Cosmic Circle

A shady and partly fictitious network of fan clubs created by Claude Degler, who believed fans were star-begotten super beings, the Cosmic Circle, was to be a union of all persons everywhere who had a cosmic outlook.

Degler’s plan included a love camp in the Ozarks (on a piece of land owned by Degler's mother), available for use by vacationing cosmen. where the slan-like star-begotten fans could retreat to breed the race that was destined to rule the sevagram. He had recruited Helen Bradleigh, pseudonym for Joan Domnick, a teen-age girl for the purpose, but townsmen prevented her from starting the super-race with Degler. She was head of the Cosmen's Psychological Ministry because she was reading a book on psychology.

Degler traveled the country recruiting fans for the Circle. He joined LASFS and used the clubroom facilities to publish weekly newszines alternately titled Cosmic Circle Commentator and Fanews Analyzer, claiming more than 200 members). In the weeekly sheets he answered a positive "Yes!" to the old question, "Are fans slans?" He proposed to contact cosmic-minded mutants everywhere, using radio programs and other publicity to this end. Numerous special service bureaus, for functions such as purchasing mimeo supplies cooperatively, supplying fans in the military with free fan- and prozines, and planning tours for other traveling fans, were announced. Publications projected included a directory of fans' addresses, True Fantastic Experiences, Spicy Spaceship Stories, and others. A fanational literature was urged to promote cohesiveness in the new race. It was announced that

Fandom mostly laughed at Degler, but his activities had serious repercussions. When a copy of the Cosmic Circle Commentator came into the hands of Amazing Stories' editor Ray Palmer, the declaration of existence of a super race smelled to him of Naziism, and the fanationalistic program seemed the horrid ne plus ultra of the movement away from the pros which Palmer, a member of First Fandom and now, a frankly commercial editor, decried. Palmer decided that fans were not the type of science-fiction readers his publications catered to and announced that fans or fandom would no longer get into his lettercols in the future, and he would no long contribute original artwork from the magazines to auction at fan gatherings.

Efforts to laugh the CC out existence included the Boston boys' Trivial Triangle Troubador, FTLaney's Comic Circle Commentator, Kepner 's Caustic Square Commentator, and Tucker's announement of the formation of the Cosworms. Proceedings were started to expel Degler from FAPA.

But the many fans who effectively laughed Claude and his Cosmen out of the microcosm, even including some of his major detractors – particularly as they got older and less attractive to the opposite sex – were later inclined to admit that while the notion of fan superiority should continue to be looked upon with suspicion, maybe they’d been a bit hasty in rejecting those love camps, which might not be such a bad idea after all.

Looking at the number of second- and third-generation fans now peopling fandom, it does seem as if some fans took the idea of breeding the next fannish generations seriously.

Contributors: Dr. Gafia

from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959
See Claude Degler
from Fancyclopedia 1 ca. 1944
Claude Degler attended the Chicon in 1940, and at Denver in 1941 delivered a speech purporting to have been written by Martians. He appears to have had some activity in the Indiana Fantasy Association, and a part in publishing a minor fanzine, Infinite. At the 1942 Michiconference several attendees got bad impressions of him, but he was still virtually unknown when he arrived late at the 1943 Boskone. Four months later he reappeared at the Schenectacon. In the intervening time, he appears to have received his 4F classification, and spent a month hitchhiking thru the southeastern states, with his mother in Newcastle Ind sending money orders to him along the route, from funds he had saved. Getting names and addresses from the readers' departments of the pros, he contacted various scientifictionists unknown to fandom, and wherever they were willing, constituted each as a local and a state organization, which he hoped would grow. The Circle of Aztor (Tenn), Louisiana Fandom, Alabama All-Fans, Valdosta (Ga) Philosophers, and Georgia Cosmen were created in this way. Since Degler was constantly thinking up organization and conference names, they are not treated elsewhere in this guidebook. At the "Live Oak Conference" with Raym Washington and sister, he organized the Cosmic Thinkers (local), Florida Cosmos Society, and reconstituted the Dixie Fantasy Federation, with Raym at its head.

From the South he made a triumphal return to Indiana, where such organizations as the Cosmic Club (later called the Futurian Society of Indiana), Circle City Cosmic Society (Indianapolis), Muncie Mutants Irvington Circle (Indpls suburb), and the Rose City Science Circle (Newcastle, formerly Buck Rogers Club), were supposed to exist already. After earning some more money, he departed late in June for the Schenectacon.

Thence to Boston, where he "had a long talk" with Widner on such subjects as Slan Center. Later, in a remote hamlet in N H, the New Hampshire FFF was formed. Visiting Jim Avery while the latter was home on leave, Degler got the Maine Scientifiction Association declared revived, then made the Mainecon Jr with Norman Stanley. After this he went into Quebec to swear to the citizenship of an Indian girl who had hitchhiked thither with him a year before and been detained. After forming the Future Fantasy French at the "Quebec Conference" he returned alone to New York.

