A convention account by

Fred Patten

The 7th World Science Fiction Convention
Cincinnati, Ohio: September 3-5, 1949

Prologue Saturday Sunday Monday Epilogue
Complete notes Copyright notice
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[ The Cincinnati Fantasy Group's home page ]


Cincinnati fandom was both old and new. It began in December 1935 with a series of weekly s-f bull-sessions between Charles R. Tanner, Ross Rocklynne, and Dale Tarr. The group grew slowly but remained informal up into World War II. The meetings fell into abeyance during the war, but afterwards they resumed with the addition of a large new generation. The most active of these newer members were Donald E. Ford, Stanley C. Skirvin, and Lou Tabakow. It was they who persuaded the older members in 1946 to turn their meetings into a formal club, the Cincinnati Fantasy Group. This was the club to which the Torcon entrusted the 1949 World Convention.

These same newer CFG members made up the bulk of the Cinvention Committee. In an outpouring of democratic fellowship that far outdid Walt Daugherty's at Pacificon, it was decided to make everyone who joined the Cinvention a member of the Committee, rather than have an executive clique above the masses. This may have been just a technical quibble, but it effectively made it impossible to tell who, if anyone, was running the show. Don Ford, who did most of the pre-convention organizational work, never admitted to holding any position higher than Secretary-Treasurer. The title of Chairman was never mentioned except on the Committee's official stationery, and comparatively few fans received personal letters from the Committee. As far as fandom was concerned, Don Ford was the Chairman, and this is how the Worldcon record today reads. (Technically, though, the Chairmanship was made into an honorific position and bestowed upon Charles R. Tanner, one of the CFG's remaining Grand Old Men.)

Initial publicity consisted of small send-$1-to-join plugs in fanzines, attached to an intriguing slogan: "Over the Rhine in 'Forty-Nine!" It succeeded in building up interest as to whether it had any meaning more significant than a parody of San Francisco's old "Golden Gate in '48" campaign. Ford let the mystery develop for several months before releasing a number of full-page ads to explain it. It was 19th-century Cincy slang, dating back to the days when a canal had cut through town. The canal had been dug mostly by German laborers, giving it the nickname of "the Rhine." An immigrant community grew up on the north bank which soon became popular throughout the city for its beerhalls and other entertainments. Hence to cross "over the Rhine" meant to step out for a night of fun.1 All fandom was invited to come "Over the Rhine in 'Forty-Nine!"

The Cinvention's advertising campaign really got under way six months before the Labor Day target date. It promised that this tenth anniversary Worldcon would be the biggest and best. There would be three Guests-of-Honor: an author, a fan, and an artist. The noted Dr. David H. Keller would be the Toastmaster. There would be two auctions: the usual "Pro" one of manuscripts and artwork donated by publishers, and a "Fan" auction at which collectors could dispose of rarities they no longer wanted but did not know how to cash in on. The official theme of the Con would be humor, and fan clubs throughout the country were encouraged to prepare acts for the entertainment night. The Committee offered to coordinate cross-country car-pooling so that fans planning to drive to Cincinnati (such as Harry B. Moore of New Orleans) could pick up riders. An Official Hostess would arrange entertainment for bored non-fan wives of conventioneers. The souvenir program book would be especially sumptuous. Long lists were published of promised auction goodies, famous names who would be there, etc., etc.

It made good publicity. Some of it never got off paper, though. Few volunteered for car-pooling. Dr. Keller appreciated the honor but would not be able to attend due to poor health. Other letdowns to high hopes did not become evident until the convention itself.

The "author" guest turned out to be Lloyd A. Eshbach, [who] ... was currently well known but not as a writer.

The Fan Guest was Ted Carnell, who was coming to America at last.

Presumably wiser heads explained that to spread the Guest-of-Honor title too widely would be to weaken it, because the Cinvention ended up with only two. The "author" guest turned out to be Lloyd A. Eshbach, which was a surprise. Eshbach was an old-time fan who had sold a few forgettable stories in the early '30s. He was currently well known but not as a writer. He was the founder of Fantasy Press, one of the first and biggest of the semi-pro publishing companies. Fantasy Press stood out for the quality of its editions and the popularity of the pulp classics it was rescuing from oblivion. So the choice of Eshbach was well received, though everyone disregarded the "author" label.

The Fan Guest was Ted Carnell, who was coming to America at last. The Big Pond Fund, which the Philcon had passed on to Torcon, had been dropped by that convention. Forry Ackerman doggedly carried it on through his Fantasy Foundation with mail auctions of duplicate books to raise the needed transportation revenue. Also, by this time Edward J. "Ted" Carnell was more than just any foreign fan. Carnell had been one of the founders of British fandom in 1935/36. He had originally dreamed of starting a British prozine, New Worlds, but wartime paper shortages and mobilisation forced him to postpone his plans. In 1946 he persuaded a professional publisher to give it a try. The magazine was not a big hit and was discontinued after three annual issues. But it had been successful enough to convince Carnell and other British enthusiasts that they could continue it along. They acquired the rights to publish it themselves from the fourth issue, with Ted Carnell as editor. During this time Carnell had also become the British representative of all the U.S. semi-pro s-f publishers. This growing prominence during 1947-48, coupled with the news that he was British fandom's unanimous choice to represent them at the World Convention, focused serious attention on the fund. During 1948 it began to come alive. It did not succeed in time for Carnell to come to the Torcon, but shortly after it reached the level that guaranteed his appearance at the 1949 Worldcon. The Cinvention reaccepted the fund as Worldcon business and urged American fandom to come and help give Carnell a warm welcome.

There was almost a guest from Down Under as well. Ackerman received a large shipment of books from a Stirling Macoboy of Sydney, with a request to sell them to raise funds so Macoboy could attend the convention. Ackerman tried but was unable to bring in sufficient money in time.

