What Can We Learn From the 1946 Pacificon Program Book?

The next in our series of posts in support of the 1946 Project at Chicon 8.

The Front Cover
Front cover of the Pacificon Program Booklet, July 1946

The Los Angeles fan community in 1946 boasted an impressive range of talent, and lead the way in innovative publishing. The landscape format of the 8.5×5.5-inch program was novel. Fan-Artist Lou Goldstone designed the book overall and rendered the striking lithographed cover.

Goldstone was a regular contributor of art to fanzines. His own 1941 title, Fantasia, featured his illustrations, fiction and poetry. His jacket design for the 1948 Fantasy Publishing Company’s volume Death’s Deputy by L. Ron Hubbard bears macabre resemblance to the Pacificon program cover.

The Membership List

One hundred and fifty-eight (158) fans are noted as contributing the $1 membership fee to the convention. (This isn’t an attendee list. Later accounts indicate actual attendance at about 120.)

The roster primarily includes fans from across the United States, as well as a smattering of family members and other adjunct supporters. We count 23 women. Notable professionals include Leigh Brackett, David H. Keller MD, Robert Bloch, Robert Heinlein, J. Harvey Haggard and Jack Williamson. Perhaps the most surprising: Fritz Lang, director of the iconic fan-favorite Metropolis (1927). Forrest J Ackerman described Lang’s 1944 visit to his home:

Shangri-L’Affaires, n21, December 1944
The Welcome Page

The membership fees covered “over 50% of the expenses” — implying the the event cost something around $300 to put on.

The Philadelphia Science-Fiction Society Announced Their Bid

(The PSFS Conference held in October 1946 was a highlight of the year for East Coast fans. We now know that Philadelphia was awarded and hosted the fifth World Science Fiction Convention in 1947, the first Philcon. There was no opposition to their bid.)

The Ackerman Family Ads

The Ackerman family supported their own. Full-page ads in the program cost $4, so this was another way to fund the convention. Forry’s quirky sense of humor seems genetic. Forrest’s brother Alden was killed in action in January 1945. We have no idea why his father would refer to Alden as “one of the cleanest boys I have ever known.”

The International Shout-Out

Ackerman maintained ties with fans overseas through regular correspondence. His tribute to foreign fans includes a greeting in his beloved Esperanto.

The First Two Days

The Fourth of July in 1946 fell on Thursday. The four-day program concluded on Sunday, July 7.

A single program track, like the previous three Worldcons. Distribution of badges. Welcome from Russ Hodgkins. The Guests of Honor address. The inevitable auction, inevitably run by Erle Korshak. A presentation of a recording of Robert Bloch’s radio show, “Stay Tuned For Terror.”

(What’s not revealed by the Program: the “Special Session” presented by Ackerman and Laney was a pitch for the Fantasy Foundation (working code name: “Operation Futurian”). This was intended as something of a “Master Library of Fantasy Fiction,” mostly comprised of Ackerman’s collection. The idea never took root. Sadly, following this presentation, Ackerman nearly collapsed from exhaustion and the flu, and missed the rest of the convention.)

On Day Two, an offsite visit to the “Ackerman Museum” (prior to its designation as the “Ackermansion”)… (was cancelled due to Ackerman’s illness.)

A “Weird Session,” in honor of the fans of fantasy and horror — a growing cadre in fandom, with Francis T. Laney’s impressive fanzine The Acolyte as a rallying point. A one-man show by stage personality “Brother Theodore.”

An ad for “Brother Theodore” in his one-man show, from the Pacificon program book.
The Last Two Days

Fun at Westlake Park (now MacArthur Park), but no baseball game. The National Fantasy Fan Federation (NFFF). The masquerade. Impromptu music and dancing. (Rothman, Leibscher and Perdue at the piano. Liebscher’s performance was dubbed the “Pacificoncerto.” Rothman played “Ritual Fire Dance.” Tigrina sang her original, “The Sabbath Summons.”)

Day Four: Another offsite at the West Coast reincarnation of Michigan’s Slan Shack. Bidding for the next convention (Philadelphia won; see above). The “Fanquet.”

On Sunday, the afternoon session featured a presentation not on the program, a sobering speech by a representative of the Federation of Pasadena Scientists on civilian control of atomic energy.

H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” was delivered via a recording of the radio drama aired on November 1 1945 by the CBS Radio series, “Suspense.” (This was actually played on Saturday the 6th, rather than Sunday the 7th. Audio is available here.)

(The “Surprise Fantasy Film” was to have been “Turnabout,” but the film was unavailable. “One Million BC” was substituted.)

(We’re unsure of the identity of the woman with the tall headdress mostly hidden behind Dale Hart. Cay Forester was an actress hired to portray “the girl we’d most like to be wrecked on the moon with.” Jack Speer described her as “unutterably bored to everyone except the photographer.”)

The Guests of Honor Took the Centerfold

Why van Vogt and Hull in ’46? The husband and wife were having a capstone year. Ackerman later recalled:

Something happened prior to the convention that is not known.  We had a committee of five fans, and it was our duty to decide who should be the guest of honor.  I had a novel notion and said that, for the first time, we should make the guest of honor a woman — Catherine Moore.  She was a very well-known author in science fiction. I said we should also get Margaret Brundage, the popular artist for Weird Tales.  I said we should get a major female fantasy fan and a female fantasy fanzine publisher and a female assistant to one of the professional magazines.  Someone spoke-up and said that we couldn’t have Catherine Moore by herself without her husband, Henry Kuttner.  I said that Kuttner should be proud that his wife was the professional guest of honor.  Three votes were needed to vote in favor of my idea, but it lost.  There were only two votes to see it my way.  In the end, A. E. Van Vogt and his original wife Edna Mayne Hull were made the guests of honor.

From the 2006 Worldcon in Anaheim. Recorded and transcribed by John L. Coker III.

Support Came From Across the Land
The “Null-A Men” organized the “First Post War Eastern Science Fiction Convention” held on March 3 1946 in Newark.
The “Hyperborean Society of Detroit” filled a void left when several Michigan fans migrated to Los Angeles…
…and established a new West Coast version of their former shared residence in Michigan.
The Pro Mags Chimed In
Ackerman Still Held a Torch

In 1945, Forrest J Ackerman proposed marriage to fellow fan Tigrina (Edythe Eyde) by posting an open letter in a fanzine (FANews, n166, June 19 1945). Tigrina rejected the proposal in equal measure in the same publication (FANews, n170, July 3 1945). Despite this very public and embarrassing exchange, Forry and Tigrina remained friends. For Ackerman, it seems perhaps there was still hope. One key reason for Tigrina’s rejection became clear in 1947 when she began publishing the first Lesbian magazine in the country, Vice-Versa.

Aspirations Were Put Forth, But Not Achieved
Fandom Remembered

Well-regarded Los Angeles fan Paul Freehafer joined the Science Fiction League in 1937. He published the fanzine Polaris and served as Treasurer for the Pacificon. Freehafer passed away from a heart condition in 1947 at age 27. By tradition, the LASFS Clubhouse is known as “Freehafer Hall.”

One Ad Was the Coolest

…though it’s not entirely clear what this group was advertising.

What can we learn from the 1946 Pacificon Program Book? Please drop us a note with your thoughts: