SAMUEL D. RUSSELL
A founding member of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society, Russell was involved in publishing THE FANTASITE and the MFS BULLETIN. Meaning he was an associate of Simak, Jacobi, Wandrei, Saari, Bronson, Dollens, and Dickson. His move to the LA area in April 1943 - where he joined Bronson and Dollens, who had relocated to Santa Monica a few months earlier - essentially ended MFS as an active fan group. Russell appeared at the first official meeting of LASFS at their new Bixel Street clubroom on 29th April (though they had taken possession of it several weeks earlier), as reported in SHANGRI L'AFFAIRES #10 (May '43). In AH! SWEET IDIOCY! Francis Towner Laney describes his co-editor on THE ACOLYTE in glowing terms:
The scholar of the LASFS of course was the redoubtable Samuel Davenport Russell, a completely wonderful person. Sam is a beautiful example of the 1-1-6 cerebrotonic. His continued popularity around the LASFS is largely due to his polite silence in the face of. the club's banalities - if the club fuzzleheads could read Russell's mind they would recoil as from a Yerke or a Laney. Polite, that is one of Sam's outstanding traits - a genial, easy-going politeness and courtesy. quiet and unassuming, he seldom speaks up in meetings, but no discussion takes place long in his presence before his eyes light up, and in his precise way he takes the ball and starts for a touchdown. I have yet to see the discussion in which Sam was not able to contribute as much or more than anyone else present. The breadth of his knowledge and interests is breathtaking, and not a little discouraging to those of us who find other interests interfering with their pursuit of erudition. It might be said that Sam is a bit one-sided, since his avocational rounds center about the libraries to a very large extent; on the other hand his adjustment to life is so obviously satisfactory to him, and so adult, that it is plain that he is of a scholarly bent from free choice rather than as an escape from life. After a session with the LASFS' little escapists and frustrates, an evening with Sam is like a summer trip to the Mountains after a week out in the desert. The man's head is loaded with facts which he presents with devastating logic; yet he is rarely if ever pedantic, and his sparklingly dry humor and twinkling grin round him off as a jewel which someday is going to get tired of the arid barnyard at 637½, South Bixel. Bad as the club sometimes is, the time I've spent there is almost repaid by the fact that through the club I have added this prince of good fellows to my circle of friends.
While in 1945, in the second part of his " Who's Who in Shaggy LA" covering its 'outer circle', Jimmy Kepner viewed him thus:
Sam Russell barely misses the preceding section. He don't get around much any more. This quiet, unassuming fantaisiste, assistant editor of ACOLYTE, is greeted with loud shouts on whatever rare occasions he enters the clubroom. Sam, who seems like a character out of a James Hilton novel, or from Lovecraft, is almost never seen without his bulging brief case, and an overcoat which has every pocket jammed with books and papers. Before coming to LA, he was one of the top members of the old Minneapolis Fantasy Society. He was the only person in LA fandom who was at all times on the best of terms with everyone in the recent feud here. While he remained throughout a member in good standing in the LASFS, he was a fellow traveller with the Knanves the moderator of the Outsiders, and one of the more active members of the group that sits in Morrie Dollens' studio. He has recently dabbled in the vices, so that at various times in the last few months he has been seen drinking, smoking, and even dancing. However, we have a slight suspicion he doesn't take these things seriously. He haunts bookstores and follows the symphonies, formerly accompanied by Freehafer, Yerke, and Bronson. His interests in writing, which he hopes to make his profession, are chiefly artistic. His magazine, FANTASY CRITIC, will be out - soon.
However, there was a side to Russell that Laney and Kepner were unaware of when they wrote the above, a side Russell concealed from everyone at LASFS - until his secret came out:
LASFS MEMBER WAS UNDERCOVER AGENT FOR FBI
While he may have no longer been a member of LASFS at the time of his testimony, Russell rejoined later. In 1963, Russell sent the following letter to Alva Rogers:
Robert Lichtman recalls meeting him in the early 1960s:
If you're read ASI, you'll have encountered Laney's numerous mentions of various fans who were either Communists or flirted with the idea. If Russell actually testified against them in the McCarthy era, that was before I discovered fandom and began going to LASFS meetings. I met Russell there, knew nothing about this history until later on, when I first read ASI, and found him mostly quiet and unassuming.
It appears he reported on their activities rather than directly testifying against them, which may be why some were later able to forgive him, according to his entry in fancyclopedia. As an interesting little sidebar, Joe Thomas reports that:
Somehow, somewhere along the way I acquired Sam and Florence Russell's copy of Harry Warner's All Our Yesterdays . Russell made numerous notations in the book. Most seem to be his confirmations of and/or comments on events recorded. The book itself does mention him doing "exciting intelligence work" in the war years.
Interesting view by Warner of Russell's activities, which apparently inspired no notation or reflection.
Russell was still a member of LASFS as late as 1971 and he and his wife Florence appear in photos of that year's anniversary dinner. In 1972, Russell and his wife moved to the UK, settling near Reading. He died there in 1975, just too soon for Dave Langford (who moved to Reading in 1976) to encounter him, though he may have had a near miss:
I could have met Sam at Tynecon 74 but suspect that I didn't. I used to be quite familiar with his book collection at the house (just outside Reading) of his widow Florence Russell. She outlived him by many years and regularly held Christmas Eve parties for friends and fans in her living room-cum-library. John Brunner turned up at least once. But, naturally enough, this aspect of Sam's past wasn't something that got mentioned.
UPDATE: Keith Freeman adds his own memories of Russell:
I met and liked Sam when he and Florence moved to Reading - I was introduced to them at one of the London monthly meeting (can't remember precisely when) and found they had moved into their house about 5 minutes away from where I was living. As their household stuff hadn't arrived (coming by sea) we lent them quite a few things so they could survive until their own stuff arrived.
Interesting that they were friends of the Brunners given that John's CND activities during the early years of that group almost certainly brought him to the attention of the UK intelligence services.
Dave Langford further recalls:
After his death Florence regularly invited local fans (among others) to Christmas Eve parties at her house between Reading and Pangbourne. Martin Hoare and I were at her funeral and I still have the order of service: