UPDATE: 3/21/15 The list of recommended works has been added to by R. Graeme Cameron.
It was a sad day when I came to realize that many (if not most) people do not share my interest in and reliance upon the study of history. It was an equally sad day when I realized the same thing about science fiction’s ability to extrapolate future histories. People just don’t care, or are far too dismissive of history’s – and extrapolation’s – ability to teach and inform.
I lay much of the blame for the fact that I don’t live in Luna City and can’t vacation on Mars on the preceding. Sensible, engaged people would look at history (for example, well-proven facts like a society’s stagnation leads to death, or an unbalanced concentration of wealth leads to revolution, or even failure to plan for the future leaves you no future) and they’d look at where SF has taken us (any number of a million examples of better – or at least different – ways to go about doing things) and they’d say what I’ve been saying for years: this is stupid, we know how to do better, lets stop screwing around and get to it!
Idealism breeds its own frustration.
My inability to effect large scale change in a global arena leads me to two conclusions: first – I’ve just not found the right handle yet, gotta keep working at that (idealism – see?) and second – sometimes its instructive to model things out, work within a smaller, more easily monitored, scaled down environment. And so genre fans, I bring you a list of works of Science Fiction Fannish history.
I promise you at least one reward, should you pick up the challenge of reading one or more of these works: you WILL see the same arguments, concerns and feuds – not to mention the same nearly messianic fervor and desire for engagement in these tomes as you are reading about today on the internet. The names have changed, the lexicon is a bit different, but when it comes to discussing “what is science fiction?”, “who is a fan?”, “how to we deal with fuggheads?” and all the rest, well, it’s in there.
You’ll also gain an (greater) appreciation for why we’re all at where we are now, how and why fans do what they do and perhaps a greater understanding of why fandom likes to beat itself up so much all of the time. (Hint: it’s because most of us genuinely want to do better. All the time.)
So here’s you’re list and links.
The seminal, if personally slanted, history of Fandom – The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz
The Futurians by Damon Knight
The Universe Makers by Donald A. Wollheim
The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl (an autobiography that contains a lot about early fandom)
Wonder;s Child by Jack Williamson
Astounding Days by Arthur C. Clarke
In Memory Yet Green by Isaac Asimov
and, if you’ve read all of those (or want a taste before buying), I direct your attention to Fanac.org (FANAC = FAN ACTivity) and their collection of links to websites about – Fan History.
R. Graeme Cameron (our Club House fanzine reviewer) recommends the following additions:
UP TO NOW: A History of Science Fiction in the 1930s by Jack Speer, originally published in 1939. A relatively short momograph, but the very FIRST account of early fandom. You can find Up To Now here
YEARS OF LIGHT: A Celebration of Leslie A. Croutch by John Robert Colombo (Hounslow Press, Toronto, 1982). An in-depth account of the fannish career of Canada’s most prominent fan in the 1940s, with much material on Canadian fandom in general in that period. Out of print, but shows up on Ebay & Amazon from time to time.
And, rather confusingly, since it has the same title as the hardcover book Steve listed above:
ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Harry Warner Jr. This is not the fannish history listed above, but an identically titled collection of essays by Harry which appeared over the years in numerous fanzines, essays discussing prominent fans and their fanzines in greater detail than he had room for in his history volumes. A tremendous insight into the mindset of fans in the early days. Chuck Connor is the hardworking editor who put it all together.