Having recently reacquired my enthusiasm for fannish projects, I decided that I should do my bit and put the full run of a significant UK fanzine online. Once I had decided to do so, the choice was an obvious one: J.Michael Rosenblum's FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST. And in order to make this a manageable project and not one that's likely to exhaust me and so be abandoned, I'm planning on putting up one new issue every week (probably switching to a bi-weekly schedule when I get to those issues whose page count ran into double figures) until I've done them all. I'll be putting them up on the weekend, so if you check in on Saturdays there should be a new one waiting for you.
As a lead in to each issue I'll be writing a short bit about what was happening in the month leading up to that issue to give it some historical context. This will cover primarily world affairs rather than fannish ones since you should be able to get all the fannish context you need by reading THEN, my history of SF fandom in the UK. I intend to be sparing with footnotes but there will be a few at the end of those issues where I feel they are warranted. Below are links to each issue as they're added, and also to the fan bios that Rosenblum ran in many issues. Some of these were written by him, some by the person in question, and they are of varying degrees of usefulness but these quick links are provided for those who might wish to research a particular old fan. ...................... Rob Hansen.
Who was J.Michael Rosenblum?
John Michael Rosenblum was one of Britain's first generation of fans. Active in Leeds fandom from the mid-1930s, he attended the first ever SF convention, which was held in that city in 1937. During the war, he was a registered Conscientious Objector and was put to work toiling on a farm during the day and fire-watching during the German night-time raids on British cities. Mike published fanzines in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, and was a regular at British conventions into the 1970s. He passed away in 1978.
Weren't the Futurians a famous New York fan group?
Yes, they were, but Mike Rosenblum coined the term. Here's the relevant bit from THEN:So why FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST?...in June 1938...Rosenblum launched the first issue of his fanzine, THE FUTURIAN. Rosenblum thought this was a good name, but he wasn't the only one. In New York the Michelists were looking for a new name, and they liked it too. On 18th September 1938 they renamed themselves the Futurian Science Literary Society, a title that usage eventually abbreviated to 'The Futurians', and had as members some who would go on to become the biggest names in SF. However, it was 1945 before they admitted they had lifted the name from Rosenblum's fanzine. His response, in FAPA, was uncharacteristically sarcastic:"I must thank the Futurian Society of New York for their wonderful magnanimity in allowing other people to use the word they so neatly appropriated unto themselves. And seeing as we were never asked what we meant by the term 'Futurian' it might be considered presumptious for the New Yorkers to define it as they wish. However, I am grateful for the acknowledgement of the purloining of the term, an acknowledgement some seven years overdue. It is interesting to note that I possess a letter, written when the term was adopted, by DAW stating that 'Futurian came just when it was needed, and so was appropriated'; and one from Pohl which says that the New York people thought of the term before we did and had adopted it before they knew we were using it. Amusing, eh no?"
Two reasons: 1) I have always had a fascination for the home front of World War II, and 2) it's the next major British newszine that needs to be made available online. What do I mean by that last? Well, the current newszine, Dave Langford's ANSIBLE, and all its back issues have been available online for ages; Dave and his merry band of helpers then put every issue of Peter Roberts' 1970s newszine CHECKPOINT online; which in turn inspired Greg Pickersgill and his merry band of helpers to put every issue of Ron Bennett's 1950s/60s newszine SKYRACK online. With a little help getting hold of the half-dozen issues I'm missing, the magic of OCR and corrective editing of the text it produces, I think I can tackle this one. However, while newszines are basically the newspapers of SF fandom FWD wasn't just a newszine. During WWII it was pretty much the glue that held British fandom together. As I wrote in THEN:Despite spending all day toiling in the fields for next to nothing, Mike Rosenblum was still to be largely responsible for keeping British fandom alive during the war years. Having had difficulty maintaining the quality of THE FUTURIAN, Rosenblum had folded it with its eighth issue, in the spring. In June he launched PSEUDO-FUTURIAN, a single-sheeter that saw four issues, but it was the fanzine's next incarnation that would prove to be the most important.
Over the course of its life, a large number of other fanzines were distributed with FWD, usually stapled together with it. These have been listed in the introduction to each issue. There was a tradition at the time of giving these and some other fanzines affectionate nicknames, and they were sometimes refered to only by those names which be confusing for a modern reader. Below is a list of the more prominent of these: