V1N1 Variant: Futurians Attack!

It may surprise you to learn that Science Fiction Fandom was not born into an harmonious world.

It was in fact contentious almost from the very beginning.

Several factions were in play early on, with Hugo Gernsback’s Science Fiction League representing what one might call the Capitalist faction, Sam Moskowitz and friends taking up the right wing and Donald Wollheim championing the left.

There were a few early clubs formed prior to the League, mostly centered on amateur science and rocketry (look up the mail rocket incident) and Fandom’s first big “fight” was over whether or not fans would concentrate on the practical aspects of science and technology or on the literature that advocated for it.

Literature won out.  Probably for at least two reasons.  The literature was more accessible, and focusing on the literature allowed the fans to establish  something new, rather than becoming an interesting side-current.

Then Wollheim  led a charge against the commercially oriented SF League (Gernsback modeled it after his Radio League, which proved to be a successful marriage of commerce and a Fandom-like society of enthusiasts), declaring that Fandom should not belong to any particular interest – a position which persisted for many decades but which is experiencing an inevitable erosion these days.

And then Don and Sam (and their confederates) began feuding (Great Exclusion Act of 1939), pitting the Left and the Right against each other in an odd echo of the forces shaping World War Two (Fascists vs Communists.  The Fanzines of that era were rife with accusations of affiliation with one or the  other).

On the convention front, Moskowitz and crew seem to have won, preventing their rivals, which by this time had organized under the heading of The Futurians (Moskowitz headed up “New Fandom” ) from presenting their case at the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York (Nycon 1, 1939).

But it seems that the Futurians stole a march, as, over the subsequent years, the members of that club would go on to seemingly dominate the publishing world’s Science Fiction corner.

It’s members would be some of the founders and first Presidents of SFWA;  they’d found the N3F, the Clarion and Milford writer’s workshops, got the then new paperback publishers to publish SF and edited a slew of early magazines, helping to create a market for their confreres.

Here’s a mostly complete list of The Futurians membership.  It’s followed by a gallery of the magazines that some of these members helped get started, edited or co-edited.

It’s interesting to speculate on how much influence having one of your club members editing a publication you could submit to had on the early formation of the genre.  These publications, however Pulpy and third-tier some of them may have been, nevertheless helped to turn many of the first generation of fans into professional authors, whose own work would go on to inspire succeeding generations of fans.

Isaac Asimov
Elsie Wollheim
James Blish
Hannes Bok
Daniel Burford
Chester Cohen
Rosalind Cohen
Dirk Wylie
Jack Gillespie
Virginia Kidd
Damon Knight
Cyril Kornbluth
Mary Kornbluth
Walter Kubilius
David Kyle
Herman Leventman
Robert A. W. Lowndes
Judith Merril
John Michel
Frederik Pohl
Leslie Perri
Jack Rubinson
Larry Shaw
Richard Wilson
Donald A. Wollheim

It should also be noted that additional contributions are not necessarily reflected by magazine editing duties;  Hannes Bok would influence the genre art world, Judith Merrill would make far too many contributions to list and we’re hardly scratching the surface on influence and mentoring.

Note that in some cases, one or another of the Futurians took over editing at various publications.  Displayed are that magazine’s first issues, not necessarily an issue edited by the captioned individual.

Here’s the titles that one or more of the Futurians edited during their careers: (Roll over the cover to reveal the editor.)

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