Up To Now: The Decline and Fall of Wollheim

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

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We have already seen the sentiment setting in against Wollheim, and, separately, against the kind of fandom in which he held dominance. Despite this, however, he was still in control of three of the four FAPA offices, writing for the yet-leading fan magazine of the time, and still acknowledged as the most important fan by a majority of his contemporaries.

When Rothman planned the 1938 Philadelphia Conference, he had hoped to include a discussion on the purpose of science-fiction, by two rivals in the professional field, and Wollheim and Sykora. Wollheim, on the plaint that three of the speakers were to be anti-Michelist, declined the invitation. As a result, the Philadelphia Conference assembled one bright autumn day (while the garbage men were on strike) without Wollheim or any of his first-line lieutenants. There were several present who might have sided with him had he been there, but, under the existing circumstances, went along with the majority, who despised or ignored him. The discussion was carried thru without anyone to represent the Michelist views on the purpose of science-fiction, and at the buffet supper afterwards all present drank the toast, "Gentlemen, down with Wollheim."

To the amazement of all, the coup de grace was administered by Wollheim himself. In a long paragraph of various news items in the NL, reporter Pohl announced, QUADRUMVIRATE QUITS. The reason given was rather hazy. Wollheim had become disgusted with fandom, discouraged at the results of his efforts to give it a real meaning, and was therefore ceasing his activities in the FAPA, his regular writings and publishing, tho he would continue to issue occasionals and take part in the meetings of the Futurian Society of New York, which was the Wollheim half of the GNYSFL. Pohl, Michel, and Lowndes were quitting with him.

Months later, more detailed explanations were given. Wollheim, in the Science Fiction Fan, told how fans had refused to face his arguments, and instead of answering them, had attacked him. To be longer classed with such a group were a discredit.

Lowndes, in his FAPA magazine, explained that he quit as vice-president because he could not have been an impartial judge in disputes, and as long as his group remained in office, the minority who had opposed them would fill the mailings with vilification, charges, etc.

Wollheim formally resigned; Lowndes took his place and appointed Wiggins vice-president; Lowndes then resigned, with the others, and Wiggins appointed a new slate of officers, following Wollheim's suggestions, Marconette as vice-president and Rothman as Official Editor. For once, the clique had carried out things in good legal form.

But the sins of the fathers descended upon Wiggins. Wollheim had made to break with him for publishing a certain long article by Moskowitz. Wiggins closed the pages of the SFFan to Moskowitz and any other writers who would be engaged in disputation of Wollheim's views, in the interest of peace, and Wollheim returned. Cosmic Publications thereupon expelled Wiggins. Around year's end Wiggins also expressed a disgust with fandom and intention to get out, but nothing came of this. Wiggins was now definitely in the Wollheim orbit, and favoring Michelism. He even went beyond them in upholding the Wollheim-dominated committee's right to put on the World Convention when they had already abdicated. In a short time, Wiggins became easily the best­-hated man in fandom.

The Order Begins to Crumble«« »»The Changing Tendency Among Fan Magazines