In March Ford announced that the site would be the Hotel Metropole in downtown Cincinnati. The first progress report carried a map of the city and a list of names and addresses of all hotels, so fans could make their reservations. Ford warned that the city was expected to be extremely crowded over Labor Day, with a double-header ball game and a postal carrier's convention, and that no hotel was interested in booking especially for fans, so getting rooms would be a catch-as-catch-can proposition. This caused some needless worry. As it happened, the Metropole never did get overbooked. The only fans who didn't get in were those who couldn't afford the $3.00-a-night rates and went to the cheaper Palace one block away.

The return to the U.S. had brought the hoped-for return to Worldcon interest among the professionals. More and more authors said they hoped to attend.

As the convention approached the publicity became more frenetic. The return to the U.S. had brought the hoped-for return to Worldcon interest among the professionals. More and more authors said they hoped to attend. John W. Campbell would be there. So would Raymond A. Palmer, editor of Amazing and Fantastic Adventures. Palmer had finally given up promoting the Shaver Mystery and fandom had welcomed him back into its ranks. Even authors like Arthur J. Burke and Ralph Milne Farley, who hadn't been active since the 1930s, promised to either attend or send materials for the auction. The Committee got an unexpected letter from Vincent T. Hamlin, the "Alley Oop" artist, asking if it'd be okay if he attended to meet the kind of people who read his strip? In fact, by 1949 the World Convention was riding the crest of a wave of enthusiasm. Science fiction was taking on a "seriousness' it had never had before. Hollywood was beginning to show interest, and major publishers were starting to print s-f titles. There was a growing amount of media interest in the genre, usually scoffing but at least "they" were taking notice at last. There was a general feeling in fandom that science-fiction was going to burst the walls of its ghetto with the beginning of the second half of the century and become the New Literature.

This had a striking effect on how both fans and professionals looked at the World Convention. The pros were suddenly offering all kinds of assistance. Fan communities everywhere began to consider hosting a Worldcon as a prestige point. Debate grew in fanzines over who ought to control the selection of sites; just attendees, or all of fandom? The idea of a mail ballot picked up supporters.

The New Orleans and Washington D.C. clubs both announced ... bid[s] for the 1950 Worldcon. New York City entered two opposing bids!

This theoretical interest crystallized explosively just one month before the Cinvention. The New Orleans and Washington D.C. clubs both announced they were sending delegates to bid for the 1950 Worldcon. New York City entered two opposing bids! Will Sykora and his Queens Science Fiction League were determined to make up for their humiliating defeat at the Torcon. A second group felt that New York's only chance to win a Worldcon again was to assemble a Committee that Sykora was not associated with. They rallied around the new pro-oriented Hydra Club, with the backing of Sykora's former ally, Sam Moskowitz and his Eastern SF Association of Newark. The Portland (Oregon) Science-Fantasy Society sent out a press release stating that, although none of their members could afford to travel to Cincinnati, they seriously wanted the 1950 Con and had obtained the support of Los Angeles fandom, whose Forrest Ackerman would be their official delegate to present their bid.

In addition to these four (or five?) bidders, the Con Committee received two formal resolutions to transfer the site selection proceedings from at-the-con voting to a mail ballot. The National Fantasy Fan Federation offered itself, a nationwide club, as the proper body to select the site by a poll of all fandom. Louis E. Garner, Jr., of the Washington Science Fiction Association (the D.C. bidder for '50), sent in a proposal that would have left the selection in the Worldcon's hands but would conduct it through a mail ballot immediately before each Con, so that all members could vote rather than only attendees.

What with one thing and another, the Cinvention certainly promised to be the most exciting Worldcon yet held. In many respects it was.

The official starting date was Saturday, September 3, 1949, Harry Moore had made a point of arriving on Tuesday so as to get at Cincinnati's used-book shops before other fans had a chance to pick them over. Most conventioneers checked into the Metropole on Friday, the 2nd. There was a general collecting of autographs in the lobby that afternoon. Ray Palmer dropped a bombshell by telling everyone he had just resigned from Ziff-Davis after having edited Amazing and Fantastic Adventures for them since 1938. He was going to start his own company and publish his own s-f magazine, Other Worlds, which was already in production. Rev. Darrell C. Richardson, a noted collector, held a small tour of his library for visiting serious s-f bibliophiles. At the same time Secretary-Treasurer Don Ford and program book Editor Stan Skirvin, along with visiting Hannes Bok, checked into the Metropole's rooms 100 & 100A. They began to haul in convention materials, fans in the lobby wandered over to help out, somebody produced a couple of bottles, and the Cinvention was off to a mellow start.

The Metropole was a "middle-class" hotel, used to the convention trade, so there was no harassment over the fans letting their hair down. Especially after Don Ford slipped the staff $50 to encourage tolerance. The program took place in the large Ball Room. Saturday morning was devoted to the usual set-up work. Ford's amplified record player was hooked up so the Committee could listen to jazz and boogie-woogie while they hanged the auction artwork along the walls. Harry Moore put up a banner promoting New Orleans' "Nolacon" bid. Some months earlier two kids in Des Moines, John Grossman and Bill Kroll, had offered to prepare some stage decorations in exchange for a huckster's table. They now staggered in with a 9'x12' professional quality stage backdrop showing an immense robot battling three space ships, under large lettering reading, "7TH WORLD SCIENCE-FICTION CONVENTION." They had brought it with some difficulty by Greyhound Bus. The Committee, somewhat stunned, quickly got the hotel's engineering staff to set it up.

Members of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group were supposed to be registering the attendees, but Stan Skirvin suddenly noticed that they were mingling with the pros instead of doing any work. David A. Kyle arrived from New York with a professional model he'd brought to be "Miss Science Fiction," plus a local news reporter and a photographer he'd stopped to pick up, and wanted to know if a press release on the Con was ready yet. The Committee briefly considered either instant gafiation or mass-murder. The Con did eventually fall into shape, though. The registration book was set out along with a stack of free goodies. There was a 64-page program book, a detailed auction catalogue, a mimeoed list of bookshops in Cincinnati, Garner's six-page proposal on "Selecting World Science-Fiction Convention Sites," and a lot of advertising from the New Orleans and Portland bidders. The two New York factions ("Nycon") and Washington, D.C. fans ("Capicon") hadn't thought to prepare any special literature but they made up for it by their zeal in buttonholing attendees to request their support.

