Up To Now: The Nature of Wollheim's Dictatorship

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

One Analysis of Wollheim«« »»The Founding of the FAPA

So much for the man. What did he do?

New fans will find that Wollheim was frequently referred to as a dictator. How much of a dictator was he, and how did he do it?

It must, at once, be noted that his control was by no means absolute. Not everything that he opposed, during his ascendancy, failed; not everything that he supported succeeded; not every fan he tried to drive out of the field allowed himself to be driven out. But the American Fantasy Association, an attempt at an American counterpart of the SFA, which was largely British, received no support from Wollheim, and failed, tho had he thrown his weight behind it it might have easily succeeded. The founders — Wiggins, Taurasi, and Louis Kuslan — were at that time more or less friends of Wollheim, and he did nothing to oppose their effort, but he ignored it entirely. And so it goes.

When Wollheim said anything, everyone sat up and listened, whether they liked him and it or not. Consequently, his attacks on fans and institutions were more effective than similar efforts of others. And such was his ability in this line, that he could make his victim feel like an outcast even tho the latter refused to get out.

The W drew around him a circle of fans who, in their own right, would have been counted as leaders in the field, but, in the clique, were overshadowed by Wollheim. He became the symbol for what the group did, and received credit and blame for things that were really the idea and/or work of his friends. These compatriots — Michel, Frederik Pohl, and Lowndes were the most prominent — were frequently referred to as "Wollheim stooges", with Michel as "prize stooge". Possibly picking it up from a remark of Speer's, they called themselves the Quadrumvirate, and also spoke of themselves in general terms of "we" and "our group". Whether they actually were stooges, slaves to Wollheim's beck and call, and carrying out his orders, is doubtful. The group managed to keep a united front against dissension in all consequential matters, and this led many to believe that they represented one man's will. It is most likely that Wollheim was arbiter, overruled only by an overwhelming majority of his satellites and lesser lights, but that, due to a common outlook, divergent views among them were rare.

Besides the principal lieutenants mentioned above, there was a more or less indeterminate group of minor fans who were seriously considered "stooges" of Wollheim; principally, in 1938, Young Communists.

With this group, then, and his own powers and prestige, Wollheim exerted a great deal of influence in the fan world, but to say that he was dictator is to misapprehend the conditions.

One Analysis of Wollheim«« »»The Founding of the FAPA