In our series of posts in support of the 1946 Project at Chicon 8, we’ve already explored the year in fandom. We also want to understand what it was like to spend that year as an active fan.
One of the most prolific and well-regarded fans was Joseph Charles “Joe” Kennedy. His remarkable 1946 is worthy of note, if not entirely representative of how most fans passed their year. Born August 21 1929, he turned just 17 in the Fall of 1946 — but ranked among the most accomplished fans of the period.
In January 1946, Milton A. Rothman provided a guide to fannish activities, intended to provide something of a “Fandom 101” for new adherents. Originally published in The National Fantasy Fan (v5n1, January 1946), the essay identified eight primary activities in which serious fans engage.
Kennedy pursued all of these to some degree, but he was most prolific in writing and publishing for the fan community. His primary effort, Vampire, had run for four issues in 1945 and was already recognized as a leading fan publication. The full extent of his output throughout 1946 is, to us, impressive.
January 1 — the very dawn of 1946 — Kennedy joined a gathering at the New Jersey home of Sam Moskowitz. This was the second meeting of the self-designated “Null-A Men,” satirically named after the controversial novel by A.E. van Vogt. As Moskowitz noted in The 1946-47 Fantasy Review, “The initial idea of a loosely knit, social group was abandoned when 10 fans showed up… The idea of an organizational meeting was expanded into a full-fledged convention.” This was the origin of the “First Post-War Eastern Science Fiction Convention,” which would convene in March of that year.
Also at the start of 1946, Kennedy issued the first of his ambitious yearbooks, The 1945-46 Fantasy Review. Weighing in at 48 dense pages, this review of the field and fandom included a rich summary of fan events during the year, as well as poll results ranking books, stories published in the pulps, professional authors and fan journalists.
As a member of the Vanguard Amateur Press Association (VAPA), Kennedy published Joe’s Jottings. This ‘zine primarily featured commentary on VAPA and the contents of the mailings, with occasional poetry and short fiction by Kennedy and others. The January issue was sparse — unsurprising given Kennedy’s other activities.
Kennedy and his frequent collaborator George R. Fox published Speculations, a fanzine that lasted only a single issue. It featured articles by Sam Moskowitz, an original radio play by John H. Cooper, and a “Composite Readers Report on TTTT Number Three.” This last was a summary of reviews of Fox & Kennedy’s humor fanzine Terrible Test Tube Tales that ran for three issues in 1944 and 1945.
On March 3, Kennedy attended the First Post-War Eastern Science Fiction Convention at the Slovak Sokol Hall in Newark, New Jersey.
Vampire, Kennedy’s primary and most ambitious fanzine, saw its fifth issue in April 1946. Most dramatic was a to-and-fro between Sam Moskowitz and August Derleth concerning the publication of The Outsider and Others.
The fourth issue of Joe’s Jottings boldly proclaimed itself as “The Magazine of Cultural Americana” — but delivered only more commentary on VAPA and an odd poem by Dale Hart.
The sixth issue of Vampire appeared in June 1946 with a stunning cover by fan-artist John Cockroft.
On top of all his activities in fandom, Kennedy began his higher education in Fall 1946, attending Seton Hall.
Kennedy also attended the September 8 meeting of the newly-revived Queens Science Fiction League in 1946, and submitted this article on the club to Fantasy Times.
The fifth issue of Joe’s Jottings also appeared in September, featuring more of Kennedy’s cartoon rendering.
Last but not least, the seventh issue of Vampire was issued in September. The macabre cover by Walt Kessel was titled “Morning After the Convention.”
October – November
For the October 1946 mailing of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA), Kennedy inaugurated his membership in the Association with the first issue of his fanzine Grulzak. With minor exceptions, the 18 pages were entirely written and illustrated by the editor.
On October 27, Kennedy attended the Philadelphia Conference, a revival of the annual event that had been on hold since 1941. He quickly penned and published his account of the proceedings, issuing his Expose!! A Kennedy’s-eye View of the Philly Conference dated November 2.
In the November 1946 issue of The Scientifictionist, Kennedy contributed a four-page article titled “Utopias Made to Order.” He poses the eternal question facing fans of speculative fiction:
“So we have, in fandom, two seemingly opposing schools of thought: one which foresees a bright future for the human race, and recommends that fandom do everything within its power to aid social and scientific progress; and the other, which adopts a sort of philosophical resignation to the aimlessness of life and the utter lack of meaning of the universe. Which, then, to choose?”
The final 1946 issue of Vampire featured a remarkable cover by St. Louis fan-artist Van Splawn.
In addition, Kennedy cooked up another offering — though we’ve been unable to track down any copies. In 1950, he wrote:
At the dawn of 1947, Kennedy delivered his 77-page omnibus, The 1946-47 Fantasy Review, cited throughout our work on the 1946 Project.
Kennedy was recognized at the time by his fellow fans. In a poll published in July, Kennedy ranked fifth as Top Fan Poet and fourth as Top Fan Editor. His fanzine Vampire placed fourth among its peers.
In Kennedy’s own poll published in The 1946-47 Fantasy Review, Vampire was ranked tops of the fanzine pantheon.
Recognition, well deserved.
Kennedy’s later career was (is) impressive as well. As “X.J. Kennedy,” he is a widely-read and much-awarded poet and author. As with other prominent fans, his early days as an active amateur publisher helped to prepare him for a prominent life in letters.
What are your thoughts on Joe Kennedy and his contributions to fandom? Please drop us a note!
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