He slept on the floor at Little Jarnevon until some time after Schwartz and Shaw began telling him to leave, and worked on some Cosmic Circle publications which were supposed to be angeled by someone in Indiana. In the Cosmic Circle, which was to be a union of all persons everywhere who had a cosmic outlook, these local and regional organizations were affiliated with the Planet Fantasy Federation, whose Council included Don Rogers (the pseudonym for Degler used in all his publications), Raym Washington, and some people around Newcastle. It is claimed that the movement was tested in Newcastle for years before the missionary work began (1943 was the year 4 of the Cosmic Concept), but information from other than Degler is very vague. There was Helen Bradleigh, pseudonym for Joan Domnick, a teen-age girl whom townsmen had prevented from starting the super-race with Degler, and who was head of the Psychological Ministry because she was reading a book on psychology. A minor fanzine artist, Morrie Jenkinson, appeared under the name of Rex Matthews. Also, not members of the Cosmic Circle, were a younger girl, Martha Matley, who headed a "vughu" cult claiming connection with ghughuism, and Frankfort Nelson Stein, whose existence has been questioned.

Shaw was at first impressed by Degler's ideas, and against his wishes was named head of Slan Slum as a local organization and the Empire State Slans. The autonomous Cosmen of the Island were headed (and constituted) by Russell Wilsey, a new fan of Long Island. Larry and Claude also formed the Hannes Bok Art Society, not affiliated with the Cosmic Circle, to appreciate the work of Bok. Degler took down the names and addresses, past and present, on Fantasy Fiction Field's subscription list; this made up most of his mailing list for the Cosmic Circle publications.

After Coordinator Claude left New York in August, many of the fanzines of Schwartz's and Unger's collections were missing, and they charged that Superfan took them. Because of this, and because Degler called on a girl Larry knew, against his expressed wishes, and because the Cosmic Circle was beginning to look grotesque, Larry Shaw resigned from the CC and declared feud on Degler. Meanwhile, the latter's lanky form appeared briefly in Philadelphia, where Ossie Train was bored and later, without his knowledge, named head of a new Philadelphia Fantasy Society. Rogers then turned up in Hagerstown, apparently intending to stay with Harry Warner for some time, but due to illness in Warner's family was persuaded to move on. He caught a ride going west, and visited some unknown scientifictionists in Oklahoma where the Oklahoma Fantasy Circle was established, and set up the Manana Society de Sonora and the Southwest Fantasy Foundation (comprising New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona).

Arriving in Shangri-La, he joined the LASFS and used the clubroom facilities to publish weekly "news" sheets alternately titled Cosmic Circle Commentator and Fanews Analyzer, and some publications written by others and credited to them, tho reworked by him. The Circle Amateur Publishers' Alliance was formed, which would have a mailing list of 500 (the Cosmic Circle claimed more than 200 members). In the weeekly sheets the Cosmic Circle program reached full form: Don Rogers answered a positive "Yes!" to the old question, "Are fans slans?" He proposed to contact cosmic-minded mutants everywhere, using radio programs and other publicity to this end. Numerous special service bureaus, for functions such as purchasing mimeo supplies cooperatively, supplying fans in the military with free fan- and prozines, and planning tours for other traveling fans, were announced as being set up in the Newcastle headquarters. Publications projected included a directory of fans' addresses, True Fantastic Experiences, Spicy Spaceship Stories, and others. A fanational literature was urged to promote cohesiveness in the new race. It was announced that a piece of land in Arkansas (owned by Degler's mother) was available for use as Cosmic Camp by vacationing cosmen. The Slan Center idea was pushed to its ultimate extreme, and the Coordinator foresaw the day when those who now "carried" 22 states (that many state organizations were claimed to exist), would inherit the solar system. The first stop was organization of exactly the type that fanarchists snort at. With the demise of the NFFF, Degler said, the Third Fandom had ended, and the Fourth Fandom was now coming into existence under the aegis of the Planet Fantasy Federation. Pending their consent (which was emphatically not given), prominent fans were named as regional representatives (regional organizations included the Southern Circle, the Gulf Circle, Northwest Federation, and others bearing the common sectional names); and almost every actifan he'd visited and some he hadn't, who received him civilly and listened to him politely, was named as a supporter of the Cosmic Circle. The weeklies carried a hodge-podge of policy pronouncements by the Coordinator, recollections of his trips, a few items of general interest and inaccuracy, and Cosmic Circle news like Rogers' being shut out of the LA clubroom one day and Helen Bradleigh conducting a summer school for cosmic children (she tended children for working mothers in her spare time). The most noticeable characteristic of the publications was that they were the worst-looking legible fanzines ever published: abounding strikeovers; paragraphs nonexistent; edges of the stencil crowded, no spacing after periods; misspellings; overuse of caps, quotation marks, and underlines; wandering, unplanned sentences; countless simple gramatical errors like "can and has went"; store of malapropisms like calling Widner a stolid and far-seeing fan; ad n.

