I'm not sure that the history of fandom in Minnesota needs to written. Certainly fandom has never developed characteristic identities circumscribed by state boundaries, and even regionalism has been largely lacking, despite the formation of the Southern Fandom Group and early attempts to organize the National Fantasy Fan Federation along regional lines. It is convenient, however, to consider fandom in Minnesota as an entity in itself. Such a segment is small enough to cover in relatively brief space, and large enough to contain a great number of interesting people whose achievements are worth chronicling.

While Minnesota has never been the home of teeming fan groups such as those in California, for example, Minnesota fans have played prominent, if not leading, roles in the Immortal Storm since the mid-1930s, and some of the top fanzines have been published here. Minnesota authors, many of them former fans, have contributed more than their share to the body of science fiction literature. Above all, the science fiction personalities in Minnesota have usually been unusually fascinating people - altogether lovely, but slightly wacky," as Jack Speer expressed it in the original Fancyclopedia - and it would be a shame if they were forgotten.

Most of them are gone now: gone from the state itself, and gone from fandom. This article is an attempt to tell a little about the fun they had long ago, when they were still fans, in the state of Minnesota.

1. Age of the Letterhacks

There was at least one science fiction fan in Minnesota even before the founding of the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. We can state this with some assurance on the basis of black-and-white evidence, for in the June 1935 Wonder Stories, Edward R. Manthey of Minneapolis stated that he had been a science fiction reader ever since the days of The Electrical Experimenter and Ralph 124C41+ (i.e., 1911 or thereabouts). Manthey is the first Minnesota fan your Gibbon knows about, though Manthey's only fannish activity consisted of writing a couple letters to Wonder. With his second letter, September 1935, Manthey was encouraged, in an editorial note, to become a regular letterhack of the likes of Don A. Wollheim, but apparently he never wrote again. Both letters written by him were extremely interesting.

Various other Minnesotans must have begun to read science fiction at least as early as the first issue of Amazing. John J. Kelly, Jr, 1493 West 6th Street, St. Paul, asserted in the September 1928 issue that he had been "a reader" of Amazing from the first issue, and Edward C. Magnuson, 1206 East 9th Street, Duluth, reported in the January 1931 issue: "I am sixteen years old, a junior in high school....I have read Amazing, Stories since it was first published and have a complete library of it." In the February 1931 Astounding Magnuson said that he had read Astounding from the first issue as well.

There must have been hundreds of other eager neofannish converts who started back in the 1920s or early '30s, and we can name some of them by exploring the early letter columns. Douglas L. Benson, 209 North Linden Street, Northfield, wrote (Amazing, July 1938):

"I've been following your Amazing Stories for the last two years."

A. O. Ueland, Halstad, stated (Amazing, July 1930):

"Since I first saw your magazine, and it was one of your very [early] numbers, I haven't missed an issue."

George Eastman, Hibbing, had been "a reader for several months," according to Amazing, January 1930, while William E. Peck, 1220 Powderhorn Terrace, Minneapolis, declared that he had read Amazing "off and on, ever since that first April issue" (Amazing, June 1931).

George Baskin, 2909 Tenth Avenue South, Minneapolis, appeared with a letter in the January 1933 Astounding, giving his age as 15. In the May 1933 Amazing, he said he had been reading that magazine "rather sporadically" for five years. Blake Nevins, 169 West Broadway, Winona, was another 15-year-old and "an ardent reader...for some time" (Amazing, January 1932). Donald Kahl, 260 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, had two letters in the April 1931 Astounding, and in the following issue, L. B. Knutson, 629 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, asked for correspondents, promising to answer all letters. Earle S. Troupe, 717 15th Avenue S.E., Minneapolis, reported in the July 1932 Astounding that he had read the magazine for three years, and in the November 1934 issue requested copies of the magazines containing the first two "Skylark" stories (Incidentally, Troupe is one of the few dawn-age fans still discoverable in the Twin Cities area, now living at 110, 24th Avenue S.E.). Frank J. Peters, 2622 Third Street North, Minneapolis, wrote a very fannish and amusing letter to the July 1934 Amazing, but unfortunately gave no information about himself, and seems not to have appeared again.

