Up To Now: The Conventions

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Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

Up To Now: June 1938<——>Up To Now: The FAPA Campaign

The Newark Convention, officially the First National Science Fiction (or Fantasy) Convention, and called the Fourth Eastern by its enemies, was the first not sponsored by an organization, tho Sykora and Moskowitz said something about Sykora's Committee for ISA Reorganization and Moskowitz' Unofficial Society for the Aid of Fan Magazines in Need of Material (subject of trouble with DAW, who wanted a Manuscript Bureau for the FAPA). Put on entirely by Sykora and Sam, it was a surprise to all. Advertising of the event doesn't seem to have been unusual. There were poster announcements placed in a few libraries and around, and perhaps an announcement or two in the professional magazines before it came off, but previous conventions seem to have had nearly equal publicity. Evidently, it was that the time was ripe for a really big affair. New Yorkers particularly were skeptical of the optimistic preparations for an anticipated attendance of over a hundred; previous conventions had not gone above 40. Wollheim attacked its handling (Michelistic speeches would be barred) in a pre-Convention Fanfarade column,[1] and Wilson, in the News­ Letter, was generous with slurs at its hopes, the beginning of the Wilson­-Moskowitz enmity; perhaps the most reasonless feud of the period.

Despite all this, the real fans, of course, came, and so did the professional s-f editors of the area -- and a veritable cloud of non-fan scientifictionists who seemed to just "happen" in. The attendance, none from outside the eastern states, grossed around 125 at its height.

This, however, was the chief and nearly the only success of the affair. The usual talks and promises by the pro editors are not to be counted as losses but were much the same as at preceding conventions, with perhaps stronger promises of support for fan magazines etc which were half a year in being fulfilled -- but that is another story.

The banquet fell flat due to miscalculation of the number to attend -- there just weren't enough eats to go around. The amusements were partly successful, partly not, and some entertainments prepared to be presented were not given. Owing to Baltadonis' illness and inability to attend, Philadelphia's secret entertainment (presumably their s-f puppet show) had to be postponed until their annual Conference.

The Convention adjourned with the problem of the World S-F Convention even more unsolved than before. The committee appointed at the last Philadelphia Convention had done nothing in the interim, so Sykora, substituting as chairman when Moskowitz found he couldn't handle the chair appointed a new temporary committee, which was in turn to choose a smaller permanent one. Fans ignorant of parliamentary law, etc, thot Sykora had no right to appoint the committee. A petition protesting the appointment was successful in securing signatures even of some anti-Wollheimists.

The most unusual feature of the Convention was the flood of special Convention publications, which were sold by the Convention committee. All publishers, both those present and non-attendees, got full sets of the Convention magazines; in this way the Convention was participated in by fans unable to be there, Ackerman, Farsaci, Marconette, and Speer and McPhail jointly, having published, and not able to attend. Wollheim pointed out that all of the publishers of Convention publications were members of the FAPA. Exception was Nils Frome, Canadian, whose magazine arrived too late. Oklahoma's was also late, but only by a hair. Besides the publications handled by the committee the CPASF handed out Internationale song sheets, exhortations to protest Thrilling Wonder's discharge of a CIO printer, and similar material, which, it developed, practically ruined the CPASF's prestige: CPASF is [the] only Michelistic organization; CPASF is Communist; therefore Michelism is Communism.

Despite its successes, there seemed to be something lacking from the convention -- probably, unity, altho fans enjoy certain kinds of feuds. In marked contrast was the Second British Convention of the SFA (the first had been called a Conference). There was no question such as the World Convention hanging over this assemblage, and there were no bitterly opposed factions such as marred the Newark affair. Little attention was paid to professional s-f, tho Fearn's talk in this direction aroused considerable interest. There was some discussion of SFA business, and the new Constitution was officially adopted (Los Angeles SFL-SFA cabled OK). But most of the speeches concerned the sociological interest of British fandom. These were for the time devoted to the almost-completed task of waking Britons to social and governmental problems solution of which was necessary in the search for Utopia. In the following months, when they took up the question of what these awakened fans were to do in furtherance of their Utopias, there was a lowering of spirit and a surge of pessimism.

But at time of the Convention, the talks hit a very optimistic note. Fans were characterized as Seekers of Tomorrow, and some discussions, abstract enough not to bear heavily on the contemporary ism situation, discussed the attitude that should be taken. The British Convention indicated that among the somewhat more adult fans of the tight little isle the sociologically inclined had won, and were in control of British fandom.


  1. Wollheim’s regular column in The Science Fiction Fan.

Up To Now: June 1938<——>Up To Now: The FAPA Campaign

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