From Fancyclopedia 3
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hydracon was a convention organized by the Hydra Club with help from some members of ESFA, and held July 1–3, 1950, at the Henry Hudson Hotel at Columbus Circle in New York, NY. It replaced the 1950 Open ESFA and was also known as the New York Science Fiction Conference. Attendance was over 300.

The Hydra Club was criticized as attempting to undercut NorWesCon, the 1950 Worldcon, which was being held Labor Day weekend in Seattle, after the failure of the New York in '50 Worldcon bid.

The purpose of the Hydracon was "to discuss the problems of literary and publishing aspects of science fiction." The featured speakers were Fletcher Pratt, L. Sprague de Camp and Willy Ley. The Hayden Planetarium gave a special showing of Trip to the Moon. The program included Sam Merwin, Jerome Bixby, Judith Merril, Isaac Asimov, Harrison Smith (Publisher of The Saturday Review of Literature), Bea Mahaffey, Walter Bradbury (Doubleday), Groff Conklin, Frederick Fell, Robert Arthur, Dr. Tom Gardner, David H. Keller, Murray Leinster, and Phil Klass. The final Monday afternoon was a discussion of the "Procedure for the First Annual Science Fiction Literary Awards."

Life magazine covered the event, including a two-page spread of a panoramic picture of the diners at the banquet, published a year later in an article on science fiction in the May 21, 1951, issue. Dave Kyle wrote that "The most exciting moments were the disturbances made by William S. Sykora (early ISA fan and Futurian hater) who protested the event as some kind of betrayal of fannish traditions, charging despicable commercialism."

The Explorer for August 1950 carried a conreport by Walter Cole (who also offered photos of the event for sale):


Over the July 4th week-end the Hydra Club and the ESFA held a New York Science-Fiction Conference that drew fans from as far as Montreal and Chicago. Opening its doors on Saturday afternoon, 1 July, there was the registration and reception of guests and a cocktail party.

The main part of the confab started on Sunday with L. Jerome Stanton, chairman of the committee, explaining the reasons for holding the conference: (1) further publicizing of s-f to the general reading field, and (2) hopes for making literary awards in different fields of science-fiction.

Sam Moskowitz emseed the entire conference program and introduced tho first of the speakers, L. Sprague de Camp. His talk concerned the hopeful writer who wants to break into s-f writing. Stressing intelligence and energy, L SdC suggested that it might help if one were crazy, too. Armed with a thorough knowledge of English, and preferably a typewriter, the aspirant is told to try writing, going through the disappointments of rejection slips. 

Judy Merril continued the series on the literary aspects of S-F, devoting some time to general material in the field.

Three editors of the pro ranks, Bea Mahaffey of Other Worlds, Jerome Bixby of Planet, and Sam Merwin of SS and TWS told the conference what their respective magazines wanted in the s-f line.

Continuing, Dr. J. A. Winter discussed Hubbard's DIANETICS volume, giving a number of informative items about how the book is selling and how it is being re­ceived by fandom, concluding with the announcement that an article on Dianetics will be in an August issue of Collier's.

Walter Bradbury, of Doubleday, spoke of coming s-f books in the Doubleday S-F group. The opening effort, Max Ehrlich's THE BIG EYE, has sold over 575,000 to date, so they plan to come out with Asimov's PEBBLE IN THE SKY and Judy Merril's SHADOW IN THE HEARTH.

Hans Stevenson Sanderson, of Unicorn, listed the types of stories Unicorn does not want, which was about everything one finds in s-f, or the stuff that makes s-f what it is. The requirements seem to indicate that the book club would strip s-f of its true glory and hand a new type of reading to the public.

Truman Taly of New American Library, which has published "1984" said that s-f must sell in the hundreds of thousands of copies to be worth publishing, but the representative for Simon and Schuster was the one speaker who boosted s-f fiction as it is. He said that he did not think s-f would become a million-book field or a million dollar field, but that it should remain s-f.  He further stated that "if s-f goes to the general public, it will lose its specialized glamor." A trio of cheers to the gentleman from Simon and Schuster. 

S-F on the radio followed, in which Robert Arthur, producer of Escape and The Mysterious Traveler, discussed the present programs in the order of their popularity and the prospects of s-f in the future. The top s-f radio shows appear to be Escape and Dimension X. In another portion of the program, Sherman Dryer, producer of 2000 Plus said that he did not use pulp material since he believed it too advanced for the general public. According to Dryer, s-f will not get too high on because of expense involved in intricate settings, etc.

Following a recess, the next phase of the program was The Serious Aspects of Science Fiction, featuring talks by Dr. Thomas Gardner, on the subject of Geriatrics and the advancements in endeavoring to lengthen human life span; Isaac Asimov on "Robotics" and its studies at MIT; Dr. John Pierce, of Bell Labs, on Cybernetics, and David Keller and Lester del Rey, both listed as discussing Dianetics, although del Rey was the only one who touched the subject and not over seriously. 

A break then followed and then came the dinner, which was accompanied by a $4.50 charge and four speakers. These four were Will Jenkins (Murray Leinster),  Willy Ley, Philip Klass (William Tenn) and Sherman Dryer. 

On Monday, 3 July, the final part of the conference was held. There were only two speakers for the day,  Willy Ley and Fletcher Pratt, discussing the military aspects of space travel. Then followed a general discussion on the procedures for the first Annual Science-Fiction Literary Awards. Nothing definite was accomplished other than a round of arguments as to who should make the awards -- pros outside the field -- publishers -- pros inside the field -- fans -- or fans and pros. The conference ended when Jay Stanton said that he would bring all suggested ideas to the Hydra Club.

                                 W. R. Cole

1949 Open ESFA Open ESFA 1951 Open ESFA
This is a convention page. Please extend it by adding information about the convention, including dates, GoHs, convention chairman, locale, sponsoring organization, external links to convention pages, awards given, the program, notable events, anecdotes, pictures, scans of publications, pictures of T-shirts, con reports, etc.