FUTURIAN: WHAT'S IN A NAME?


J. Michael Rosenblum
(photo Rosenblum album)

Donald A. Wollheim
(photo Ted Carnell album)

In 1944, concerned by the proliferation of fan groups with 'Futurian' in their name, Donald Wollheim wrote the following screed in FUTURIA #2 (June 1944), the house journal of the Futurian Society of New York, edited by Elsie Balter Wollheim:

WHEN IS A FUTURIAN NOT A FUTURIAN? - Donald A. Wollheim

In the past years there have been other organizations using the term "Futurian", nevertheless, when people speak of "Futurians", the general understanding in fandom is the New York Futurians, not anyone else. And by "Futurian" is meant the particular attributes and social attitudes expressed by the New York Futurians in the past and present. Many persons, therefore, are likely to confuse these attitudes with other, non-Metropolitan groups termed "Futurian". Let it be said to begin with that, unfortunately as we view it, these other groups are, in the main, Futurian in designation only.

The Futurian Society of New York makes no claim to the title, nor to its invention. The first time it was used in fandom was by the Leeds, England, editors of a fan magazine called The Futurian. In policy it was no more "Futurian" than any other British fan magazine. When the group of fans in New York, who had been cast adrift by the break-up of the New York Branch of the I.S.A., were searching for a title for their new organization, it occurred to them that the word "Futurian" was a natural. Further, it seemed to combine suggestion of the particular social and world views then in vogue with those fans. Hence they took the title of Mr. Rosenblum's Yorkshire magazine for their club, calling it the Futurian Science-Literary Society (now FSNY).

The activities of this society eventually gave the term "Futurian" its particular meanings to fandom - namely "pertaining to science-fiction fans with a socially-progressive world viewpoint". But those other groups which took the name "Futurian" in their title did not possess those attributes or that particular approach to science-fiction that the FSNY Futurians took; to those groups, "Futurian" Was just a nice name.

The Futurian Society of New York has never had any objection to the use of that word by other science-fiction groups. But, at the present time, it seems opportune to make clear that it has no responsibility whatever, or organizational bonds, with any "Futurians" not members of the FSNY. It regrets particularly that there are times when some of these other "Futurians" deliberately attempt to pretend a connection and fraudulently attempt to ape even the New York Futurian views. Needless to say, the Futurian Society of New York welcomes the acceptance - the honest acceptance - of its viewpoint by others. We welcome the idea that such persons should want to call themselves Futurians. But we expressly condemn the misuse of the term on the part of persons who are merely shamming an attitude in order to achieve support on other positions sometimes directly contrary to the FSNY's ideals.

In this regard the use of the Futurian Letters, the name Futuria, and the title Futurian Society of Indiana, and so forth, by a leader of the group called Cosmic Circle, is deemed by us to be fraudulent and is condemned. Whatever claim to Futurian ideals these parties have has long been negated by their revolting sex attitudes and their thoroughly irresponsible campaigns on various fan personages, whether pro or con.

The use of the term Futurian Society of Los Angeles by these parties in an attempt further to split Los Angeles fandom is especially condemned. Needless to say the emergence of a genuine, progressive, united group in that city using that title would be greeted with pleasure. But only insofar as it did not simply continue the present deplorable feud in that city, one in which the FSNY cannot take sides.

Other organizations have used the term honorably. We greet them, but we recognize them only as independent fan organisations having no special attributes which could merit them connection with our own society. Such was the Futurian Society of Sydney, Futurian Association of Australia, Golden Gate Futurians, Philadelphia Futurians, etc. Judgment is reserved on the Futurian Society or Alabama (Taledega) pending information from less suspect sources.

The Futurian Society of New York has no connection with any other fan organisation. If the day comes when the Futurian Society of New York decides to sponsor a national organization, or other Futurian societies, you will hear about it from us. That day has not yet come. Meanwhile, so far as we are concerned, fans are free to use the term "Futurian" in any way that they like, but they must not deceive themselves or others into the belief that they are in any way allied to the New York Futurians, or are enlisting their support. They won't get it that way.

This did not sit well with Mike Rosenblum, who responded thus in his FAPAzine BROWSINGS #9 (December 1944):

I must thank the Futurian Society of New York for their wonderful magnanimity in allowing other people to use the word they so neatly appropriated unto themselves. And seeing as we were never asked what we meant by the term 'Futurian' it might be considered presumptuous for the New Yorkers to define it as they wish. However, I am grateful for the acknowledgement of the purloining of the term, an acknowledgement some seven years overdue. It is interesting to note that I possess a letter, written when the term was adopted, by DAW stating that 'Futurian came just when it was needed, and so was appropriated'; and one from Pohl which says that the New York people thought of the term before we did and had adopted it before they knew we were using it. Amusing, eh no?



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