Committeeman Roy Lavender ... announced it was time for everyone to take their seats, and the Cinvention began.

Starting time was 1:00 p.m. but things were running late. The Committee had intended to immortalize the proceedings on wire, but Dave MacInnes shorted out his recorder on the Metropole's DC current. Fortunately, Dr. C.L. Barrett had also brought a recorder, of the right kind. A deal was worked out by which MacInnes would run Barrett's recorder in exchange for a copy of the wire, and everybody was happy. Committeeman Roy Lavender turned on the PA system, announced it was time for everyone to take their seats, and the Cinvention began.

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Saturday, September 3

Titular chairman Charles R. Tanner made a brief welcoming speech and called up veteran Worldcon attendee Melvin Korshak to introduce the notables in the audience. There were a lot, with more arriving every minute -- so many, in fact, that it was decided to hold a short recess to give more people time to get settled. The program was reconvened around 3:15 p.m. Korshak finished the introductions and turned the mike back to Tanner, who read several wish-we-could-be-there telegrams including a long one from Vol Molesworth of Australia's Futurian Society.

Lloyd Eshbach['s] ... Guest-of-Honor address, "S-f Comes of Age" ... was a series of off-the-cuff ramblings around the various props he'd brought.

Tanner then introduced Lloyd Eshbach for his Guest-of-Honor address, "S-f Comes of Age."A This was a series of off-the-cuff ramblings around the various props he'd brought. First was Don Ford's letter of invitation. ("Since you're going to be at the convention...we'd like to have you be Guest of Honor.") He felt it had been so long since he'd written anything that he'd better bring a few old prozines to prove his credentials. ("But you and I know that I'm really here as Publisher Guest of Honor instead of Author Guest of Honor.") He reminisced about the early '30s when he had been a writer and told anecdotes about the editors of the time. He had a photo of artist H.W. Wesso without shoes on; a letter from then-fan Mort Weisinger asking then-pro Arthur Burks for a free professional story immediately for a fanzine (Burks had complied with the 4,000-word "Callisto to the Rescue," dashed off in two hours); a letter from George Allen England denying that he had given up writing because chicken raising paid better; and similar tidbits. Eshbach closed by noting that science-fiction was becoming a serious field at last, and that the old-time amateur writers like himself were having to make way for professional authors who knew both their science and their literary techniques. But despite this s-f was still basically entertainment, not any great social force as some in fandom had recently begun to proclaim, and he hoped everyone would keep their feet on the ground over it.

The next two speakers were supposed to have been Fletcher Pratt and Robert Bloch. Neither [was] at the convention. At this point it became obvious that the Committee's method of preparing the program had been to simply compile a list of pros they'd expected to attend and list their favorites in the program book as speakers. As it turned out, many of the pros had only been expressing polite hopes of being able to attend rather than making firm commitments. And not all who did attend were delighted to find that they were expected to speak extemporaneously for a half-hour or more.

Lester del Rey substituted for [Fletcher] Pratt with [a speech on] "Sex & S-f," in which he pointed out that there was almost none and what there was was embarrassingly old-fashioned.

Lester del Rey substituted for Pratt with "Sex & S-f," in which he pointed out that there was almost none and what there was was embarrassingly old-fashioned. 1949's idea of a daring story was one where "a girl is something you take out in a spaceship so that when you get back to earth, you have to get married." Del Rey objected to the lack of imagination that assumed American middle-class morals would exist throughout the universe for eternity. He cited polygamy and polyandry as two different systems that actually existed and which were perfectly moral in their own cultures. Also the possibility of group marriage. Also the development of contraceptives. "Isn't it possible to imagine a society in which papa worries about whether daughter took her last medicine, instead of about what she's doing with the young man?" He advocated that authors devote more speculation to the life-styles of the future instead of just the machinery, and that fans encourage this by writing letters to editors to praise stories that related to real life and people. This speech may seem obvious in retrospect, but at the time it was pretty revolutionary.

[Palmer] noted that Rog Phillips ... had just sold a new novel to a publisher to be issued as a paperback.... Nobody thought much of the idea, though. If a book wasn't good enough to be bought by a magazine or a hardcover publisher first, it probably wasn't worth reading.

Raymond A. Palmer spoke next on his past and future. He detailed the events leading up to his resignation from Ziff-Davis, and became impassioned over the Shaver Mystery. He believed it; he had personally heard the voices, been the focus for the Deroes' evil rays, etc. However, he conceded that this "truth" should not appear in a fiction magazine. Henceforth he would publish it in his occult-fact magazine, Fate. For s-f readers he planned to issue Other Worlds, which would be comparable in quality to Astounding, the leader of the day. He concluded by noting that he had always considered himself to be a fan, even while all other fans had been reviling him as a dirty pro, and that he intended to donate all original art and manuscripts from his new magazine to fannish conventions in the future. This brought a tremendous round of applause. One offhand comment during his talk did prove prophetic. He noted that Rog Phillips, one of his regular authors, had just sold a new novel to a publisher to be issued as a paperback. If it was successful it might lead to a new concept in s-f marketing: original paperbacks. Nobody thought much of the idea, though. If a book wasn't good enough to be bought by a magazine or a hardcover publisher first, it probably wasn't worth reading.

This concluded the afternoon program, which had run so late that there was only a half hour left for the dinner break. Not surprisingly, fans were late returning from dinner and so the evening session began behind its 7:00 schedule. Charlie Tanner made a few more announcements, including the fact that "Miss Science Fiction" would pose in a futuristic dress for photographers following the program.

Jack Williamson opened the evening session with "Science and Science Fiction," comparing the values of s-f to other forms of imaginative literature. He divided the latter field into three basic classes: tales of the supernatural, pure fantasy, and science fiction, as exemplified by Weird Tales, Unknown, and Astounding. He described their similarities and differences, and the distinctions between all three and other forms of literature. He thought the most basic difference between them was in "the sort and degree of intellectual appeal," with good s-f having the most of it. The others could be cleverly written and skillful works of literature, but "the sense of projected reality" existed only in s-f.

Theodore Sturgeon ... telegrammed that he couldn't attend the Con as promised because he'd gotten married and was on his honeymoon.

Vincent T. Hamlin followed, substituting for Theodore Sturgeon who'd just telegrammed that he couldn't attend the Con as promised because he'd gotten married and was on his honeymoon. Hamlin's "Alley Oop Is the Man I'd Like To Be" was another off-the-cuff anecdotal talk. He'd been a reader of the s-f magazines since the 'twenties, when he'd been a press photographer and a lay geologist for the oil companies in southwest Texas. The geology had gotten him interested in rocks and fossils, which had led to paleontology. After going broke in the Depression he'd moved to a newspaper art department job up North, where he'd combined his interests in art and paleontology to create a comic strip about dinosaurs. A strip about lizards alone didn't have enough appeal, so he'd added a caveman to tie a plot around, and "Alley Oop" was born. Over the years he'd wanted to put more s-f into the strip, but the newspaper syndicate objected that it was too fantastic and/or intellectual. It wasn't until the Army had publicized its rocketry experiments at White Sands after the war that he'd been able to send Alley Oop to the moon. The only thing he thought was wrong with s-f was the babes-&-BEM covers on the magazines. "You know, you can read a detective story on a club car or somewhere else and nobody thinks anything about it, but any goon that reads that stuff, they say, 'Look at that! He's a lunatic!'" The audience whistled and stamped its approval of this sentiment.

Tanner took advantage of the change in speakers to read more telegrams that had just arrived. The staff of New Worlds in London sent greetings to Ted Carnell and the Cinvention. Arthur J. Burks, who'd promised to be on the program, had been delayed but would definitely arrive tomorrow morning. John W. Campbell sent apologies for reneging on his promise to attend, and hinted that fans should keep an eye out for the November 1949 Astounding for a big surprise.B

["Doc"] Smith said that he always attended s-f conventions because they were so much more fun than technical conferences.

The first day's final speaker was E.E. Smith, Ph.D. He addressed himself to Hamlin's closing remarks regretting that it was well known that those particular covers were under the control of large corporate business offices where fans' opinions didn't swing any weight. Hamlin's final comment had been that this was the first convention he'd ever attended that he'd really enjoyed; Smith said that he always attended s-f conventions because they were so much more fun than technical conferences. He considered himself only an amateur writer at heart, and just liked to get together with others interested in speculating about the future. The audience objected when he started to leave the stage after such a brief talk, so he returned to the microphone to answer any questions. Someone asked if it were true that he had given up writing professional s-f? Smith replied that Astounding had "matured" away from the space opera he enjoyed writing, and he didn't care to change his style to suit Campbell's new formula. He hadn't decided yet whether to try to sell to other magazines.

This concluded Saturday's formal program. Dave Kyle took over the room for his publicity campaign to thrust science-fiction into the world. In recent months Cyril Kornbluth and Richard Wilson had been employed by a national wire service, TransRadio Press, which they looked upon as giving s-f the opportunity to infiltrate the news media. They (along with New York's Hydra Club, to which they belonged) determined the Worldcon should finally get good coverage. Dave Kyle and Bob Tucker became accredited TransRadio reporters to cover the Cinvention. This accreditation helped Kyle interest Cincinnati's news media in the convention.

Kyle's and the Cincinnati press' idea of favorable coverage turned out to be to pose Miss Science Fiction for a number of cheesecake shots, and to draft several fans for gag poses. This wasn't hard because many of the younger attendees had taken the announced "humor" theme seriously and came in costume for the entire weekend. Miss Science Fiction wore a sort of leopard-spotted swim suit with a telephone dial strapped to one thigh and a walkie-talkie cap. Art Rapp sported a Rasputin beard and a propellor beanie to represent "a typical science fiction fan." Henry Chavot of New York dressed in a scarlet jacket over bright yellow shorts, brandished a toy ray gun, and got quoted saying that he read s-f because it didn't insult his intelligence. Jean Bogert struck a vampire pose. Several others got into the act. Most who did had the satisfaction of seeing their pictures in the local papers. The Cincinnati Post ran a front-page feature on the Con with three of the photos, while the Enquirer came out with a double-page spread in its Sunday pictorial section two weeks later.

(At the moment everyone seemed to be having fun clowning around. But an unexpected backlash developed. Those who took s-f seriously were indignant over such low-class publicity. The Torcon's news coverage had been bad enough, when it was a case of "them" doing it to "us." Now we were being asked to collaborate in this degradation of s-f and fandom. Others worried about the manner in which Hydra had swept in to stage this campaign without a by-your-leave. The Hydra Club had been founded in 1947 by Lester del Rey and Frederik Pohl, and was an invitational group whose membership was restricted almost entirely to pros. They were fairly or unfairly held to believe that the World Convention had become too important to leave in fandom's hand. Some thought that if Hydra won the Con, fandom might never get it back. Most felt that view was exaggerated, but they did look upon the "cheap" publicity campaign as a preview of what next year's con would be turned into if Hydra won.)

[D]escriptions of "pros littering the floors" may be jocular hyperbole.

There were two big parties Saturday night and several small ones. Shasta Press hosted a cocktail party. Ted Dikty of Chicago fandom officiated as bartender-in-chief until he drank himself under the table. Reports of drunkenness may be exaggerated, though, because apparently a lack of chairs forced people to sit on the floor. So descriptions of "pros littering the floors" may be jocular hyperbole. Ford, Skirvin, and Bok threw their Committee HQ room open for general socializing. Bok showed color photos of his noncommercial paintings. Stirling Macaboy in Australia electrified everyone by making a trans-oceanic phone call to Don Ford's room so he could at least participate vicariously in the convention. He announced that he'd planted a brief story on the Con in the Sydney Daily Mirror. Fans were pleasantly amazed to discover that Miss Science Fiction, Lois Jean Miles, was a real s-f enthusiast. She could talk the subject intelligently and she had a pleasant sense of humor. Kyle observed smugly that he needn't have brought a model all the way from New York if all he'd wanted was to hire a shapely body.

