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Life magazine. May 21, 1951.

beamjockey richly deserves an award for what may well be the Fanhistorical Find of the Decade:

Through the Interstellar Looking Glass, a long, very fannish article by Winthrop Sargeant. It appeared in the May 21, 1951 issue of Life magazine.

I've only skimmed over it myself, going OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG all the way. Screen images captured; Joe Siclari called. He hadn't heard of it before either. Sargeant's article starts on page 127 and goes on, a column at a time, through pages 130, 132-134, 137-138, and finally finishing on page 140.

There's a 2-page image spread sidebar titled "The Fad is Made for Hollywood" with the subtitle "Movies seize on it to pack outer space with some weird tourists."

It may well be the very best coverage of science fiction and fandom that I've ever seen in the media. A few of the terms, such as "fanference" are unfamiliar, but a quick check of Jack Speer's Fancyclopedia shows they'd been in use for most of a decade if not longer. The information I already knew appears rock solid and well-explained. Yes, I expect we'll find the sort of minor glitches present in any published report as other fans and fanhistorians join me in reading it in depth, but at least some of those glitches will be in our own knowledge understanding rather than in Sargeant's article itself.

I'm especially fond of these two timeless quotes:

"Science fiction is now avidly devoured over most of the civilized world."


"The science-fiction reader--whether he is an "insurgent," a fan or a simple space opera enthusiast--is apt to maintain that science fiction is not fantasy at all. He will point out that we are living in a very strange world where the most bizarre hypotheses are being proved right practically every day."

Go forth. Read. Enjoy.

I'm certainly going to!


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 26th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
It was a great read. Thanks for sharing!
Sep. 26th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
I'm guessing this is the article to which Walt Willis referred in an early instalment of "The Harp that Once or Twice" (Quandry 13, or Warhoon 28 pp84-85):

"I was rather pleased to get the Life article. Thousands of people had written to tell me about it, but every one of them said that since thousands of people would be sending me the article themselves weren't going to bother. Everyone that is, except Eva Firestone and Manly Banister, bless them. I see that there is right enough a plug for Slant, but if Life thinks I'm going to return the plug they've got another think coming. Their review of fandom is far too slipshod. It's friendly, I agree, but they've got half their facts and most of their terms wrong, as journalists always seem to do. When you see the botch newspapers and magazines make of reporting something you know about, you wonder how much reliance can be placed on their reports of things you can't check. However, James [White] is pleased enough with Life. They have reproduced part of one of his linocuts, so he can now say that his work has appeared in Life."

Edited at 2009-09-26 01:46 am (UTC)
Sep. 26th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
Thank you!

You have a much better memory than I do for material you've read. Yes, it's been 21 years since I read Warhoon 28 cover to cover, and now that I see the quote it rings the familiarity bell, but I don't remember the thought of tracking down the Life article ever entering my head. Huh.
Sep. 26th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Neither do I, as a matter of fact. I think I conflated it in my mind with the infamous "Zap! Zap! Atomic Ray Is Passe With Monster Fans" article, or whatever the headline was, from another occasion around the same time.
Sep. 26th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
I too was aware of this article's existence but had never gotten around to tracking it down. (Strange, since I did once track down the article - in Esquire I think it was - from which LeeH picked up the motto, "Who sawed Courtney's boat?" which convulsed fandom for decades.)

What kept it in my mind, however, was not Willis but a reference in Asimov's In Memory Yet Green, p. 624:

"It was about now, too, that Life came out with an article on science fiction and ran the banquet photograph of the July 1950 convention at which Brad and Fred had lured me into drinking. I got a copy at work and there I was, far in the background and not very recognizable, but clearly drunk.

"Gertrude sat next to me, much more nearly in focus, smiling and looking very pretty indeed, though unfortunately only half her face showed. I called her on the phone and said, 'Gertrude, your picture is in Life magazine.'

"I expected disbelief but she just said, with mild puzzlement, 'I didn't give them a picture.' She didn't even ask why she was in."

Can you find Asimov in the photo on p. 132-33? It's tough because the resolution of the scan is not high. I think he's on the left on the front side of a back table, directly behind (from the camera's view) a bald man sitting next to a woman in a hat. In which case Gertrude is probably the dark-clad stout woman directly behind him: not seated next to him, and with all her face showing, contrary to his memory, but he probably didn't re-check the magazine when he wrote.

I can't recognize anybody else in that photo on sight for sure, which is frustrating since I probably know almost all of their names. I'm guessing the man in a striped tie behind the front table on the left might be Ted Sturgeon.
Sep. 26th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
If I'm following your description correctly, that can't be Asimov, because he has more hair than that by a lot in the 1954 picture in the Silverberg book (see comment below). And the photo in the Silverberg book is recognizably Asimov, I spotted him before finding him in the list of people in the photo.

However, the bald man next to the woman in a hat looks to me like he could be Heinlein.
Sep. 26th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen the Silverberg book, but I have seen a lot of photos of Asimov in those days in other places, and this looks like him to me. And I don't know what you mean by "he has more hair than that by a lot" in the 1954 photo, because the man I'm looking at has full hair, everything except the sideburns which of course Asimov didn't grow until decades later.

Possibly we're looking at different people. I am NOT referring to the balding man with rabbity features and an open collar (Fred Pohl? maybe, but it doesn't look that much like him) who is sitting to the bald man's left (i.e. to the right and a little behind him), but to the man whose head is immediately above that of the bald man. He looks a little flushed and lolling, which must be what Asimov meant when he says he looks drunk.

As for the bald man, it does look rather like Heinlein, but a much older Heinlein than 1950. Maybe he time-traveled back to the event?
Sep. 26th, 2009 04:31 am (UTC)
(scratching my head) I thought this was neat, but not a MAJOR find-- presumably it's been lurking in the library stacks for years, and was indexed in the Reader's Guide.

But your squee is my egoboo, so thanks!

(We didn't have "squee" in 1951. Wonder where it came from? We did have egoboo. Fandom ran on it. Still does, I guess.)
Sep. 26th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)
Here's another fine passage:
Present-day science fiction is as innocent of sex as a betatron; boy sometimes meets girl, but when he does it is only to say hello before catching the next time machine to the Paleozoic era.
The comparison to a betatron just seems so quaint, especially in an era when even our superconducting synchrotron is getting rather long in the tooth.

That Hollywood sidebar: one of the photos is from When Worlds Collide. Here are a lot more, mostly wonderful behind-the-scenes shots: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&sa=1&q=source%3Alife+worlds+collide

Sep. 26th, 2009 06:25 am (UTC)
Yes, it's been there all along, but I think the knowledge of its existence had become one of the many things lost to the collective fannish memory. As the_maenad's comment clearly demonstrates, the fact that the article existed was clearly recorded in at least one famous fanzine that's widely-owned and still recommended, sold, and read. But I don't remember ever hearing of anyone looking for the article or that issue of Life before. When SMOFs talk about media coverage present and past, I've never noticed it mentioned.

That could just be a deficit of my own experience and memory, but it was news to a couple of other likely suspects, too.

Then there's the simple fact that this was LIFE. If there were ever a magazine I'd love to own every issue of, LIFE would be it.

So, yes, I'm still squeeing, and the egoboo is all yours, yours, yours.

Here's the Urban Dictionary definition of squee. Yes, it's much more recent. Squee is much more like goshwowoboyoboy. Egoboo is our manna. May it always feed our souls.
Sep. 26th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
About "squee"
I remember Miriam Carr-Knight-Lloyd using "squee" back in the early '60s, although she/we spelled it "skwee" -- and one of my two publications for the National APA was titled THE TRANSCENDENTAL SKWEE. Don't recall what if anything that crowd made of the title.

--Robert Lichtman
Sep. 27th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
I'm putting together a slideshow for Conclave about various weird things I have found digging through the Google Life archive.

Searching for Weirdness in the Vaults of Life Magazine: Puppets, Jetpacks, and Ballet on the Moon

Last year Google placed online TWO MILLION images shot by Life magazine photographers. There's something for everyone in this mountain of negatives, from flying cars to behind-the-scenes photos of classic science fiction movies. Bill Higgins conducts a tour of Twentieth Century oddities lurking in the archive.
Sep. 26th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
I'd never heard of it before, that I remember, and I'm glad that I now have. Thanks!
Sep. 26th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! I too had those OMG moments -- Sargeant was either a fan himself or an intrepid researcher. To even mention, much less cover, things like the Shaver hoax and the controversy over Scientology is rare indeed outside of fanhistorical circles.

I particularly liked reading his summaries of three stories from a then-current prozine; two were forgettable, but the third was obviously the classic "The Marching Morons".
Sep. 26th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
The photo is credited only to "Liberty Flashlight Company", which means a professional company came in to do the banquet photo I believe.

On page 23 of Robert Silverberg's Other Spaces, Other Times (his professional memoir) there is a photo from the Metrocon (Metropolitan Science Fiction Conference), 23-25 October 1954, with a number of people identified. It seems likely that this overlaps significantly with the people in the Life photo. Asimov is identified in it (and he's right up front, lots of pixels). I'm not very good at this, and haven't pulled out anything yet.

Also, the photographer who got the B-36 crash photos published elsewhere in the issue is not only named "Hap" Hazard, but is described as being a "Dianetics auditor".
Sep. 28th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
Liberty Flashlight is represented with other photos of banquets here and there on the Web.

One is stamped "Liberty Flashlight Co. 165 W. 48 St. Amer. Fed. Of Photo Emp. - Local 21314."

I don't suppose their collection could be tracked down at this late date, nor would SF fans be identified in the photo.

Better to give a copy to Fred Pohl, Dave Kyle, et al. (along with a magnifying glass), if they care to try identifying people.

Winthrop Sargeant, the author of the piece, was an eminent music critic who regularly wrote for the New Yorker and Life.
Sep. 26th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
"Screen images captured...." How did you do that? Did you end up with printable pages from LIFE or the whole Google Books page and format? I remember a previous "discovery" of this article in fandom some years ago, and a shadowy memory tells me I might have gotten a copy of that LIFE at the time (and it might be buried in one of my "misc. media" boxes unopened since my 2005 move).

--Robert Lichtman
Sep. 28th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
There are ways to capture the image on your computer's screen. In Windows, the key combination Alt-"Print Screen" makes a copy of the current window in your clipboard; it may then be pasted into your favorite image-manipulation program, or even Word or Wordpad.

On a Mac, command-shift-3 captures the entire screen display and puts it in a file on your desktop. (There are other tricks.)

Also, your Web browser typically has a copy of any image it's showing you, so it's possible to fish it out, save it, and print it. Under Firefox, I go to Tools, then Page Info, then Media, then rummage through the list of picture files associated with the page. Other browsers have other ways of doing this.
Sep. 27th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
Something else fun to know:

There are letters of response in the June 11, 1951 issue from Joseph P. Martino (offering attaboys), John W. Campbell, Jr. (about a Dianetics cure), and Richard S. Shaver (denying that the Shaver Mystery is a hoax).

Writes Shaver:
Before Egypt the origin and the history of the human race is still pretty exclusively darkness. I give you the key to that darkness. I cannot help it if you will not make the effort to understand.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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