Science fiction fandom is 80 today

80 years ago today, the first ever science fiction fan group, the Scienceers, met for the first time at organization president Warren Fitzgerald's apartment in Harlem (Fitzgerald, the first-ever big name fan, was black). Happy 80th, fandom!
Our thanks to Rob Hansen, author of the formidable history of British fandom Then, for reminding us of this anniversary. Says Rob, "I've always been fascinated that the first president of that first US fan group--indeed, the world's first fan group--was a black guy, Warren Fitzgerald, and that they held their early meetings at his home in Harlem. I'm amazed this doesn't seem to be widely known." Rob also points out that Fitzgerald was one of the founders of the American Rocket Society.

All that aside, it would be nice to establish December 11 as the official anniversary date of the formation of SF fandom. And certainly it's a more pleasant thing to associate with December 11 than the assassination of Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II in 969, the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936, or the arrest of Bernard Madoff in 2008. Go, fandom, may you always be creative, unconventional, and neurodiverse.

Happy 80th anniversary, SF fandom


  1. That’s an impressive group, but I always figured Matthew, Mark, Luke and John took honors as the first fan-fic writers.

  2. I thought that fandom started when this kid called Forry Ackerman decided to dress up in a costume from the movie “Metropolis” and get some autographs from the SF authors at a writer’s convention called “WorldCon”. This would mark the invention of CosPlay, and of readers and media fans going to “Cons”. This is why Ackerman was called “Fan #1″: a reference to his chronological precedence if not his eminence.

    1. WorldCon was in 1939. How could a convention have been the first fan event? There would have to have been preliminary meetings for the Con, at least. I always figured Forry was Fan #1 due to eminence more than anything else. He did write for the first fanzine, if I’m not mistaken.

      1. I’m afraid you’re mistaken. The first fanzine is generally agreed to be THE TIME TRAVELER eedited by Alan Glasser and Forry had nothing to do with it. Forry became active in fandom a bit later. He just made it *seem* as though he’d been there from the start.

        Curt Phillips

    2. Actually Forry won a poll of about 40 fans conducted in Bob Tucker’s fanzine in the 40’s and was named “#1 Fan Face”. That’s where that “#1 fan business came from. Forry certainly was a big man in early Fandom, but he didn’t get started quite as early as taht. Cory’s story about the Scienceers meeting 80 years ago is correct.

      Curt Phillips

  3. Rob Hansen says:
    “I’ve always been fascinated that the first president of that first US fan group–indeed, the world’s first fan group–was a black guy, Warren Fitzgerald, and that they held their early meetings at his home in Harlem.”

    Sam Moskowitz says in Seekers of Tomorrow (1966) that Fitzgerald’s home was in the Bronx. But Moskowitz’s account in The Immortal Storm (1951 in its book form) says Harlem (but also says Fitzgerald’s name was “James”). Harlem is part of the borough of Manhattan in New York City; the Bronx is a separate borough.

    I’m sure Rob is more familiar than I with the tangle of errors and facts for which Moskowitz, fandom’s first historian, is legendary.

    A first-person account online, a fanzine article by Allen Glasser, says Harlem, and recalls multiple meetings at Fitzgerald’s home. So I’ll bet on Harlem. (Glasser also lists seven founders of the Scienceers where Moskowitz claims four.)

    Speaking of tangles, at its founding in 1930 the space group Fitzgerald helped found was the American Interplanetary Society. (Lt. Robert A. Heinlein joined in 1931.) It changed to the American Rocket Society in 1934 and its descendant today is the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

  4. …Still, I’m sorry that Uncle 4E isn’t around for this, or the next thousand anniversaries. All of the various life extension techniques that SF writers predict will happen just didn’t come true fast enough.

    Ah well, there’s always hope that Frank Herbert’s gholas will come to pass, because I could just see Forry being one of the first, just to say “I told you so”…

  5. Forrest J Ackerman was remarkably successful at putting over a lot of claims, not least of which is the idea that he was present at the creation of SF fandom.

    It’s a shame, since in fact Ackerman’s fannish career was extremely distinguished. But basically, you can’t take any of his latter-day claims at face value.

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