Science Fiction Studies

#70 = Volume 23, Part 3 = November 1996

Sam Moskowitz

The First College-Level Course in Science Fiction

"I drove into New York late in October to oblige Sam Moskowitz who was giving a class in science fiction at City College. (This is a supercommon situation now but it was not then. Sam's class may have been the first college class in science fiction.)" Isaac Asimov, In Memory Yet Green (1979), 692.

"The first college course on science fiction that I can discover was given as a night school course at City College of New York Extension School; this began in 1953 and was conducted by Sam Moskowitz. ... Certainly this was the oldest continuing course on science fiction. At that time, Moskowitz had no difficulty in securing such writers as Heinlein and Asimov as guest lecturers." Lester Del Rey, The World of Science Fiction (1979), 224.

The classes in science fiction Asimov and Del Rey refer to above were indeed the earliest ever given, and the recollections of these gentlemen should be clear because they themselves were among a distinguished group of guest lecturers that participated in them. One of the most interesting points about this landmark introduction of science fiction to the halls of academe was that it was planned and instigated by the college itself, which instituted a deliberate and successful effort to obtain a qualified instructor.

This was not my introduction to lecturing at the university level. The Who's Who people had turned out a reference in 1949 titled Who Knows—and What among Authorities, Experts, and the Specially Informed in which I was listed under science fiction. Prof. Benjamin Hamilton of New York University at 1 Washington Square was conducting a class on contemporary literature and solicited me to lecture on science fiction as a result of my listing. I faced about 30 individuals, all adult, and spoke on the subject of "What is Science Fiction?" for several hours, starting with its early elements in The Bible, Beowulf, and The Odyssey and continuing with its emergence as a recognizable form in the works of Lucian and Cyrano de Bergerac. I covered the appearance of the utopias and their incorporation into the modern body of the genre, the transition of Gothic literature into science fiction with Frankenstein. The chronology of Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells, the scientific romances of the Munsey magazines, the advent of the science-fiction publications and the rise of specialty fantasy publishers. It was a cram course in science-fiction history that December 13, 1950.

Two years later, on October 13, 1952, I had gone to work for Hugo Gernsback as editor of a new science-fiction magazine to be titled Science-Fiction+, one of a spate of science-fiction magazines appearing during that boom period, except that this one was a large-sized, slick-paper publication with two-color interior illustrations.

One of my closest friends at that time was Thos. S. Gardner, Ph.D., a scientist working for Hoffman LaRoche Laboratories in Nutley, NJ, a sometime science-fiction writer and an avid fan. He had built up a reputation as an experimenter on longevity drugs and a specialist on gerontology. He told me that a man named Robert Frazier had approached him for background on a longevity article he was writing and in the process told him that City College of New York was looking for an individual with a strong science-fiction background to teach a class on the subject. Frazier had applied to teach a regimen on science-article writing and had been refused. He offered to do the course on science fiction, but they quickly ascertained he knew nothing about the field. Gardner urged me to contact him and find out about the matter, since he was not interested in teaching the course himself at that time.

Frazier was the son of wealthy parents in the garment industry. He had a B.A. degree from Brooklyn College in 1939, and had attended classes at Columbia University and The University of Southern California. He claimed that in 1941 he had worked for the Bureau of Ordinance in the United States Navy and as a degaussing engineer and an electrical engineer in Mobile and Chicasaw, Alabama in 1942; and in editorial posts in Popular Science and Electronics (1943) and Air Tech (1944). In late 1944, financed by his parents, he became publisher and editor of Sportswear Stylist, a trade magazine in the fashion industry with a consumer slant, and which collapsed after two issues, and he refused to discuss it. Since that period, he had collaborated on a science column for the newspaper supplement Parade with his wife Shirley, but he seemed to be confused and between projects when I met him. He had completed a paperback for Lion Books on Malenkov, the interim successor to Joseph Stalin, but he had selected a difficult subject. Literally the only information available on Malenkov in English was a profile in The New Yorker, and that magazine angrily protested that he had all but plagiarized it. In addition, he padded his book with biographical sketches of other Soviet leaders, but he did expose the new wave of anti-Semitism there.

