University of Chicago Science Fiction Club

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(Did you want a later University of Chicago SF Society?)

The University of Chicago Science Fiction Club (or Society) was founded in 1950 by Tom Seidman, George D'Asaro, and John Boardman, holding its first meeting on January 18, 1950, at Ida Noyes Lounge on the Hyde Park campus. About 40 people were present and Ray Solomonoff was elected President.

In a loc to G2 10 (March 1962), Boardman wrote:

Tom Seidman, George D'Asaro and I sent out a call for a meeting, and were answered by a large crowd which proceeded to elect officers, perform a ritual exorcism upon Shaver’s dero-tero cult, and put out a fanzine. I didn’t stay with the club for very long, as I was overawed by the superior fannish background of most of the people who showed up for the meeting.

It published The Journal of Science Fiction. Along with the (second) Chicago Science Fiction League, it was part of CHIAC.

The club had a number of distinguished Faculty Advisors. “None of them,” according to founding member Ed Wood, “having much admiration for science fiction.”

  • Carl Anderson (designer of Synchro-cyclotron at U of C), January to mid 1950.
  • Anatol Rapoport (important in General Semantics and Mathematical Biophysics), mid-1950 to October 1951.
  • H. C. Urey (Nobel Laureate in Chemistry), October 1951 to October 1952.
  • Nathan Sugarman (noted radiochemist and member of the Institute of Nuclear Studies, the University of Chicago), October 1952 to 1953.

In its early years, club meetings were so informal as to be pretty chaotic -- though they weren't dull. Its 1951 Halloween party was to include an imitation black mass, which gained it unwelcome notice by the university's President. According to Boardman:

Ray Nelson didn’t show up at UC until the 1951-2 academic year. He was then married to Perdita Lilly, his first wife. He, Tom Seidman, Mike Girsdansky, Seymour Nelson and I obtained some brief notoriety in that year as the result of a planned Black Mass. (Seymour is no relation to Ray; his version of the common surname was originally Katznelson;) We had planned to conduct a Black Mass at a Halloween party in 1951, with Ray serving as the high priest and Perdita as the altar. However, the story got out. A Catholic student heard about the proposed diabolism, and carried to the university’s chaplain a story that we planned to steal communion elements. The chaplain told Cardinal Strich, the Cardinal told the university’s president, and the principals in the escapade were confined to quarters.

Wood recounted in G2 10, quoting notes of his from 1953:

1950: The early meetings were used to set up a constitution which is rarely used today. They were held in the Classics building due to the small size of the club at that time. Ray Solomonoff, at that time a student in the Physics department, was the first President and did the bulk of the work in notifying members of the meetings which were held at irregular intervals, 3-4 weeks apart. Most of them were talks by authors or publishers and about science fiction in general. The biggest meeting of the year was the 8-18-50 meeting on Dianetics (it has been the biggest meeting to date).

At the end of 1950, plans were made to broaden the scope of the club which had been set up on the modest aim of being open to anyone interested in science fiction. Plans were made to hold movies and also to publish a fan magazine.

The fan magazine and its planning became a source of friction. There was talk of it being triangular in shape arid using "fan” fiction. It was pointed out in no uncertain terms by E. Wood, C. Freudenthal and T. Dikty among others that “He who controls the purse strings, calls the score.” Since the club was at that time, and is today, financially unable to put out a fan magazine of the most modest pretentions, a bitterly contested election relinquished all rights to the fan magazine to E. Wood and Charles Freudenthal, who were able to publish 4 issues of The Journal of Science Fiction before calling a halt to the fruitless enterprise.

1951: The club by showing the film “Things To Come” was able to accumulate some badly needed revenue, club memberships ($1.00 per year) being unable to cover expenditures. Other movies were however spectacularly unsuccessful. No movies being shown in 1952 and 1953. Meetings were somewhat on the dullish side but perked up with the news that the 10th World Science Fiction Convention was to be held in Chicago in 1952.

