Forrest J Ackerman NYcon Reminiscence

1939Nycon I, New York City
by Forrest J Ackerman
from the Noreascon Three PB

It is possibly a forgotten fact that I started the nicknaming of Worldcons by referring to the first one as the Nycon.

As a prelude to the Convention, I got off the train at New York's Central Station and was greeted by a handful of fans, the only two I definitely remember after a span of 50 years being Donald A. Wollheim and…a paunchy 15-year-old surly youth dribbling cigarette ashes down his shirt front who cocked his head, looked up at me and sneered, "So you're the Forrest Ackerman who's been writing those ridiculous letters to the science fiction magazines!" — and Cyril Kornbluth welcomed me with a punch in the stomach!

In my hotel room I did my Superman-in-the-telephone-booth act and changed into my costume with the Paulian pants and Things-to-Come emerald green cape, then headed for the Con site. Outside the hall I met my opposite number of the time, Jack Darrow, and we shook hands. Today such a historic meeting would have been covered by 50 photos; then, exactly one was taken. In retrospect I wonder why on Earth I wasn't photographed with Guest of Honor Frank R. Paul in the costume honoring him; why I wasn't photographed with the legendary Ray Cummings; why — But at least I got all their autographs in the pamphlet I had mimeographed for the occasion.

I was Shy Guy #1 at 22 and to my consternation found myself being called up to the platform to address the attendees. Terror pounded my temples with an instant migraine (where was Ack-cedrin when I needed it?—not created yet) but John W. Campbell's wife Dona came to my rescue with two aspirins.

I won't go into the "Exclusion Act" which generated a war of words for a couple years afterwards but will recall a little known aftermath. As I remember it, Dave Kyle, Don Wollheim, "Doc" Lowndes, John Michel, Isaac Asimov and several other fans were present the day after the con at a critique session held in some small room. I personally was very impressed with the very fair way in which the Nycon was analyzed. "If the reason for the convention," said the speaker, "was for fans to meet the pros, to exchange autographs, to see movies, etc., then we would have to say that the convention was a success. If this first meeting of readers and authors should have produced some discussions, some resolutions, then we would have to say that it was not." The Futurians, as they were called (or, later, Michelists) were politically oriented fans who felt that science fiction had a mission, was more than just fun and games, should have gone on record on this historic occasion as being opposed to war or in favor of interplanetary exploration or something of a substantial nature.

It was a thrill for me to press the flesh of L. Sprague de Camp, Jack Williamson, Ross Rocklynne, Ray Cummings, Edmond Hamilton, Julius Schwartz, Leo Margulies (who told Time magazine "I didn't believe these guys were so damn sincere"), Manly Wade Wellman, Charles D. Hornig and other celebrities of the time. Females in attendance were as scarce as pterodactyls' teeth and I was impressed by one of Frank R. Paul's three daughters, Joan, and by Cummings' 12-year-old daughter who had had a poem published in Liberty magazine.

I was thrilled to see Metropolis again for perhaps the third or fourth time (I've now seen it 78 times) and The Lost World for probably the second.

I left determined never to miss another Worldcon and if I'm present in Boston it will be my 46-and-a-halfth: I was halfway to New Orleans (#9: 1951) when my Dad died and I returned home.