfortunately, as Warner writes in A Wealth of Fable, when the representatives of the Luce magazines found Look photographers taking pictures of a ballet which University of Chicago students had worked up, they walked out in a huff. All three magazines turned up their noses and published nothing about the con.

(*) Mind you, John Hertz and I are quite fond of ours. However, we’d be silly to think wearing them confers upon us any authority with reporters.

Future of Fanzines Past

This article of mine was originally posted on Trufen.net in October 2004.

From-purple-fingers-to-pixel-flingers: When you go, your fanzines stay here – a rule made to avoid cluttering up all Eternity like one big Slanshack. So what will you do to make sure they have a nice warm home?

One solution is to donate them. Pick out a library that is building a fanzine collection. Three ambitious libraries have websites that let you step in and take a virtual tour of their fanzine holdings – UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection, Temple University and the National Library of Australia.

Eaton Collection: The niftiest and most fannish website shows off the Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside. Curator George D. Slusser, Ph.D. has put a lot of ingenuity into this display. On the front page, the animated rocket of Fanac blazes above a background that resembles a faded old Twiltone fanzine cover, complete with two rusty staples in the margin. Five icons link to the website’s main divisions – watch how they animate when you click on them!

The foundations of the Eaton Collection’s fanzine catalog came from Terry Carr, Rick Sneary, and Bruce Pelz. It is the most extensive fanzine collection available to researchers. When J. Lloyd Eaton donated his 6,000 hardcover sf books to UC Riverside he helped aim them in the right direction. Bruce Pelz gave them 190,000 fanzines. The collection also has Rick Sneary’s personal correspondence, a unique fanhistorical archive.

Slusser’s website shows remarkable sensitivity to fanzine fandom’s subtle nuances. You can’t get more “inside” than to quote Arnie Katz (from The Trufan’s Advisor) in making a point about print-versus-electronic fanzines. Equally delightful is Slusser’s impatience with the claims of teenaged faneditor Harlan Ellison: “[His fanzine’s] cover promises ‘Ponce de Leon’s Pants,’ a fantasy by Mack Reynolds, which is nowhere inside the covers. Why bother to copyright this stuff?”

Of course, Slusser isn’t completely perfect either – for example the Carr Collection page refers to “Bob Bergeron” as the editor of Warhoon and Linda Bushyager’s “Grandfalloon.”

Then there is the unintentional irony. When Slusser says “The Carr fanzines are stored in acid-free containers in acid-free boxes” I’m sure he means they were acid-free before Richard Bergeron’s prose was slipped inside.

Temple University: Another zine collection is on the opposite coast. Temple University (in Philadelphia) accepted donation of the Paskow Science Fiction Collection in 1972. It has grown since then to 30,000 volumes (plus other stuff, like manuscripts, they can only gauge by the cubic foot… sounds like my office!) Their catalog of fanzine holdings is available at the Paskow Collection’s modest website.

Lots of popular fanzines are represented, though like the Platte River the collection is a mile wide but only an inch deep. There’s one issue of Mimosa, two issues of File 770, the first three issues of Trap Door, and so on. There are whole handfuls of a few other zines, for example, seven issues of Dick Geis’ Psychotic. And a like number of issues of Locus — just none dating later than when Charlie Brown lived in Boston!

Surprisingly, some of the most prolific fanzines are missing entirely. There are no issues of Ansible at all. (But how long can the Paskow Collection be kept uncontaminated, when anybody with an internet connection and a printer can own a complete run?)

National Library of Australia: On the far side of the world, the National Library of Australia owns a fanzine collection with a different slant, primarily Australian media fanzines contributed by long-time Star Trek fan, Sue Batho (formerly Smith-Clarke).

Unfortunately, the webpage about her collection is full of grindingly earnest prose, a jarring contrast to Batho’s appreciation for good entertainment. The tendency begins with the site’s description of Batho herself:

“It would not be unfair to say that Susan Smith-Clarke is one of the founding mothers of media SF fandom in Australia. The accompanying history of Star Trek fandom shows that Susan Smith-Clarke has been involved in many ways and through many years with fandom.”

