Up To Now: The First Staple War

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

The Beginnings«« »»The ISA-SFL Clash

In late 1934, Bob Tucker, a Brass Tacker of some standing, reported in Brass Tacks the formation of the spwsstfm (the initials were in capitals when used by him, but one of the first principles of the War was that warriors should not capitalize the name of the enemy, and this writer was on The Other Side) -­ the society for the prevention of wire staples in science fiction magazines.

At the head of the society was one dictator, tucker. In later issues of Brass Tacks, the dictator reported new recruits of his society, and some months later duplicated his original announcement, in Wonder Stories' The Reader Speaks. One of the new recruits contributed two doughnuts to the society treasury, and was given a fool title, something like "high nincompoop". Another neophyte suggested rubber staples to replace the wire ones, and was also given an official title. One ironic sidelight in this war was that the next most prominent member of the spwsstfm was "ol' doc lowndes", royal pill roller for the dictator. Few knew that he actually was a medico of some sort, and none, certainly, suspected that one day he was to be the most liberal member of Wollheim's Michelist group.

And here Wollheim enters, in opposition to Tucker, Lowndes, and the other anti-staplers. We, he declaimed, have listened to this infamous proposition long enough. He therefore proclaimed the organization of the International and Allied Organizations for the Purpose of Upholding and Maintaining the use of Metallic Fasteners in Science Fiction (which he, mocking Tucker, initialed STF) Publications in the United States of America, Unlimited, and called for support from all red-blooded believers in the efficacy of metallic binders.

There followed a scramble for power and recruits. Espionage and counter­espionage were rife, and neither leader could know for certain that his most trusted lieutenant was not a spy. Membership in the IAOPUMUMSTFPUSA, Unltd, reached around twenty, and doubtless the spwsstfm was about the same. Titles were given to all, usually meaningless. the dictator stood alone at the head of his battalions, but Wollheim, as Grand High Cocolorum, had Kenneth Sterling (whether author of The Brain-Stealers of Mars, or another coincidentally having the same name, was never quite clear) as Exalted Grand Booleywag. There were two exceptions to the rule about titles. A recruit whom Wollheim suspected to be a spy was deprived of his, and young Speer was named Lord High Bradder, referring to his suggestion that magazines be bound with hand brads — paper fasteners, such as bind this publication.1

Both armies issued official organs, tucker's d'journal, and Wollheim & Sterling's Polymorphanucleated Leucocyte. The PL was a scream, as was the membership certificate; doubtless d'journal was, too.

The War entered its penultimate stage, finding several episodes (chapters) of the anti-staplers in existence, and three or four Fortresses of Wollheim's men. It is said that when two Americans get together, they form a club. Two were all that were required to form a Fortress.

It was a crushing blow to the spwsstfm when the second issue of d’journal, upon being issued, was found stuck full of staples — sabotage, by spies! Tucker weakly quibbled about the difference between fan magazines, and science fiction magazines, at which his program was aimed, but his prestige was ruined. The New York Episode, in its entirety, went over to Wollheim.

An interesting commentary on the difference in the fan magazines of that day is that Fantasy Magazine scarcely mentioned the Staple War. Out in Oklahoma, McPhail wrote in his private magazine, Science Fiction News, that fans were growing tired of alphabetical societies. Several anti-alphabetical societies alphabetical societies were announced in Brass Tacks, and others expressed their weariness with it all in more dignified ways.

The war came to a sudden end. At the beginning of a Brass Tacks department toward mid-1935, Tremaine broke precedent by commenting on a letter to follow — the commentary in italics — saying some enigmatic things about the reader reading the letter slowly, to get the same feeling from it that he did. The letter was a report by someone of Tucker's home town or nearby, stating that he was dead, and giving some of his last wishes. It shocked everyone. But professional publication moves slowly, and by the time that issue of Astounding was on the stands, Tremaine knew it was a fake, and, in private letters to interested fans, said he thot Tucker had known of the trick, and that he would publish nothing more with regard to the First Staple War. One of Wollheim's lieutenants talked with the dictator long distance. "The Staple War is definitely over," said Wollheim, "and we are working on something that will be lots more fun."…

The Beginnings«« »»The ISA-SFL Clash