In some hidden spot Ned McKeown won $115 in one poker hand with a pair of nines. Sometime after midnight the room 101 group left the hotel for a snack at a nearby all-night eatery, the Purple Cow, and found that it had already been discovered by Poul Anderson, Judy Merril, Fritz Leiber, Jr., and Doc Winters. The room 100 party finally ended at 6:00 in the morning when the residents ushered out the last hangers-on so they could get two hour's sleep.

[ r e t u r n   t o   p a g e   m e n u ]

Sunday, September 4

Tunday's activities began at 9:30 a.m. with Dave MacInnes playing two wire recordings of radio horror programs. The morning was officially devoted to a meeting of the National Fantasy Fan Federation. It started late, at 10:45. NFFF President Dale Tarr called it to order by banishing all non-Neffers from the room. He introduced Arthur J. Burks, who had just arrived. E.E. Evans spoke on the early days of the club for the benefit of new members. The rest of the meeting was involved with in-group trivia: upcoming club elections, debate over whether the club magazine should be mimeographed or planographed, a membership drive, etc. Decisions of importance were that the NFFF should sponsor publication of an s-f art folio, and that it should collaborate with the Fantasy Foundation in compiling and publishing an address directory of all fandom.

The main program began at 1:00 p.m. with the drawing of the door prize, a copy of Lovecraft's The Outsider and Others. It was won by Dave Palat. The Cincinnati Fantasy Group had expected to present something, followed by the auction, but so much auction material had been received that it was decided to begin it immediately. Every magazine except Astounding had donated its entire stock of art and manuscripts from the past year, and there were numerous galley proofs and illustrations from the semi-pro publishers. Ted Carnell had brought the original cover for the next New Worlds. Ray Palmer donated the art and copy for the first issue of Other Worlds, which was the first look that fandom got of it. (He'd hoped to have it on the stands by convention time but it was still at the printer's.) A number of authors had cleaned out old files by sending them to the Cinvention. There were preliminary drafts of classics from Jack Williamson, A.E. van Vogt, and others. Ralph Milne Farley kicked in six old scrapbooks filled with carefully-mounted clippings of the "Tarzan" newspaper strip from its beginning. V.T. Hamlin had brought a large stack of "Alley Oop" originals.

There was obviously too much for the allotted time, and the auction was quickly begun with Melvin Korshak knocking down items in rapid-fire order while Don Ford and Bea Mahaffey kept records. The top individual price was $48, paid by Walter Cole for Earle Bergey's cover to the February 1949 Thrilling Wonder Stories. This didn't come near the Torcon's record of $76, but the Cinvention's volume was so great that a new total of $980.15 was set. The "Alley Oop" originals were handed out for $1 each to those fast enough to grab them, just to move them in a hurry.

[Dave] Kyle had arranged for a half-hour program over Cincinnati's local WLW-Television.

The presentation was brisk and serious....

Those watching at the hotel complained about the poor kinescope pickup.

The auction had to be broken off at 5:30 p.m., even though much remained, to prepare for the next step in Dave Kyle's publicity campaign. This was a coup that nobody could complain about. Kyle had arranged for a half-hour program over Cincinnati's local WLW-Television. Commercial television was just beginning in 1949, and this was publicity that fandom had never seriously dreamed of.

The speakers and a large percentage of the Con went over to the studio, while a table-model TV was set up in the Ball Room for those who stayed behind to watch. The show ran from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m., and the announcer promptly turned it over to Dave Kyle to moderate. The round table included Kyle, Fritz Leiber, Jr., E.E. Evans, Judy Merril, E.E. Smith, Jack Williamson, Hannes Bok, John Grossman, Forrest Ackerman, Ted Carnell, Bob Tucker, Mel Korshak, Lloyd Eshbach, James A. Williams, and Dr. C.L. Barrett, representing the authors, artists, publishers, and bibliophiles. The presentation was brisk and serious, emphasizing the growth of s-f, its pertinence to the post-War world, and the role of fandom in creating the professionals of tomorrow. Those watching at the hotel complained about the poor kinescope pickup.

Sunday evening's program was deferred until the group at the studio had time to return. The main speaker was Ted Carnell, whose untitled Fan Guest-of-Honor talk was a description of the s-f scene in Britain. The war had virtually killed both the industry and fandom, which were still only beginning to recover. He deeply thanked all the American fans who had sent bundles of s-f magazines to British correspondents during the years when no s-f was being published there and currency restrictions made it impossible to subscribe to foreign publications. He also thanked all those who had contributed to the Big Pond Fund, but said that he felt uneasy about accepting the honor because another British fan, Walter Gillings, had really been responsible for much of the breakthrough work in starting a British s-f magazine which he had only taken over after Gillings' semi-gafiation. He urged everyone to subscribe to Gillings' Fantasy Review, a semi-pro publication struggling to become solvent, and relay[ed] Gillings' greetings to the Cinvention. Carnell related New Worlds' history and future plans, emphasizing the more interesting differences between American and British magazine publishing and marketing practices. This talk was followed by a question-and-answer period in which most queries related to the likelihood of New Worlds being distributed in the U.S. or the possibility of Americans subscribing to it.

Several notables present were called up to speak briefly. George O. Smith was asked for something humorous, and ad-libbed around the old dictum that the more we know, the more we realize we don't really know anything. Arthur J. Burks said he'd just returned to the U.S. after eighteen months of looking through the Amazon for lost civilizations. The best he'd been able to find were a couple of deserted 17th-century Portuguese settlements. What he really wanted to say was that fans didn't realize the influence they had over s-f. Most magazine publishers never heard from their readers at all, so the amount of mail s-f fans sent in made th[e seem to be a mighty wave of public opinion. He'd once had a well-paying pulp series killed because one kid had said he thought it was dumb. Three fans coordinating could become a real pressure group. He closed by noting that L. Ron Hubbard had hoped to attend the Con but had to go into the hospital instead due to a relapse of some war wounds.

