|Name:||Futurian Science Literary Society, then Futurian Society of New York|
|Founder(s):||Donald A. Wollheim|
|Leadership:||Donald A. Wollheim, John B. Michel|
|Country based in:||United States|
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The Futurian Science Literary Society, whose members are better known as Futurians, was a Brooklyn, New York science fiction fan club active in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Several of its members later became famous science fiction writers, editors, and publishers, and thus much of its drama has been immortalized in memoirs and early sf fandom histories.
The Futurians formed from a splinter group of the Greater New York Science Fiction Club who were politically liberal and interested in relating sf to the real world; the remaining members wanted to limit the scope of the club to sf and renamed their club Queens Science Fiction Club after the split.
Members included Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Virginia Kidd, Damon Knight, Cyril Kornbluth, Robert W. Lowndes, Judith Merril, John B. Michel, Frederik Pohl, Richard Wilson, and Donald A. Wollheim (founder of DAW Books).
Isaac Asimov describes his excitement in joining the club in his memoir In Memory Yet Green. Sam Moskowitz, who was president of the original club, also wrote about the Futurians in The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom. Asimov remarks in his memoir that Moskowitz's book was painfully dull.
In The Futurians (1977), Damon Knight reports that the club dissolved after Donald A. Wollheim sued several other members of the club for libel after they had angrily mimeographed and distributed a document ejecting him from the club. They thought that he had forced John Michel to end an affair with Judith Merril, but Wollheim later said he had no idea and thought that it was Michel's idea to break up with Merril.
In the immediate aftermath of Wollheim and Michel's Mutation or Death speech at the 1937 Third Eastern Science Fiction Convention, the Futurians were called Michelists by SF fandom. According to Futurian Robert A. W. Lowndes, he felt for some time that associating the movement with a single person was a bad idea, and in July of 1939 the Futurians apparently voted to discard the name.
Lowndes and Jack Speer had an extended public debate on Michelism/Futurianism, seemingly beginning with Speer's article Fairly Complete Case Against Michelism, to which Lowndes responded in 1938 with A Better Case Against Michelism. Speer accused Michelists of being deliberately vague and engaging in false self-critique so as to discourage anyone else from arguing with them. He felt that the Michelist label itself had become synonymous with Communist fans. In a 1938 essay, Speer predicted that "numerous Young Communist readers of stf, whom most of us would not consider 'fans'..." would prioritize Communism over fandom at the 1939 Worldcon.
In January 1939, Donald A. Wollheim responded to Speer's essay in Voice of the Imagi-Nation issue 1, remarking, "He underrates the effect of the Michelists. Being the only group in stf that knows where it’s going and what it wants and is quite certain of what ought to be the future of stf makes us, large or small, definitely potent."
At Worldcon 1939, six Futurians were barred from entry after a stash of inflammatory pamphlets was discovered by con chairman Sam Moskowitz. Robert A. W. Lowndes wrote to Voice of the Imagi-Nation in late 1939 after the Great Exclusion Act, describing the Michelist label as outdated and disavowing any direct links to the Communist label:
Now to Fp's comments in latest Madge-Voice. I do believe that my 'Better Case Against Michelism' was an attempt to recognise & criticise the activities of the michelists up to the time it was written (July, 1938). It was, however, fragmentary, & only intended as an opening for a real criticism from both points of view... I can assure Juffus that the term michelism was greatly misunderstood ... The greatest stumbling-block has been the issue of Communism... However, the issue need be confused no longer. At the meeting of the Futurians on July 4th of this year, the matter was thrashed out among all present (a small % of whom were Communists) & the michelist program determined. & it is in line with the general theory that I have put forward from the start. Furthermore, by a majority vote, the term 'michelism' for the progressive, socially-conscious movement in fandom was dropped (which is why I always — except when in such a hurry that I don't notice it — put 'michelism' in brackets these days: the term is obsolete) inasmuch as we decided that this thing was too big to be named after any particular person.
An unknown Futurian wrote in to Le Zombie to describe the results of the same conference. (Most likely not Lowndes, who was credited by name for a letter in the same issue.)
OUR ANNUAL EYEBROW LIFTER DEPT: "..... the lin e adopted since the Futurian Conference is to take politics out of fandom without excluding such aspects as sociology, which really do have a place in stf and fan-discussions. In other words: we Communists will confine our propaganda tp personal correspondance in fandom. We will also refrain from leftist attacks upon other fans and thier viewpoints so long as they tolerate us and our viewpoints."
Aside from political differences, the Futurians were accused by several people of teaming up to flood any magazines run by their enemies with negative reviews. These accusations primarily came from people who already disliked them, but there was more than one such accusation.
