Over the past couple of months I’ve really been able to catch up on my History of Science Fiction reading.
My renewed interest was sparked by Alan L. Steel’s Ark Wright* novel, particularly that branch known as the History of Science Fiction Fandom, because, you know, both are so intertwined it’s virtually impossible to untangle them.
I strongly suspected that Alan might have uncovered a cache of fannish writings during his research, fanzines, Locs, pamphlets or flyers containing information that has hitherto been withheld by
SMOFs the powers that be. I figured that I needed to bone up on what was already known (or at least known to have been written), after which I’d comb the novel and see if there weren’t some discrepencies I might be able to exploit.
Did you know there is/was a whole shadow fandom? One that counted among its members some of the greatest contributors to the field?
Neither did I, but you know what the historians say: It’s not history until someone
makes writes it up.
I’m going to start by revealing a few relatively innoucous things so as to kind of ease the shock a bit.
How about this? You know how libraries and bookstores often have cats, rarely dogs? And you know how there are far more cat people amongst fen than otherwise? It’s not happenstance folks. There’s a fanzine in that cache Alan uncovered, called Rocket Thrust, actually nearly three years worth of issues. It has no named editor, but from various clues and references, it’s pretty clear that regular contributors included Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Sam Mostkowitz, Don Wollheim, Eric Russell and Morojo, and the focus of this fanzine was the elimination of puppies and the elevation of kittens and rabbits in modern society. From about the second year of publication on, the contributors turned their attention to detailed, actuable plans for achieving their desired aims.
They had some fun along the way. I wish I could reprint some of Ike’s lymerics about puppies, but, copyright. The most interesting history bit is that a story written by Russell and serialized in Rocket Thrust was published under the title of Into Your Tent I’ll Creep in Astounding in 1957. It posits the idea that dogs are really controlling human society and they use puppies as the vector for infection.
It was apparently a deliberate warning. You know that story about Cartmill and Campbell being investigated by the FBI for possibly revealing state secrets during war time? THAT was the cover story folks! It was the FBI, as in the Fannish Bureau of Inconvenience, and they were investigating why Russell and Campbell were revealing fannish secrets during war time. Turns out Campbell was in a crunch and Russell just pulled the ms from a drawer and sent it in, Campbell published it because it fit that issue’s hole. The FBI decided to leave the matter alone so as not to draw attention to the story’s real warning.
Regardless. Interesting to know that Science Fiction has had a puppy problem for far longer than any of us guessed.
Or how about this: pages upon pages upon pages of fans (soon to be Giants in the Field) discussing the need to up their literary quality if they ever want the literature to be taken seriously. Some of them even suggesting that Campbell was harming the field by insisting that SF was only for certain special people who “got it” and thus ghettoizing the field.
(My favorite bit is where Heinlein writes about “proving” Campbell wrong by placing several stories in the Saturday Evening Post.)
True history is SO informative, is it not?
I’m going to have to cut this short; I just received a note from unnameable sources (who are, apparently, able to monitor my activities) and they are not happy with my revelations and are threatening to withdraw my access to First Fandom’s Digitized Brain Archive. (You don’t think those folks really went away, did you?)
*Alan L. Steel and Ark Wright are the name of an author and a novel in an alternate reality. 1939 Q/14 0003.87 to be precise. In that universe, the novel can be found on the finalist ballot for the 2017 Hugo Awards. Our universe has an analogue, named Allen M. Steele, and a novel titled Arkwright. Our Mr. Steele was not consulted prior to writing, though the other Mr. Steel was.