It took only one interview with Frazier for me to realize I would have to do everything for the class, including all the instruction, obtain the guest speakers, write the syllabus and see that it was followed, order the textbooks, handle the publicity and public relations, judge and correct any papers the students might be required to write, as well as give him personally a crash course on science fiction. The one aspect that he seemed perfectly capable of handling was liaison between us and the administrators of City College. This he was eager to do because he hoped to get other classes such as the science- writing course he had initially applied for. I soon discovered that I would require him for another purpose.

I had submitted a letter of my qualifications which included my current editorship of Science-Fiction+ magazine and my consequent close relationship with many of the leading authors in the field, the fact that I had sold fiction, articles, and columns professionally to the magazines and had one book in the process of being published, The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom, and that I had been a literary agent specializing in fantasy and was listed in Who Knows—and What published by A.N. Marquis Co. as an authority on science fiction. In an interview they asked me simple questions so they could determine how effectively I spoke, important in teaching a class. The problem was that I did not have a college degree (they would have preferred a degree in science fiction!). I suggested that Robert Frazier, who wanted to teach the class with me, had a degree, so the combination of one man who knew the subject and another that had a degree proved satisfactory to them!

Frazier was elated; he now felt there would be no problem with the school, and he was right. But there was a problem with Frazier. He wanted me to have each guest speaker come prepared to discuss two short stories, then at the end of the term assemble these stories into an anthology, sell them to the publisher, then use the subsequent book as a text. Naturally, I was to handle all the details of this anthology and we would split the royalties. I told him I needed no outside assistance in assembling science-fiction anthologies, and as a text we would use The Science Fiction Handbook (1953) by L. Sprague de Camp, which was already complete and at the publishers and was made to order for a class such as ours.

Frazier's demands were insatiable. Among them, he wanted me to write 2000-word reports on seven anthologies and 3000-word descriptions of eight current novels so that he wouldn't have to read any of them. He couldn't understand why I wouldn't let him use my collection as a lending library or bring items along for our students to handle. He even added this to the college's prospectus. Of course, I did not oblige.

Another surprise he had for me was that he convinced the college that there should be two sessions a week, one on Tuesdays and one on Fridays. I suggested he wait until we knew what the enrollment was before we firmed that up.

One class was set for Tuesday, September 22, 1953, at public school #18, 121 East 51st St.; the second, Friday, September 25, 1953, at the High School of Commerce, 155 West 65th St. The reader might ask why college-level courses were held in grammar school and high school buildings. The answer was that the college was part of the city's educational system; this controlled all public educational structures, which could be delegated for special use as officials felt best warranted from the standpoints of convenience and economy.

The majority of the students had signed up for the Tuesday class, so the two classes were consolidated and the one on Friday eliminated. There would be 12 weekly sessions of one hour and forty minutes. The cost of attending was $19.00 plus a $2.00 registration fee.

The first class would be a condensed, revised presentation of the history of the field along the lines of the one I had delivered three years previously at New York University.

The prime City College executive that we dealt with, but seldom saw, was a prominent man named Simon Lissim. He had been an internationally renowned artist, stage-designer, and ceramist. (When he died May 10, 1981, his work was displayed in some 70 museums in Europe and the United States.) He had been born the son of a banker in Kiev, Russia, on October 24, 1900, and got his start as a stage designer at the age of 17. He continued work in Paris and other European cities until 1939, when he joined the French army as a munitions truck driver. After the surrender of France in June 1940, he left for the United States, and as the result of a successful one-man show at the Wildenstein Gallery in New York City, was invited to head the art education program of the New York Public Library. This, in turn, resulted in his connection to the City College of New York where he taught and held various executive posts from 1944 to 1971. He was heavy, round-faced, and balding, looking and talking like the movie producer Otto Preminger. Lissim was the man who eventually assumed full responsibility for instituting and sustaining the science-fiction course at City College and with whom I dealt (almost entirely by correspondence) the entire time I was there. I had initially written him on March 7, 1953, detailing my qualifications.

I now set to work preparing my syllabus for the 12 lessons I had to present to the students. This had to conform to the promises I made in my editorial in the October 1953 issue of Science-Fiction+ magazine, "Chain Reaction."