The Bolshevik Boys buy one or two copies of a magazine,then from six to ten of them send in crooked,biased,grossly unfair ratings of the items contained in the magazine. Tho those whom they consider their enemies, or who dare criticize the Brooklyn demi-gods, they give ratings of zero, possibly one, and very occasionally, a bit more. Any Futurian is ranked ten by everyone...... .
((Partly true perhaps, Jack. I, for one, have been getting away with a lot of razzing at their expense. -bt ))
As you may have noticed in the recent two issues of AMAZING STORIES, Editor Palmer accused NEW FANDOM members of writing in and stating that AMAZING STORIES stunk. Naturally everyone has the right to his own opinion, and the right to write in to any editor and tell him what he thought of his magazine. But RAP indicated in the October issue of AMAZING STORIES that only NEW FANDOM members wrote in. This of course was not true. So our President SAM MOSKOWITZ wrote a letter to PALMER, as is seen by the November issue, where he attempted to straighten things out for RAP. It now turns out that it was not NEW FANDOM at all that wrote in those letters, but another organization. NO, Mr. Palmer, Donald A. Wollheim does not belong to, and is NOT a member of NEW FANDOM. He is a member of this other organization. NO, NO, NO, Mr. Palmer, NEW FANDOM never voted or thought to ban the pro magazines, or decide to discontinue connections with all pro magazines, it was this other organization.
Sam Moskowitz, another longtime arch nemesis of the Futurians, repeated the accusations in his fannish history The Immortal Storm, this time saying that in 1935, Wollheim had conspired against the pro magazine Wonder Stories, and organized a number of other fans who'd contributed stories and had yet to receive their payment. According to Moskowitz, most other pro magazines were paying just as late as Wonder Stories, "but they had been unfortunate enough to tangle with a wild-cat of a fan." Immortal Storm adds that in 1941, James V. Taurasi and William S. Sykora flipped the tables on Wollheim and revealed that two magazines he edited hadn't been paying their contributors either. Moskowitz, Taurasi and Sykora were Wollheim's main enemies in fandom, and Moskowitz in turn was accused by Futurian-aligned fans of playing fast and loose with the facts on more than one occasion.
Moskowitz further blamed Wollheim for the destruction of Gernsback's Science Fiction League. According to him, in 1935 Wollheim had set out to destroy the SFL along with Wonder Stories. By distributing propaganda, he was able to turn public opinion against the League and eventually trick its director, Charles Hornig, into expelling Wollheim, John B. Michel and William Sykora after publicly naming them as saboteurs. Michel and Sykora hadn't been targeting the SFL so far, but being named as co-conspirators drove them firmly into Wollheim's camp. Sykora, a member of the International Cosmos Science Club, now joined forces with Raymond A. Palmer's International Scientific Association. Palmer was more than ready to get rid of the ISA at this point, so the ICSC absorbed it and gained its readership and prestige. Officially, the club's name was never changed from the International Cosmos Science Club, but the leaders, members and other fans all called it the ISA.
Wollheim, Michel and Sykora now intensified their attacks on the SFL and were able to essentially destroy it. The ISA was dissolved in 1937 by Wollheim after Sykora resigned as its head. In the same year, the Queens Science Fiction League briefly renamed itself to the Greater New York Science Fiction League when Wollheim and his friends joined it, but it too split apart almost immediately. This time Wollheim and Sykora were on opposing sides, and the QSFL re-formed into a new Queens Science Fiction League headed by Sykora, James V. Taurasi, and their new ally Sam Moskowitz. Wollheim regrouped with Michel and a few others to found the Futurians.
- Fancyclopedia article
- Wikipedia article
- reminiscences from Frederik Pohl's blog
- vintage wank entry on the Futurians getting banned from the first Worldcon (archived) at Fandom Wank (2007)
- Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green: the Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954. New York: Doubleday, 1979. Avon Books, 1980. p. 211.
- Futurians. Fancyclopedia III. (Accessed 20 December 2013)
- He quotes his diary: "I attended the first meeting of the Futurians and boy! did I have a good time." His younger self goes on to describe what sounds like excruciatingly dull club procedures, which prompts his older self to note that "I had never encountered this sort of thing before and I was fearfully impressed." Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green: the Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954. New York: Doubleday, 1979. Avon Books, 1980. p. 212.
- Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green: the Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954. New York: Doubleday, 1979. Avon Books, 1980. p. 209.
- Jack Speer's After 1939-What? hosted on Fanac.org
- Voice of the Imagi-Nation issue 1, page 9 (January 1939)
- A Warning on Fancyclopedia
- Moskowitz, Sam. The Immortal Storm. 1954. Hyperion Press, 1974, pp. 29-30.
- Moskowitz, Sam. The Immortal Storm. 1954. Hyperion Press, 1974, pp. 48-50.