The relative lack of feminine readers of science fiction in the early days has often been commented on. Apparently the earliest femfan letter-writer from Minnesota, and one of the few who ever appeared, was Ellen Laura Nightingale, 228 South Main Street, Fairmont, who asserted in the October 1930 Astounding that she was "only a mere girl ...only ten years old." She had started reading the magazine, she said, with the issue containing part one of "Brigands of the Moon" (March 1930).

There were others, including Robert W. and Richard O. Conrad of Rush City, Clarence Gunther of St Paul, Truman Tyler of Minneapolis, and Robert Lord of St. Paul. Many of them were fans in the early sense of the word, carrying on their primitive fanac by reading at least two (and perhaps all) of the prozines, corresponding with fellow enthusiasts, and collecting back issues.

Though some of these fans wrote two or three letters apiece to the prozines, none of them was a true "letterhack"--the term had not yet been invented--who wrote regularly to the magazines.

Perhaps the only Minnesotan to qualify even halfway as a letter-hack was William McCalvy, 1244 Beech Street, St. Paul, a fourteen year old who had letters in Astounding for November 1930, April 1931, and March 1932.

Not till the mid-1930s did real letterhacking develop among Minnesota fans, and nearly all these letterhacks later became fans in a more modern sense, playing active roles in organized fandom. First of the great Minnesota letterhacks to appear was Oliver Saari, 1342 First Street 6.E., Rochester, whose letter in Amazing, November 1934, was probably his initial effort. He soon followed it up with letters in Amazing, for February, April, May, and August 1935, and February 1936. By the time he wrote the last-mentioned letter he was residing in Minneapolis at 1712 East 34th Street. He also wrote some letters to Wonder, and numerous letters to Astounding, including two published in a single issue, November 1936.

Born in Finland, Saari came to the United States in 1927 at the age of nine, and first began to read science fiction two years later, in the summer of 1929. One of Minnesota's first trufans, he also became one of her first science fiction writers when in 1937 he sold three stories to the Tremaine Astounding: "Stellar Exodus," "Two Sane Men," and "The Time Bender". Over the next few years he sold stories to Captain Future, Super Science Stories, Future Fiction, and other magazines. During the 1950s he made a comeback, and sold to Campbell and elsewhere, but has disappeared again in recent years. A graduate in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota, he lived at last report in Chicago.

The first fan letters of Douglas Blakely, another famous Minnesota trufan, began to appear late in 1935. The October and December issues of Astounding published letters in which he revealed that he was 14 years old and eager for correspondents. In a later letter (March 1936) he reported that he had been reading science fiction about two and a half years. His address at first was 4615 Edina Boulevard, Minneapolis, later 2800 Irving Avenue South. During those years he was still a junior high and high school student, and in the December 1936 Amazing's Dr Sloane roguishly scolded him for being a "naughty schoolboy" because he confessed that he read sf magazines at school behind an open notebook. Most of Blakely's later fan activity was on a purely local scale, but he became famous among Minneapolis fans as an impromptu entertainer and as an actor in the numerous skits recorded by the fan group. He also played alto sax in various orchestras around the Twin Cities. His only professional writing was with "The Time Bender," which was largely Blakely's work but was given a rewrite and final script by Saari and published under the latter's byline.

The same Amazing (December 1936) in which Blakely was chided by Dr Sloane also contained a letter from John Chapman, another of the famous Minnesota fans who were beginning to emerge. He had opened his letterhack career in the June 1935 Astounding (an issue which also contained a Saari letter), but at that time was living in Minot, North Dakota. By the time of his next letters (Astounding, February and April 1936) he had moved to Minneapolis and was living at 500 15th Avenue S.E. In 1937 he was at 1521 Como Avenue S.E., which became a famous address to Minneapolis fans over the next half-decade.

Born in North Dakota, Chapman became a fan of Nick Carter at an early age, and attempted to write sequels to the stories in magazines, in which he put his hero through more and more dangerous scrapes than his creator ever imagined. When Chapman discovered science fiction, he started writing voluminously in that field, and finally sold quite a number of stories. Nine stories from his mill appeared in the early 1940s, and he sold others during the boom of the '50s. Like Blakely, Chapman was a musician of sorts, and played a "battered clarinet." He also collected a large record library that was famous among Minneapolis fans.