The message in the October issue which appeared on the newstands August 12, 1953, read:

The influence and importance of science fiction has increased to the extent where the City College of New York is presenting two evening classes on Science Fiction Writing to be given during late September, October, and November, with your managing editor of Science-Fiction+, Sam Moskowitz, and the former science editor of Parade, Robert Frazier, jointly instructing the classes. Among the many guest lecturers will be Murray Leinster, Harry Bates, Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp, and Robert Sheckley. Those interested in obtaining further information concerning these courses should write to The City College, Convent Ave. and 139th St., N.Y. 31, N.Y.

It should be underscored that no funds were available to pay an honorarium or even reimburse the prominent guest speakers for their carfare. Neither did my position as editor of Science-Fiction+ act as blackmail, because there were so many science-fiction markets buying at that time that it was a sellers' market. What was working for me was the prestige factor. There had never been a college level science-fiction course before; offering to guest lecture at my class represented a form of redemption for many of the authors for selecting the science-fiction field to work in. There were some that had never gone to college (during the Great Depression, rarely over 5% of the high school graduating class went on to higher learning); one prominent author, Murray Leinster, had never graduated from grammar school! For them, it was the greatest ego booster in the world. As for me, it would look good on my resumé when applying for a job which I knew I would soon have to do, because my magazine, Science-Fiction+, had gone from monthly to bi-monthly publication and the odds were it would be discontinued before the end of 1953.

I would lecture the first class on the history of science fiction. The second, on the incorporation of science into science fiction, would be presented by Thos. S. Gardner, Ph.D. The exact order in which the other guest lecturers appeared has been lost to posterity, but for the remaining 10 classes in the first term they were:

Isaac Asimov, down from Boston to visit his mother in Brooklyn, would speak on the structure of the novel.

Robert Sheckley would follow and, quite appropriately, talk about the short story.

Sam Merwin, Jr, then editor of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction and The Saint's Mystery Magazine would speak on dealing with editors.

Murray Leinster, who was then living in Flushing, NY, would talk about plotting.

Lester del Rey, who had successfully incorporated human aspects into a robot in "Helen O'Loy," would deal with characterization.

Theodore Sturgeon would speak on style, mood, and polish.

Fletcher Pratt would discuss the problems of collaboration.

Thomas Calvert McClary, whose 15 minutes of fame had transpired when his short novel "Rebirth" appeared in Astounding Stories in 1934, handled the subject of "world catastrophe," a common theme in science fiction, since his 1938 novel Three Thousand Years also involved that subject.

Samuel Mines, then the editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, informed the students as to markets.

I had a prominent ex-editor and author, Harry Bates, scheduled to speak at the November 30, 1953, meeting on the subject of editing and revision, but he never appeared. I had bought two novellas from Bates, "The Death of a Sensitive" (May 1953) and "The Triggered Dimension" (December 1953). The former was, in my opinion, the best story I ran in the short history of the magazine. The second, while effective, was slow-moving and needed speeding up. Hugo Gernsback, my employer, wanted the latter cut, and I agreed with him. Amid much acrimony, we got Bates to do some cuts and revision on the story. He did this right in the office at 25 West Broadway, New York City, and I was thoroughly impressed at the skill with which he pared unnecessary verbiage without interrupting the flow of the story. What I proposed to do, and Bates apparently agreed, was to pass out copies of the magazine with his story to all the students, and then have Bates instruct from the original corrected manuscript what changes he had made and why he had made them. Originally, after Bates had made his office revision, Gernsback insisted on cutting out a short segment of scientific explanation which interrupted the flow of the story, and I agreed with him.

All this was to have repercussions. The evening of the class, a stranger showed up who turned out to be the auditor from the college whose job it was to evaluate the caliber of each class and determine whether they should be continued. We had a problem, since the minimum attendance for each class was supposed to be twelve students, and we only had eleven.

The hour to start, 7:00 P.M., approached and Bates had not shown up. I then had an active fan, Sheldton Deretchin, call Bates up and determine if he had remembered the date. Bates was home and gleefully told Deretchin that he wasn't coming and that he was deliberately putting me in this embarrassing position as revenge for supporting Gernsback in cutting his story.

