The Sam Moskowitz Centenary

By John Hertz:  Bob Madle lived to see his 100th birthday.  SaM did not; he left the stage in 1997.  It would have been today.  Let us salute him.

Here they both are at Philadelphia in 1937.  Standing, left to right: Donald A. Wollheim, Madle, Richard Wilson, SaM, Dave Kyle, Daniel Burford, Julie Schwartz, Leon Burg. Kneeling: Robert G. Thompson, Edward Landberg, Jack Gillespie, James V. Taurasi, Oswald Train. 

This photo appears on Page 89 of The Immortal Storm (rev. 1954), SaM’s history of fandom’s earliest days – which you can read here.

This book has been praised and pilloried.  Both those perspectives are pure. 

Author photo of Sam Moskowitz from The Immortal Storm (1954).

SaM’s endless care and endless vigor deserve applause.  His more than occasional errors deserve – well, I’ll quote again a brilliant law professor I was lucky to have and often disagreed with: he was speaking of a greater man in history, with whom he disagreed powerfully – There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.

SaM chaired the first Worldcon.  That convention may have been the bravest thing we ever did – except for the second Worldcon.

For Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon he wrote profiles of the 1st, 9th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 22nd.

He wrote for Locus and SF Chronicle.

He edited a score of anthologies.  He edited Fantasy Times and the 1973 revival of Weird Tales.  He reviewed books for SF Plus and Fantastic Novels.  While Cele Goldsmith was the editor of Amazing he wrote two dozen profiles of SF authors, including Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Moore.

He published a dozen short stories, one of which was translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese.

Near the end Jeffrey Elliot interviewed him by mail and Fred Lerner edited the correspondence into After All These Years (1991).

He was an unsurpassed collector, equaled perhaps only by Forry Ackerman.

He was given the Big Heart, our highest service award.  He was given the SF Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for lifetime contribution to science fiction and fantasy scholarship.

You could do worse than read Peter Nicholls & John Clute’s 2018 appreciation of him in the Clute-Langford-Nicholls-Sleight Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Here is a portrait of him by Kelly Freas.

Ave atque vale.

4 thoughts on “The Sam Moskowitz Centenary

  1. I worked for him at trade magazines Quick Frozen Foods, and Quick Frozen Foods International, in the late 1960s. There, he hired numerous SF fans and others to work for the magazine, including Edith Ogutsch, as a secretary; Arnie Katz and Ross Chamberlain, as editors; myself, originally as an editor then later as a production manager; artist John Giunta; and others.

    He also published art by Frank R. Paul, and wrote frozen food-based fiction for a special feature in QFF International.

    Because this was at the end of the era of anti-Semitism as exemplified by the movie Gentlemen’s Agreement, he used the pseudonym “Sam Martin” instead of his real name on the magazine’s masthead.

  2. II find this rather amusing. My father was mentioned in “The Immortal Storm”–he is one of the famous ‘twelve’. Although I am not an SF/F history buff, I know several and have found this relationship to be a story I can dine out on. (My father was also a Futurian, although not mentioned by name in the book. I got a call from Fred Pohl once, who had heard I might be able to put him in touch with dear old dad. I was forced to send Mr. Pohl on to my sister who was still on speaking terms with said dear old dad. Fortunately for fandom, my father lost interest in it, presumably because it was not disreputable enough for his taste.)

    But we’re not talking about my father, we’re talking about Sam Moskowitz. No denying he changed fandom forever (indeed, virtually created it) largely by virtue of his passionate commitment to and belief in it, and for that I thank him, as fandom is my home. So happy birthday to him, in whatever plane he now resides.

  3. Not to take anything away from him as fan, writer or editor, but his history brought to mind Churchill’s “History will be kind to me, for I shall write it.”

    At the last Lunacon he attended, SaM argued that the brief history of the Lunarians in the Souvenir Program Book was wrong for listing David Kyle as a founding member. Kyle had nothing to do with the Lunarians its first year, he insisted. As it happened, I had with me photocopies of the Club’s Minutes for its first year. Not only were Dave and Ruth at the very first meeting, but he was elected President.

    Who wasn’t at the first few meetings was SaM, who had expressed interest, but was unable to attend. As a courtesy, because he was Sam Moskowitz, he was listed as a founding member. (It was a kick to correct SaM on a point of fan history.)

    So I’ve taken his history of Fandom with a shaker of salt.

  4. For those that want to read more, I’ve assembled a list of urls for some of SaM’s fanzines and other writing. You can find it on the Fanhistory Project homepage at FANAC.org .

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