Don Ford popped up to announce that the auction had brought in $750 so far, and turned the mike over to Lloyd Eshbach, who talked about how Burks had been one of his favorite authors when he was a kid. He had been one of the top-producing pulp writers, grinding out over a million words a year for ten years. Burks had helped Mort Weisinger get the job of editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weisinger had rejected every story that Burks submitted from then on. Rev. Darrell C. Richardson talked about his favorite authors, speaking as one who had possibly the largest collection of fantasy books and magazines in existence. His favorites were A. Merritt, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Erle Cox, the latter on the basis of Cox's superb single novel, Out of the Silence.

Judy Merril dominated [the panel], possibly making up for being unable to get a word in during the TV round table.

The final item of the day was a panel discussion, "Why Science Fiction," moderated by E.E. Evans, and featuring Lloyd Eshbach, Fritz Leiber, Jr., Milton Rothman, and Judith Merril. Judy Merril dominated it, possibly making up for being unable to get a word in during the TV round table. Each was asked why he or she wrote or published s-f. Leiber said it gave authors the best chance to display their imagination. Merril liked its many facets, which didn't exist in other forms of popular fiction where all stories had to follow a pat formula. Also she frankly preferred writing to doing housework. She had just sold an original paperback book, this one an anthology of top s-f short stories from the magazines, so fans didn't have to worry about its quality. (It was Shot in the Dark from Bantam, which packaged it as a detective thriller to make sure it'd sell.) Eshbach had enjoyed reading s-f for years, so he published it because he could make more money from it than from other forms of fiction he wasn't as familiar with. Rothman was a hard-science devotee who was attracted to s-f's serious speculation about the future. There was apparently a lot of audience response to this panel, but unfortunately it wasn't recorded.

Sunday night's parties were enhanced replays of the previous night's. The two main affairs were again in Korshak's Shasta suite and the Committee's room 100. Dave MacInnes brought out his Scotty, Goldberg Soda, who demonstrated his trick of singing upon command. Hannes Bok showed more Kodachromes of his paintings and drew cartoons on exposed female anatomy. Lester del Rey and Lois Miles demonstrated how to communicate abstract ideas without words, using as examples such concepts as, "Baby, you look good to me," and, "Sorry, buster, you're not my type." Rog Phillips showed off wrestling holds, while Lloyd Eshbach did comic imitations. A long-distance call came from an excited fan in Los Angeles to Forry Ackerman, to report that the L.A. Times had carried one of TransRadio's releases about the Cinvention. Ned McKeown had another good night at poker. One party report noted that, "the wives of the pros, who are about as interested in Science Fiction as the fan's wives are, had a good time discussing the trials and tribulations of being 'Science Fiction Widows,'" indicating that the Committee's plans for an Official Hostess may not have come off. A larger group strolled to The Purple Cow for an early morning snack. On the way back Bok drew cartoon mice all along the dew-covered show windows they passed.

[ r e t u r n   t o   p a g e   m e n u ]

Monday, September 5

Monday morning, September 5th, began with more unscheduled playing of recorded fantasy radio dramatizations, plus a three-record speech from old pro Neil R. Jones. As soon as MacInnes had run through this material, Ford began the auction. Bob Tucker and Sam Moskowitz took over as auctioneers for Mel Korshak, who was hoarse from running the previous session. The last of the pro material went at about noon. Before turning the stage over to the fans waiting with their own items, Ford announced that the Cinvention had made so much from the regular auction that it was waiving the 20% commission it'd originally stated would be collected from the fans' sales.

The only fan who got to auction anything was Bob Tucker. He sold items from his collection for about an hour, until the lunch break was called. Other fans who'd brought material had to settle for making private deals in corners of the Ball Room while the Business Session went on. Forry Ackerman covered all the seats with street maps of Portland and the latest issue of The Fanscient, a popular fanzine from that city.

The 1:00 p.m. business session got under way about 2:00 p.m.

[T]he program was running so late that [a "Report from the Publishers"] had to be dispensed with.

The 1:00 p.m. business session got under way about 2:00 p.m. Charlie Tanner introduced Fritz Leiber, Jr., who extemporized a speech while fans straggled back from lunch and settled down. Leiber's brief remarks were essentially the message of H.G. Wells in "Things to Come": that society has a cultural resistance to change, even for the better, and that it was up to openminded and farseeing people like fans to "help people of our times with the application of science to Social and Political problems throughout the world."

The Business Session was supposed to open with a "Report from the Publishers," but the program was running so late that [this] had to be dispensed with. Tanner ordered all non-Cinvention Committee members from the room. This was presumably a parliamentary formality, since there's no record that any non-Cinvention people were in the room to leave it. The chair was turned over to Wendell Houston, a neutral, who opened the floor for bids for the 1950 Worldcon. After a brief pause while everybody waited to see who would go first, Will Sykora arose to offer New York as the site, in the name of the "scientifictionists of New York City."

Forry Ackerman announced that he represented the Portland Science-Fiction Society, and read a long letter from John and Dorothy de Courcy of that club entering their bid. Harry Moore got up as a member of the New Orleans Science-Fantasy Society to bid in that club's name. He pointed out that the South had never had a Worldcon before, and that NOSFS wanted to host one to attract more Southerners to fandom.

The Hydra Club opened its presentation with Lester del Rey objecting to Sykora's passing himself off as the representative of all New York fandom. The Hydra Club offered itself as a Worldcon organizer with the support of many New York fans, as well as large percentages of Newark's ESFA and Philadelphia's PSFS. Del Rey introduced L. Jerome Stanton, who painted a rosy picture of how Hydra, with its pro contacts, would put on a better Worldcon than anyone else "for the advancement of science fiction." Sykora rose to a point of correction. He had not presented himself as the representative of anybody, and he denied that the Hydra Club had the right to speak for New York fandom, either. He felt the city should present a non-partisan bid with the makeup of the Committee to be decided later if it won.

