Origins of the group
As described in Isaac Asimov's autobiography In Memory Yet Green, the Futurians spun off from the
Greater New York Science Fiction Club (headed by Sam Moskowitz, later an influential SF editor and historian) over ideological differences, with the Futurians wishing to take a more overt political stance. Other sources indicate that Donald A. Wollheim was pushing for a more left-wing direction with a goal of leading fandom toward a political ideal, all of which Moskowitz resisted. As a result, Wollheim broke off from the Greater New York group and founded the Futurians in September, 1938. The fans following Moskowitz reorganized into the Queens Science Fiction Club.
Donald A. Wollheim, Frederik Pohl and John Michel in 1938
Frederik Pohl, in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, said that the origin of the Futurians lay with the Science Fiction League founded by Hugo Gernsback in 1934, the local New York City chapter of which was called the "Brooklyn Science Fiction League" or BSFL, headed by
G. G. Clark.
Wollheim, John Michel, and Robert A. W. Lowndes were also members of the BSFL. Along with Pohl, the four started calling themselves the "Quadrumvirate". Pohl, commenting about that time, said "we four marched from Brooklyn to the sea, leaving a wide scar of burned out clubs behind us. We changed clubs the way Detroit changes tailfins, every year had a new one, and last year's was junk".
There were several club names during that period, before finally settling on the Futurians. In 1935 there was the "East New York Science Fiction League" (ENYSFL), later the "Independent League for Science Fiction" (ILSF). In 1936 came the International Cosmos Science Club (ICSC), which also involved
Will Sykora. Pohl then says that "on reflection 'Cosmos' seemed to take in a bit more territory than was justified, so we changed it to the International Scientific Association (it wasn't International either, but then it also wasn't scientific)". The ISA then was renamed New York Branch-International Scientific Association (NYB-ISA).
In 1937, after a falling-out with Will Sykora and others, the "Quadrumvirate" went on to found the Futurians. Sykora then founded the
Queens Science Fiction League with Sam Moskowitz and
James V. Taurasi. Later, the QSFL changed into
New Fandom. Pohl said the New Fandom and the Futurians were "Addicted to Feuds", that "No CIA nor KGB ever wrestled so valiantly for the soul of an emerging nation as New Fandom and the Futurians did for science fiction".
Most of the group's members also had professional ambitions within science fiction and related fields, and collectively were very effective at achieving this goal, as the roster of members suggests. At one point in the earliest 1940s, approximately half of all the pulp SF and fantasy magazines in the U.S. were being edited by Futurians: Frederik Pohl at the Popular Publications offshoot
Fictioneers, Inc. (Astonishing Stories and
Super-Science Stories); Robert Lowndes at Columbia Publications, most notably with Science Fiction and Future Fiction (though through the decade to come, Lowndes's responsibilities would expand to other types of fiction magazine in the chain), and Donald Wollheim at the very marginal
Albing Publications with the short-lived, micro-budgeted Cosmic Stories and Stirring Science Stories (Wollheim soon moved on to Avon Books; Doë "Leslie Perri" Baumgardt also worked on a romance fiction title for Albing). Most of these projects had small editorial budgets, and relied in part, or occasionally entirely, on contributions from fellow Futurians for their contents.