I had to go on unprepared with the auditor who could decide the future fate of my class in the audience. I had Bates' manuscript so, perspiring, I told the class to follow the copies of the magazine I had passed out and that I would explain why and when the alterations had been made. I did this for the next hour and forty minutes, and the only man in the room who was more worried than me was Robert Frazier who counted on the success of this class to secure several more.

I was ready to apologize to the auditor but, before I could say a word, he grasped my hand warmly and said: "I never expected anything like what you presented. You were down to the nuts and bolts, the nitty-gritty of writing. If your students didn't get something out of it, it was their fault, not yours. I've sat in many classes and I can honestly say none was more worthwhile than yours! Rest assured that my report will be positive, and the size of your class will have no bearing on whether or not we renew it."

There is an epilogue to that situation. Seven years later, I received a letter from Harry Bates dated October 2, 1960. In essence, it revealed that Bates was now totally disabled due to progressive arthritis and was trying to get early social security at sixty. He had a doctor's statement that he was suffering from that condition at present, but they wanted proof that it was progressive and prevented him from writing stories for income. He asked if I would be willing to supply a statement that he had written stories for me with the greatest difficulty. He didn't know if he had ever mentioned it to me, but any validation would help. It so happened that he had shown me his swollen knuckles in 1953 but, beyond that, I had a letter from him describing the difficulty, written earlier that year. I mailed him back the letter, for which I still had the dated envelope, and he got his social security—his only income for the next 20 years!

Christmas of 1962 I received a card from him on which he scrawled: "I ain't mad at you no more."

Shortly before that first semester ended, I received a call at my office from a Professor Freeman of the Columbia University English Department. He had heard of my course at City College and was conducting a class of his own on Current Literature. He invited me to appear as a guest lecturer on science fiction. I would be addressing in excess of 200 students and would have to talk for three hours. The date would be December 17, 1953.

Urged on by the circulation director of Gernsback Publications, Adam Smith, I accepted. He arranged to make blow-ups of black and white science-fiction illustrations to hang in the auditorium as a backdrop for my talk. A number of these were from the work of French scientific prophet Albert Robida, taken from his landmark book Le Vingtième Siècle (1883), or in English, The Twentieth Century, showing anticipations of television, food automats, tanks, airplanes, and a variety of other innovations.

I had mimeographed a pass-out list of 16 categories of science fiction, including future war, time travel, robots, and supermen. Under each category, I listed suggested reading. Because of the generous time allotment, I supplemented a synoptic history of the field with its types, authors, current state, and then noted how stylistically science-fiction writers were adopting the mainstream writing styles of writers such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Dos Passos, Wolfe, Joyce, and Steinbeck. Married to science fiction, these all seemed very original but were, in fact, imitative.

Professor Freeman then implied that Columbia might be interested in such a course as I gave at City College, maybe even with credits. I was reluctant to pursue the matter until I found out what City College wanted to do. On January 22, 1954, Simon Lissim wrote me that I was scheduled to teach course #582 at the High School of Commerce, 155 West 65th Street, beginning in March. There was no reason to query further on the possibility of a Columbia course.

Indeed, City College was willing to prepare circulars and pay the postage to mail them for my second round, which they accomplished by January 24, 1954. The circular was headlined "The only college-level science-fiction writing and literary class in the country" and repeated the promise of several of the authors I had as guests in the first class as well as John W. Campbell, Willy Ley, L. Sprague de Camp, and several such as Hugo Gernsback and Frederick Pohl who were not produced.

I had dutifully recorded the name, address, and date received of everyone that sent in a manuscript to Science-Fiction+. This now made an excellent mailing list of prospects within the greater New York area for a writing class, since I received hundreds of manuscripts every month. Samuel Mines had also kept his promise to give me a notice in the spring 1954 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. The result was that at the opening class on March 11, 1954, 18 people showed up. I kept a record of them, and the following offers an idea of what type of students were taking this course:

Lila Borison, a receptionist who had been reading science fiction for five years and had written for her college newspaper. She was more interested in straight fantasy.

