Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Immortal Storm, pt 11

Asimov continues on pg 244 of In Memory Yet Green

I did not know whether this exclusion principle included me. At the time of the Futurian revolt, I was not yet a member, and Sam Moskowitz did not know me. He had seen me during my visit to the Queens Scoence Fiction League the month before, but I had been there as a writer and I was anything but a disruptive influence.

Still, solidarity was solidarity, and it was my intention to stay with the Futurians. I arrived at 10L00 AM and found them in an Automat across the street from the meeting house. All were present but Fred Pohl, who was late because of some dental problems.

Finally, we decided to make the attempt, crossed the street, walked up the steps, and there facing us was the burly Sam Moskowitz (whom to this day I wouldn't dream of crossing, and with whom I have been good friends for a long time) and a number of cohorts.

It was useless to try to fight, really, and the Futurians turned and left and remained for the rest of the day across the street. I, however, continued walking up the steps, determined to adopt the role of author rather than fan. No one tried to stop me. I just walked in.

For a moment I hesitated, feeling I ought to join my friends in exile--but I couldn't. The hall was full. I saw Campbell there and others whom I eithert knew or suspected to be persons of condequence, and I could not resist. I stayed at the convention (and I have suffered pangs of guilt over this ever since.)

TO BE CONTINUED

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Monday, October 25, 2010

The Immortal Storm, pt 10

Asimov receives his B.S. degree and continues to receive rejections (including the stories he’d given to Hornig.

Almost immediately after the publication of “Trends” (a story in which the general populace is against space flight”,) his third published story, “something even more exciting took place-a special kind of science fiction meeting.

The idea was Sam Moskowitz’s, the Sam Moskowitz who was one of those against whom the Futurians had revolted—a tall, round-faced serious fellow, whose most noticeable characteristics were a loud voice and an encyclopediac knowledge of science fiction.

Most of the science fiction clubs in the United States were made up of impoverished teen-agers. Sometimes, members from one club visited another city as guests of a club there, making the trip in jalopies or a bus. It occurred to Sam to organize a “World Convention,” that *all science fiction fans from everywhere in the world (if they had the time and money) could attend.

“The First World Science Fiction Convention” took place on Sunday, July 2, 1939, in a hall on 59th street between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue. I had heard about the planned convention from the Futurians who, of course, wanted to attend. Moskowitz, along with the others who were organizing the convention, felt, however, that the Futurians planned only to disrupt the convention, and it was their intention to exclude them and prevent them from entering.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Immortal Storm pt 9

I also met (writes Asimov) Eric Frank Russell, an English writer whose novel Sinister Barriers had been featured in the first issue of a new magazine, Unknown Fantasy Fiction. That first issue had appeared on February 1, 1939. It was a sister magazine to Astounding and was also edited by Campbell.

Unknown was a magazine the like of which had never appeared before. It contained adult fantasy, some humorous, some terrifying, all well written and most thought-provoking. Campbell had conceived of it precisely as a vehicle for Sinister Barriers, which he bought for the excellent story it was, even though he felt that it did not quite come under the classification of science fiction.

Russell was tall, long-faced, somewhat withdrawn, and I found myself rather abashed in his presence.

Otto Binder was there, too. He was the active half of a team that included his brother, Earl. They wrote under the pseudonym of Eando (E. and O.) Binder. In the late 1930s he was the most prolific of the science-fiction writers, but he rarely appeared in Astounding. He was about ten years older than I was, frank , boyish and genial. In the January 1939 Amazing he had published “I, Robot,” a short story about a sympathetic and noble robot that had made a great impression on me.

I was most excited, though, at meeting Jack Williamson for the first time. He was stoop-shouldered, very quiet and, apparently, shy, but it was clear he had a golden heart.

It was an exciting day-the first I spent with fellow writers as well as with fellow fans. And I was *treated as a writer than as a fan. The Sykora group ignored my association with the Futurians and did not order me out-as they might have done were I simply a fan.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Immortal Storm pt 8

Asimov spends several pages telling about the viscitudes of his writing. After his first sale, "Marooned Off Vest," he kep getting rejections, in particular from John Campbell.

