Harry Turner's Footnotes to Fandom
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Re: F.C. bumper anniversary issue

Dear ALS,

Congratulations on your bumper anniversary issue, which Steve Sneyd has waved before my eyes. I'm prompted to comment on a few minor points raised by Sam Moskowitz's interesting summary of the emergence of organised, (and disorganised) fandom over here in the late thirties.

Just for the record, we finished up with at least six pre-war rocketry groups, since there was a split in the ranks of the Manchester Interplanetary Society before it merged with the British Interplanetary Society (see Tomorrow Vol. 2 No. 2, Summer 1938, p.5, P.E. Cleator, 'Interplanetary Parade'). The local publicity when the police took the MIS members to court after the accident at a 1937 meeting brought an influx of new members who were SF enthusiasts.

However, the then president and founder, Eric Burgess, viewed this influx of impractical dreamers with a certain antipathy (SF fans were often regarded as weirdos in those early days). Feeling outnumbered by SF fans, and sensing a dilution of strictly scientific aims, he and immediate friends withdrew to form a rival group, the Manchester Astronautical Association early in 1938. So I guess fans could be blamed for the proliferation of rocket societies at the time.

I'm dubious about Sam's belief that I.O. Evans "achieved considerable stature among fans" then. Despite the glowing references in Tomorrow to his book for juveniles, 'World of Tomorrow', published in 1933, I don't recollect ever seeing a copy; by 1938 it was probably an out-of-print collectors' piece and generally unavailable. Nor do I recall seeing the set of 'World of Tomorrow' cigarette cards, which must have been issued sometime in 1936 when the film 'Things to Come' was released. (I was a non-smoker and such minor aspects of SF were beneath my attention.)

To the younger fans, I.O. Evans was just part of a front presented to the outside world, a symbol of the respectability craved by the older generation of fans of the SFA committee. [Note: H.T. found an article by Evans, which he must have read at the time, with the title "Scientifiction" in a copy of Armchair Science for July 1937, which is preserved in the family archives.]

Sam's comment that "cigarette cards were not uncommon in Britain at the time" is a wild understatement. Every schoolkid collected 'em, and had done for decades; swapping duplicates in an effort to complete sets was one of those essential activities of schooldays. Certainly as a youngster I'd accumulated cards avidly as a source of encyclopedic information, entertainment and esoteric knowledge, and still had a hoard of incomplete sets when I gave up childish pursuits (at the age of 16!) and turned to more adult and serious pursuits such as fanning...

So as far as the Leeds group split is concerned, I don't think it hinged on racial prejudice as Sam hints. I am prepared to take on trust the account by Bert Warnes, one of the original Leeds fans, that Rob Hansen included in the up-date of THEN 2 (1989) and regard the split as largely due to rivalry for leadership and consequent personal animosity between Doug Mayer and Mike Rosenblum.

My first contacts with Leeds fandom was a visit to Manchester by Harold Gottliffe. We met in the summer of 1937 and I started corresponding with Mike Rosenblum and joined the SFA—this was about the time the split developed in Leeds. By the time a group of Manchester fans visited the SFA HQ, the Doug Mayer group were in charge of SFA business. I wasn't aware of any anti-Jewish feeling at the time, though there was a certain personal antipathy. The group seems to have had a lot of casual members and I suppose it was inevitable that the Jewish members would support Mike's stand and several Mayer supporters were old schoolfriends..

So far as the outside world was concerned, Mike had considerable standing as a collector and established SF fan, and I don't think the SFA-SFL split had much effect on his contacts with fans outside Leeds. When the Mayer faction faded out of fandom after the SFA folded with the outbreak of war, the Rosenblum faction moved in and effectively took over and tried to organise fandom again in the war years with the BFS. ■

Notes for a letter to A. Langley Searles of Fantasy Commentator (1990s)

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