Milton A. Rothman's Nycon Reminiscence

1939Nycon
by Milton A. Rothman
From the Noreascon Three PB

At the time of the 1939 Nycon I was 19 years old. Only three years previously six sf fans had come down from New York to visit with four fans in Philadelphia. We met in my house and decided to call it the very first sf convention. By 1939 the conventions had become sufficiently grandiose to be called Worldcons.

I was still sufficiently green to be all agog at the thought of meeting all those famous authors. Talking to John W. Campbell in the flesh was a big thrill. And — wow — Forry Ackerman and Morojo came all the way from California!

Undoubtedly the convention must have featured numerous speakers and panels, none of which I remember. For me, the main event of the day was the Exclusion Act, the banning of the Futurian Society from convention attendance by the Nyconmanagement. The Futurian Society was a science fiction group based in Brooklyn of admittedly leftist political persuasion. The Futurians were excluded from the Nycon not only because of their political position, but because of personality differences between them and the Nycon officers, and because the latter wanted to avoid being disturbed by political speeches.

Interestingly, of the six who came to Philadelphia in 1936, three of them (Donald Wollheim, Frederik Pohl, and John Michel) were leaders of the Futurians. I had become friendly with the Futurians during the past three years but was not officially a member, and so could attend the convention. My self-appointed task, therefore, was to act as go-between — shuttling back and forth between Nycon and the Futurians, who were holding their own convention in a cafeteria down the street.

The outrage that I felt about the affair has never ceased. After all, it was the summer of 1939. Events taking place in Europe seemed to be more important than the fantasies of science fiction and I could not understand a convention that ignored them. As it turned out, the last laugh was had by the Excluded, for among their number were a few who became our most esteemed professionals.

At any rate, within a few months we had other things to think about. My first story was published in the August, 1939, Astounding Science Fiction, and in September the Germans invaded Poland. It was a momentous year.