Ward Botsford, an enthusiastic science-fiction fan in his twenties who had previously sold a science-fiction novelette to Blue Book ("The Needle of Space," July 1950). He would later make a career of writing biographies on the back of music albums.

Mildred Corn, a professional proofreader, who wanted to find out whether she could write science fiction.

Babette de Ghary, a nursery governess, formerly an artist, who had a mild interest in fantasy.

Sheldon Deretchin, whose main interest was in plotting.

Dorothy Edgerly, a woman in her sixties who preferred fantasy and enjoyed taking courses in writing. She lived on upper Park Avenue and appeared to have an independent income.

Albert Friedman, managing editor of The Jewish Daily Forward. He liked to read tales of the future and wanted updates on what was happening in the field.

Jo Hazelton, a young college student. She hoped the courses would add to the enjoyment of her reading.

Samuel Kagan was a middle-aged commercial artist who wanted to learn the mechanics of the literature.

Rudolph H. Rumplik, who had followed science fiction for five years and liked the idea of the course while he was awaiting entry into the Navy.

Dr. Helen Wissenstein, a lawyer-psychiatrist in her sixties who had published two books on chess.

Rosalie Rockman, who was trying to write science fiction.

Arthur Zirul, who had published a novelette titled "Final Exam" in the March 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

There is an amusing story behind Zirul's appearance in Astounding Science Fiction. James Blish wrote a column under the pen-name of William Atheling for a fan magazine published by Redd Boggs titled Skyhook. In the spring 1954 issue, which appeared almost simultaneously with the opening of the course, Blish made Zirul's story the subject of an entire column. Among his critical swipes were: "This story is one of the worst stinkers ever to appear in the field," "terrible dialogue," "downright bad grammar," "a pre-adolescent effort," "once a great editor was asleep at the switch." It turned out that a Blish story was supposed to go into the issue, but at the last minute Campbell rejected it and substituted the Zirul story!

In this second term, I taught two of the classes myself, and brought back Sam Merwin Jr., clearly differentiating the variation in policy among the various magazines. Willy Ley, the then renowned rocket expert, appeared to accomplish what Frazier would loved to have done: a session on how to write the popular science article. Lester del Rey appeared again to lecture on the techniques of arousing sympathy for the alien. But the prize of the term was the appearance together of John W. Campbell and Robert A. Heinlein! Campbell spoke for an hour and Heinlein for forty minutes. Both men were at the top of their form, and the session was worth the price of the course. Heinlein enumerated his famous five-point writing counsel as follows: 1. You must write (few would-be writers actually write anything), 2. You must finish what you write, 3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order, 4. You must put what you write on the market, 5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

At this point, I must comment that almost all of my guest lecturers outdid themselves. I never stop blaming myself for not recording their talks. It would have made an outstanding book.

On January 17, 1954 I had left Gernsback and was looking for full-time work or someone to take over Science-Fiction+, which had shown a startling improvement in circulation the last few issues. One of the publishers I visited was Alexander Gross, who had published two issues of a digest-sized magazine titled Science Fiction Digest, that reprinted the "best" material from other magazines. Editor of the magazine was Chester Whitehorn, who had edited three issues of Planet Stories in 1946-47. Gross wasn't interested in resuming Science-Fiction+, so I asked him whether he would send Whitehorn down to speak before one of my classes. He agreed and Whitehorn did appear, speaking on how to incorporate movement and action into science-fiction stories. On completion of his talk, he made a surprise announcement. If we would submit any class stories to his magazine Science Fiction Digest at the end of the course, he would buy and print the best one, paying space rates (then one cent a word).

We were using L. Sprague de Camp's Science Fiction Handbook as our official text. So I invited him to come up from Philadelphia, deliver a lecture (which he was superb at), and autograph the class's copies of his book. He graciously agreed and did appear May 13, 1954, giving advice on characterization and dialogue and autographing the books as promised.