He continues his history of The Futurians on pg 225.
My monthly visits with the Futurians did not cheer me either. One and all, the Futurians had writing ambitions, and one and all had been writing. Almost all of them were going to make it in time; but they had not yet done so.

My own sale was the first, and I had been gleeful over it-a tactical error. Furthermore, most of the Futurians were high school dropouts and I was forging steadily ahead toward my degrees-another tactical error. At any rate, my happy relationship with them faded a bit.

Fredrik Pohl, aspiring writer and agent, was his clost friend in the Futurians.

A bit later, Asimov visited the rival sf club:
[After talking about more rejections] I had tried to reach Hornig of Science Fiction, and he had written to say that he was attending a meeting of the Queens Science Fiction League on May 7, and if I were to attend also, we might meet. This was the organization I might have joined the previous September, had I not been headed off by the Futurian splitaway.

I attended and met Hornig for the first time. He was dark-complexioned, needed a shave, and was a fellow-sufferer of acne. I seized the occasion to hand him two stories, "The Decline and Fall" and "Knossos in its Glory."

To be continued...

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Immortal Storm pt 7

Asimov continues:

I attended almost every meeting of the Futurians thereafter, for a year or so. on Sunday, October 2, I was there and "had more fun than last time." After the heavy work of parliamentarian discussion, we relaxed by playing ping pong.

The third meeting, on October 16, was a disappointment. It was in Manhattan's far north, at 109th street. This was new territory to me and I managed to get lost. Some of the members were missing and contentiousness was setting in again, for Wollheim and Michel had already discovered after two meetings that the Futurians were not ideal and they wanted to re-organize. I myself had learned how to be contentious too, for as I said in my diary, "I opposed it like hell."

The Futurians were the occasion for my first argument with [John] Campbell. During my fourth visit to him, on September 28, I was, of course, filled to overflowing with the glories of the meeting and told him all about it and about the Futurian philosophy as expounded by Wollheim, the most articulate of the Futurians.

That was when I found out that Campbell was (my diary says) "a hidebound conservative." I argued with him but "was afraid to extend myself for fear of antagonizing him."

I went away distressed. The meeting had begun most promisingly, for he had said, "Hello, Mr. Asimov," and had shaken my hand as though he was meting an equal -- and then I went and argued with him.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Immortal Storm part 6

"Fortunately", Asimov wrote in his autobiography, "the meeting was on a Sunday afternoon, the slowest time of the week (no afternoon papers), so I obtained my mother's permission to desert the store and sent off a postcard accepting the invitation. [There was a great deal of postcard correspondence in those days since postcards cost only a penny.]

On Sunday, September 18, 1938, I traveled to the meeting place and, for the first time, took part in any grouping of science-fiction fans."

(The next part of Asimov's diary is the same that was reproduced in Damon Knight's book, The Futurians. I reproduce it again:

On September 18, 1938, Asimov wrote in his diary:

I attended the first meeting of the Futurians, and boy, did I have a good time. Attending likewise were such famous fans as Don A. Wollman (sic), John Michel, Frederik Pohl, Doc Lowndes. Dick Wilson was also there, but did not join the club as he is not a socially minded fan. Jack Rubinson was also there, aaltogether there were twelve, including Wildon and myself. We enjoyed a three-hour session of strict parliamentary discipline,- you know, motions and amendments, and votes and objections etc. Next time we will proceed to business of speeches, debate, etc. Dues are 10 cents a month, with a 25 cent initiation fee, which I paid, of course. I also spent a nickel on a chance, but I lost.

They held the meeting in a sort of hall which is also a Communist Party headquarters at other times. We have an organ which is called the Science Fiction Advance, and comes out once every two months. It was put out by another club previously [the CPASF], which has now broken up, and I have the first two copies. I intend to write for [the magazine], but hesitate to put my name to violently radical and probably atheistical articles, so I am wondering if they will allow me to write under a pseudonym.

After the meeting we all went down to an ice cream parlor where they bought $1.90 worth of sodas, banana splits and sandwiches. I didn't get anything thugh. There I had an uproarious time with Wollheim [sic, and the correct spelling], who has taken a liking to me.
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Immortal Storm, pt 5

The Futurians, Asimov writes, were, perhaps, the most remarkable science fiction club that ever existed. Among the group that formed it or later joined fo rlonger or shorter periods after its formation were people who in later life were extremely important to science fiction as writers or editors or both. They included Frederik Phol, Donald A. Wollheim, Cyril Kornbluth, Robert W. Lowndes, Richard Wilson, Damon Knight and James Blish, for instance.

