Up To Now: New Fandom's Struggle for Recognition

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

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Another powerful factor in the influx of new fans and the spreading of tranquility over fandom was the necessity to work together for and take part in the World Science-Fiction Convention.

It will be recalled that the 1937 Convention in Philadelphia appointed a committee in which the Wollheim clique was predominant to handle this affair. Owing to this committee's lack of activity and the unpopularity of Wollheim with many fans, arrangements were made at the Sykora-dominated Newark conclave for a new committee. The successful circulation of the petition of protest, signed by so many of his friends, convinced Sykora that he had acted wrongly in that case, but rather than yield to the Wollheim committee, he and Moskowitz, plus Taurasi, again took the law into their own hands and formed New Fandom, an organization whose primary purpose and raison d'etre was the sponsoring of the World Convention as a gigantic affair.

In this they ran counter to the desires of Olon F. Wiggins, who felt that none but dyed-in-the-wool fans, whom he counted at one time as numbering about fifty, should be admitted. Wiggins feared that accepting help from the professional magazines would result in fandom's losing its independence. He was almost the only one who held such opinions, however, and the general attitude was: Wiggins? That old nut? He's the guy that sold out to Wollheim.

New Fandom was a heterogenous Frankenstein's creation, the core of which was the Science Fiction Advancement Association, an unimportant hold-over from the First Transition. To this Moskowitz added his manuscript bureau and other odds and ends possessed by the Triumvirs, such as the magazine Helios, were announced as formally going into the pot to make New Fandom. All subscribers to Helios were temporarily members of New Fandom, but a dollar dues was required for full membership. All members of the SFAA, including Don Wollheim, found themselves, by the magic of former president Raymond van Houten, New Fandomites. The name was derived from Moskowitz' observation that a new order was coming into being in fandom, and he hoped that someday this would be the long-sought organization whose boundaries should coincide with fandom's.

Its administration was most peculiar, as the members had no check on the acts of its leaders, except the possibility that they might turn from the organization and renounce its leadership. This check, while effective in larger matters, couldn't work to prevent the employing of tactics in minor affairs that the majority of its members didn't like, or the making of such blanket statements as that New Fandom opposes all isms. The only office was the appointive one of Secretary and General Manager, held by Moskowitz. He, Taurasi, and Sykora, and to a lesser degree the rest of the QSFL and van Houten, controlled the organization's destinies.

Naturally, with such a genesis and such a nature, the club was wide open to attack, and only the earlier discrediting of the Wollheim group saved New Fandom from an early extinction. At the Philadelphia Conference of September, 1938, much dubiousness was expressed over the success of this "benevolent dictatorship" (Moskowitz had used the term "democratic dictatorship", comparing it to a professional magazine, which must respect the wishes of the readers, tho they have no direct control over its management).

The absence of the Moskowitz-hating group from the Conference, however, caused those present to give a rather passive acquiescence to New Fandom's assumption of leadership. Speer proposed a motion which did no more than recognize New Fandom's primacy, and it was passed the way most motions are passed at friendly, half-informal gatherings, without opposition, tho many didn't vote for it.

The wording of the resolution was so clumsy and hazy that it was quickly forgotten, and news reports from the Taurasi-Moskowitz group magnified it into a blanket approval of anything New Fandom might do. At the same time, word went around that, in some way, New Fandom had gotten the support of fandom behind it.

That was all that fandom was waiting for. No one wanted to join a club that had every chance of folding up, but once it was told that it was going to be successful, the conditions requisite for its success took form. At the same time that the 100% fans were giving it their support, the professional magazines began to put forward their promised support for the WSFC, publishing letters and announcements for fans and scientifictionists desiring to attend to get in touch with Moskowitz. Also, soon after, appeared the first issue of the official magazine, New Fandom, whose freedom from the usual Taurasi-Moskowitz errors of language, and general excellence of make-up and content, won grudging admiration even from Sam's foe, Wilson.

Thus the new heads of the fan world came into their own. Heart and soul of this new group was Taurasi's weekly Fantasy-News. The magazinewspaper had been begun simply to fill out unexpired subscriptions to Taurasi-Thompson's Cosmic Tales when it was turned over to the Kuslans, but Fanny's success had been so phenomenal that it quickly took the lead over Nell in general opinion, appearing mimeographed long before the latter did (the era of hektographed magazines was passing), at a lower price, and usually with more pages. The content was designed to appeal to borderline fans who were interested more in the reading of science fiction than in the deep-dyed fan activities. Frequently more than half of the content was written by Moskowitz. In all cases the King's English was murdered, to such an extent in many cases that meaning was not clear, and the viewpoint was narrow, but Startling Stories reviewed, with nothing but praise, Fantasy-News, every month — a thing done for no other fan magazine. Apparently, there was a working agreement with Weisinger for bringing fandom back into the fold.

Just when the revolution occurred cannot be definitely determined. Up to the FAPA election, the Wollheim group had been the acknowledged heads of the fan world, despite their minority in many matters. Sometime between the close of the |FAPA campaign and the Philadelphia Conference, the absolute viewpoint changed, and Wollheim and Wiggins were the "rebels" instead of those who opposed them. The W's attacks at last built up an overwhelming opposition to him, which "assumed" itself into power, once united.

By the spring of 1939, Wiggins was practically the only hold-out. When Wilson and Moskowitz ended their feud, the former expressed, none too enthusiastically, his backing of New Fandom's leadership of the Convention. Wollheim, Michel, and Pohl acquiesced while growling puns like "New FanĀ­dump" and "New fan-dumb", and Lowndes said that in many ways he favored New Fandom's integration of the fan world, if for no other reason than that it would more quickly bring fans to the end of the trail of their present activities, so they would have to turn to Michelism (and indeed, many very active fans began to desire to reduce their activity and lead normal lives). Ackerman, somewhat tongue-in-cheekly, joined New Fandom. There was even a move, which didn't get very far, to re-merge the Queens SFL and the Futurian Society of New York, the Wilson-Wollheim-Kornbluth NY faction.

Early in June, the long-delayed OSA Powwow was held, and two-thirds of those present expressed the intention of attending the WSFC (Louis Clark, Oklahoman in Washington/DC also was expecting to go, and Miles McPhail: cousin of the Mc). Dan McPhail, tho financially able, wasn't able to leave his job, the same thing that held back Tucker, Avery, & many more. Others present at the Powoww were Jack Speer, on vacation from DC, and Walter Sullivan sometime of Queens, plus such astral beings as the Invisible Man, Injun Joe, Lawrence Paschall, Walter Jackson, and John A Bristol.

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