By the time second term was over, three students had completed stories on their own: "The Coming of the Krackels" by Arthur Zirul; "The Cold Wave" by Helen Wissenstein; and "The Toss of a Coin" by Dorothy Edgerly. Unfortunately, Science Fiction Digest had collapsed with its second issue and Whitehorn had obtained a position on a pocket-sized magazine titled Tempo, a competitor to the popular but unprofitable Quick magazine. Whitehorn, with three stories, remained elusive.

City College scheduled our course again, the first class opening on September 23, 1954. Those signing up for the third course were Conrad Chittick, Doris Dolphin, Dorothy Edgerly, Robert Epstein, Robert Holz, Thomas J. O'Hara, Bueno Reiner, Rosalee Rockman, Anne Turner, and Suzanna Winder. One woman showed up for the course that had sold two poems to Cosmopolitan. She protested against having guest lecturers. What she wanted was a workshop. I took a vote, and most wanted a workshop where they would write stories and I would critique them. It taught me to never again let the inmates run the asylum.

After persistent effort, I finally reached Whitehorn. He said he had been holding onto the stories I had sent him, hoping that Science Fiction Digest would be revived, but since that was out of the question, he was returning them. The story he thought was best was "The Coming of the Krackels" by Arthur Zirul. I had spoken to Leo Margulies, then editor of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction about my situation, and he offered to print the prize-winning story. I also wrote to the other two students, giving them a commentary on their stories as a sort of a salve for not winning. I then told Zirul to ship his story to Margulies.

Shortly later, I received a cry of anguish from Zirul. He had sent the story in to Margulies with a cover-letter and had received it back with the following comments: that no one was going to tell him what to print, it was his magazine, and additionally the story was not up to acceptable standards.

Apparently Zirul had made some injudicious remark in his letter, and I was embarrassed for both Margulies and Zirul. Normally, Margulies was a kind and generous man, but he also was sensitive and volatile. I had to remedy the situation.

My hardcover edition of The Immortal Storm, a History of Fandom (1954) had finally appeared. There was a photo of Margulies in it, and he was mentioned on 12 different pages. I called him up and offered to take him to lunch in order to present him with a copy of the book. Somewhat mollified, he agreed.

Lunch consisted of ice cream sodas, which were a favorite of Margulies, and I presented him with an autographed copy of the book. Frazier, who had invited himself along, kept trying to appropriate the book, not understanding the politics of the "luncheon." When we had finished our sodas, Margulies relaxed and made a more typically generous offer: "Listen, fellows, I'll tell you what I'll do to help. If you will submit the top stories produced by your class this term—nothing over 5,000 words—I'll buy and print the best one. If it's a little below par, I'll have [Frank Belknap] Long rewrite it. You can put in a plug for the course, and a college connection can't hurt the magazine." Margulies' offer wasn't retroactive; he wouldn't take the Zirul story.

When I brought back the news to the class, there was only mild enthusiasm. As the weeks went by, instead of buckling down to writing stories that might mean their transition into professionals, the numbers in the class dwindled, until by the end of the term, the original 18 was down to 4! It was then that I realized that students don't attend writing classes to learn how to write; they attend to hear talk about writing and to listen to the guests. Of the four remaining students at the last class, Thomas J. O'Hara had completed three stories, Robert Epstein and Anne Turner one apiece, and Dorothy Edgerly two-thirds of one. I went to work revising and touching up all of these. The one that stands out in my mind was O'Hara's "Rescue Squad," for which, before the horrified class, I interchanged the first third with the last part and wrote some connecting lines so it wouldn't be noticed. I mailed all the stories to Margulies on December 26, 1954 with a carefully worded, extremely diplomatic letter. He replied with a letter of January 7, 1955:

I finally have news for you, and I think you will like it. I am writing you first, for you may perhaps wish to make the announcement to the writers.... We have decided that "Incident" by Thomas O'Hara is the prize-winning top story. I should say that this is the most imaginative and successful of all the stories submitted. It is surprisingly good and needs very little revision.

"Exchange" by Robert Epstein will also be published in Fantastic Universe and will be accorded honorable mention. The mature and very imaginative concept underlying it rebounds greatly to Epstein's credit.

I am going to hold on to Mr. O'Hara's "Rescue Squad" for another reading. I may decide to use it also—giving it honorable mention. I trust you and Mr. O'Hara won't mind.