It included me too, for that matter, for the September 15 postcard was from Fred Pohl and I was invited to attend the first meeting of the new club at a place in Brooklyn on the following Sunday.

I was delighted. I knew mothing of the split up, nothing of the existence of the two factions or of the nature of either. I naturally thought that I was being invited to the club that Rubinson had mentioned and that its meeting in Brooklyn, rather than Queens, was a lucky break that made it easier to reach.

Once I learned of the split, much later on, I did not, you understand, feel either cheated or hoodwinked. As a matter of fact, had I known of the issues involved, I would, of my own accord, have joined with the Futurian group, the members of which have been, by and large, among the most intelligent (if sometimes erratic) people I have ever known, and the surviving members of which are still all my friends.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Immortal Storm pt 4

Asimov continues, in his autobiography, In Memory Yet Green:

The Greater New York Science Fiction Club, concerning which Rubinson had written me, was suffering from this contentiousness. There was one faction, led by a fan named Will Sykora, along with James Taurasi and sam Moskowitz himself, that wished to confine the activities of the club to science fiction, without any admixture of politics.

Another group, one to which Rubinson apparently belonged, felt that the world situation was such that it made no sense to imagine science fiction as existing in a vacuum, it could not remain above the strife.

Rememberthat 1938 was a hectic and fearful year in Europe. In March, Hitler had taken over Austria without a fight... In the months following, Hitler, facing a fearful and hesitant France and Grat Britain, demanded the border sections of Czechoslovakia...

By September the demand had brought Europe to the brink of war. Peace was saved only by the craven surrender of Great Britain and France to Germany at Munich...

With that in mind, the group to which Rubinson belonged wanted to use science fiction as a way of fighting fascism, and it was almost impossible to do this in those days without making use of Marxist rhetoric, so that these activists were accused of being Communists by the opposition.

In between the postcard I received on the 12th and the one I received on the 15th, the final split took place. The Sykora group renamed itself the Queens Science Fiction Fan Club, while the activists called themselves the "Futurian Science Literary Society," a name that was quickly shortened to Futurians.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Immortal Storm, pt 3

Isaac Asimov continues to write about the Futurians, pg 209 of part 1 of his autobiography.

Let me refer you instead to something else [Asimov writes]. Back in 1954, Sam Moskowitz, one of the most active of the fans of the 1930s (and a dear friend of mine for many years), recalled those days and wrote a book the subtitle of which was "A History of Science Fiction Famdom." It dealt with the period from 1935 to 1938 chiefly, and yet Sam found enough to say to fill a closely printed book of 250 pages.

In that book, endlessly and (forgive me, Sam) unreadably detailed, are all the feuds and quarrels of the period among people known only to themselves, over issues unexplainable to others. The title Sam gave the book, without any intent of satire at all, I believe, was The Immortal Storm.

Science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp (another dear friend of mine) has, in this connection, developed a theory of human contentiousness that I rather like. He points out that in the long history of human groups in the food-hunting stage, a multiplying tribe was alwats in danger. A group o 50 could not cover any more ground than a group of 25 could, and would not find any more food. Therefore, the 50 might starve where the 25 would not.

If the 50 were full of loving kindness and brotherly affection and could not bear to break up, they would bein serious trouble. If they were contentious individuals who tended to split up, each smaller group, staking out a territory of its own, might survive. Hence contentiousness had survival value and flourished, and still exists among mankind despite the fact that ever since agriculture became the most important activity of man, cooperation, and not contentiousness has been required.

Sprague says that if the contentiousness of small groups is to be studied seriously, no better start could be made than to ead and study...The Immortal Storm.

And let me emphasize that, despite the contentiousness, the fans learned to love each other somehow and friendships were formed that not all the viccitudes of the decades could break. There is, to a science fiction fan, no stronger bond that can exist than that which is coveered by the phrase "fellow fan."
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