L.A.Con and Intersection had other commonalities besides their international nature, of course. One of the most interesting was their timebinding nature; many different fan generations were represented, and you could delve through past eras of fandom just by talking with some of the attendees. One of the attendees at both Intersection and L.A.Con was Dave Kyle, who has been active in every fan era from practically the beginning of fandom. In this article, Dave continues his description of the pre-fandom days.
'Those Wonderful Turbulent Thirties' by Dave Kyle; 
  title illo by Joe Mayhew
On January 7, 1929, Buck Rogers -- a comic strip character -- woke up in the future. He staggered out of his cave into the twenty-fifth century one week before my tenth birthday. About six months later, Hugo Gernsback snapped back onto the magazine scene. His Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories appeared on the newsstands alongside his lost child, the pioneering Amazing Stories where Buck was born. History also marks that in 1929, the term 'science fiction' was used for the first time.

In the previous issue of Mimosa, I recalled my first ten years of life when I was "Raised in the Roaring Twenties." I indicated that my second decade began in that historic science fiction year of 1929, although I unknowingly and unfortunately missed the start of the action.

Would that it were so, but neither Hugo Gernsback nor Buck Rogers stirred my passion for the yet unnamed science fiction. Instead, it was certain youth-oriented material that whet my appetite, such as boys magazines, and particularly Tom Swift. The American Boy magazine was very much an early source of imaginitive fiction by writers like Carl H. Claudy and Thomson Burtis. Then came the pulps.

As I left the 1920s, I had an explosion in my reading tastes. Pulp magazines, I slowly realized, were a plethora on the mass reading market. I became fascinated by their gaudy-colored covers. The fast-paced stories were slam-bang adventures about every imaginable topic -- sports, the West, railroads, the sea, aviation... just about everything. Well, almost everything. Only an occasional 'unusual' story, a genuine prototypical sf story, surfaced in that ocean of fiction. These pulps pushed me considerably farther along the road of the popular fiction of the day and made me an avid aviation fan.

It took Gernsback to inform me that what I really liked was 'scientific fiction', or 'science fiction', and that through those gateways I could fly into other dimensions using my imagination. That awareness finally crystallized after my thirteenth birthday.

I vividly remember that day. It was the spring of 1933, and I was now in that rarified air of being a teenager and a high school freshman, with a new sense of maturity. The event which lit up my new world happened on Cottage Street, on the wooden steps of the front porch of two elderly neighbors, the Joyces, brother and sister. Their house was diagonally across from mine in my hometown of Monticello, New York. Across the dirt road from them, the local gang of kids (using the pleasant, old fashion term) customarily played in a huge, ragged field partially bordered by wild apple trees. The Joyce front porch was a sort of friendly community hangout, a peaceful spot honored with good manners during the rest breaks between stickball and kick-the-can games.

The event which changed my life was simple. One of the older boys, Nick, who might have been one of those whose evening conversations I overheard one evening arguing about stars and planets and possible extraterrestrials, casually laid down a magazine next to me. It was not just another pulp, for its larger size was unique. It had an intriguing, fantastic, colorful cover -- a golden cylindrical, needle-nosed, wingless aircraft was arrowing down on a large, green globe, a strange mechanism whose companion lay half broken on the sea. I picked it up and looked at it.

It was the June 1929 issue of Science Wonder Stories -- four years old, yet it seemed like new.

I was immediately intrigued, on my way to infatuation.

I didn't have to plea to borrow it. Nick recognized a possible convert, so I took it home and sealed my destiny. Appleton's simple yarns of young inventor Tom Swift had been terribly juvenile; Burroughs's swashbuckling adventures on Earth and Mars were fantasy yarns, good but not scientific'. But here there were stories more fascinating and intellectually more provocative than I had ever previously imagined.

It turned out that the magazine was Volume 1, Number 1 -- the one in which the term 'science fiction' was first coined. My life in sf had begun and fandom was just around the corner.

# # # #

illo by Joe Mayhew It was the radio broadcasts of Buck Rogers, first airing in November of 1932, which had greatly fed my interest in the yet-to-be-identified science fiction. The term 'science fiction' had, by then, been introduced to only a hundred thousand or so magazine readers, but 'Buck Rogers stuff' was quickly picked up for use by the uninitiated. It was the easy password for reference to the technologically or scientifically unusual, and 64 years later, it still is. 'Buck Rogers' has been in the dictionary for many years ("of pertaining to all things futuristic"), but lost its academic status and was generally discarded when science fiction' entered the dictionaries and replaced that comics-created romantic term. But yet, that shouted, echo-chamber enhanced, long drawn-out radio introduction -- "Buck Rogers in the Twenty-FIFTH CEN-tury" -- still lingers forcefully in my head.

By the third year of the Buck Rogers broadcasts, because I had some artistic talent, cartoonist Alex Raymond had become the dominant influence on me. I regularly savored his Flash Gordon in the Sunday newspaper. Not only did the adventures thrill me, but the artistry of his drawings had me imitating his distinctive style. To this day, I have many sheets saved from the Sunday papers. In no small measure, Flash and Alex (not to overlook Dale Arden) nudged me into going to an art school after high school graduation in place of Dartmouth College (which I couldn't afford). Before Buck Rogers, I found nothing comparable in the comics, yet the strip had hardly any early influence on me, because my family didn't get the newspapers in which he appeared. Nevertheless, those two comics together inspired me to create, in 1935, my first fanzine. At first it was titled Fantasy World. According to Robert Bierbohm, who is currently finishing a book on the history of comics, I was the first ever to create a sf comic book in fandom.

