Up To Now: Michelism and the Third Convention

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

The Founding of the FAPA«« »»Later Development of Michelism

Ethiopia was conquered; civil war was raging in Spain between Right and Left; Japan pressed its invasion of China. Particularly in Communist groups thruout the country, anti-Fascists were saying "Why can't we do something? Isn't there some way we can fight for what we believe in?" And that urge was subconsciously afflicting Michel, Wollheim, Pohl, Lowndes, Gillespie, and other Red fans as strongly as it hit their comrades who knew not science-fiction.

As fans, they were used to diverting their energies into their hobby, and it was in the fan field that they found an outlet to their desire to fight for their convictions. Here they were, all science fiction fans as well as Young Communists. There was Rothman in Philadelphia, a fan with socialist leanings. In England Novae Terrae, SFA organ, carried world-conscious articles every issue. McPhail and Speer, out in Oklahoma, had been exchanging the Insurgent Epistle and the Loyalist Lion. Fans were interested in such things; here was a group of intelligent young men who needed only to be shown the Communist program to become its advocates and defenders against fascism. Not until this idea was clearly established in their minds did they call upon past experience for their arguments — the alleged Gernsback delusion that the purpose of science-fiction was to create scientists — which the collapse of the ISA disproved — when actually it had only resulted in creating dreamers, idealists -­ whose dreams turned to economic and political problems.

These thoughts they discussed among themselves, but scarcely a whisper of them leaked out before they were ready to release them. Wollheim had asked for time, at the Philadelphia Convention, to read a speech written by Michel, who, owing to a speech impediment, would not have been able to deliver it effectively. But the fact that Daw read the speech, and then, alone, defended it, led many fans to suspect that the article was more Wollheim's work than he would admit, and that the movement was termed "Michelism" only because "Wollheimism" would have sounded like self-praise.

The gathering was utterly unprepared for it all. There was a long and rather rambling discourse upon Fascist aggression, the purpose of science-fiction, and other unclear things, concluding with a resolution which, had it been read first, might have enabled the listeners to follow the speech. The resolution proposed to put the Convention on record as favoring a scientific-socialist world state, and opposing military ideologies and "barbarism" in all its forms. It was so worded that rejecting it would be difficult, as placing the rejecters in an unfavorable light — but — accept it? What had it to do with stf? Still, standing alone, few people would find much fault with it.

But a very great number found fault with such a subject being introduced into a gathering of science-fiction fans. Unprepared as they were, no very intelligent opposition was put up, but personal enemies of the Wollheim, such as Sykora, led an arguing opposition which tangled the debate down till it was wrangling about possibilities of a World State.

Finally, a vote was taken. Of those who voted, twelve opposed the resolution. Eight, who had previously been lined up to vote for it, did so ("O noble eight! O thoughtless twelve!" quoth Wollheim later). Many of those present, including most of the adults, did not vote.

From a historical viewpoint, this resolution threw whatever else happened at the Convention into the shade, in its lasting effects, but, as we shall see, one other important result grew out of the gathering — the Wollheim-Moskowitz feud.

The Founding of the FAPA«« »»Later Development of Michelism