Sunday, August 21, 2011

Two from 4e: Letter-Writing and the Boys' Scientifiction Club

Here are the first two featurettes edited from my 2006 interview with Forrest J Ackerman, "super-fan," "Mr. Science Fiction," punster extraordinaire, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and the inventor of the expression "sci-fi."  I asked him about his early days of fandom, particularly in the Wonder Stories-sponsored Science Fiction League.  (And thanks again to Liz Fies for running the camera and asking additional questions.)

The print version appeared in Volume 1 (aka the Summer 2007 issue) of Thrilling Wonder Stories.  I assembled these and posted them to YouTube in late 2008, while Forry was still around.  Back then, YouTube videos-- at least when posted by a regular user like me --had a maximum resolution of 360 lines.  Now it's a full standard-definition 480, so I've re-encoded them from my DV files and re-uploaded them to YouTube.  These two originally went up November 12 and 19, 2008.


Before Science Wonder Stories was ever published, all the readers of Amazing Stories received a circular announcing that there was gonna be a new science fiction magazine that didn't have a name yet. But you could subscribe to it for twelve and a half cents a copy, for all the rest of your life. So I, 'course, immediately subscribed, and I came home from grammar school one day, and there was the first issue of Science Wonder Stories.

I think in the first issue of Science Wonder Stories Quarterly, in 1929, I had the first letter on the first page of the readers' department.

My father was kind of proud to see his son's name. And so I caught on, and I thought, well, if I have my name in every issue, then my father would be sure to buy it, so he can show it to men at the office and brag about his son.

Well, as fast as I read an issue, I was impelled to write a letter and give my opinion of the stories. I would rate them, what was the most popular story, in my mind, and would comment on the illustrations and so on. Other readers of the magazine kind of began to look forward to these letters from young Forrest Ackerman. And before I knew it, I was kind of considered, along with another chap named Jack Darrow, to be one of the leading science fiction fans of the era.


A person who had a letter published also had their address, so I began to hear from other readers around the world, and before I knew it, I had 127 correspondents all over the United States, and England, and France, and Germany, and Japan, and Hungary, and... I just lived to see my mailbox filled up with letters from my correspondents.

Well, I created the Boys' Scientifiction Club. It was not "the Boys' and Girls'" because at the time, girl readers of science fiction were about as rare as a unicorn's horn. So I created this correspondence club. I believe it was ten cents to become a member, and you contributed either three issues of a science fiction magazine that had a serial in them, or a hardcover novel. We didn't yet have paperbacks.

So for, I believe, two cents a copy, you—I was the librarian, and you would write and borrow either the three magazines or the book. And I was not only the president of the club, but I took care of all of the mailing. I had a vice-president, a Hungarian boy named Frank Sipos, who lived in my neighborhood and went to high school with me.

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