# # # #

One particular store in Monticello was a focal point for my interest in the pulp magazines. It was called the United Cigar Store, locally owned by a family named Wollenski. The store was part of a widespread chain, distinctive for corner locations in New York City, similar to and functioning like the ubiquitous candy stores. The large tomato-colored signs above the door with their bold, gold raised letters proclaiming 'United Cigar' are a warm and friendly memory.

All United Cigar Stores seemed constantly busy, especially because they were the place to go to make a telephone call, in the type of booth that Superman was to make famous for another generation. Inside our local store was a metal rack holding magazines and newspapers. Outside, on the street, was a large wooden newsstand, a waist-high box on which was spread the various newspapers and around which were, upright, a ring of the latest magazines. These displays of publications were to me as dazzling lights are to moths. The bright and provocatively colored covers of the pulp magazines most captured my attention. Carefully, I would slide a pulp from the indoor rack, never from the outside table-box where I might be considered a potential thief. Gingerly, almost guiltily although not furtively, I would examine some pulps. I knew my actions might be disapproved, but my conduct was exemplary and I was tolerated. As I became a regular customer, with my pulp addiction for flying stories soon followed by my stronger science fiction addiction, I became friendly with the old man (well, to me he was old) who ran the store. When Mr. Wollenski became aware of my enthusiasm, he encouraged rather than disapproved of my examinations. He was patient when I would ask, "Has Wonder Stories come in yet?" And when he said it hadn't but that another magazine had (the non-Gernsback Amazing Stories), I would glance at it, hunger for it, sigh inwardly and then deny myself, because I couldn't spend the money I had saved for my Wonder. Twenty-five cents was a big deal in those days.

And so it was that in 1933, I became a certifiable regular reader of science fiction, with Hugo Gernsback and his magazines as my guide and standard. Loyally, I bought Wonder Stories immediately upon the day it reached the newsstands. I quivered with the thrill of holding it, feasting my eyes on the inimitable Frank R. Paul cover, sniffing the aroma of the pulp paper and fresh ink. Soon I had a routine: first, I checked the contents page, then I quickly skimmed the department at the back, 'The Reader Speaks'. It was there I had the camaraderie of fellow fans, listening to their printed praises, their boasts, their comments, and -- with irritation or approval -- their criticisms. Two letter writers were predominant: Jack Darrow from Chicago and Forrest J Ackerman from San Francisco. And soon another regular: David A. Kyle from Monticello, N.Y.!

In the June 1934 issue my first letter appeared. The heading read: 'From a Young Fan'. That was me!

The letter was long and told in detail how I had discovered Science Wonder Stories. I was lavish in my praise for Frank R. Paul, and was proud of my growing collection of back copies. Most significant was my closing paragraph: "I'm going to stop now, for I think this letter is too long already. Watch for my letter every month, for my middle name -- is Ackerman!"

Shortly thereafter, I received a personal letter typewritten with a green ribbon and signed in green ink. In a friendly and casual manner, it personally drew me into the whirlwind of fandom where I have been ever since. It was signed by Forrest J Ackerman.

Forry and I are related only as brothers in the fraternity of science fiction, but I consider we are as truly cousins as two might be.

From then on, my personal sf adventures began. That same year, the Science Fiction League was organized by Gernsback, with Forry and Jack on the editorial board. {{ ed. note: see Dave's article "The Science Fiction League" in Mimosa 14. }} My involvement became intense, and my activities accelerated through my final high school years, with 1936 being the zenith of excitement and glory. That year, I published and contributed to fanzines, joined the formation of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, started the Phantasy Legion, was a participant in the first science fiction convention ever held, was on the verge of close friendships with Fred Pohl, Dick Wilson, Don Wollheim, Isaac Asimov and others -- and Wonder Stories accepted my short story, "Golden Nemesis."

Yes, 1936 was a great year!

And 1936 was also a terrible year!

I'll repeat the ending to that previous article: "Then the world ended after April 1936. Wonder Stories was gone! Hugo Gernsback was gone, too!" No doubt about it, the departure of Hugo Gernsback from the science fiction field was devastating for me and for others.

Science fiction has, however, survived, soaring to greater heights in the Golden Age as the Grand Masters began appearing on the scene. (How the revitalization of sf affected me in the second half of my second decade is a tale to be told further in the next article in this series.) In the autumn of 1936, I stepped through the most magical gateway of them all, at the first-ever science fiction convention, when typewriters and letters took on the substance of flesh and blood -- and again, in 1939, at the first 'World's SF Convention', when my childhood mentor 4SJ and other young men, fans and pros alike, became real.

In retrospect, it is so very difficult for me to comprehend that the giant in the science fiction magazine field, the one who recognized the unique niche and created scientifiction (scientific fiction) and science fiction with its fandom, Hugo Gernsback, rose and fell within one decade from 1926 to 1936. This historical fact is almost incomprehensible -- only ten years, ten years which shaped not just my life but those as well of so many of my friends. In fact, Gernsback put his imprint on an entire, enormous field.

I remember when I was about ten years old, overhearing those older kids out on the street, under the street lamp arguing fantastic ideas. They were thoughtful, imagining wonderful things. Science fiction epitomized romance then. Science offered mysteries -- dreams with infinite possibilities about a technological future. There were youthful, optimistic visions. And there was a strange universal truth -- truth as it existed for that turbulent time so very many years ago. We science fiction readers had the promise from our genre of a continuing search for the truth as it would be in the future. I felt that way before I was a teenager. With the promise still there, I still feel that way now.

All illustrations by Joe Mayhew

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