The final bid was made by Dave MacInnes in the name of the Washington Science Fiction Association for a 1950 Worldcon in the national capitol -- "Capicon." Before closing the nominations, though, it was solemnly noted that a mail bid had been received from Rick Sneary of South Gate, California, for "South Gate in '58!" This was a followup to a gag campaign that Sneary and some other Southern Californians had been conducting in fanzines during the past year. At the time it was a popular joke, like the "Pogo Possum for President" craze that swept through fandom a few years later. Nobody, not even Sneary, imagined then that it would eventually turn into a successful movement.

Don Ford interrupted to give a financial report. The Convention had brought in $1,307.15, a new record. $980.15 of this came in through the auction. After deducting expenses the Worldcon was left with a profit of $863.19. A "finance committee" was appointed (Tucker, Eshbach, Williams, Moskowitz, Korshak, and Ford himself) to decide during the site-selection how this should be disposed of.

The committee had a lot of time to deliberate. Houston ruled that unless one bid should receive a majority, there would be a runoff between the two top vote-getters. He asked the New York factions whether they were presenting a single or separate bids. Del Rey said separate. Sykora strenuously objected to splitting the vote for New York. Stanton agreed with Sykora, so del Rey withdrew his objection. Paper ballots were passed out. The vote, announced in reverse order, was: New Orleans-8, Washington-29, Portland-36, and New York-48, with one vote for the Antarctic. This turned the vote into a contest between Portland and New York.

As the talley of the runoff was finishing, somebody pointed out a dropped ballot upon the stage. Doc Winter picked it up and said, "Make that 60 for Portland. It's a tie -- 60 to 60." One ballot had been cast by a holdout for Washington. The room burst into such hysteria that Houston called a five-minute recess to give everybody time to calm down. Runners were sent to search the hotel for any fans not attending the session, in the hope that more voters would break the tie.

The bidders took advantage of the break for frantic last-minute electioneering. Most of it was impersonal, but Milton Rothman took the stage to complain about Kyle's cheesecake publicity for the Worldcon. If this was a sample of Hydra's ideas about "advancing science fiction," he recommended that fandom support Portland's bid.

Fandom did. The third vote was Portland-67, New York-63, with the same holdout for Washington and one vote in Harry Moore's name. James V. Taurasi, one of Sykora's supporters, proposed that everybody show their support for the winner by buying memberships in the Portland Worldcon immediately. Forry Ackerman, as Portland's agent, collected 38 memberships on the spot. Not many out of 132 possible joiners, maybe, but it was the largest registration that any Worldcon had yet recorded so soon after winning.

Ford then announced the finance committee's recommendation. $150 should be passed on to Portland to start the next Worldcon, $150 be used to buy books and magazines for British fans who could not obtain s-f due to tight money problems, $150 ditto for Australian fans, and the remaining $410-odd be given to the Cincinnati Fan Group in payment for its work on the Cinvention, to be used for such fannish purposes as a club mimeograph. Any charity for impoverished fans who'd overspent and needed carfare home was to come out of the CFG's allotment. There was general approval of this, but some thought the NFFF should share in the division. This touched off a hot debate. The NFFF's detractors claimed that it was always talking about how it was the big, national fan club, but challenged it to show what it had ever done for the Worldcon to deserve a cut of the profits? This went on until Rev. Darrell Richardson grabbed the mike and suggested a token payment of $50 be given the NFFF from the CFG's share. This was large enough to mollify the NFFF's supporters and small enough that its antagonists didn't feel that the CFG was being robbed of any important amount. The compromise passed.

By this time everyone was so emotionally exhausted, and it was so late in the day, that the Business Session was adjourned without taking up the resolutions relating to the mail-ballot selection of future Worldcons.

There was almost no break before the 7:00 p.m. banquet started. This took place in the Metropole's basement Grill Room cafeteria. There were 116 diners at $2.50 each. For a change the complaints weren't about the quality of the food but about the fact that fans had to serve themselves rather than being waited upon. After settling with the management for the meal, Ford had only $15 left so he tossed it in as a tip for the chef and his staff.

Since the last few Worldcons had established the banquet as the occasion for relaxation and merriment, a large number showed up in their costumes. Kyle got the news reporters back for more photos. Ted Carnell was chosen M.C. and a couple of fans performed brief comedy routines. But the underground cafeteria had numerous supporting pillars that made it difficult for everyone to see what was going on, so after the meal everyone returned to the Ball Room to finish the program. Some began to drift away to check out for the return home. Carnell introduced the remaining notables for a few farewell words. The Philadelphia SFS was the only club that followed through on the early call for fan groups to prepare entertaining acts, and it now presented a "space opera" that was a sequel to its show at the Torcon. This got rave reviews but does not appear to have been described in any detail. Sam Moskowitz gave his dramatic recital of "The Raven," always a favorite. To close the convention, Ted Carnell called for the entire Con Committee to assemble on stage and take a bow. Only one member failed to respond: Don Ford, "Mr. Cinvention" himself. He was discovered at the rear of the room, stretched across five chairs, sound asleep.

[ r e t u r n   t o   p a g e   m e n u ]


Reaction to the Cinvention was similar to that to the Torcon, only more so. The Con was recognized as a success. Everyone had had a wonderful time. Attendance had snapped back to the Philcon's level. As Don Ford put it, "We managed to get about 175 to 180 names on the books; but the others merely picked up their Program Booklets etc. and took off; rather than stand in line. So, we can only guess and say approximately 200 attended." There were a gratifying number of professionals present. Ray Palmer was welcomed back to fandom, and he hired a CFG member, Bea Mahaffey, as assistant editor for his new prozine. The Cinvention did spectacularly well in all financial areas. There had been an exciting fight for the next Worldcon with no apparent hard feelings from the outcome.

The Con was recognized as a success. Everyone had had a wonderful time.

Everyone took pride in the Con's appearance on TV....[b]ut the cheesecake shots and the gag publicity photos stirred up a storm...