Z-z-z-z-t — Wha’? I’m sorry, I nodded off there. Not that the earnest narrative completely smothers the subject. Batho’s personal sense of humor peeks through whenever zines are called by their titles, though I suspect the writer picked up some of them with a pair of tongs, for example:

“In this collection, are a number of issues of The Captain’s Briefs….”

However, for newcomers to the field the webpage explains basic terms with unexpected fannishness. Its definition of fanzine reads:

“The actual word means a magazine produced by a fan. Fan itself means, of course, a SF fan, just as Fandom, the collective noun, means SF fandom and nothing else. A non-fan is a mundane, which is why the word does not need any qualification.”

Exactly.

Your Fate Is in Your Hands: When you decide to donate your fanzines, there will be two general questions to think about.

The first question is: Do you want to send them to the place having the most success in acquiring and presenting its collection, or do you want to strengthen a collection that looks like it needs a boost?

It’s not a casual decision. In researching this article I was disappointed to find nothing online about the fanzines held by Bowling Green State University’s Department of Popular Culture. They had an accumulation (it wasn’t organized enough to deserve being called a collection) when I attended there in 1975, most of it donated by Vern Coriell (founder of the Burroughs Bibliophiles.)

The second question is: How will you make sure the transfer happens?

You can do it in your lifetime (as Bruce Pelz did) or through a properly drafted will. By all means, avoid Harry Warner’s mistake of leaving them to the local church and hoping things work out!

One last thought — the representative from the Eaton Collection told John Hertz they are perfectly happy to receive duplicates of zines already in the collection, feeling that makes the holdings more accessible to researchers, the same as having more than one copy of a rare book.

Update 03/05/2009: Updated the links to the Eaton and Paskow collections.

Ackerman’s Hugo

Forry Ackerman stopped being the winner of the first Hugo Award again the other day. And not in nearly so nice a way as he did originally.

History records that immediately after he was handed the very first Hugo Award as #1 Fan Personality at the 1953 Worldcon, Ackerman declined it in favor of Ken Slater and abandoned the little rocket-shaped trophy on stage to be forwarded to Britain. This was acknowledged a magnificent gesture by everyone — except Forry’s wife, Wendayne, and about that, more in a moment.

Now Forry has been deprived of his Hugo in a whole new way. Rich Lynch complained to a Southern Fandom listserv on February 9 that The Long List of Hugo Awards was changed to show Ackerman’s #1 Fan Personality honor (and Willy Ley’s for Excellence in Fact Articles, too) as being only Committee Awards. Reportedly, the Formalization of Long List Entries (FOLLE) Committee, a panel of a few fans selected by the Worldcon business meeting to vet its institutional history, has decided for some undisclosed reason that the Ackerman and Ley awards were not voted by the membership, as were other Hugos, just picked by the Philcon committee.

Was the winner of the #1 Fan Personality category determined in the same manner as the pro categories, by ballot, or not? Well, Wendayne Ackerman thought so. Forry’s article says that right after he turned it down “Wendy was furious. She said, ‘What have you done, Forry? You’ve insulted the entire convention! They voted this to you — how could you give it away??'” Harry Warner Jr., seems convinced that all the winners were voted upon because (1) he makes inferences about the unpublished results of the vote (see Wealth of Fable, page 369), and (2) draws no distinction between #1 Fan Personality and the other Hugos. Seeming to clinch the argument, Rich Lynch added to the online discussion that Bob Madle confirms both the Ackerman and Ley Hugos were voted by members.

I opened my copy of Isaac Asimov’s The Hugo Winners Volumes I & II to see whether the Good Doctor shed any light on the subject. He did, but not at the very beginning of Volume I where I expected it. Asimov’s collection of Hugo-winning short fiction only begins in 1955 — for the simple reason that there were no short fiction Hugo awards given in 1953. (Warner speculates that a lack of votes led the committee not to name a winner in some categories.)

The Appendix to Asimov’s Volume I names all the Hugo winners through 1961 based on a list compiled by Ed Wood. Ackerman’s Hugo appears first on that list. Fan historiographers know Ed Wood was a fellow with strong opinions about the subject which he never hesitated to share. Nor should it be overlooked that it was Asimov himself who presided over the 1953 ceremony and personally handed Ackerman the award. That the list in The Hugo Winners names Ackerman without further comment inclines me to treat Wood and Asimov as two more votes in favor of the proposition that what Ackerman won was a Hugo.

It happens that, decades later, Ackerman secured the return of the trophy so it could be added to his collection, having asked Slater whether he had plans for the award when he passed on. It is one of the things remaining in the estate and its fate is still being decided. Lynch seems to think that news somehow led the FOLLE committee to take up the question at this time.

Postscript: Really, the most peculiar thing about this example of FOLLE revisionism is the committee’s failure to fully extrapolate the logical implications of its own idea. (That sound you hear is John W. Campbell, Jr. spinning in his grave). Ackerman’s gesture in declining the first Hugo didn’t prevent a whole succession of editors of the Long List from recording him as its winner, with never a reference to Slater. That is the appropriate decision for a subject determined by vote of the membership because the winner is a computational fact, no matter what the winner does with the hardware. But accepting for discussion’s sake that the committee picked the winner of this award… Well, after Ackerman turned it down the committee did send Slater the award. It’s Slater that the committee gave the #1 Fan Personality trophy to in the end.

This Week in Words: Fandom’s Silent H

Bill Warren sent me a great fannish trivia question:

Whence and when came the fannish fad of tossing a silent H into words ordinarily without it, like ‘bheer,’ ‘Ghod,’ etc.  I know that it was most prevalent in the late 50s, well after Ghu, but may relate to that august deity somehow.  But someone else says it began when Bob Stewart typoed his name as ‘Bhob Stewart’ and then kept using that spelling (he still does, in fact).

There’s probably a real answer, but even such an authority as Harry Warner Jr. wasn’t able to track it down when he wrote his first great volume of fanhistory:

Other manifestations of fanspeak are less confined to newly created words. As if by instinct, fans have inserted from time immemorial the letter h as the second letter in many words that begin with a consonant. Donald A. Wollheim attributed it to the all-powerful influence of GhuGhuism. It is equally possible that there is a rational explanation: Mencken’s fondness for ‘bhoys,’ perhaps, or the frequency in fantasy fiction of ghost and ghoul. [All Our Yesterdays, p. 41]

Neither does Jack Speer identify anyone as the originator of the fannish h in his early fanhistory Up To Now, but on page 19 he gives many more examples of the extra h being added to words appropriated for GhuGhuistic parodies:

ghughu was a burlesque on religion, the combination ‘gh’ being frequently applied in such words as ghod and demighod, gholy ghrail, etc, the cult worships ghughu, who, they claim, is wollheim.

Knowing what influence New York fans had on early fanspeak, it’s worth noting that the 19th century New York gang called the ‘Bowery Boys’ dates to the time when “b’hoy” was local slang:

B’hoy and g’hal (meant to evoke an Irish pronunciation of boy and gal, respectively) were the prevailing slang words used to describe the young men and women of the rough-and-tumble working class culture of Lower Manhattan in the late 1840s and into the period of the American Civil War. They spoke a unique slang, with phrases such as ‘Hi-hi,’ ‘Lam him’ and ‘Cheese it’.

Corflu Zed Auction Is On!

Corflu Zed logo

Andy Hooper is running an auction on eBay to raise money for Corflu Zed. “He has many rare and fascinating items for sale, including books, fanzines, and magazines,” writes Randy Byers. At this moment, several Harry Warner FAPAzines are on the block. “Search for the character string ‘[Corflu Zed]’ on eBay to find these items. Any support would be greatly appreciated!”

And don’t forget to check http://www.corflu.org for the latest news about Corflu.