And so that's that. Did I make good on my promise?

O'Hara, who was a reporter on the New York Journal-American, saw his prize-winning story appear in the May 1955 Fantastic Universe. It told of a crew that had contracted a deadly disease on one of the planets they had visited. The last survivor descends toward the beautiful blue-green world and must decide whether he must land and risk killing most of the population in the hope they have a cure. Two lovers on the planet are thrilled by a falling star they see streaking across the night sky.

Epstein, a middle-aged postal worker, was so delighted that he said he was seriously considering never writing again so that his writing career would end on a high note. His "Exchange" appeared in the June 1955 issue. It told of a man from the future planning a murder through the use of a matter-transmitting device and his plan backfires.

O'Hara's second story, "Rescue Squad," was printed in the September 1955 issue. It was an interplanetary tale with strong human interest.

None of these students had previously sold fiction—or even finished a story. They were not potentially outstanding writers, but in 12 classes totaling 17 hours, five stories were completed and three sold and paid for.

My next series of classes began March 10, 1955. I reverted to my original formula which consisted of devoting several sessions to the history and background of science fiction and inviting guest lecturers for the others. Among the new professionals I recruited was Algis Budrys, who had four stories in four different magazines at the time he appeared. His manner of speech and delivery was very much like that of John W. Campbell.

Another was Hans Stefan Santesson, a foreign-born American citizen who, from 1945 to 1952, had held the position of editor of the Unicorn Mystery Book Club, which packaged four novels a month for members, printed in one volume. He spoke on marrying the detective story with science fiction, but he seemed intrigued by the class, showing up again and again without invitation even though he was not the speaker.

Financially, the handling of the course can best be described as a labor of love. Due to the relatively low registration fee, $19.00 for the 12 sessions, and the small group that showed up, at the end of the last session we would end up with $90.00 to be split between the two of us. Obviously, this did not even cover dinner, fares, phone calls, or postage.

In the meantime, I had gained a position with a frozen food trade magazine titled Frosted Food Field (in those days, frozen foods were called frosted foods, to dispel the impression that frozen foods were spoiled foods). Coincidentally, the position had a year previously been held by James Blish!

My work there led to a much more enticing offer from Quick Frozen Foods, the leading journal in the field. When I applied for the job, the publisher's wife, Doris Williams, was in the room where I was interviewed. As I displayed my portfolio of credentials, she squealed with delight since she was an avid science-fiction reader. I was offered the job on the spot, and spent most of my editorial career there handling a large staff of editors.

My writing class was supposed to begin September 22, 1955. I knew that I would have to cover night meetings in my new position, and I didn't want to endanger my job with a conflict of interests for a course that had no financial justification. I promptly wrote Simon Lissim, withdrawing from the class and ending with "If Mr. Frazier is willing to carry on alone, he is welcome to my part of the fee, and this is my authorization to pay it to him."

By this time, Frazier was part way to his objective: he had been given two other courses, one on radio-script writing and one titled "Publishing Procedures and Techniques of Book Promotion." There was an unusual twist with the science-fiction course. Santesson agreed to come in and teach it, but whether he was paid or not I never found out. He also became editor of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction and The Saint's Mystery Magazine. In the former, Frazier obtained a book review column and, true to form, he got me to write some the book reviews for him.

Under Santesson, Dorothy Edgerly (who had completed two-thirds of a story) finished the yarn—a fantasy—and it appeared in the February 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe as "Farmer in the Dell."

I never ascertained the end of the science-fiction classes, but my best estimate is that it terminated the spring of 1957. But the concept had caught on for, in the next few years, there were classes at the University of Chicago (1957), Princeton University (1958 and 1959), Beloit College (1960 and 1961), and Colgate University (1962). From that point on, the numbers increased so greatly that no comprehensive index has ever been compiled, and there have even been many such classes in high schools.1


1. A more comprehensive description of this course appears under the title "Realizing the Impossible Dream," Fantasy Commentator, Winter 1983. It is available from A. Langley Searles, 48 Highland Circle, Bronxville, NY 10708-5909. $5.00.

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