Futurians Were The Pick-Up Artists of Nerd Legend

The Futurian Science Literary Society held its first meeting in September of 1938. Composed of literary legends-to-be including Isaac Asimov, Cyril Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl, Donald A. Wollheim and Richard Wilson among others, the group's first Bronx home was a bachelor pad nonpareil. And yet even with their vast powers combined, they struggled to seduce the women of 1940s New York and were almost arrested as homosexuals. Read on for the strange details of the vice bust that wasn't.Damon Knight's half-memoir, half-history of the years is hardly an objective one, but we can be sure he got the facts straight here. Once isolated above Manhattan, the Futurians were about as likely to meet women as they were to set one of their stories in Victorian England. On his first date with Elise Balter — the woman who was to become his wife — Futurian and editor Donald A. Wollheim led off with what can only be called an indecent proposal. Recalls Balter:

Well, I was not a very popular young lady, and I was thrilled. So we took a walk in Central Park. And then I remember we were sitting on a bench somewhere, I think it was in front of the Public Library, and he said to me, if he gave me fifty thousand dollars, would I have a child by him without marrying him? . . . It sure made an impression on me.


Of course, a few hookups here and there after successful first dates like that one weren't enough to put off the police from visiting the Futurians' hideout. According to Robert Lowndes:

We played poker for stakes of 15 cents an evening, and because it was hot, we sometimes sat around in our underwear. This must have been the cause of the vice raid that took place in the summer of 1941. There I was, sitting reading Planet Stories, and all of a sudden the front window was flung open and somebody came in, pulled out a badge and said, 'Police. Open the front door.' I was sort of stunned, and he had to repeat it. So I finally went and opened the front door, and a line of them sort of filtered in...It was very much like The Trial. Obviously we were being accused of something, but it was not clear what. Little by little, it began to come clear to me that we were being accused of being homosexuals. I was being asked provocative questions, to which I expressed incomprehension. Finally they look into the bathroom. The bathroom was plastered with photographs of unretouched female nudes. [John] Michel came in and started to put on a big indignation act, and he was squelched and had the sense to shut up. They finally decided there was nothing here for them and slithered out, taking some of the most appealing photographs with them. Thy never looked in the closet. If they had, they would have found stacks of Communist literature.

You can buy a used copy of The Futurians here. It badly deserves to be reprinted.


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