Speaking of Forry, he now returns with Part 8 of his autobiographical series of
remembrances. In Mimosa 22, Forry talked about meeting some of his favorite
authors. In this installment, he recalls the roots of the Los Angeles Science
Fiction Society (LASFS), a club among the oldest continuously in existence, and some
of the people that made it special.
I moved, without my parents, from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1934, and I attended the very first meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, which was held in October of that year. Of course, it wasn't called that at first; LASFS originated as one of the branches of the old Science Fiction League.
That very first meeting of all was attended by nine people. There was a young fan named Roy Test; he was interested in Esperanto, so we called him 'Esperan-Test'. His mother, Wanda Test, was our first secretary. In those days of the 1930s, Thrilling Wonder Stories was on our minds, so her minutes became known as 'Thrilling Wanda Stories'.
It's unfortunate that many of the fans who attended LASFS meetings during its first decade are not all that well remembered. There was Australian-born Russ Hodgkins, for instance, who became a director of the club in the late 1930s. There was T. Bruce Yerke. He created something called 'Kwerkean', a funny language all his own, and later wrote an early history of Los Angeles fandom called "Memoirs of a Superfluous Fan." There was Morojo, Myrtle R. Douglas, about eight years older than I. She first came to my attention when we were together in a class learning Esperanto. For eight years, though (and we didn't have the term then), she was what we'd call my 'significant other'. We went to the first world convention in 1939 together. I'd dreamed up a futuristic costume to wear there, and she was responsible for all the sewing and whatnot on it. Together we put out about fifty issues of Voice of the Imagi-Nation, which in 1996 was awarded a retrospective Hugo Award.
And there was dear Paul Freehafer. He was not much to look at, but boy, he had a big heart. Unfortunately, I think his heart did him in. None of us had the slightest idea he had any cardiac problems when he went off back to Idaho in 1944, for a summer vacation. He never came back. He was a tireless worker for the club, always involved with projects that would make LASFS a more interesting and better organization. Whenever there was a feud in the club, he was a peacemaker, an acceptable mediator to both sides. After he died he was mightily missed. He was just a grand fan.
And speaking of 'Big Heart', there was Walter J. Daugherty. Walt's first appearance at LASFS was at about the sixth meeting. For some reason, we had gotten off on the wrong foot with each other and were a bit antagonistic toward each other for a year or two. But after that, Walt has been one of my dearest, closest friends, to this very day. We mutually created the 'Big Heart' Award shortly after E. Everett Evans died in 1958. Evans was an elderly fan; he didn't have much money but was extremely generous. At worldcons, if he saw a young fan who he realized wasn't going to be able to attend the banquet, a ticket would appear under the kid's door. Walt and I decided we didn't want E. Everett Evans to be forgotten, so we created the award that's presented at the worldcon each year. Frankly, in the beginning, I just kind of played God; I knew that Evans would have appreciated Doc Smith being a winner, and also Bob Bloch, and Dr. Keller. But when we had eight or ten people who had gotten the award, I would send out postcards to them with two or three potential names, or ask them to suggest someone. So after a while, the selection began to actually be by choice rather than just my personal opinion.
To this day, Walt Daugherty physically gets the awards created; I only tell him what wording to put on them. He's very good at 'individualizing' the awards; in the case of John L. Coker III, who received the Big Heart in 1996, he being a photographer, there was something symbolic of photography on the award. I think Walt has kind of a world record for being a hobbyist; he has something like 52 major hobbies. He retired, I think in 1946 as the dance champion of America, in waltz I believe, and he's very knowledgeable about Egypt. He did fanzines in his day, and in 1941, at the world convention, he was the first person to record speeches, in particular Heinlein's "Discovery of the Future" talk, as it was called.
The first meetings of the club were held in what was called the Pacific Electric Building in downtown Los Angeles. I think that once a month, a man who worked there was able to get the seventh or eighth floor free for us. Then we moved to Clifton's Cafeteria, a feature of which was their free limeade and lime juice. Some of the members who didn't have more than a nickel or dime to spend guzzled a lot of that free juice.
In those earliest days of the club, we science fiction fans had hardly ever laid eyes on a real live author. So when Arthur J. Burks came to the club one evening, it was an Event, and he didn't let us down. He was kind of a fiction factory; he said, "just throw out a word." When someone said "lamp shade" he was off and running, and made up a whole saleable story right then and there. There were other notables who visited the club after that. Dr. Keller came to town with a young Julius Schwartz and his friend Mort Weisinger. Another author, Bob Olson, actually lived in town; Bob Olson was the greatest friend ants ever had, he practically wrote 'sci-ants fiction'. It's true! The short-lived magazine Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories, in its second issue, advertised, "Don't miss the great science fiction novel in our next issue!" But it turned out there never was a next issue! So for some years, fans wondered what in the world that 'great science fiction novel' was. Well, Bob Olson later told me he had sold a novel to them titled Ant with a Human Soul. He said it had been accepted via Western Union; the telephone operator had read him a telegram that said "Offer two-hundred dollars for Ant with a Human Soul," then said "Excuse my curiosity, sir, I've heard of trained fleas in flea circuses, but is that possible? An ant with a human soul?"
At any rate, I've been to about 1,500 of the over 3,000 meetings of LASFS. I was at the 3,000th, and as part of the program that night I reminisced about some of those early meetings. At various times I was a director, treasurer, secretary, librarian, club organ publisher, pariah, and even janitor. It's been a fascinating six decades!
All illustrations by Teddy Harvia