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Back In 1937, People Worried That Science Fiction Was Going Downhill

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Most of us have been seeing convention panels about the "Death of Science Fiction" for years now — it's become sort of a jolly cliche. Everybody laments the loss of some earlier, greater age for the genre. But back in 1937, British fans were pretty worried that SF was in permanent decline.

Top image: Thrilling Wonder Stories, via UK Vintage.

Over at Rob Hansen's Fan Stuff, you can read the full contents of Novae Terrae — a fanzine from November 1937, listing a certain Arthur C. Clarke as one of its associate editors. Along with some pretty harsh reviews of the then-latest issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories (pretty sure "stock characters" are still with us today) there's Clarke's rebuttal to the people who say "science" is the important part of "science fiction," and science fiction stories need no literary merit.


And then at the end, there's this tidbit:

LONDON SFA BRANCH REPORT: The occasion of this Branch's second meeting was auspicious by reason of a speeches and Mr. Mayer in addition gave a compehensive account of the activities of the SFA - past, present and future. After the minutes had been read. Mr. Temple reported on the Amateur Author's Circle and told of the progress that had been made on a story based on the Abominable Snow- Men. The activities of the Science Circle were described by Mr. Williams who announced a lecture by A. C. Clarke at the next meeting, to be held on December 5th. Finally an informal discussion was held upon proposals in a paper given by Mr. Williams "Has Science-Fiction Declined?". The new premises of this Branch were unanimously approved.


You have to love the notion of people earnestly debating in 1937 whether the best days of science fiction were behind it. Bear that in mind the next time you insist that it's all downhill from here. [h/t Danny]