In April 1937 Arden E. Benson, 4011 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis, had a letter in Astounding and at the same time joined the Science Fiction League; another famous Minnesota fan had made his bow. Benson, whose nickname was Buns, spelled that way but pronounced Bunce, had begun to read science fiction in 1934, and like most fans of the day carefully built up a comprehensive collection of the magazines published before he became acquainted with the field. He was once called "the tallest man in science fiction" and "perhaps the most amiable during his amiable moments." Like other local fans he became an engineering student at the University and owned a record collection - his consisted largely of old-time records--in the days before this was a common possession.

An interesting letter appeared in Astounding, June 1938. Signed jointly by Oliver Saari and Arden Benson, it begins, "Being the only science fiction fans in the city of Minneapolis (far as we know)..." and ends, "we should like to get in touch with other science fiction fans living in the Twin Cities. We hate to think that we may be the only two of that select society in these parts. So let's hear from you, fans!" This was a year after a disastrous attempt to form a SFL chapter in Minneapolis--an episode described later in this history - but it is not clear where the other local fans had disappeared to. Apparently some of them were still on the scene, for in the very next Astounding, letters from both John Chapman and David L. Dobbs of Minneapolis appeared. August 1938 was the month I moved to Minneapolis from Fargo, North Dakota.

Dobbs, who lived at 2309 Cole Avenue 6.E., letterhacked in Astounding during 1939 and 1940, and had had a letter published as early as October 1936. He had begun reading science fiction in May 1934, according to one of his letters, but he seems not to have taken a very active part in organized fandom in the Twin Cities.

Meanwhile another letterhack appeared briefly from Duluth: Tony Strother, 5020 Dodge Street, who had letters in three successive Astoundings: October, November, December 1936. He wanted So hear from fellow fans "preferably in Duluth or the Twin Cities," but apparently he never visited any Twin Cities fans nor organized am sf club in Duluth. G. E. --who was probably George Eastman, referred to above -- of Hibbing appeared in the December 1939 Astounding, mentioning that he was 31 years old and had been "a reader off and on for several years."

Following G.E.'s letter to the December 1939 Astounding were two other letters of interest to this history. The first was written by Charles W. Jarvis, 2097 Inglehart Avenue, St. Paul, who had become one of the most prolific and talked about letterhacks in "Brass Tacks" since his first letter, April 1939. Jarvis dabbled briefly in fandom - he mentioned receiving news about "Grey Lensman" from the fan magazines in a letter published October 1939--and he attended a number of meetings of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society before entering the service during the war. Now a doctor in St Paul and one of the few old-time fans residing in this area, Jarvis told me in March 1961 that he gave up reading sf years ago - largely because of Campbell's espousal of Dianetics, apparently - though he bought Galaxy during its early days. Professional reading consumed most of his time at present, he said, but he mentioned some of the old sf "classics" such as "Triplanetary" and various stories by Clifford D. Simak with great nostalgia.

The other letter of interest in the December 1939 Astounding was written by Bill N. Campbell, 1015 West 32d Street, Minneapolis, who mentioned reading science fiction "for several years as a silent fan." Like Jarvis, Campbell attended some fan meetings, but never stayed around to play a very active role in fan affairs.

Despite the increasing activity on the part of Minneapolis fans as the 1930s drew to a close, it remained for a fan on the eastern side of the Twin Cities, in the suburb of North St Paul, to publish the first fanzine in Minnesota and thus become well known to leading fans around the country. He was Morris Scott Dollens, who had begun letterhacking with the February 1936 Astounding , revealing in his letter that he liked to colour the interior illustrations of science fiction prozines using a 10 cent box of water colours. His artistic talents were given a more public display when he published, that same year, a halfsize hektographed fanzine titled SCIENCE FICTION COLLECTOR, the first issue dated May 1936. (Sam Moskowitz's Immortal Storm, pp 71-2 of the hardcover edition, describes the history of this fanzine. See also the checklist of Minnesota fanzines to be published as the final part of the present article.) After publishing 13 monthly issues of the Collector, Dollens turned the magazine over to John V. Baltadonis of Philadelphia and disappeared from the fan scene till early in 1941, as will be described in a later chapter.

- first published in Ruth Berman's NEOLITHIC #19 (October 1961)