The publicity angle provided much post-Con discussion. Everyone took pride in the Con's appearance on TV. TransRadio had sent brief releases about the Worldcon around the country, and a number of newspapers and radio newscasts used some of them. But the cheesecake shots and the gag publicity photos stirred up a storm between those like Lou Tabakow who said, "I don't give a damn what they write about me, or the convention, as long as they spell my name right," and Milt Rothman, who claimed that "fandom wasn't interested in attracting the type of people who would be attracted by this type of publicity." The debate was to be repeated many times in the coming years.

A number of fans sadly decided that the Committee could not escape harsh words. The program had all too clearly been successful only because of the number of pros who'd allowed themselves to be drafted to speak without notice. Milt Rothman published a 20-page indictment in the November 1949 issue of his fanzine, Plenum. His argument was that after over ten years of World Conventions and regional conferences, there were enough experienced ex-Committeemen around that no new Committee had an excuse for not being able to get practical advice on the fine details of managing a convention. The Cinvention was an excellent example of how not to run a Con! "There was absolutely no sense of timing. Everything started a half-hour to an hour late. Korshak's introductions took too long, and after that there was an intermission of indefinite length.... And only two hours were allowed for fan business! Fantastic! If all the time wasted on delays and overlong intermissions had been salvaged, we could have enjoyed arguing over a dozen resolutions.... The public address system was very bad. Jack Williamson's voice was completely lost by the time it got to the back of the room.... There seemed to be no responsibility for anything. At the beginning of the auction a certain drunk began to auction off The Worm Ouroboros, and it was at least five minutes before Dr. Richardson led him gently to the door. A proper chairman would not have permitted this nuisance to continue beyond the boring point." The complaints of Rothman and others may have been stronger than they'd've been in previous years due also to the wave of enthusiasm about s-f's growth that fandom was experiencing. S-f was "maturing." The Hydra Club had proven that it was possible for fandom to help its advancement. It was therefore desirable that the World Convention show a similar development of professionalism.

The Cinvention followed the lead of the two previous years by publishing a thick "Memory Book" the following May. This consisted of transcriptions of the parts of the program that had been successfully recorded, reproductions of most of the telegrams the Con had received, and several lengthy Con reports describing the various activities through different eyes. The "Report from the Publishers" that had been canceled for lack of time was "read into the minutes," with news as of April 1950 on the activities of Shasta Publishers, Arkham House, and Prime Press. Don Ford reported on the $300 purchase of s-f for Britain and Australia. The original idea had been to buy one copy of every in-print s-f book and one subscription to each s-f magazine, and divide them equally among all the s-f clubs in the two Commonwealth nations. In practice there hadn't been enough to buy more than sixty-two hardcovers. Total expenditures $229.86, plus $15.30 in postage, leaving $54.86 in the fund, which would be used to send copies of the Convention Memory Book to Australian and British fans.

The Cinvention was not as fatal to the CFG as the Torcon had been to the Derelicts or as the 1950 and 1951 Worldcons would be to their host clubs, but it certainly didn't help it any. Within a year the club's size had shrunk appreciably. Certainly much of the migration from Cincinnati had nothing to do with fannish reasons, but Bea Mahaffey moved to Chicago because of being hired at the Cinvention for the staff of Other Worlds. Charles Tanner resigned from the CFG after 14 years as its elder leader, citing personality conflicts with the newer club officers that had been exacerbated by the strain of running the Worldcon. The younger group had its enthusiasm for Worldcon-sized projects permanently burned out. The next year the remaining Cinvention Committee activists, none of whom could afford the trip to Portland, rented an old hotel at nearby Indian Lake and hosted a big open party. This was the birth of the annual Midwestcon, which has no formal program; people just come together at the announced weekend in June for a couple of days of informal socializing. (In recent years, a new generation of fans has saddled the Midwestcon with such formalities as a Guest-of-Honor, a banquet, and a hucksters' room, to the disgust of such old-timers as Tabakow and Barrett.)

[ r e t u r n   t o   p a g e   m e n u ]

Notes: from the Author
  1. All speech titles were assigned retrospectively when the wire recordings were transcribed.
      -[ Back to reference ]-

  2. This was the famous "forecast" issue. A year earlier a reader had sent in a gag letter of comment praising the issue of a year hence, in which he'd listed all his favorite authors. Campbell had quietly lined up the authors to make the prediction come true.
      -[ Back to reference ]-

Notes: from the CFG & friends
{[ss]} Scott Street
  1. Well, not exactly. But Fred lives in Culver City (California); much of what he wrote was based on notes supplied by others; and the primary event was already nearly thirty years in the past. Bonus points for degree of difficulty, but clearly a low 6 on technical form.
       Back when the canal (the south end of the Miami & Erie ditto) was dug (by mostly Irish laborers, bless their navigating little hearts), its course followed the western and southern boundaries of the city's existing German neighborhood -- which, since one could now enter it by crossing a "navigable" stretch of fresh water, was soon known as "Over the Rhine." (As for beerhalls, though, oh my yes. When Carrie Nation came to town, she found so many saloons along Vine Street -- the city's east/west divide -- that only a few blocks' effort left her utterly exhausted.)
       But those "days when a canal had cut through town" lasted well into this century. My father walked its banks as a child, and grew up with kids foolish -- or disobedient -- enough to have swum in it. It wasn't until the 1920s that it was drained, filled and paved over, becoming Central Parkway. (Before the fill was dumped, vaulting was constructed below ground level to accomodate a subway...which was never completed. We Cincinnatians tend to recycle our white elephants into fresh white elephants.) {[ss]}
      -[ Back to reference ]-

Copyright © 1976 et seq. Frederick Patten.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted [with minor grammatical corrections, and sectional divisions] from its original publication in Progress Report 4 of MidAmeriCon: The 34th World Science Fiction Convention (Kansas City, Missouri; Wednesday, September 1 through Monday, September 6, 1976).

URL: http://www.cfg.org/history/cinvention/cinvention.htm

All material © Cincinnati Fantasy Group, unless otherwise credited.
  Last updated: Monday, August 25, 2008
    Created for the CFG by Scott Street (scottst@ix.netcom.com).
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