1952: A period of deterioration under Seidman and Nelson but improved remarkably under the presidency of Evan H. Appleman. Many meetings were however ill-conceived, ill-organized and ill-presented. Also work for the 1952 World Convention intruded on the time of many of the more active members, Ray Nelson and Perdita helping out on the ballet “Asteroid” as one example. Late 1952 to date (May, 1953): ... Certain innovations were made. Refreshments were served at the meetings which are held in the much more comfortable and convenient Ida Noyes building.

{in conclusion,} the UofC Club presents a representative example of what might be aptly termed “phantom fandom”; the members being almost without exception (Ed Wood of Journal of Science Fiction, Earl Kemp of Destiny, T. Dikty, and Frank Robinson) heedless of the main stream of fandom, caring little for the many feuds and eddies which have come to mark the fandom characterized by the average fan magazine. The meetings have an extremely social air, consisting of a talk, debate, panel, etc., and refreshments with a minimum of business. After the regular meetings, further discussion follows at any one of numerous eateries. It represents at the present time, the only organization consistently meeting in the Chicago area devoted to science fiction and allied topics.

List of Early Meetings[edit]

“Since I was at the founding meeting and attended most meetings until my induction into the U.S. Army by my neighbors and enemies for the 2nd time in March 1954, I can talk with authority about the early days. The facts are not from memory but my diaries which I kept at the time....”
Ed Wood, G2 10 (March 1962)

Meeting Date Notes
1 January 10, 1950 Organization meeting at Ida Noyes; Solomonoff made President.
2 February 6, 1950 E. Wood talked about fanzines with samples at Classics 17.
3 March 6, 1950 Meeting postponed because of coal shortage.
4 March 24, 1950 Pollard, Freudenthal, Solomonoff & Wood talked to Fritz Leiber.
5 April 10, 1950 E. E. Smith guest speaker, spoke of his past & future work.
6 April 24, 1950 Fritz Leiber talked about his work & dealings with Campbell.
7 May 2, 1950 Wood talks to Solomonoff regarding future course of action.
8 May 8, 1950 Don Bratton talked about Theory of Games.
9 May 22, 1950 Melvin Korshak spoke about publishing, gave opinions & news.
10 July 3, 1950 Informal meeting with Bratton, Freudenthal, Solomonoff, Wood.
11 July 24, 1950 Meeting on Dianetics, speaker Ray Solomonoff.
12 August 8, 1950 Dianetics by Leo West (not J. A. Winter) at Rosanwald 2.
13 October 5, 1950 Wayne Proel[1] talked about rockets, Classics 10.
14 November 1, 1950 General talk on fan magazine, future world convention.
15 November 18, 1950 Howard Browne was scheduled to talk but since Ziff-Davis pulps had moved to New York, he was unable to appear. E. E. Smith very kindly substituted and spoke about future power sources.
16 December 5, 1950 Discussion about fan magazine.
17 December 13, 1950 General meeting about fanzine, movies.
18 January 11, 1951 Movie Things To Come 50¢ admission; club made $40.00
19 January 11, 1951 Meeting-Wood not there, few people present.
20 January 26, 1951 Meeting at Fritz Leiber’s house; Robert Bloch also present.
21 February 14, 1951 Movie The Invisible Man did not arrive and The Monster Maker (J. Carroll Naish) shown instead; club lost $15.00
“This could go on for pages but it should give an idea of what went on in Chicago in the early 50s.”
  1. Of the Chicago Rocket Society.


In 1963, the club split into two groups. By this time, none of the members were students at the University of Chicago, and many felt that the club had become stale. George Price, who had been doing the club's program and sending out meeting notices wanted a more sf-oriented group and began hosting a monthly meeting (see George W. Price parties) and Rosemary Hickey helped set up a monthly social group (including drinking) called the Chicago SF League.

Club 19501963
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