Sam Moskowitz’s “The Immortal Storm” – a review

Hello, everyone; I’m not dead, just caught in the throes of a lazy summertime.

I recently finished the book The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz. This book is a chronicle of the history of science fiction fandom in the 1930s. It happens to be the most thorough resource I’ve found thus far on the beginnings of fandom, far easier to track down than ancient fan magazines. Furthermore, while it is biased, it’s biased in a different direction than most resources of its type: most of the memoirs of early fandom (Pohl and Asimov, for instance) are firmly in the Futurian camp. Moskowitz, of course, was one of the leaders of New Fandom, the counter-resistance group to the Futurians, thus this book isn’t precisely kind to the latter. That said, my cross-referencing with other works, including primary source documents and a confession by one of the Futurians, suggests that while they weren’t the demons Moskowitz sometimes makes them out to be, they certainly were rather arrogant and entitled towards fandom as a whole.

Sadly, the book is about as dull as a sack of hammers. There’s very little about what the clubs were like in their day to day meetings, almost no physical description or even notes about the personalities of those involved. Nearly the entire first half of the work is little more than a list of fan magazines.

That said, it still remains the most comprehensive account of early fandom I’ve found thus far, and there are some real gems in it. Moskowitz’ account of the first World Science Fiction Convention is fantastic, as are his accounts of the various indignities he suffered at the hands of Donald Wollhiem – not because they’re shining unbiased accounts, but because they’re a glorious account of the infighting and backbiting that went on in fandom in those days. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: fandom has never changed, people have always spelled things badly, fought over irrelevant things, and gone on giant ego trips.

I think the most interesting thing I’ve discovered thus far was that Moskowitz was only 19 years old when he ran the first Worldcon. Given that, I hardly find the fact that he banned the Futurians from entering, I mean, I would have too if I was nineteen years old and had been repeatedly trolled!

I’ll be trying to take more detailed notes before I have to send this book back through Interlibrary Loan. I wish I owned a copy, but the only available ones are $50 (!) and I just don’t have that kind of cash, especially for a book I’m likely to cover with notes and highlighter. If only there was a way to make a digital annotated copy… ah well.

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  1. #1 by Allandaros on June 22, 2011 - 7:26 pm

    “as are his accounts of the various indignities he suffered at the hands of Donald Wollhiem”

    “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”

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