T Bruce Yerke became alarmed at the prospect of publicity for fandom directed at potential fans and the general public appearing in such garments, and sent several fans a request for information about Degler, on which to base a report on the Cosmic Circle. Degler reacted with violent denunciation of Yerke, but was persuaded to cease firing till the report was prepared and published. In the report, Yerke stated his belief that Degler was a nearly precipitated case of schizophrenia, a paranoiac with delusions of grandeur and persecution complex, and called for a ban on him if he refused to reform his practices. Leading Angelenoes endorsed the report.

While he was now in LA, Superfan had gained James Kepner and other new fen as members; and Ackerman let himself be named honorary member of one more organization. Before long, all (except Ackerman) resigned from the organization, and the branches that Degler had set up, the Futurian Society of California (United Califans) and the Futurian Society of Los Angeles, were memberless after he left.

A Floricon had been planned for an indefinite date in Live Oak, but upon learning thru Fanewscard of the Michiconference date, Degler gave up even his plan for a "Blitzkreig" thru the Pacific Northwest in order to attend (however, a Columbia Science Fantasy Society for Oregon, Olympia Fantasians, and British Columbians had been announced). He stopped in San Francisco and gained George Ebey as a member. In Salt Lake City he added Utah to the South-West Fantasy Unit as the Utah Cosmic Fans. Holding the 2d Caspercon with Perdue, he borrowed money for the remainder of the trip to Battle Creek, where he arrived on 29 Oct as the Ashleys were beginning to move to Slan Shack. Al Ashley told him the Conference didn't want him, and when asked, tried to explain why, but only got arguments in return. Finally Degler said he had no place to sleep and only 60¢, but the Ashleys refused to lend him anything.

When Superfan came back to Newcastle, Frank N. Stein, who had taken over an Oakgrove Fantasy Society and was imputed with reestablishing Slan Slum there, formed a Futurian Alliance to fite the old-fan clique who were responsible for this new Exclusion Act, the Ashley Atrocity, and were trying to keep down the new and young fans (—all this per Claude Degler). Degler claimed that the CC was neutral in this war, but left no shade of doubt as to where his sympathies lay, in the fite against the "National Fantasy Fascist Federation" and seemed to identify his cause historically with the old Futurian movement. By this time Wilcey had resigned from the Circle, leaving Raymond Washington the only active fan who supported Degler. Washington had privately deplored the "morass" of publishing, and urged Degler to moderate his statements, but still hoped that some good mite be done with the Cosmic Circle. In the face of this situation, at the Cosmic Circle Conference in Newcastle (Councilcon) the resuscitation of the Mid-West Fantasy Fan Federation was announced on the authority of member Jenkinson, with presumably the CC's Ohio FFF, Kentucky FFF, and the IFA as mambers of it (a North Dakota Fantasy Fan Federation had once been announced, but Walt Dunkelberger didn't cooperate).

Meanwhile, a copy of the Cosmic Circle Commentator had come into the hands of Amazing Stories' editor Palmer. The declaration of existence of a super race smelled to him of Naziism, and the fanationalistic program seemed the horrid ultima of fans' movement away from the pros which he, as a fan of the First Fandom and now as a frankly commercial editor, decried. Because of this, and because fans were not the type of readers his publications catered to, he made it know thru FFF Newsweekly that fans or fandom would not get into the letter departments in the future, originals would not be contributed for auction at fan gatherings, and so on. Some fans reacted by saying that Degler's ideas in some form had all been spoken in fandom before, and who the hell was Palmer to try to dictate to fandom, and as for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, good riddance of bad rubbish. Others, alarmed at the possibility that other pros mite follow Ziff-Davis's lead and cut fandom off from financial, recruiting, and publicity assistance made haste to inform Palmer that Degler didn't speak for fandom. Palmer modified his statement of the ban, but urged fen to return to the ways of their fathers.

On the theory that the CC could best be laughed out of existence, the Boston boys had issued Trivial Triangle Troubador, FTLaney produced the Comic Circle Commentator, Kepner published a Caustic Square Commentator, and Tucker announced the formation of the Cosworms. When the Ziff-Davis affair broke, however, proceedings were started to expel Degler from the FAPA, which he had lately joined. And Clod found it expedient to let his LASFS membership lapse because of the overwhelming sentiment against him there. It wasn't a joke any longer.

The original draft of thei article was checked, and corrections made, by Schwartz, Shaw, Unger, and Washington. After publication in the FFF, other information was brot to lite and a few further corrections made.

A special investigation has revealed that Degler was committed to the Hospital for the Insane in 1936-1937, released against the advice of the doctors. In 1942 he was forced to leave Newcastle because of illicit relations with a minor. The "fans" of Newcastle appear to be almost wholly imaginary.