Lloyd A. Eshbach's Chicon II Reminiscence

1952TASFiC (Tenth Anniversary Science Fiction Convention), Chicago (Chicon II)
by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach
from the Noreascon Three PB

Quoting from "Over My Shoulder": "Then there was Chicago — Chicon II in 1952. This was the first really big one, an estimated 1000 people in attendance. (Officially 870 were there.) By this time Fantasy Press had published more than 30 titles, most of which were still in print, so I recall having quite an impressive display. Hugo Gernsback was Guest of Honor.

The days and nights sped by in a hectic whirl. Everybody and his brother and sister — was there. "It was at Chicon II that Ted Sturgeon spoke to me about Fantasy Press possibly being interested in publishing a Sturgeon book; and I answered with a polite but negative, 'Let's see what you have to offer.' I never heard from him again — which emphasizes my being well-equipped with stupidity." (I cringe when I think of this.)

It was at TASFiC that a typically fannish escapade occurred. Again I quote from "Over My Shoulder": "By word of mouth news spread through the crowd of fans that there was a wedding reception at the convention hotel with an abundance of food and drink free for the taking. A number of fans slipped in unobtrusively and helped themselves to refreshments. I was one of the group but left almost immediately. (I'm naturally shy and retiring.) Dave Kyle, who remained, was an observer of the incident which I am about to relate. "Among the party-crashers were Mel Korshak and Bill (William Lawrence) Hamling, the latter an important fan in the late '30s, a professional SF writer in the '40s, associate editor of Amazing Stories under both Ray Palmer and Howard Browne, and at the time the fannish incident occurred, publisher of his own professional magazine, Imagination. While most of the party-crashers remained in the background, Korshak and Hamling, perhaps aided by the free champagne, became a bit boisterous. "Quietly, they were informed that this was a private party, and would they please leave? Korshak replied with a question — which side (bride's or groom's) was he on. When he answered "groom's", Korshak responded that they were the bride's guests! There are differing opinions concerning the effectiveness of this stratagem; but apparently it was successful, since Korshak and Hamling and the latter's wife Frances returned to the party a bit later in the evening! Korshak recalls having several delightful waltzes with the bride."

The presence of Hugo Gernsback as Guest of Honor deserves more than the passing reference made in the opening paragraph. The man who literally started the whole Science Fiction scene with Amazing Stories back in 1926 received the recognition and honor he so richly deserved; and he appeared to enjoy every moment of it. He had had his GoH speech reproduced in quantity in advance of the convention so that everyone present could receive a copy.

Celebrities were there and participating in unbelievable numbers. An Editors' Panel was made up of the following: Anthony Boucher, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; Howard Browne, Amazing Stories; John W. Campbell, Jr., Astounding Science Fiction; Lester del Rey, Space Science Fiction; Evelyn Gold, Galaxy Science Fiction; William L. Hamling, Imagination; Samuel Mines, Thrilling Wonder Stories; Raymond A. Palmer, Other Worlds; James Quinn, If. There was a panel made up of the Specialist Book Publishers: August Derleth, Arkham House; Lloyd Eshbach, Fantasy Press; Marty Greenberg, Gnome Press; Melvin Korshak, Shasta Publishers; David A. Kyle, Bouregy & Curl; James A. Williams, Prime Press. Others with solo spots on the program (in no particular order): William F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster); L. Sprague de Camp; E. E. "Doc" Smith; Harlan Ellison; E. Everett Evans; Hans Santesson; Robert Bloch; Wilson "Bob" Tucker; Ted Sturgeon; Willy Ley; and many other writers and Big Name Fans who were not on the very full program.

It was some convention! Big enough to be exciting, and small enough for you to meet and talk to everyone.