Up To Now: The ISA-SFL Clash

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

The First Staple War«« »»The Heyday of Fantasy Magazine

Wollheim may have, to an extent, regretted his previous connections with foolishness when he launched into a serious and bitter indictment of Wonder Stories, in long letters to The Reader Speaks, concerning the quality of its pulp paper, type face, word count, and such other matters as the translation of stories from the German; he was anti-Nazi even then. But deeper causes for hate of Gernsback lay just under this.

A story by Wollheim, "The Man from Ariel", was published by Wonder and never paid for. In working to get his due, Wollheim ran across many other young or beginning authors who had been similarly cheated. He published his findings in the last Bulletin of the TFG (succeeded by the Phantagraph).

The TFG, which has not been mentioned hereinbefore, was a small organization of rather more weird fans, which, at the time of its change of name from International Science Fiction Guild (it originated as the Impossible Story Club) was headed by Wilson Shepherd of Oakman, Alabama. When Wollheim came in, and Shepherd and Wollheim Publishers formed, the center of power began, unconsciously, to shift to the north. The first Terrestrial Fantascience Guild Bulletins were hektographed publications; the last was a large-size mimeo affair. In many respects, the TFG was before its time.

Publication of the facts against Wonder Stories resulted in the expulsion of Wollheim and a number of compatriots from the SFL. The last heard of this angle of the case, he had been offered six months' probationary reinstatement, and said he would probably come back in, with his tongue in his cheek.

The XSFL was a name the expelled ones took. Most, or all of them were members of the International Cosmo-Science Club, which about this time changed its name to the International Scientific Association. And it was the New York Branch of this Association, supported by other ISA members, which thereupon took up the cudgel in support of its members, and became the rallying point for disaffected elements, rather than the TFG. The staff of Fantasy Magazine, also under attack by Wollheim, made common cause with Gernsback and Hornig against the ISA. The result was the climax of the Old Fandom.

This writer regrets that he is unable to give an account of the war that followed, having had nothing to do with it and having heard little of it until much later, when it was referred to rather than described. The NYB-ISA sang songs of their battle against Gernsback; songs that might be adapted for modern singing. In some way they must have gained publicity for their charges against Wonder Stories, for to their work is ascribed some of the credit or responsibility for the fall of Gernsback's Wonder not many months after.

The NYB-ISA published The International Observer, a mimeographed magazine with a rather heavy sprinkling of science. The idea of the ISA in its later history was to harness science-fiction and science together, and the Observer straddled the fence between these two interests.

One day the NYB went off on a picnic and ended up in Philadelphia; the First Eastern Science Fiction Convention had crept up on them unawares. A good time was had.by all, we are told, and they agreed that it was a great idea.

The First Staple War«« »»The Heyday of Fantasy Magazine