The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom

Volume Two: 1940

A Top Ten Finalist for the 2023 Locus Award for Non-Fiction

“Highly Recommended. Packed with informative text, letters and articles from original fanzines, fan and professional art from both fanzines and pulps; and a real insider look at sci fi fans in 1940.”
Bud Plant, Bud’s Art Books

“Writers, artists and readers will assemble this fall for Chicon 8, a successor to the Chicago Worldcon of 1940. As it happens, the father-son team of David and Daniel Ritter devote the latest volume in ‘The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom’ to the planning, activities and aftermath of that gathering, which firmly established Worldcons as a movable feast. In 1940, two daring young men from Denver hopped freight trains to reach that first Chicon; E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, author of the 1928 serial ‘The Skylark of Space,’ appeared as guest of honor. Total membership reached 128; more recent Woldcons measure attendance in the thousands.
The Ritters dedicate their document-rich volume, also available digitally, to Erle M. Korshak, who as a teenager helped organize the first Chicon.

Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

The second volume of The Visual History reveals the evolution of science fiction fandom in one of its most pivotal years.

As 1940 dawned, America was recovering, poised between the Great Depression and entry into World War II. Science fiction fandom was growing up.

Cover art by Mark Wheatley

With maturity came new levels of confidence and accomplishment. Fans asked profound questions of themselves and their peers: Are we special in some way, smarter or more perceptive than others? If so, what does that mean for our role in society? How should we respond to the troubles in Europe? Should we unite under a single banner? 

Fans traveled more often, and farther. The central event of the year – the 1940 World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago – spurred sojourns from both coasts and across mid-America. Fans gathered and traditions that persist to modern times were established.

All of this comes to life through the words of fans as they wrote them at the time, the passions and fears and aspirations they voiced, the images they drew and the journeys they described. As rich a year in the life of fandom as ever there was, and as richly told by those who lived it.

“Not surprisingly, much of the volume focuses on the 1940 Worldcon, which did seem to introduce a number of traditions that still survive – portmanteau labels like ‘Chicon’ (we’re up to Chicon 8 this year), the masquerade, the con suite, the practice of filking (though it wouldn’t get that name for a few years yet). An entire section is devoted to the elaborate efforts of fans – mostly young and with limited funds – to even get to Chicago. But as with the earlier volume, much of the most interesting material consists of sidebars to the main narrative: a futile campaign against ‘anti-science’ attitudes in mad scientist movies and pulps, the ‘‘fans are Slans’’ movement, a debate about the supposed superiority of real fans over mere ‘‘readers,’’ Asimov learning to contend with Campbell’s racism, short but fascinating portraits of pulp editor Mary Gnaedinger and an all-female fanzine called STF-ETTE, distributed at Chicon and including early work by Leigh Brackett.
The Ritters’ meticulous research and careful curation serve as reminders that communities have always been crucial to many readers, even when those communities were smaller, far more homogeneous, and at times almost comically more hapless – if no less contentious–than they are today.”

— Gary K. Wolf, Locus, April 2022

See a sample below. The full book is over 450 pages.
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Print copies of The Visual History are currently sold out.
A second printing is expected by the end of 2023.
Available now as a full print-replica eBook for Kindle.
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